Summer treasure 7: Camping in the garden

30/8/2018 Far too late in the season, I have got round to camping in the garden. A few years ago I spent nearly half the summer sleeping in the garden. This year I should have done so during the heat wave, but the season has been my busiest yet and I worried about depriving myself of sleep when I was already exhausted. By mid-August, dawn was back to the relatively late time of 5am. I had a few quieter days, and deemed that the risk of sleep deprivation was minor, and taking advantage of any remaining mild, dry nights was becoming more urgent.

The trick was to get everything prepared before dark and before I was so tired I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort. But I had to pick the right weather too: sleeping in a tent wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to see the sky above my head, and feel the air. Sometimes I think sleeping in a tent hardly qualifies as sleeping outdoors…

I knew from my last attempt at camping with my supposed 2-3 season sleeping bag that it was woefully inadequate, even with the assistance of a tent: the night temperatures were around 14˚C, but I froze. I was walking the south west coast path in Cornwall and it wasn’t until my third night of poor sleep that I worked out what to do: I put on all the clean clothes in my rucksack, including my waterproofs and several pairs of socks. It worked.

Camping in the garden is much simpler: no packing or carrying is involved and I can simply take my duvet outside with me, and sleep on an air mattress or in a hammock. But I have also finally bought a sleeping bag which claims its ‘comfort temperature’ to be 7-11˚C, so I decided to put it to the test.

The night was overcast and mild – milder than I expected. The sleeping bag passed with flying colours, though perhaps the test wasn’t as challenging as I intended. I didn’t once have to cover my face in order to defrost my nose. The few times I woke up briefly it took me a moment to realise I wasn’t in my bedroom. There was barely a breeze, and the night was unusually silent: no rowdy ducks or pheasants, barking deer, pigeons clattering out of trees after a fright, or unidentifiable night noises. The most confusing but delightful moment was when I opened my eyes and wondered what all those little lights on my bedroom ceiling were. The clouds had parted, and the sky was lit with stars.

The only noise I heard was an owl early in the morning. When I woke up again after dawn, the clouds had returned. The starry sky might have been a dream.