A hiking post.
Lurking within tent.
July/August new kit post.
This month was i hope the most expensive one with regard to our new hiking kit because not only did i finalise my choice of tent for our proposed trip but i also bought the first of a near pair of new sleep mats to complete our main shelter and sleep system.
With the new tent in place and the first of 2 sleep mats i can now scratch around to find enough kit to get out there with and do actual overnight hikes with a working load…for sure i could have done some over-nighters in a more ‘bushcraft’ style just with an old sleeping bag , my goretex bivi bag and an old sleep mat…..the way it’s worked out though is that i’m just about ready for the kit, fitness wise, so i may as well jump on the remains of summer and just get out there.
As many members will know iv’e been a tarp and bivi bag user for many years except for when we are car camping, in which case we go with a much larger and heavier tent, long, thick and wide sleep mats and house based bedding : there’s also a huge crate which contains our camp kitchen, comfy chairs and suchlike. This is the opposite end : lightweight but fairly conventional camping rather than a bivouc under a tree somewhere. I have bivi’d my way along the south-west coast path that forms my main training ground and it works well as i can stealth-bivi in a dark green bivi bag and nobody would know that i am there : seemingly some people having a bit of a downer with ‘wild’ camping right now.
My practice, by the way, is as i have always done outside of the woods and that is to stealth-camp or stealth-bivi : that being to only camp or bivouac at dusk and after the dog walkers have all disappeared for the night. My aim is simple enough…..to make sure that i am well away from people and simply not be seen : easy with a bivi bag, less so with a tent but do-able.
Anyway, lets get on with the actual kit and why iv’e chosen it.
For this trip i realised that the only thing that would really work is a freestanding tent because we are going to have to camp on bare rock and/or it’s complete opposite ie soft sand….that’s mainly the canyons problem but the ground in the High Sierra mountains can be thin and compacted soil over hard rock and/or dusty granite sand. In the past we have tarp’d it in the High Sierra although only in the forested sections and even then i sometimes struggled to keep pegs in the ground. Most times it was easy enough to rig a ridgeline between 2 trees but much more difficult to tension out the corner guys : i often had to resort to lines around rocks rather than pegs in the ground.
The way that affects my initial set-up is that i’ll almost certainly need to find some sand/snow stakes , better pegs and i’ll need to put lines at the tent corners that can be tied out to rocks : i know iv’e got some sand stakes somewhere as we’ve always had to use those with the big Tentipi where we used to camp on the Biscay coast…that in a pine forest based on soft sand and standard pegs just ripped right out there. Iv’e already bought some Dyneema for the corner guys as it’s the same stuff as i use for lashings on the boat….paracord is a cheaper option and i tend to carry a hank of that anyway.
The second part of my choice of tent over tarp is that we are going to be crossing very high and exposed high mountain terrain , i think we have a couple of passes at around 12,000 feet and in the fall it’s likely to be below freezing at night. Add any amount of wind to that and we need to be in an all-round shelter. Weight wise the tent works out a lot lighter than a tarp, bug nest and 2 bivi bags !.
The tent i have chosen for the trip then is an MSR (Mountain Safety Research) designs, 2 man (person/thingy…sorry !) called the ‘Freelite’ and according to the blurb comes in at 1164 Gms minus bags and pegs. Later, when iv’e got the whole deal set up i’ll be posting the total weight as by then it will include the extra lines, pegs and stakes and maybe an extra ‘footprint’.
First impressions…that this is a low and small tent, in fact as small and low as we can really get away with and it’s a sleep shelter only rather than being something that we can comfortably live in for a couple of weeks at camp. It’s likely at this stage that i might carry a larger but lightweight tent and tarp combination for the car camping aspect of the trip….i just happen to still have one that we bought for one of our NZ road trips where we lived a lot under a tarp and tent combo. For that i’ll have to work out the total pack weights to make sure that it all fits within the limits of what we can fly with…but that’s a digression.
First trip out and first ‘erection’…..oops !
Rather than going out in the field and setting it up out there for the first time i decided instead to mimic the worst possible situation and that is to have to camp on bare rock (slickrock) which is a likely occurrence in the Utah canyons. Just for reference in the photographs i laid out an old tarp on the tarmac first to protect the delicate inner tent….it’s very lightweight fabric !
What i was expecting was a fully freestanding (geodesic) type structure that would just need holding out at the corners : MSR market this tent as freestanding. Rather than that though it needs holding out at one end and definitely needs tensionning out at the other and the fly needs tensionning at one end and both sides.
I was expecting to have to add extra lines or ‘bootlace’ slings to the corners anyway so i quickly made up half a dozen at about an 18 inch length and used those straight off to hold the innner tent corners out. The pole system comes in one piece and that tensions both sides at one end and the middle at the opposite end…the inner clips up to the pole except at the cross-ridge where it slips over the ends of the crossing pole.
The slight difficulty with this tent is that one end of the fly then has to be tensionned out at 3 points and both entrance/vestibule areas also have to be tensionned out. That was easy enough to do but i did have to add extra slings (like prussic loops) to connect the tent guy points to the rocks that i used today. The stakes as supplied with the tent are very poor, in fact useless except on ideal firm (but not hard) soil : i’m going to replace those immediately with Y shaped MSR pegs (groundhog stakes) and i’ll also carry 6 sand/snow stakes that i always keep in store for my big Tentipi and other car-camping kit such as the big tarps.
What really needs replacing is all of the existing corner lines and the tensionning guys for the fly , especially where i’m going to have to use those with rocks as iv’e done today and as seen in the photographs. I think the existing lines are something like 2mm polyester and i’m going to replace those with 2mm Dyneema but a lot longer….i’m also thinking up a quick way of securing one of those lines around different sized rocks and blocks so for fun iv’e just ordered some MSR guys with what they call cam locks/tensioners which look as though they might work.
And then i sat back and thought “i’m having to work very hard here and modify more and more parts of this tent just to be able to use it in one very likely situation”, so did what anyone would do : had a coffee and thought about it.
And then i took it down, took all of the additional lines and bootlace slings off, re-packed the whole thing as neat as i could in it’s very nice stuff-sack and parcelled it up ready to go back to UOG . I also sent UOG an email explaining that i don’t think that the tent is at all freestanding which MSR and their own ‘review/opinion’ claims. Iv’e had a decent response from them essentially saying that it’s an industry anomaly that if a tent stands up on it’s own then it’s regarded as freestanding….but they understood what i meant and what i was looking for : they have made one good suggestion and i’m now looking at another couple of different tents on their website.
But at least i now have a nice new set of tent pegs, sand/snow stakes and posh guylines which all arrived a couple of days after i sent the MSR back to the store.
To make this new side of my blog more effectively interactive iv’e created a new Facebook page here : https://www.facebook.com/groups/1257497434599364