Well, no fire fighting for me tomorrow. My toe is still not better and I’m having trouble navigating the medical support system here in America. Thank God I have my Dad (Expedition Medic) to consult.
So, since I’m home I thought I’d try to start on the gear reviews. But I don’t have time to go through everything in one go, so let’s just start with my shelter.
Close readers of my blog will remember that I mixed it up a lot. I started with a tent, but I hate tents and they’re heavy, so I mailed that away at Warner Springs. At that time I had a big enough ground sheet (Tyvek/HouseWrap) to cover me in a “Hobo Burrito” if there was unexpected rain or wind.
I was worried about Fuller Ridge so I picked up a bivy bag in Idylwild, which I was glad I had up there, and again near San Gorgonio.
Somehow I got separated from that and my groundsheet in Wildwood (turns out I bounced it ahead accidentally) and had nothing but my air mattress and sleeping bag until I got to Acton KOA. This required me to sleep in some garbage bags for shelter on a particularly cold, wet and windy night. That was probably my worst night on the trail. Without those garbage bags I might have died.
So I got a huge, heavy tarp at the hiker box in the KOA, but when it started raining I trolled the train bridge, which was one of my favorite camps of the trip!
In Tehachapi I swapped out the tarp for my bivy sack again, which was smart because there was a lot of cold nights, desert notwithstanding. And there’s a lot of wind in the desert, so the bivy keeps the wind off but there’s nothing flapping around (like a tent).
Worried about the Sierra, I swapped out the bivy for my full-on tent in Kennedy Meadows. But I hate tents. First night I set the whole thing up was probably the most wet I ever woke up. Condensation was raining down on me inside! Boo
But my tent, an MSR Hubba, has a feature where you can pitch the rain-fly without the tent underneath. I quickly came to love this option.
It’s a lot like Cowboy Camping because there’s plenty of fresh air and no floor. With all the ventalation I stayed nice and dry, so the only thing I had to dry out at lunch was the outside of the rainfly, not my bag or groundsheet.I won’t say where, but I even bulldozed everything to one side once and dug a “cathole” without having to leave my shelter, an option I may have employed again in the rainy parts of Washington. Digging a hole within your own shelter is good incentive to do a good job and Leave No Trace!
I know there’s lots of tarp tents out there, but I don’t think many are free-standing, which I really liked. Of course, bugs, particularly ants, can still get in, but I prefer that to all the condensation from being in a tent. Of course, the tent wasn’t made for this to be the primary mode, so it was a little difficult to pitch, especially in the wind. If I really wanted to pimp it out I would modify it so I could zip or Velcro a strip of mosquito netting around the bottom to close the inch or so gap around the bottom when the mozzies are really bad. Be a lot lighter than a whole tent.
So, in summary, for dew, frost and wind I would take my bivy bag. For heavy rain and hail (i.e., thunderstorms) I loved my free-standing rainfly without the rest of the tent. I do not recommend garbage bags, Ha Ha!