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Out Under the Stars Sleepover Season

Looking out from a tarp
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Out Under the Stars: Our Sleepover Season

The Family Adventure Project is having a sleepover. In fact, we’re having loads of them. In different locations. With our kids. Because everyone knows that kids love sleepovers. But they also love their bedrooms. And we don’t want our kids to stay in their bedrooms. So, with the help from Terra Nova and Hi-Tec, our sleepovers will all be out under the stars…

Are you afraid of sleepovers?

Does the word sleepover strike fear into your bones? Does it conjure up thoughts of all night policing, overexcited kids, and noise until the early hours? Or does it make you come alive with delicious thoughts of midnight feasts and pillow fights?

Well, our sleepover season may well have sleepless nights. And we might slip in a few midnight feasts. But pillow fights aren’t an option. Because we won’t have any pillows. Or a tent. We plan to sleep in a range of different wild places, with just bivi bags (or it is bivvy bags?) to keep us warm.

Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 2

Our first Terra Nova Tarp and Bivi Camp. Out on the Cumbrian Fells.

What do we know about bivvying?

What do we know about bivvying? Well nothing to be honest. Until last weekend we’d never done it. So we’re going to ask experts to help, by either sleeping out with us, or giving us advice before each outing.  Terra Nova will be loaning us an extra bivi bag just for them. We hope to attract mountaineers, film makers, adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts to fill us in on the world of wild camping. If you’d like to join us, get in touch; we’re open to offers.

Experiencing different environments

We plan to make our makeshift camps under the stars, over the space of a year, in a range of different locations. We’re thinking a beach, a cave, a forest, a field, a lakeside, a poolside, a mountain, a valley, an island, perhaps a ditch? To be honest, we’ll consider anything, as long as it’s safe for kids and can guarantee at least forty winks.

Hannah prepares to sleep out under the tarp

Hannah prepares to sleep out under the tarp. Not quite under the stars. Well, it’s raining so you can’t see them.

A practice bivvy run

Of course we can’t announce a project like this until we know that the kids are comfortable with it, and that we are all happy to commit to it. So last weekend we hit a field near Coniston in the South Lakes, to test out a selection of smart bivis and tarps loaned to us by Terra Nova.

Luckily bushcraft guide, Chris Binks, from River Deep Mountain High agreed to help us set up camp, although he abandoned us at bedtime. I say luckily because it rained. All night. From the moment we finished pitching. And we hadn’t a clue how to deal with rain. Not without a tent in our armour.

Raindrops on Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 3

Raindrops doing their stuff while the Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 3 does its stuff.

Ah so that’s how the tarp works..

Without Chris’ help we would have wondered what to do with the tarps. And we’d never have thought to pitch them so low down.  We’d have camped in the forest and tied them high in the trees for shelter. But here we were, in the corner of a field with low strung tarps right over our heads, rain bouncing off and wind whistling over the top while  we looked out onto the world and the kids chatted on walkie talkies and played with their torches.

Night under a tarp

As night fell we stayed dry under the tarps wrapped in our bivi bags

In at the deep end

It wasn’t an ideal scenario for our first bivi. It rained all night. The wind threatened to throw the holding stones off the tarps. There was no chance of seeing a star there was so much cloud. But we were dry. And we were safe. And dare I say it, we were enjoying ourselves. We’re no strangers to camping but this is very different to a tent; it’s open, exposed, exciting.

Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 2

Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 2 proving itself on our first night under tarp.

A successful night heralds an exciting season

All in all it was a good night. And it led me to believe that this season is going to work. So see you some time, some place, in a bivi bag, under the stars. If you have any particular talent in this area then do let us know. We have a spare bivvy bag and it could have your name on it!

Hannah takes shelter under the tarp

Will you join us for our Sleepover Season?

