Back to Nature (Published on - June 22, 2005)
Getting comfortable camping
Photo by Rick Tremmel
A little planning can make a trek back to nature comfortable and enjoyable.
Camping, hiking and getting back to nature is the latest craze for Americans of all ages.

Manufacturers are busy endeavoring to keep pace with production and the latest, innovative designs to meet the market’s demands.

Although a bonanza for the consumer, so many choices may seem overwhelming.

Tents: Tents provide a place of privacy in the middle of wide-open spaces and an intangible feeling of security once you’re zipped inside for the night. Choose a tent based on weather, activity and number of people.

Sleeping bags: A sleeping bag is one of the most essential pieces of backpacking equipment. The right bag will keep you warm and comfortable, and perhaps more importantly, the right sleeping bag will help you get a good night’s rest. Sleeping bags come in various degrees and shapes. According to your needs you can purchase double sleeping bags, sleeping bags with adjoining zippers, close fit mummies, broad girth mummies, rectangular bags, down filled and synthetic filled.

Sleeping pads: Try spending a night on bare earth with your sleeping bag and you will, from that moment on, desire some sort of sleeping pad. Depending on what kind of camping and hiking you plan the choices are varied from a 35-pound pop up bed to a few ounces of closed foam.

We’ve reviewed and tested a variety of equipment. It’s essential that you perform your own research, but we’d like to share what has proved tried and true for us over the years to offer you a starting point.

Primarily we participate in two types of camping: base camping and backpacking-lite. Backpacking-lite means every single ounce counts. Every thing you need to survive you carry on your back. Since we usually backpack from our main base camp we’ll begin by discussing Base Camping first.

We found the one room Eureka Tetragon 9 (9’x9’) online at REI. It suited our budget, while also including the rugged, dependable features necessary. This tent also has ample standing headroom near the center. At first when we received our Tetragon 9 we were disappointed that the new design didn’t incorporate a seamless bathtub bottom (the seams came in direct contact with the earth) as our Tetragon 7 (7’x7’). We immediately phoned the manufacturer. Eureka assured us that their method of folding and stitching were fashioned in such a way that our tent was guaranteed to be leak proof. Eureka did, however, send us extra seam sealant.

I meticulously resealed each seam inside and out. This may have not been necessary, but this tent has proven completely waterproof through many a Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina storm. The tent fly covers and shelters the tent down close to the ground. Inside, the rectangle clear windows allow plenty of light and the large venting system keeps the humidity controllable. Although this tent is not recommended as a four-season tent we have experienced temperatures below 32 degrees and been quite comfy.

Setting up base camp:

Tip 1: When setting up base camp we choose a flat, clean spot between two reasonably close trees and attach a rope between the trees about 2 or 3 feet above our tent. We then fold a tarp over the rope (tent style). This protects our tent from falling branches and debris damage.

Tip 2: Suspend another tarp over your cook table. Put your wood under the table up off the ground and place a piece of plastic over that. Now you have a dry place to cook breakfast and dry wood to build a warm fire.

Tip 3: Use a footprint (specially designed heavy plastic) underneath tent to protect tent floor from abrasion and wear. Footprint should always be smaller than tent.

If it turns cold: Tip 4: We carry a smaller tent for backpacking. If a sudden cold front does happen your way you can put the smaller tent inside the larger tent giving you extra protection.

Tip 5: If you expect the temperatures to drop at night, place your folded clothes at the boot of your sleeping bag. Now you have warm clothes to put on in the morning.

Tip 6: Protect your head in and out of bed. If you are a cold sleeper wearing a fleece or knitted toque/beanie will help maintain your body heat. You may also consider wearing silk or wicking long underwear. The tighter sleeping bag fit is warmer. Always consider using a sleeping pad to maintain body heat from being pulled into the cold ground. Do not use an inflatable mattress in really cold conditions. They pull the heat from your body. Consider using a bag liner, these can raise the temperature of your bag by 10 degrees.

Tips for a warm sleeper: Do not wear cotton. It holds the moisture to your body. Use one of the newer self-wicking fabrics. As well, a sleeping bag with a wider girth will give your body room to vent.

With a little planning camping can be a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Back to Nature will continue this camping series; including backpacking-lite in coming weeks.

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