Feb 5, 2013 at 4:21 am #1298872
Hi all, first time caller here (well other than buying something in Gear Swap), I'm hoping someone can enlighten me on the finer points of backpacking light in my situation.
Background is that I'm an experienced hiker/backpacker but I am trying to start integrating some of the ultralight methods. I've read TONS on all of your blogs and on this forum but I am still getting stuck on one aspect.
I currently have an REI Half Dome 2 tent. If you're not familiar, it's a basic, full featured, heavy 2 person tent. For budget reasons it will be a few months before I can get a tarp of some kind. First off, if I camp in my beloved Shenandoah (I live near DC) with just the fly and groundsheet to save weight and start simulating tarp camping, will I wake up with a wet sleeping bag? Does a covering of some kind help with condensation build up? Will leaving the rainfly flaps open help prevent this moisture from settling (cross breezes?) or will it not matter and I'll probably get a little wet either way? I'm assuming a general humid day in SNP (the typical from late Spring to mid-Fall).
Next, when I buy a tarp, will I automatically want a bivy or bug nest, or can I get by initially with just a tarp, some basic groundsheet under me, and my sleeping bag? I don't mind some bugs, and my personal experience in the summer of Shenandoah is that the bugs suck, but aren't anywhere close to the Biblical swarms I've met in Alaska. On truly hot, muggy nights in the deep summer, people don't actually camp in bivies, do they? I just can't imagine that they breathe enough. Sorry I'm rambling here, guess I'm trying to understand if coverings like bivies and tarps are ALWAYS needed in the humid East to prevent moisture buildup, or if you can Cowboy camp (I've never tried) when there is no rain. When I've gone out West this would make sense to me, because it is so much drier.
For reference, when I first try this I will likely have a MYOG Tyvek groundsheet, and I'll probably buy a Campmor/Equinox tarp (maaayyybe will have saved the dough for an MLD or GG by then). A bivy will likely come in the form of a MYOG Tyvek as well, unless you all convince me that I will definitely, absolutely want a bug net for my face in Shenandoah in the summer. Also probably worth mentioning that I will mostly be doing weekend to 5 day trips at most for the forseeable future. Life's too busy right now to drop off the grid for weeks at a time.
THANKS for reading this ridiculously long post, and for your advice!Feb 5, 2013 at 4:47 am #1950968
I used a tarp and bivy while backpacking in your neck of the woods. I used a Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn and then "upgraded" to a cuben MLD tarp. I opted for a all-net hood MLD Superlight bivy instead of just a head net (too limited for true bug coverage in the summer) or a bug nest. I found the all-net hood Superlight to be wonderful, even in the middle of the summer. The non-net material felt like a silk sheet when going to sleep without any insulation (though I always had a little bit of insulation for the inevitable wee hours of even the hottest nights).
If you live in the DC area, you should check out DC UL Backpacking for some like-minded folks.Feb 5, 2013 at 5:33 am #1950974
Thanks for the advice. I'm guessing that by getting a bivy sack but with an all mesh head area, I can also avoid buying multiple pieces of gear, as that will likely work well for most seasons, correct?Feb 5, 2013 at 6:12 am #1950983
For cowboy camping, I think the bivy helps with condensation caused by a clear, cool sky. The condensation will be on you bivy instead of your bag. When the leaves are out, you mostly wont need it for these purposes though.
When under a tarp, I rarely use a bivy. It tends to make condensation worse under most conditions. It can block some rain splash though. If you have a large tarp, I would recommend going without a bivy.
Bugs are another matter. I usually just go with a head net but others prefer a mesh bug bivy.Feb 5, 2013 at 6:29 am #1950987
Ben, it sounds like I might have to experiment for a bit to find what works for me. Thanks though, your info is definitely helpful. I'm still getting a handle on how the science works. When going UL I guess I need to consider more – when I'm camping I just pitch the thing and hop in.Feb 5, 2013 at 6:44 am #1950990
My preference is a bug bivy if the ambient is above say 40F and a DWR bivy with a net window/hood below that.Feb 5, 2013 at 7:02 am #1950996
Could I get away with building a Tyvek bivy for colder nights, and buying a bug bivy for the muggy/buggy evenings? Just to get me through this upcoming season of hiking, I mean I will eventually pick up an MLD Superlight or comparableFeb 5, 2013 at 7:05 am #1950997
So my ideal setup at this moment would be…buy a budget tarp, like a Campmor/Equinox, buy the cheap window insulation stuff for a groundsheet, and make a bivy out of Tyvek to keep me warm and for when it's raining. When it warms up, I could just go without a bivy until the bugs get bad, but then I'll definitely want a headnet or (more likely) a bug bivy. Sound about right for SNP? I already have a solid sleeping bag (MH Ultralamina 35)….Feb 5, 2013 at 7:08 am #1951000
I would agree that you should try things out, Sticks. You could always carry a bivy and then try going without it if the bugs and splash don't seem like a problem. I feel a little more comfortable without a bivy. Others like the feel of being all tucked in a bivy. I think people's comfort dictates why a lot of us do or don't use bivies at times. I do know that in most eastern camping conditions, you can do fine without a bivy so long as your tarp is decent sized. On bugs, I find they can be a problem at low elevations but rarely have issues up high, where I tend to do my backpacking. When they are a problem, I can't just stay in a bivy all the time to keep them away. I am just too restless. So a headnet works fine for me.
I walked your Shenandoah for the first time this past Thanksgiving with my son. We really had a good time walking through there.
Good luck on your system.Feb 5, 2013 at 7:26 am #1951004
That sounds like fine plan, Sticks. I think it makes a lot of sense to experiment with some of the pretty low budget stuff and see what you like.Feb 5, 2013 at 7:33 am #1951006
Thanks all for your help. I'm excited that this is going to cost me a whole lot less than I originally thought. Happy trails…
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