Tent in the yard

I [almost] slept on my lawn last night. In a tent. Why? Because I was inspired by a rather fascinating book, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys. To microadventure means to find adventure close to home that can be done in a compact amount of time. Humphreys encourages us to get out of the 9-5 work rut and use the 5pm-9am time to do something different, out of the ordinary, however ridiculous it might be. Like turning off your computer and walking just far enough to sleep on your lawn.

“But suddenly I decided to do something different, to escape, if only briefly, from my boring hamster wheel. So I fetched my sleeping bag and a head torch, grabbed a pillow and a book, and walked into the garden to sleep outside. I felt a little silly, climbing into an expedition-quality sleeping bag then lying down on my lawn.”

-Alastair Humphreys, Microadventures

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With travel plans cancelled for the year and a pandemic forcing us all to stay, or at least stick close to, home, I decided it was a good time to pick up this book and see if it would spark some ideas for doing anything worth writing about while remaining local. While working from home, the days have started to run together, I’ve lost track of the date. I wanted to do something to shake things up a bit.

Microadventure with a tent on the lawn

To my surprise, the book managed to change my perspective of the places I consider humdrum, those nearby places I see every day. Starting with the lawn. Instead of just being the thing that needs mowing and weeding, from inside a tent it could be the top of a hill somewhere, or the middle of an expansive field. And, by only going as far as the lawn, we could maximize our camping time by cutting out the commute to anywhere else.

Humphreys actually spends several chapters of his book attempting to persuade the reader to leave the tent at home and instead just sleep in the wild under the stars using a bivy bag (a waterproof layer that surrounds your sleeping bag). The advantage being that you need only take minimal gear, you’ll leave less of a trace, and you’ll wake to a spectacular view. Of the tent Humphreys says, “When inside a tent, you are basically in a rubbish version of indoors.”

Inside our microadventure tent
Our “rubbish version of indoors” felt cold, but cozy.

He does concede, however, that if it’s raining or you’re at risk of being eaten alive by midges, a night in a bivy bag is rubbish. In my case, Juneau, Alaska has had almost the wettest summer on record and subsequently, there have been more mosquitos and no-see-ums this year than usual. So I elected to use a tent and felt pretty good about my decision.

Microadventuring is about being able to adventure with minimal gear (or “kit”), time, and funds so anyone, anywhere can do it. So I may have strayed from the general idea for my night out. In Alaska, camping usually means packing only as much as you can carry in a pack on your back, or in the front of your kayak. So I’ve never glamped. But if I was only going as far as my lawn, why not have a little luxury? Rather than the setup Humphreys recommends, a sleeping mat inside the bivy bag under your sleeping bag, I decided why not live a little and bring out the air mattress?

In the spirit of Humphreys’ urging to use the 5pm-9am hours during the work week for adventure, we chose a work night and pitched our tent under cover of darkness. Humphreys also suggests setting up “camp” late and leaving early when out on a bivy sack adventure because there’s less chance anybody who may care where you slept will be any the wiser you were even there. In all fairness, we have pretty cool neighbors who would have understood, but in the spirit of the adventure we tried to be stealthy.

“Whenever you think, ‘this is an exciting idea’ and immediately follow that by thinking, ‘this is a very stupid idea’ then you know you are on to a good thing and that you will regret it if you wimp out.”

-Alastair Humphreys, Microadventures

While camping on our lawn felt and sounds silly, it is not without its elements of adventure. Bears might pass by, and often do. Or maybe our local, flower-eating porcupine might make an appearance. However ridiculous it felt, I was determined to do something to change up the work-from-home routine, considering I should have been in England and life was feeling extra adventure-less at the moment.

Neighborhood Bear
One of the neighborhood bears

Unfortunately, due to the horrifically wet summer we’ve had and the rarity of having two consecutive dry days, I kept putting off this microadventure. As I snuggled under the blanket inside the tent, I realized that we had perhaps passed the season during which this would still be fun. The night was cold, we lacked cold weather sleeping bags, and I longed for my warm bed inside. I tried to stick it out, remembering a passage from Humphreys’ book:

“At times, the joy of microadventures seems to lie only in reminding you that the place you thought you desperately wanted to escape from is not actually that bad after all…”

-Alastair Humphreys, Microadventures

Eventually I declared it a solid attempt at microadventuring and decided to pack it in and go inside. Sometimes even Humphreys ended his microadventures early due to conditions, so I didn’t feel too bad. Next time I’ll take the weather into account and round up the appropriate kit ahead of time.

Reading Microadventures in a tent

Humphrey’s book provides many ideas for outings, most of which border on the ridiculous, but in the end prove that you don’t have to go far, and don’t need a lot of know-how or equipment to get out of your comfort zone and see familiar sights from a new perspective. For example, Humphreys walks a circle around his house keeping the radius of two miles, he swims a river to see his surroundings from water level. He gets friends to join him for a sleep under the stars on a hill on a work night before they all run down to catch a train back to their desks in the morning. And if you live in the UK, he provides lists of similar adventures you can take throughout the country. If you live anywhere else, he also provides lists of ideas that can be adapted to your own local.

I recognize that not everyone lives with a lawn in a quiet neighborhood, but there must be some way to have a ridiculous microadventure close to home where you are. If you need a little inspiration, or change of perspective, I recommend picking up Humphrey’s book, and then having a go at microadventure yourself. At a time like the present, a little ridiculousness is good for the soul.

What’s the most ridiculous adventure you could do close to home? Have you done it? What’s stopping you? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your microadventure! Placed book on my voluminous to-read list. As always will seek from the library first. But if I buy, I’ll remember to come back here for the affiliate link.

  2. I don’t think I’ll ever tent camp here for fear of bears. ‍♀️ I’ve done it in the Rocky Mountains and I knew there were bears in theory, but it didn’t freak me out. But here, seeing them every day, I’m just too much of a wimp. I need walls!

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