What is all this #microadventure malarkey?

Some seasoned outdoorsmen and women keep a grab bag by the door, with bivy, tarp, quilt, and stove - ready to hit the trails at the first sign of blue skies.  They climb peaks in their spare time, and run a half marathon to work everyday, even if it requires three loops of Hyde Park, and if they need to travel from London to Geneva, they consider cycling.  If this is you, can I suggest you skip down the page a little...

This is for the people still scratching their heads as to what this is all about.  I'm going to try to sketch some of the background for the uninitiated, to demystify things a little. 

A legitimate question to start with would be "what is all this #microadventure malarkey?"

Well, I'm glad you asked...

Back in 2012, Alistair Humphreys  won the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Award for his championing of the concept of "microadventure".

Al is a friendly, accessible, reassuringly unassuming chap, generous with his time, and at first glance pretty normal all round.  But little do you know, that under those foppish ginger curls, lurks a brilliantly daft British Adventurer who has done more for the sale of bivvy bags, than the Italian Job did for Mini Coopers.  Al is an author and motivational speaker, and among other things has cycled round the world, walked across India, rowed and sailed the Atlantic, run the Marathon des Sables, crossed of Iceland on foot, trekked through the Empty Quarter desert, and traveled to the magnetic North Pole.  So, while microadventures are by definition small in scale, this he's no stranger to bigger trips.

The joy of "microadventures" for many, though, and one of the motivations for Al, was their accessibility - an antidote to the idea that "Adventurers" with sponsorship, gear and time, were a class apart, and while mere mortals able to read about them, and sit at their feet, they had to no choice but to live out their mundane lives without too much excitement.

Instead, the microadventure concept opens the door to all of us, and leaves us all with little excuse not to lace up our boots and walk through out of it:

"Adventure is about stretching yourself: mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

If that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Adventure is accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money.

Adventure is only a state of mind... 

Simple expeditions and challenges which are close to home, affordable and easy to organise.  Ideas designed to encourage ordinary people to get Out There and Do Stuff for themselves, even in these tightened financial times."

Hear hear, many of us said, and headed out the door!

It's worth pointing out that these are arguably nothing new. Others have referred to them as S24O (sub-24hr overnighters) or just plain old campouts, but the key idea that Alistair managed to get across so well was for people to stop saying "I can't possibly have an adventure, because I'm not an Adventurer" and to start opening their eyes to the experiences that can lie just yards from your own back door.

The main idea is to get outside, overnight, and feel energised and engaged through doing so.

Add to the mix whatever individual elements you would like, but essentially a night out in "the Wild", preferably in a bivvy bag (more on that in the "Ultralight for Littl'uns" post) is almost always within the grasp of mere mortals.  It's simply a question of getting past whatever's holding you back, to the point where you say - why not?

(Image credit unknown, I'm afraid)

(Image credit unknown, I'm afraid)

"Microadventures serve to scratch the itch for adventurous souls trapped by the bludgeoning of chance in sensible office jobs. They act as stepping stones for people who dream of a major expedition but feel that at the moment they are not quite ready. And they are a kick up the backside to anyone whinging and whining with excuses about how they don’t have the time or the money or the skills to get out there and challenge themselves."

Needless to say, it caught on.  Soon people were jumping on bicycles, floating down rivers on tractor inner tubes, bagging the highest 3 peaks in [insert the three closest counties to you] etc. and then spending the night huddled in a inexpensive bivvy bag with a pot noodle, some hot chocolate, and a big grin on their faces.  

The #microadventure "hashtag" became a way of finding other daft people, either to buddy up with or to live vicariously through.  The coffee table book that inevitably followed has filled many a Xmas stocking and become a mainstream staple at Waterstones etc.  It's a great read and most of my relatives have by now received their own copy, and a series of follow up emails asking if they've been on one yet!

You can find the book on Amazon, and there's even a kindle version currently on sale for almost no money at the time of going to print.

There is a series of short videos on YouTube & Vimeo, which my kids have watched many times over, and have loved.  I particularly recommend the Howies #microadventure for joyful simplicity, and the Hebrides #microadventure for sheer quirky daftness.

Al's site remains arguably the definitive resource for ideas for trips (stick a pin in a map and go; or the 5 to 9 #microadventure leaving work and heading to sleep on a hill), suggestions for gear, or advice on planning your own #microadventure.  

So for general advice on short overnight trips that can be squeezed in amongst the baggage of day-to-day life, I'd encourage you to set aside half an hour (or the rest of the afternoon) and have a dig around there.

For kid specific adventures, we parents always have a few more things to take into account... and the nuts and bolts of specifically family-focused adventure are something that I've personally had to do some digging and/or winging it to learn.  One of the main drivers of this site was to try to put together some advice and information on the more frequently asked questions when first trying to take your kids out with you.  

But my suggestion is to go on your own first!  

So, why not commit to your own Year of Microadventure in 2016?  

Or at least dip your toe in the water - read more on Al's site, or follow the links below.

 

Read some of my pointers for your first family #microadventures in "Where do I Start?" 

Read more about taking less crap, and having more fun in "Ultralight for Littl'uns"

Read more about the rights and wrongs of wild camping in "Is Wild Camping a Bit Naughty"

 

 *photo credit - Al Humphreys