Tarp tenting

“Almost tarp” tent

Tarp shelters are a common solution to ultralight camping.  They are simple, light and easy to build.  But they only provide a roof.  Walls (bug protection) and floor are extra or missing. “Almost tarp” tents address this.  My Six Moons design Night Wing tent is a good example.

The Night Wing is basically a tarp with netting closing the ends and edge.  It couples with a custom Tyvek 1443R floor.  But on a recent alpine climb approach, I was bothered by a lot of condensation that was wetting out my sleeping quilt.  Adding a bivy bag over the quilt or bag would give me both warmth and separation from condensation.  But that’s another pound!.

Alpine tarp bivy

The next outing involved two nights at a high camp at 7500′.  I decided to go lighter taking only an old sil-nylon tarp I made a few years ago and my very old Early Winters Gore-Tex bivy bag, to which I had recently added a waterproof zipper.  It worked, but the tarp had been designed only as a cooking shelter and was really not long enough to fully cover the bivy bag.  In practice this should not be an issue to have a waterproof bag sticking out into the rain, but….  In thinking about it, I wondered if I could easily improve things. A few hours of sewing and an ounce of fabric later, problem solved.

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Should Fire be a 10th Essential?

FireYou’re lost. You’re cold.  You’re wet. You’re not going to get out of the woods soon.  What’s your plan?  Of course, you need to build a fire!  Good idea?  Bad idea?

Making an emergency fire has long been one of the pillars of wilderness survival response.  The ability to do this is codified in the Mountaineers 10 Essentials List.  After watching big chunks of the west burn during our exceptionally dry summer, it might be time for a “reboot”. Continue reading

My first unplanned overnight, ever

Unplanned bivyIt wasn’t an emergency situation.  But the reason we all carry (or should carry) The Ten Essentials is that some days do not go according to plan.  The previous summer we seriously underestimated the length of a long alpine scramble in Mt. Rainier National Park and turned around at 2 in the afternoon with a lot of mountain still above us.  This year we started up from base camp much earlier and had better luck with the obscure route finding challenges.  It was still 3 pm when we got on top.  At 7 pm my partner announced that we were at a good spot to bivy.  We were in open woods by a little stream.  I was still intent on getting down that day, but he was correct.  We found a couple of nice level spots for “camp”.  He often does “day and a half” outings, so he just got out his overnight bivy gear.  I got out my Ten Essentials stash.  For 40 years I had been having this conversation on outings – “What if we had to spend the night?  Would you be O.K. with what you are carrying right now?”  Now I was actually going to find out. Continue reading