Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Overview of my Camping Gear-Part 2-Shelter

Continuing from yesterday’s post, I want to take a closer look at the items previously listed as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in Part 1 of the post.

The first item is the GI closed cell foam sleeping pad. This is just your regular GI sleeping pad. I picked it up for $3 at an army surplus store. I have narrowed the pad by removing about two inches from each side. I find that I do not roll around too much during the night, so I didn’t need a pad that was so wide. This way it sticks out less from my backpack. I know some people also shorten their sleeping pads to 3/4 length, but I find that it is very important to have insulation under your feet. Because of that, I have left it the original length. This is not a pad designed for comfort by any means, but it does provide good insulation and is fail proof. There is no chance of it deflating because a spark from the fire fell on it.

The second item is the US GI Modular Sleep System (MSS). It is comprised of two different sleeping bags that fit together, along with a bivi. For most of the year I only carry the light weight bag and the bivi. During the winter, I add the cold weather bag. For more details on the system, you can see my post here. The bag is not the lightest, or most compact, but it is very durable, and has served me well for years. The bivi bag set up also has the advantage over a tent of being able to set up just about anywhere, on a very small piece of ground. The whole system retails for about $300.

The third item is the Kookalight inflatable pillow. I have a very hard time sleeping without one, and having to stuff sacks in order to make pillows was getting on my nerves. This pillow is incredibly light weight, and compacts to almost nothing. In turn however, it is not the most luxurious backpacking pillow out there, but it gets the job done. I like to place it between my bivi and the sleeping bag. That way I get the added padding on the sleeping bag. For more details on the pillow, you can see my post here. The pillow is not cheap, and retails for about $30.

The fourth item is the DD 10'x10' (3m x 3m) tarp. This tarp is made by DD Hammocks and I had to get it shipped from the UK. I chose it because of its light weight; it comes in at 23oz (650g). The tarp is made of coated polyester. I also like the large size. I consider my bivi to be my primary shelter. It is more than enough to protect me from a rain storm during the night. The tarp for me is a comfort item. Because of its large size, it provides good shelter in case I am stuck in the rain during the day. It gives good space to work and spend time. It is a much better way to spend the day than being cooped up in a tent. The tarp retails for about $50. There are other similar tarp options out there, but I am by no means an expert on them.

The last item is the GI poncho. There isn’t much to say about it. It works well as a poncho, and can also double as an emergency shelter. I like it more that any other type of water proof clothing because it also covers my backpack, removing the need for a separate pack cover. They retail for about $20. You can get them for less at an army surplus store.

One thing that I have found very useful with both the poncho and the tarp is to carry an additional plastic bag, which is large enough to fit the tarp or poncho, and that you can keep in the stuff sack. That way, if you actually end up using the tarp or poncho, and get it wet, you can put it in the plastic bag before putting it in the stuff sack. This will keep you backpack and the rest of your gear dry.