Tips to prepare a good bivouac

How To Prepare A Good Bivouac?

Here is a good question! The watchword is anticipation. You have to do it in advance and make a small list to not forget anything important. A good way is to visualize me on the spot, what do I do when I arrive, what I will need, at what times of the day.

The place

nice view from bivouac

Knowing where you are going is crucial. This will condition your means of transport and refocus your weather research a little. Sometimes we say to ourselves “we’ll see” and we take the train to a mountain massif and… we quickly regret it because it’s raining and shining all day and being wet without ever being able to dry… ouch! If you are a beginner, avoid the mountains because the height difference is essential, the weather changes, the orientation is not always obvious. On the other hand, the view is often quite clear, so a day hike is superb, especially for training in the map & compass.

The mode of travel

In the practice of bushcraft, there are two schools. Fixed camp and roaming. In the first case, we will walk a little, and we will load more because we come to visit a unique place. We sleep there, we eat there, so no need to restrict your comfort too much. In the second case, we want to follow a specific path or visit several places in a row. Therefore, we will move around quite a bit, and we will have to wear light so that it remains pleasant and not to “saw it,” as the lumberjacks say. In the bushcraft roaming, one arrives at the crossroads with the excursion or the trekking (several days). All the tips of this environment are good to take (light bags, more expensive but light material). For example, I would take my hatchet for me in fixed camp and a crooked knife with my folding saw.

The duration

This criterion is vital because it will result in the transport of food and accessory material. How? ‘Or’ What? Well, it makes sense; if we go three days independently, you need four days of food (caution is the mother of bushcraft!). But above all, after two days, if you limit your carrying because you are smart (1 single T-shirt, one single underwear), you will need something to wash the clothes and the hiker, a string to stretch the laundry (but not the hiker). My little tip if you are leaving for more than four days is either if you arrive by car to drop off a food package on the way (buried or at the inhabitant), or if you have just sent it by post to the inhabitant or at the town hall, at the presbytery. After 4-5 days of trekking, I would find my package warm, and instead of having 10 kg of food, I would have carried only 5 kg. Likewise, provide large purification tablets, even if you have the latest Nimbus-Water-2000 water filters, regardless of the duration. The important thing at the beginning is not to overestimate your capacities, two days when you start, it’s a long time if it rains non-stop. Three days in the middle of August, it’s short if the weather is nice.


On a fixed camp, this question is vital, knowing what I would do there in advance allows, on the one hand, to be able to rationalize the learning that I wish to acquire through practice; on the other hand, it will facilitate the making of the backpack because it will give me more perspective on all the material to fit in. Make torches, work on mushrooms or plants (book to take), make a leather case (tools). It is true that if we do not think about it, that we take nothing to occupy ourselves when we start bushcrafting, we find ourselves walking a lot on Saturday afternoon, landing late for fear of being bored, then the weather to make the fire and the cooking we eat at 11:30 pm, we go to bed at 1 am, we get up at 7 am inadequately rested and we pack our bag, and we leave! What a pity, there is all Sunday left to have fun!

Find the right spot

nice view from bivouac 2

Here we are, the bag on our shoulders, in the wild and inextricable nature in the middle of nothing. But where to rest for the night? You have two choices, depending on your degree of paranoia or, as I like to say, organization. Leave in the cool, telling yourself that we will see or locate potential bivouac areas via satellite map, depending on your walking speed, altitude difference, weather forecast. For me, who sleeps in a hammock, I prefer method 2 when roaming to avoid surprises. If you sleep in a tent with a groundsheet, both ways work. On a fixed camp, it will suffice to know where you will know if the place lends itself to your habits.

Once the bivouac location has been estimated (in advance or the same evening), you must ask a whole series of questions. The beginner will be able to write them and read them aloud by shouting, CHECK! The old backpacker will look at the place and will immediately know if it corresponds to his experience. You will need to choose an area sheltered from the elements, animals, and sometimes humans to sleep well. Against the details, for example, avoid landing in the middle of nowhere (as in pubs) so in the open wind on the edge of the cliff, sleep will be sporadic, the shelter will jump 50cm from your face. We will avoid landing on a slope because if objects fall from above, it may be for you; or quite stupidly, if it rains, your bed could be submerged, except by digging channels almost perpendicular to the slope as we will avoid landing in a basin (the rain would form a swimming pool) or a too humid area (mosquitoes, nightlife). We avoid getting under trees if we are not used to it because a branch can always fall. With experience, you will recognize the good branches, and you will then be able to knock out the fragile ones that would fall on you before settling down; hop dry wood for the fire!

