Testing my Tent
As noted in my previous post, I recently purchased a new lightweight tent and constructed a homemade footprint for it. Since buying the tent I’d been dying to try it out, but time and mainly the weather had prevented me from doing so. I’m planning to do some backpacking later in the year – hopefully along the West Highland Way in Scotland – so testing my gear beforehand will be all part of the fun. The preparation and gear selection will be the most important part.
Fortunately, the weather finally looked to be a little more settled so I decided to try it out in the back garden. OK, this isn’t really backpacking and having and Indian Takeaway and beers with Dave in the house before heading out to the garden is kind of cheating, but the whole point was to see how comfortable things were.
Weight vs Comfort
As always, there’s a balance between weight and comfort and therefore compromises to be made. I’ll want to travel relatively light so that I don’t have a huge pack to carry, but I won’t be racing so can take a little more with me and hopefully have a little more comfort. That said, much of my kit was bought for the OMM, so it tended to sacrifice comfort somewhat as the idea of that was to be as quick and lightweight as we could.
My tent is certainly lightweight, and even with the footprint it’s not heavy. Yes, I could go lighter with just a tarp and a bivvy bag, but a proper double-layer tent is probably more sensible in Scotland. I’ll need a decent amount of protection from both the weather and the midges! I could have saved some weight with a single-person tent rather than a two-person one as well, but I find that a two-person tent is about right for one-person and all their kit! At around 1.3 kg including the homemade footprint it’s about as light as you can get for such a tent.
What I really wanted to test was my ‘sleep system’. I knew it was fine in warmer conditions as I’d been too hot during thr OMM, but I wasn’t sure how comfortable it would be once the temperatures dropped. It consists of various bits of kit:
- A Thermarest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping mat. (340g)
- A Sea to Summit Ultralight Pillow (54g)
- An OMM Mountain Raid 160 Sleeping Bag (450g)
- An OMM Rotor Jacket (340g)
- A pair of OMM Rotor trousers (270g)
The sleeping mat is probably little more than I need, but it does provide quite a bit of insulation. It’s quite narrow though and I just can’t get used to sleeping without wriggling around and falling off of it! The sleeping bag is very thin and very light, but I’m coupling it with the OMM Rotor jacket and trousers which connect together to form a kind of sleeping bag themselves. The idea here was that the jacket and trousers would serve a dual purpose. They would be my insulating layers during the day and at camp, but also part of my sleep system overnight. It might mean that totalled up with the sleeping bag it all weighs in at 1060g but that also includes my jacket and trousers so I don’t have to carry those separately as well.
Testing it Out
So, after our Take Away I headed out into the garden and snuggled into my tent. Would I survive the night in comfort? I was looking forward to a nice peaceful night in the garden as there was no wind and the skies were clear. I’d be on my own as well so there would be no snoring to keep me awake either!!
Peace and quiet weren’t to be though. As soon as I closed my eyes there were all sorts of bangs, clangs, sirens, shouting and machinery noises. I thought it was coming from the boatyard across the field but couldn’t work out what they could be doing overnight. I’m sure there were a couple of helicopters at one point as well! It went on all night and needless to say I didn’t get any sleep.
At first I was a little too warm. I’m not a very good sleeper at the best of times and don’t really like being too constricted either. Maybe trying to sleep on a narrow air mattress in a small sleeping bag isn’t really for me. The noise wasn’t helping either. As the night progressed the temperatures dropped and I also became a little chilly.
By the morning it was downright cold. The noises were abating and it was getting light so I decided enough was enough and got up. It hadn’t been the best of nights, but much of that was due to the noises. I did survive the night though and headed out for a run. Whilst on the run I noticed lots of machinery and lorries along the railway line. It all made sense now, they had been working on the railway! The clangs and banging made sense, the sirens had been the level crossing sirens, and who knows, maybe there had been some helicopters as well!
As far as the temperature was concerned, it had dropped to -1ºC and the tent was completely iced up by the morning.
I could have done with being a little warmer. I’ve ordered an OMM footpod to go with the Rotor Jacket and Trousers. These three items all join together to form a sleeping system of their own. It was on offer for just £25 so I thought I’d add it to keep my feet a little warmer. Using this and a sleeping bag is basically using two sleep systems together. I had hoped this wold be warm enough on cold nights and that I could use just one or the other when temperatures were mild, making the entire system more versatile.
I could of course save some weight and increase the warmth by using down rather than synthetic kit, but this doesn’t perform so well if it gets wet. Things do tend to get a little damp if nothing else whilst camping so I thought I’d try synthetic kit instead. I’m not convinced yet that it’s the right choice as down still offers the best weight-to-warmth ratio. I can of course wear more layers as well and will try that next time. I’ll have at least a base layer and a fleecey top that I can wear under my jacket. I’ll have those with me anyway so it won’t add any weight, but might add some warmth.
Hopefully, it won’t be quite so cold while I’m doing the West Highland Way! I’m also hoping that it won’t be quite so noisy either, maybe if I’d actually got to sleep I wouldn’t have felt quite so cold. I’m also beginning the think that maybe I’d be more comfortable with a down quilt rather than a restrictive sleeping bag, but I can’t buy too much gear!!