Sunday, September 13, 2015

Packing Up - Part 2


Getting a good night's sleep can be challenging when I'm hiking. Of course there's the unfamiliar environment of sleeping in the woods, either in a tent or in a shelter. Small noises are magnified in your mind -- wait, what was that rustling in the woods? Was that a bear? Did I just hear banjos?

But eventually you learn to overcome those reactions. Then you have to come to terms with the reality that you're sleeping on the ground, or on a hard wooden shelter floor. And it's cold/hot/damp/windy. Good sleeping gear becomes important.

For this trip I'll be taking a North Face Aleutian 40-degree sleeping bag. It's a pretty good bag for summer or late spring/early fall conditions. It's a synthetic bag, so it's a bit heavier than a comparable down model, but it packs down fairly small and isn't too heavy. You can see from the pictures below how I use a compression stuff sack to pack it as small as possible.

Compression stuff sack in action.

I also stick a very lightweight silk sleeping bag liner in the sack. The liner helps keep the bag clean, and can serve as it's own cover if the weather's hot. I'm also packing a small inflatable pillow -- I think I'm getting soft in my old age. Previously I'd just bunch up my clothing stuff sack under my head -- not always the most satisfactory pillow.

A couple of years ago I switched to an inflatable air mattress, in lieu of my trusty old Ridgerest foam pad. Ridgerests are indestructible, make a great chair to sit on when rolled up, and can actually keep a can of  beer cold for many miles. Just put the can into the rolled up pad, and stuff socks in either end -- works like a charm!

Setting up camp, with my old Ridgerest to the right. SNP, VA, 2010

But my air mattress -- an REI AirRail -- offers a much cushier ride than the old Ridgerest ever did. And it has raised sides so you don't slide off the pad at night, something that happens rather easily if you're tenting on a slope. The air mattress adds a bit of weight to my pack and adds a little time to setting up and packing up, but it's well worth it to me.

My inflatable pad, on the left.

My tent straps onto the bottom of the pack. I like having the tent on the outside of the pack, so I can set it up quickly without opening the pack if the weather's bad. I attach it to one of loops on my pack with a carabiner as a safety measure, to make sure I don't lose the tent down a hill if the straps holding it work loose.

My tent packs up small and attaches nicely to the bottom of the pack. Note the carabiner on the right.

Next time: Cooking gear, toiletries, first aid

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