Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Compact Comforts of Home

My camping kit has evolved over the years and I get asked about it from time to time. I decided this morning to document just what it is that I lug around in that red stuff bag on the front of my bike. By the way, these pictures were shot at a spot in the woods that is a fifteen minute bike ride away from beautiful downtown Issaquah. I live in a rather nice part of the world.

The stuff sack itself is a medium Granite Gear Compression Drysack, which I attach to my bike with a couple of nylon straps. The bag rubs a bit against the head tube of the bike, so I've layered some duct tape on the head tube to cushion against the abrasion.

Here is the contents of the bag, all laid out. From left to right along the bottom of the picture there is the compression bag, an REI Minimalist Bivy, a Small ThermaRest ProLite Pad, and my MontBell #5 Down Sleeping Bag. In the upper left corner of the picture is a Space Blanket cut in half and rolled up around 4 tent stakes, an Equinox Ultralite Poncho/Shelter, and an REI Spruce Run Jacket/Vest.

While in the past I've used a variety of fine camp gear, such as the Hennessy Hammock or Henry Shire's brilliant TarpTent, I've found that for my fast/light/camp anywhere trips, the bag plus bivy plus poncho/tarp gives me the greatest versatility together with the fastest and simplest set-up and take-down.

If I'm not expecting heavy rain, I often don't bother deploying the poncho/tarp. Conversly, if it is raining, the tarp is the first thing pitched and the last thing taken down. I can pitch it with only a single raised tie-point, but the bike, a slender branch, a fence-post or darn near anything can serve to secure the tarp.

The bivy is bug and critter proof. On warm nights, I'll sleep on top of the sleeping bag and use the Spruce Run Jacket as a pillow. In colder times, I wear the jacket to add warmth to the bag. The combo of the sleeping bag plus jacket I count as one of my brighter ideas. Having a light camp jacket is so nice in the morning and cool evenings and it extends the comfort range of my sleeping bag down below freezing.

That's it for the camp gear. I don't have a precise scale, but my bathroom scale says the whole thing weighs about four pounds. Some time in the future I'll cover what I carry in terms of repair tools, food and other stuff.

Keep 'em rolling,

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