Keep up with our Sleepover Season

Sleepover SeasonOur Sleepover Season is supported by Terra Nova and Hi-Tec. Terra Nova are loaning bivi bags, tarps and tents for us to test out. Hi Tec have provided some waterproof footwear for us to use.

If you’ve an idea for somewhere we should sleep out, some gear we could test or are interested in joining us for a sleepover, get in touch and let us know. Follow this link to see all posts from our Sleepover Season.

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Check out this video and see what’s involved

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • Guys, you’re so great!!!! I’ll love it!!! Can’t wait to experiment it with my familiy!!! If you’re looking for an Italian partner, we’d love to share and learn from your experience!!!

      • We live in Milan, and we’re definitely planning to camp at the seaside…Tuscany on the top of the list!! Much more comfortable and dry weather!!! But we experienced wet and stormy hiking through the dolomites…so I understand your feeling!

  • Hi Kirstie, can I recommend you look at Ray Jardines site. He used to sell a tarp book detaing how to make your own and use it. He now sells kits and the new book but its not got the deta of the original in terms of making. I’ve made tarps, tents and sleeping quilts to use instead of bags. I can sew just about anything if I can get the correct fabric – that’s the difficulty. Still you’ve got a manufacturer on your side. One thing I will say, silnylon stretches when wet so you may need to repel as a wet night goes on.
    Great to see the kids enjoying themselves like this

    • We’ll have to look that up Brenda. I love the sound of sewing your own patchwork tarp. In fact we have another project in mind for the autumn that might just need those kinds of skills!

  • We camp a lot but only in tents. I would love to try something lighter! I’ve seen tarps set up like this in camping spots out west where rain is less of an issue, but wonder how you stay dry in a larger downpour? Doesn’t the ground get soaked? Your pictures are adorable! Glad you had a successful first night out.

    • We’ve been wondering about the rain and that first night was a good test. You do need to think about the ground and whether it will get soggy and flood. We chose a raised area so the water would drain off and leave us on an island. The rain was quite heavy and persistent but you know we stayed dry. This time! Still much to learn I think.

  • Without even a tent o’er yer head? In those cold nights that are coming? We are going to camp over Whitsuntide, but the forecast is in the low single digits, plus rain. So no, it’ll be the Adventure Bus this time, whith its inside dry (I hope, we haven’t opened the roof in the rain before…).

    In Sweden we saw public “huts” as low as you are building the tarp in these pictures, just a long wall and a roof, so one person can lie down underneath. But a “camp” was only two of them, at angles around a fireplace, not the real thing for an entire family.

    Who gets the dachshund garage, as we called those mini tents? Kirstie?

    • We will fight over the dachshund garage of course. Especially if rain is forecast. Matthew tested it out this time and reported it unpleasantly claustrophobic! And he didn’t to wake up amongst the slugs. I loved those Swedish huts and shelters, so enlightened when it comes to camping out up there.

  • What great fun! You make it look so easy!! If I planned something like this, it would just seem like a big faff! How do you do it….??!!

    • If you’re in a waterproof bivi there’s shouldn’t be a need to put a further waterproof layer underneath to stay dry. But you could certainly lay another tarp down to give you extra protection underneath or even to protect your bivy if it’s an expensive one! It’s good to chose a spot that is higher than surrounding areas if possible, so water drains away and doesn’t pool under you. Or you may be having a morning swim you weren’t expecting!

  • I have a TerraNova Jupiter bivi which was fairly expensive for a one man shelter and essentially a breathable storm proof sleeping bag cover. The base is water proof, however I use an old cut down foam sleeping mat underneath mine to protect it from sharp stones or sticks o the integrity is not compromised. The main advantage with a bivi are; light weight (980gms for mine) speed of setup (literally seconds) and freedom – I have bivvied? behind many stone a wall / in a small copse last minute when the weather took a turn for the worse or I found an ideal spot on the Lakeland fells. According to Ray Mears, early autumn in the UK is one of the best times of year for a night under the stars…

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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