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,



David Killick said...

Very interesting and certainly useful. Thanks for the post. Lovely and light probably a bit minimalist for Tasmania where the bush abounds with devils and possums and the like, all up for a nibble. Do you have bears where you are?

Jack said...

I've used the Hennessy Hamock too. And nearly froze to death on an exposed mountain bald. I looks like you have a great light-weight it. When backpacking alone I usually sleep under my poncho too. Since getting married I've been domesticated and now use a tent...the things we do for love.


Apertome said...

Thanks for sharing your setup. I don't know if I could get comfortable like that. I have trouble without a proper pillow, and apparently, I toss and turn during the night. I didn't really realize this until I got a narrow sleeping bag/pad which make it very difficult to turn over. I imagine the bivy makes it worse.

Any pointers? Is this something you just have to get used to?

Kent Peterson said...

Surly Dave,

We have bears, raccoons, possums, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, elk, deer, coyotes, porcupines, snakes, scorpions and other various critters around here. I've never bought the argument that a tent makes you safe, remembering a scence in a Monty Python movie ("The Meaning of Life" perhaps?) where a fellow has been mauled by a tiger. His companions hold up the ripped mosquito netting and say something like "we'd better make sure we stich this up, that fellow may be back!"

Ray Jardine has great advice for setting up camp, the key point being to have foodstuffs packed up away from the sleeping area.

Kent Peterson said...


I'm not much of a tosser, so I don't have any great advice other than avoid a bivy or hammock. You'd probably more comfortable in a tent.

Jayson said...

Have you ever considered one of these?

Kent Peterson said...


Yeah, that's just a bit on the heavy side...

Cyclin' Missy said...

Very cool. Where did you buy your equipment? I didn't know such light-weight, compact sleeping bags existed!

Kent Peterson said...

Cyclin' Missy,

I get some of my stuff locally at REI or Feathered Friends. Other stuff I wind up getting online from Amazon.

dexey said...

Excellent post.
I've been following your blog for somewhile, in fact I bought a Montane Windshirt on your say so, and can replicate much of your kit with my heavier items. It's about time I tried it, not much in the way of critters in UK :0)

How do you use the half space blanket? Is it one of those aluminium foil ones?

I am looking forward to the rest of the information on food and spares, etc.

Kent Peterson said...


I use the 1/2 space blanket (it's one of the heavier, tarp-like ones), as a ground cloth. It helps protect the base of the bivy from dew and dirt and the reflective stuff maybe reflects back a bit of heat. It comes in handy if I wind up camping on snow.

DoktorD said...

How do you keep the animals away.
Animals have a heightened sense of smell and taste and will sniff something before they eat it.
This is what we do in Africa when you bush camp.
Make a concentrated brew of chillies, strain and put into a spray bottle. Spray a circle around where you sleep. Sleep tight.
The villagers do it to keep foraging animals away from their crops.

Anonymous said...

People have been using insulated jackets to extend their sleeping bag temperature range for two decades. Where ya been?...kidding.

cycle coaching UK said...

I love the stealth bike in the first photo. Good camouflage! :-)

fenderbender said...

Thanks for the posting Kent! Look forward to read what ells you bring. Tools and cooking gear have always made my head spin. What would you bring for a 1-2 week trip? I recently got a TR Neoair and never slept better. Good luck with our race prep!

Larry said...

I really like this setup. I have two questions for you.

First the reviews at REI indicate some complaints about condensation. I have you had any problems?

Second, I have been trying to decide how to handle sleeping at PBP in 2011. This was my biggest problem in '07. Would you say that the bag and bivy are light enough for this?


Kent Peterson said...


I haven't had any condensation problems, but I'm not a very heavy sweater. As for PBP, you could probably find some kind of shelter enroute and just go with very light sleeping bag liner. The Thermarest might really be worthwhile, it's good to have an insulating layer between you and the ground.

Dan said...

Kent, were you to do say, the Colorado Trail, end to end-would this still be your setup? Or would you modify somehow?

Kent Peterson said...

This is my set-up for the Tour Divide and it's the same way I'd go for the Colorado Trail.

YuriB said...

I really like the poncho shelter idea. I switches to a Big Agnes air core pad from my old Ultralight Thermarest and the difference is night and day. I've also recently been trying these pillows from backpacking light.
I use the same bivy and love it and a tyvek sheet with grommets as a ground cloth/tarp but I think I'll have to try the poncho/shelter.


Term papers said...

I love the stealth bike in the first photo. Good camouflage!

Unknown said...

Kent, I've just recently decided to "start thinking about" a Maine to Florida (or Floriad to Maine) bike ride. You are the first blog I came across. Thanks for all the GREAT tips. I especially appricate the info on the camping gear. I've seen a few article about "Stealth camping" that have not been to encouraging. I've Got Lots to Learn. I plan on checking back with your blog and see what else I can pick up.
Guess I might even have to get a "name"
Thanks! Jerry