Against animals, caution reigns. If you are camping in Canada, of course, the challenge will increase accordingly. In France, not bears and wolves, we will take care not to be on a busy path. Not too much for the danger, but for the inconvenience that we would cause to the animals. Who has never slept on the ground without shelter with a hedgehog walking 1m from his sleeping head can not understand the fear that this causes (except Jacob, who that night heard nothing and slept like a lord # Guerlédan). This impression of mini-Godzilla or wild boar charges you when, in fact. More seriously, being on the ground on a deer path is taking the risk that the animal does not see you, and that runs when even at night the deer. To wake up in extremis by hearing a gallop approaching you with the only way out of screaming in the second to avoid the worst, when you wake up, it calms down (it’s lived experience).

Regarding protection against humans, this is reflected on several levels. If you are close to a road, sleeping near a parking lot is dangerous for many reasons: proximity to cars, the possibility of party animals having a drink near you, or coming to see you (nicely or not). Those who sleep despite the legal recommendations, where they are not allowed, protecting themselves from a disgruntled owner or a sworn agent make the difference between good and lousy bivouac.

Legal or not the bivouac?

Be aware, however, that on this subject, I can only recommend caution. One can very well find a nice corner with the owner’s agreement (public or private) by taking the time to look. This will relieve you of the stress of being caught on the spot and allow you to walk further, more completely (stop, observation, noisy work). Live hidden, silent, and under stress ( stealth camping) is not, in my opinion, an excellent way to enjoy nature. If you can’t find places and you are in despair, remember that the Scandinavian countries have an ancestral right of free access to nature. For 50 €, coaches connect the big European cities in a few hours. Many people speak English in these countries, enough to stop for a bit and be brought to the edge of the lake flüke-flüke, which will offer you 15 days of natural pleasures without worrying about legislation (there are nevertheless some conditions, in particular, distance from the houses).

What comes out of a campsite is qualified as “wild camping” and unfortunately often comes under the officer’s appreciation who will notice your presence. Legally, wild camping is permitted wherever it is not prohibited. That being said, we said little. The provisions are found in articles R. 111-32 -33 and -34 of the Town Planning Code. If the land is public (state forest, for example) in most cases that I have known, the mayor prohibits it. On private land, it is forbidden without the owner’s agreement (and when we do not know any, it can be discouraging, it is true). Fines from 1st to 5th categories will await free riders, and the amount is increased in the event of deposit of waste, damage to flora, fires,

As for the practice of bivouac, it is often poorly explained by word of mouth. The bivouac (from sunset to sunrise) legally does not exist; it is legal nonsense to say that it is authorized. It is not prohibited because no law speaks of it. As opposed to wild camping, which would be camping outside a campsite (we, therefore, assume a particular duration and with a certain amount of equipment), the tolerance linked to the bivouac depends on the one hand on the agent who will find you. On the other hand, if you are in a place known for hiking (GR), you can easily imagine that you are only there for one night, which could increase this tolerance. What bothers them most, I think, in wild camping is squatting for a long time and degrading a place. You cannot damage much in one night, and from there was born this spirit of tolerance, but that should not be taken for granted. I heard more favorable opinions (“the agent kindly told me to have left when I woke up”) than unfavorable (“the gendarmes took me to the station, I was taken to the prosecution with a ban carrying weapons”). But that is no reason to tempt the devil. Find out in France; some parks explicitly authorize bivouacs under certain conditions!


I don’t think you should stress so much about outdoor equipment in the bushcraft. The spirit would rather be to manufacture what we need, even if we are not going to make a beaver skin jacket in the middle of the bivouac. It takes good equipment to not enter survival too quickly, but you need the right equipment above all. If you sleep in the cooler, a down sleeping bag will pick up moisture, and you won’t sleep, or if the bag is 10°C in the middle of winter, same struggle. And once the camp is up, goodbye to the poncho.

The worst thing with the material is to want to do as we have seen, not respect your basic needs and knowledge. The watchword is safety. Even if you are eager to go with friends to test yourself, sleep without anything, for example, take a tarp in a bag, because being attacked by a voracious rain at 1 am with a shelter of ferns you will not sleep and worse, in the static between cold and convection (wind) you will get sick. There is no shame in covering a survival shelter because the goal is to have a fun, train, and stay alive.

Let’s start by studying in a disrespectful (because fast) way the Pyramid of Maslow, which in summary says that we need: to dress, drink, eat, sleep, to take care of ourselves.


To dress us (personal protection against the environment, in Ron Hood’s rule of 3), clothing adapted to the climate and your movements. In winter, special attention will be paid to the vital onion technique. In summer, we will take the equipment that dries quickly because we will sweat and often wash our clothes. Providing at least a spare t-shirt/underwear/pair of socks to alternate wearing and cleaning is a bush-union minimum. Vigilance on the shoes, this is where it all begins, and it all ends.

