November 2017: 24 hours outside

 

The idea: Spend 24 hours entirely outside
Location: The Jurassic Coast
Transport: Feet
Essential kit: Warm clothes, climbing gear, Another Escape magazine (for campfire reading)
Less essential kit: Phones, watches
Kit we wished we’d had: More warm clothes, dry firewood

Even though we manage to get out adventuring a lot, we all lead busy lives, and it’s extremely rare for us not to have a time limit, or schedule to keep to. With this in mind, one evening, on a drive home from a climb that had been cut short due to the dwindling light, we came up with this concept. We had been toying with the idea for a while, and as the month was running out with some sunny days forecast, it seemed as good a time as any to give it a go.

The idea was simple, we were going to spend 24 hours entirely outside – no cars, no shops, no buildings, not even a bus shelter. No man-made structures whatsoever. We would take all the kit we’d need for the day, night and next morning with us.

Plan set, we packed our climbing gear, some good reading material and enough food, water and warm clothing to see us through the night. Our aim with this month’s adventure was to forcibly remove the distractions and time constraints of our modern lives, and try and spend a full 24 hours exploring and appreciating the stunning coastal cliffs that would be our home for the day.

We pulled into Worth Matravers around 8:30am and unloaded our stuff. Our bags were way too heavy for a day of climbing and wandering the cliffs, so our first port of call was to find a cache for the food and sleeping gear that we wouldn’t need until later.

We opted for the caves at Seacombe Quarry, quickly discovering a beautiful clearing on the cliffs just below the caves, and a little off the coastal path. We found a dark corner of the old quarry cave to leave our bags and convinced ourselves that sleeping in a man-made cave wasn’t cheating.

At this point in the adventure, we’d normally be rushing to reach a destination or to tick off some kind of arbitrary checkpoint in whatever challenge we’d set ourselves. This time however, with nothing like a schedule and 20+ hours before we had to head back to our jobs and real life, we took our time. Exploring the artefacts of the old quarry, scrambling on the craggy cliffs down to the sea and making our way over to Dancing Ledge for some climbing all felt incredibly calming as we took our time to appreciate the dramatic coastline.

We spent much of the day teaching Joe the terrifying art of lead climbing on some of Dorset’s easiest sports routes in Hedbury Quarry, before moving on to some slightly too challenging routes at Dancing Ledge. Before starting the day we had thought the biggest challenge would be filling the hours without getting bored, but before long, after hours of climbing broken up by multiple breaks on the rocky outcrops overlooking the sea, the sun was coming down, and there had yet to be a dull moment.

PHD Alpine Half Down Sleeping Bag Review

When I was planning my trip to Georgia I knew that I wanted to camp. But, because I’d be running with all my kit on my back, I needed to find a sleeping bag that would be warm enough for the high mountains without adding bulk or too much weight.  PHD’s range of half down bags, designed to be paired with an insulated jacket to make an ultralightweight sleeping system, sounded like the perfect solution. 

Unfortunately, thunderstorms and a bout of food poisoning lead to the bag not being used on that trip. Needless to say though, the PHD Alpine Half Bag has been put to good use since. In fact, it’s now my go-to sleeping bag for overnight adventures. The bag itself is extremely lightweight, almost to the point of feeling fragile, but has kept me warm 3000m up a mountain in the alps, and on numerous trips around the UK without sustaining any damage.

 Packing my entire sleeping system into a 7l dry sack fills me with joy every time. When packed into its stuff sack, the bag is 10x18cm, (noticeably smaller than a portable camping pillow) and, even paired with my down jacket, it’s smaller than my full down sleeping bag. Incredibly, the whole thing only weighs 250g.

Aside from granting me the opportunity to brag about how small a bag I can take camping, it also means I can stick it in my bag for cold climbs in the winter without thinking twice about weight. It’s always useful to have it there, in case I need an emergency bivvy, or just if I want to keep my legs warm while resting.

In use, paired with a decent down jacket, some thermals and a bivvy bag, the Alpine Half Bag keeps me comfortable down to just below freezing (PHD claims down to -10 but from my experience, you would definitely need some serious extra insulation for that to be anywhere near comfortable).

Despite the advantages, it’s not perfect. Sleeping in a jacket is less cosy than a full size down bag and, without a bivvy on top, it can get a bit breezy in the toe box. Overall though, the pros far outweigh the cons.

I’d definitely recommend a decent half bag to anyone looking to cut down the weight and size of their sleeping kit. It’d be particularly useful for bikepackers, alpine mountaineers and trail runners!

As we headed back to our cache, collecting firewood on the way, we reflected on how great it had been to have no time commitments. There’s no phone signal along this stretch of coast, and whilst frustrating in terms of not being able to let our partners know we were safe, it was also liberating to escape the inevitable work emails and daily online commitments. It really felt as though we had escaped for the day. All we had to worry about was whether we’d gathered enough wood for the fire (we hadn’t), or if we’d ever get the quickdraw back that Nick had left on the ambitious 6C route at Dancing Ledge (we did).

We spent the evening sat around the fire, playing cards, eating soup and catching up on the latest issue of Another Escape Magazine as we tried to put off crawling into our inevitably freezing bivvy bags. We called it a day as I tried to capture a timelapse of the stars while Nick and Joe ran around in circles in a bid to keep warm as the temperature dropped below zero.

We woke with chilly toes, our bivvy bags covered in frost and our water bottles frozen solid. It was, however, a beautifully clear morning, and we spent much of our remaining two hours sitting in our bivvys to watch the sun coming up over the dramatic coastline. As we walked back to the car, towards phone signal, roads and the realities of everyday life we all agreed, “we should do 48 hours next time”. ▲