What it's like to spend 24 hours living in a bubble in the bush


Here's the thing - I'm terrible at camping. Despite a low-key obsession with #vanlife and a high-key obsession with tiny country houses, all my attempts at actual off-grid living have been hilariously inept.

There was a multi-day hikein New Zealand with nothing to start a fire with, a climbup a mountain in Japan wearing jeans and Dr Martens, the time I forgot to bring gloves to climb a glacier in Patagonia, and the evening spent trying to light a campfire in Jervis Bay while the seasoned veteran campers stood around and laughed atme.

Then there was the time I couldn't even fold up a Kmart pop up tent that I bought on a whim for a trip to Bundeena, it's still stashed rather optimistically behind a cupboard under the stairs. So when the opportunity arose to try out a bubble tent glamping spot near Capertee - where just about everything is provided - I jumped at the chance.

But would I be able to handle a night in the wilderness? As my mother asked: "What will you do while you're there? Will you be able to watch your phone?"

I was gobsmacked at the suggestion that I'd be doing anything but gazing upward at the sky, soaking in the majesty of nature. (Also, it was on a farm, and and I have enough trouble getting reception in my lounge room.)

As it turned out, nature put on a show. At a bit more than three hours' drive, Capertee, where the bubble tents were located, was well-chosen for its dark skies, dramatic canyon and relative proximity to Sydney.

Also sheep - freshly shorn sheep with pendulous udders trotting along the road - and at least two unimpressed kangaroos. There were also goats, birds, and a killer view.

And that was all before the sun went down, which brought the headlining act - lying in bed, staring at the full night sky, ensconced in a plastic bubble.

I was curious about the set-up - how does a Bubble Tent work, exactly? Will we run out of air? Does it get hot? The logistics involved a system of zips and airlocks to keep the air in, and some kind of pump system to keep the bubble steadily inflated. According to the hosts, they'd chosen "reputable European suppliers with a proven track record in safety and reliability". The whole fit-out did seem quite sturdy, and survived the one time we forgot to zip everything up.

It's a little warm in the full sun but with plenty of blankets, quite temperate at night, while the outside was pretty crisp.

Inside the tent at the Leo Bubble is a bed that is Officially Nicer Than The One I Own, a telescope to observe the stars and a nicely styled ensuite with environmentally friendly sawdust toilet. Rest assured it's in its own non-transparent dome, although there is a clear porthole in the door.

On arrival, the tent was covered with a sunshade which prompted some discussion - should we keep it on? How bright is the moon, anyway? Does it defeat the purpose of a bubble tent if you don't spend the entire night staring at the stars?

The tent we were staying at has a "refresher station", which is essentially a watering can on a pole to provide a makeshift shower.

All you really need to bring is yourself, some clothes, a car that can handle the dirt-road in (the sedan I was driving made it, just) and whatever food and drink you want. Outside, there's a well-organised barbecue set-up, a solar-kettle ready to provide a cup of fancy tea, a fridge underthe deck, multiple seats, a fire-pit thing, wood and yes, matches.

It struck me that it'd work great as a romantic getaway - not that I'd know - tragically - but it was fun with a friend, too. While a couple of other Bubble Tents are visible at a distance, the area we were staying was pretty private.

So what is it actually like staying in one? Really quite nice. The view was spectacular as the sun went down - so much so that watching it was our primary entertainment, and watching the stars slowly fade in was a peaceful experience. The night sky was stunning, and the view of the Milky Way from a moon-lit bubble tent was genuinely quite special.

I couldn't make heads or tails of the constellations, and the app I'd hastily installed on my phone identified them all as Ursula Minor or occasionally, Ursula Major. (There's also an iPad with a similar app which actually works.)

I thought it might feel exposed - I've never even had a floor-to-ceiling window, let along a floor-to-the-other-side-floor - but I quickly got used to sleeping "out in the open".

In fact, the biggest hassle with the bubble tent was that the moon and the Milky Way were bright enough to wake me up. But seeing as though that was the purpose of the trip, for one night, it was a First-World problem I could probably manage.

I stayed at the Bubble Tent courtesy of Bubble Tent Australia.

This story What it's like to spend 24 hours living in a bubble in the bush first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.