Sit. Rep. #113: Beginning Basics, Insulation

1- What is your purpose of camping or backpacking or hiking?  Scout advancement, adventure, building self-confidence, getting away from the hustle & bustle, getting away from electronics and screens, commune with nature; photography, or research, or fishing, expedition, the love of being outdoors, more fun than the gym, surveying:  any answer is OK with me.   Let’s start out with some basic decisions.

  • Are you going to go out camping a second time?
    What is your budget for gear and clothes?
    Do you have a checklist of what you may need?  Do you have a friend or mentor helping you with decision-making?What time of year/season/weather will you expect?
    What kind of physical shape are you in?  (Can you hike 10 miles in a day with a backpack?)  Are you acclimated to the trip’s location?  (High altitude, heat or cold or both, mountains, coastal humidity, rainy season)

    Is the terrain beginner-friendly?  Intermediate? Strenuous? Or Expert?
    What / how much special gear is required?  (Fishing poles, camera, and batteries, extra batteries or re-chargers, GPS unit…)

  • What kind of investment are you willing to make concerning clothing and gear?
    Rent or borrow for your first trip?
    What do you already have?  Willing to use 2nd hand or used equipment and/or clothes?  (That are still serviceable or that only need minor cleaning and/or repair)Do you need to consider your personal health issues?  And what can you do to diminish that consideration?   (diabetes, fair-skinned, heart trouble, pulmonary issues, overweight, small size/weight)
    Do you have a Health Professional’s opinion on your ability to complete the trip?

C: What kind of knot can you never untie?
D: An Astro-knot.

2- Sometimes I break my own “no cotton clothes” rule.  I wear a long sleeve flannel shirt during the heat of the summer.  The long sleeves keep my arms from getting sunburned.  The lightweight flannel absorbs moisture and then evaporates the water cooling me in the process.  I can also dip that shirt into a pot or body of water and achieve the same purpose – keeping me cooler.

Note: that I always have a wool, silk, or synthetic shirt for wearing at night to help me retain heat if the weather turns cool.

C: Who won the knot-tying contest?
D: No one won.  It was all tied up and ended in a tie.

3- Sleeping bags are an essential piece of gear that requires (probably) the largest single expenditure of your gear budget.  Some folks find that a sleeping bag gives them the feeling of being restricted.  That is designed into the sleeping bag on purpose.  The larger the bag the more heat is required from your body to stay warm.  It may sound a bit counterintuitive.

Let us consider cold weather camping as a base to start from.  Staying warm during the night is a pure essential that rates up there with clean water and safe food!  A mummy bag is called a mummy bag because it is designed to fit appropriately without being tight against your body.  Try to maintain the “loft” of the insulation when using.  If you are too big for the bag you will decrease the “loft” by compressing the inner liner of the bag toward the outside of the bag.

The foot box is oversized to accommodate your feet with enough insulation to keep them warm. The bag should fit your length/height, your shoulders, and your hips.   A youth should buy a bag that is sized for an adult.  (Buy one that is a bit bigger than your largest parent.)    An internal collar just below the hood keeps the draft from sucking out a lot of body warmth.  The zipper should have a layer of insulation inside.  This keeps the zipper from being a cold spot.

3B- I ALWAYS carry a Heavy Duty Space Blanket.  I use that under my sleeping bag all year long.  The reflective side is turned up when in cold climates and turned down toward the ground in warmer weather.
3C- A sleeping pad increases comfort and warmth.  Well worth the $$$ and the weight.
3D- I do not like it but in extremely cold weather I will sleep with a watch cap on my head.
3E- I also have used a lightweight “poncho liner” as a blanket on top of my sleeping bag.  Or stuck it around my neck and head for extra insulation and warmth.
3F- My practice is to take a sleeping bag that is rated below the forecasted temperatures.  Be especially wary of the forecast when camping at altitude or in the desert.  I can unzip the bag or just use it as a blanket if I get too hot to sleep.

E: Where was that knot invented?
F: In Tie-land.

Semper Paratus,

Run-Ons and Even More Scout Skits by Thomas Mercaldo

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