Store your water

Regarding the food part, drinking involves a cyclical process. You have to be able to restore the gourds that you empty (about 3L per day outdoors + 2L cooking/dishes/teeth). Either we have a mechanical potion or an efficient filtration method (with purification), or the little blue pills the chemical tablets, sorry. I recommend my trainees to always leave with 2L of capacity (why not 2x1L). Being tall and strong, I took a 2L stainless steel gourd directly, but you have to assume it behind, it’s big and heavy. The ideal would be a 1.5L gourd in the bag for the evening and a 1L out-of-bag for the day. The little trick is to have your water bottle always full and in the bag a collapsible water bottle that you fill just before stopping. So we don’t carry 3kg for anything.

Then eat!

food camping

At the solid level, do not think that you are a super-warrior and find food there. Already, French nature is no longer as generous as it was over time (decrease in species and increase in the number of walkers), but also, your theoretical knowledge is undoubtedly more significant than your practical experience. We, therefore, think to take at least a quantity of starch for each meal (4 per day, eight if you are a hobbit). Meat-at-every-meal is optional. I do it, but in small quantities (except fishing or trapping outside France); however, every other meat meal will not weaken you and decrease your outburst. For this, it is necessary to know your consumption well. For young people who do not cook too much at home, this is an excellent opportunity to learn to measure all that a little.

My tip is to plan on 125g of starch per meal (the PNNS recommends that starchy foods represent 50% of the meal’s calories), and alongside me, therefore, eat 125g of starter + meat. Every day, I empty my 800gr bag, it’s nice. Small eaters will start with 100gr of starch. The dietician who helps me prepare my expeditions would not be happy if I did not complete this paragraph by saying, “balance your diet, vary starches, vegetables, meats, increase the amounts in winter and decrease in summer, prefer to eat fruit instead of soda.”


The heart of outdoor well-being: sleeping, you will all agree that it is a Bushcraft art to master quickly. Sleeping poorly is the beginning of problems (lousy mood, slow reflexes, crappy decisions). However, you will need two essential accessories: personal protection and environmental protection. It is a substitute for the clothes that one takes off at night = the sleeping bag at the individual level. In short, it must be adapted to the season. If your budget is like mine, as high as Pauvristan’s GNP, count on a 0 ° down all year round and in good seasons either we will open it a little, or we will take out the leg (called the technique of the beautiful- mother),


Then, protection against the environment, depending on your level of bad-lassitude. A tent for beginners, no shame friends. It will protect against wind, humidity, and cold (but just a little, don’t dream, a tent is often + 3 ° max) and critters. Especially for couples, it will give you some privacy for card games. However, if you want to try to get out of your comfort zone a little later, a tarp will be a faithful friend. Lightweight, adaptable, spacious. But you have to be in control to protect yourself from the wind; the cold and humidity will pass anyway, so the down should be at 5 or 10 degrees UNDER the worst temperature recorded at this place for this season (foresight).

The tip of the day, if you want to sleep in tarp + fire because it’s classy (it’s true), I would only tell you one thing: fire and expensive down make your banker cry (you needed a rhyme). To finish the sleeping part, let’s not forget that “two layers below are better than one above,” so the floor’s insulation will be a priority. The best Carintruc down at -50 ° C won’t do its job if you’re lying on cold, wet humus. I do not recommend the self-inflating mattress in the bushcraft for a logical reason: we often do not control the ground where we will sleep. If we did the first night, the bivouac is over; we will have to return the following day. While a groundsheet, indeed very chemical and not bio-eco-responsible-sustainable, holds 15 years, and the foam associated with a reflective surface will never let you go. Knowing whether to put the silver part face-to-ground or face-sleeper, to have my opinion, it will be necessary to ask me around the fire.


Regarding the carrying part, ask yourself the question before buying: am I more a migrant goose or a sedentary beaver? For the fixed camp, a resistant bag, therefore heavier (2kg or more), will be preferred, and we will go in the thickets with and in the brambles; it will perhaps sleep outside. We will aim for something lighter (less than 2kg) because we will have it on our back often and for a long time. It will be less solid to avoid jumping into the thickets at the first ONF car you see. In any case, knowing how to adjust your backpack is vital to have a good time. Otherwise, you will be watching your feet, and every mile will seem like an eternity.

