Homer's Travels: My First Camping Experience - Part Two

Monday, May 12, 2014

My First Camping Experience - Part Two

I put out the fire and prepared for my first night in a tent.

I moved all my stuff into the vestibules of my tent.  Vestibules are areas inside the tent flaps but outside of the sleeping area of the tent.  My tent, the Tarptent Notch, has two entrance flaps and hence, two vestibules.  Having two vestibules makes it easy to get in and out of your tent.  Your pack and other equipment can be in one and you use the other to go in and out of the tent.

The sleeping area of the tent is totally enclosed in a fine mesh to keep out the insects.  This was a comfort as I'd seen several ticks crawling around the campsite.  Most of them were on equipment but I did see one climbing up my pant leg before it was overcome by the Deet I'd sprayed on my pants earlier that afternoon.  Frankly I was surprised there were so few insects that night.  This might be credited to the steady breeze all evening.  In my sleeping area I had layers. The bottom layer was my sleeping pad.  Next came my sleeping bag.  Inside of my sleeping bag I had my sleeping bag liner.

I climbed in and zipped myself in and the bugs out.  I switched out my pants and shirt for long thermal base layers.  Temperatures were going to drop into the low 50s.  I stuffed my pants and shirt into the tent stuff sack to fashion myself a pillow.  The stuff sack was nearly the perfect size though the pants made for a rather hard and lumpy pillow experience.  It was around 10:00 pm when I was finally all snug in my layers.  This was also when my restless night of semi-sleeplessness began.

I don't know what it was but there were several possible reasons for my restlessness:
  • The Thermarest XLite sleeping pad was fairly comfortable but I think it may have been a bit over inflated - it was a little too firm when I was laying on my back I think.  This irritated my bad back making me roll and toss a bit ... which is not an easy thing to do in a sleeping bag.
  • The meal I'd eaten was high in carbs and protein and, since it was made especially for hikers, high in energy.  All this nutritional energy kicked in when I tried to sleep.   If I'd been hiking all day this probably wouldn't have happened.  I didn't have a long hike today ... I now had extra energy ... I couldn't sleep.
  • I discovered that when the breeze ruffles the silnylon material of the tent and it rubs against the tyvek groundsheet, odd noises are made.  More specifically, it sounds like some animal sniffing and snuffling around your tent.  Several times in the night I woke up from a half-sleep thinking there was something outside the tent.  I know it was my imagination but still, each time it happened it took time to slow my heart rate back down so I could go back to sleep.
  • At 3:00 am I started hearing a pitter patter on the tent.  It was rain.  When I'd checked the weather forecast before coming up, the chance of rain was in the single digits.  When the rain started getting hard I started laughing.  I was just grateful that I'd sealed the tent seams (the tent seams where panels are sewn together are not always sealed and water can soak through the same holes the thread goes through - I sealed the tent seams with a silicone mixture).
  • With the rain came the wind.  I laid there looking at the tent panels billow and I was so sure that the whole tent was going to come down on me.  I totally expected to wake up with a fallen tent trying to smother me.
  • While I listened to the wind, rain, and tent I started to think.  My campsite was at the highest point of the ridge ... in a storm.  My tent uses my trekking poles, made of carbon fiber, as the main tent poles.  I wondered if carbon fiber conducted electricity (it does).  This led me to listen very closely for thunder - there was none.
Some time after that I finally overcame all my worrying and fell asleep for a full hour or two.  It was still raining when I woke up at 5:30 am.  The tent was still up and intact.  My stuff and I were dry.  I was not cold at all.  I dozed another half hour until the rain stopped.  When I realized it had stopped I went into a flurry of activity.

I would have liked to stay in bed for another hour or so but fearing the rain may return (and I had no rain gear with me) I quickly packed everything into my pack, put on my clothes, and tore down the tent.  It took me roughly thirty minutes from waking up to having everything packed and on my back.  I then practically ran back to the car.  I ended a successful first camp with a stop at McDonald's for some hotcakes.

My first camping experience turned out pretty good.  The only real issue I had was not being able to sleep well that night (I was totally exhausted the rest of the day).  If I'd done a long hike before setting up camp I think I would have slept better.  I accomplished everything I'd set out to do.  I tested out, and gained some experience with, my equipment.  Despite the wind I was able to get the tent up and I learned what I need to procure to make it easier next time.  My cooking system worked flawlessly.  I did find that I needed to pack something to clean up with.  A packet of Kleenex or some toilet paper would have been nice to have.

I also spent time experimenting with writing apps on my tablet.  I am thinking of taking my tablet with me on the Appalachian Trail (AT) so I can draft blog posts during my free time.  Along with writing apps I played around with importing pictures into my tablet and editing them.  I was a bit concerned about importing the RAW picture format but the app I used handled them with no problems and even converted them to JPG so I could edit them.  This means I may be able to post pictures from Africa while we are still on our trip next month.

I'll be doing this again sometime in July after the Wife and I get back from Africa.  I'll probably camp in Indian Cave State Park this time.  It is a bit more isolated.  No city lights, highways, or trains.  A bit more rustic experience.  Maybe I'll have better luck and have some clear skies next time.


  1. When I read your first blog post, I was like "WHY ARE YOU CAMPING?!?!" Then I realized you're training for the AT. Oh geez. Lots of ticks on that trail, so it's a good thing your tent is so sturdy!
    I'm sorry you didn't sleep well. But it's kinda good too to be alert when you're alone like that right? I bet if you were on the AT, you would've slept like a log the next night.
    You're going to cover the world map with all your traveling! :D

    1. Autumn: I'm trying my best time fill the map but still have a ways to go. Where there are they cka, there is repellant.

  2. You have to save some spots for your golden years anyway :D I admire that. While I really, REALLY want to travel more, I must admit I have no desire to see it all. I'm happy reading about your adventures :D

    1. Autumn: Travel is for the young. In my golden years it will be harder to travel. I do want to see it all but I know I never will. There is never enough time or money.