Do not forget at the end of each bivouac by undoing your material to polish it, to make three piles:

  • Pile on the left = used every day
  • Middle pile = used during the outing
  • Right pile = not used

After two trips, the items in the right pile will no longer be part of the journey! What has been 2x in the middle pile will go to the correct pile on the next exit test. Do this on every outing, and you will understand how the elders manage to travel with bags of less than 10 kg. We do not strip our comfort; we reduce our city expectations to get closer to nature.

When it comes to professional advice, we cannot repeat enough to be wary of the temptation of “always-lighter.” I regularly receive trainees who arrive with a 40L bag, very proud to say that 40L is more than enough for them. But when you look closely, half of their equipment overflows from the bag, dangles, clings to the vegetation (therefore s ‘abyss). In the end, their package is unbalanced, both side and front-to-back, and this causes them pain after 1 hour of portage. As much as I do not recommend bags of + 90L for bushcraft (fixed or itinerant, it doesn’t matter) which are bottomless and can therefore contain whatever you put in them, even if it means ending up at 30kg of loading. The ideal bag, in my opinion, any season and any person oscillates between 60L and 80L. Less is utopian, especially in winter (my winter coat fills a 40L bag on its own) or over several days. More is that your material is not optimized or that you take too much business. Be careful; I am not talking about a bug-out bag; survival is not bushcraft. If anyone needs to get a feel for it, I would say the bed is 1/3, clothes and accessories 1/3, food and water 1/3.


Then, to be treated, it will be necessary to adapt according to your needs and your fears (that’s what drugs are used for in the majority of outings: to be reassured). The minimum will be to have dressings and compresses, a few gloves, something to disinfect hands-tools-injuries (the same for everything), tweezers for splinters, tick pliers. The rest will depend on you; I always add a personal diarrhea pack because I drink nature’s water, a pain pack (dolimachin, ibuprotruc), sunscreen, and anti-itch ointment. For a more specific list, see the comprehensive DDCS (PP) ACM recommendations for your area. I do not enter the debate of the tourniquet or the compressive bandage, which, unless I have an ax or a chainsaw, is not really about bushcraft. I have never heard of a trapper who died from cutting his hand. At worst, we all have a belt on our pants that would do the job, if necessary.


Finally, this equipment part would not have been complete without talking about the essential accessories (in my opinion) on an excellent bivouac: a superior stainless steel container that goes on the fire to cook, purify the water and eat (US quarter, for example, gourd stainless steel). A fire pocket – always on the belt – with 3-4 various means to light a fire (fire steel, lighter, matches, flint hammer + flint) allows you to be serene and vary the pleasures weather. We have and the weather. A good camp knife should never leave your belt, as long as it is legal in your country. Similarly, to find out what I think of knives 40cm long, ask me by the fireside. We can then rummage a bit (cap, glasses, PQ, hygiene, map, compass…), but everything will depend on you. Take a map and a compass when you don’t know how to use it; I don’t see the use, for example. It will be imperative if you often choose the itinerant bushcraft to train yourself in the topography. Yes, always have your map in your pocket, and the compass around your neck will become essential (like any good scout who respects himself, in exploits, in raid).

In general, do not take the equipment that you do not know how to use; you will wear it for nothing. This is where small organizing day trips near you to learn how to master your equipment will be vital. The good thing about the equipment is that you wear it, so it’s up to you to take whatever you want. We often talk about girls who take lots of hygiene products. As long as they wear them, how does that bother you? Me the first, when a walking companion offers me a baby wipe that smells super good for a cat’s toilet, I take!


feet in a hammock

It was not possible to address the bivouac issue without talking about the safety of its participants. It is the experience that will make the difference between a happy bivouac and an emergency helicopter. Never go to a place that is utterly new to you. You can leave a path on a walk to see an astonishing thing that you have spotted 2km away on condition that you have analyzed a map or a GPS before the bivouac to understand the place’s topography, just as it is essential to warn at least two people (if one does not think about it) of your route, time of exit, estimated time of return, the interval of clicks (sending SMS “I’m fine” or click GPS beacon). Thus in the event of delay or failure to connect, they can alert the emergency services and guide them to you. This is why you should not stray too far from your initial route, except to prevent it beforehand (call, SMS, GPS beacon). Master dangerous gestures (knife, hammock anchoring) and avoid unfamiliar ones (jumps, running on the mountainside, juggling with axes, etc.). It can be reassuring not to go alone; in this case, three is good (an injured person, a caregiver, a runner to go to alert), but if it is 2, it will be 2, and we will do our best. In this case, be wise, a tarp or tent for two, a stove for two, we reduce its load. In conclusion, respect your physical and mental capacities, know how to give up when necessary to come back better prepared the next time around, and of course, if you think you need an accompaniment towards nature, even if there will always be skeptics.