A Night in the Canton, GA Wilderness (Suburbs)
A very basic trial run of the primary equipment I have acquired for my AT thru-hike:
So I have been accumulating gear for about three months or so, and hiking locally most days that I am in town (5-8 miles typically). I have not camped in about 20 years, so I decided to give the basic tent and sleep system a try yesterday. The weather forecast was great, clear skies and temps around 50 degrees for the low.
The gear I am testing out:
Zpacks DuplexL tent
Coughland ABS tent stakes
Big Agnes QCore Deluxe sleeping mat
Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 degree (regular length / wide) quilt
Walmart generic crocs
32 degree brand leggings from Costco
I picked a nice flat area to set up the tent in my very narrow backyard. The tent footprint is about 4 feet by 8 feet, but you really need about 12 feet by 16 feet to be able to stake the tent out. Setting up the tent is pretty easy, but I did a few things wrong. Lengthen your trekking poles to 48″ (120CM), stake out the corners, then lift the sides and set the poles and stake the sides, then stake the small risers at the short ends of the tent. I had read that most trekking pole supported tents have grommets that you put the tips of the trekking poles into and the grips go on the ground. The DuplexL does not have grommets, but sort of reinforced pockets at the side peaks to receive the poles. I put the tips in there and it worked fine, but the manufacturer recommends putting the grips in the pockets and the points on the ground. Setup took about 7 minutes.
I did not use a ground cloth as I am trying to keep the pack weight reasonable, and the tent has a waterproof floor.
Blowing up the sleeping bag was not too bad either. Inside the stuff sack is an inflation bag. Pretty simple to use, you just snap the inflation bag into the fill port of the pad, open it up to collect air, gather the top, and squeeze the air into the pad. My wife was laughing at me because she said it will take forever to fill this way. The pad is larger and thicker than pretty much every UL pad out there, but still only took about 6 minutes to set up and fill.
The pillow has a twist and pull valve to allow fill and deflate functions. Takes about 2-3 breaths to fill up, maybe 30 seconds.
The quilt comes with a strap system that they recommend attaching around the sleeping pad, but I read an alternative that sounded more my style. You basically close the foot of the quilt with the drawstring, and the lay the quilt over the pad like a blanket. Once under it you can rock side to side until the quilt is tucked under you to hold it in place. That way you can adjust how much the quilt is covering during the night to stay comfortable.
I put my pack next to the entry door near my feet and had the pad closer to one side of the tent.
The sleeping (sort of) experience
So I went out to sleep at around 10PM. Nice weather, maybe around 60 degrees, no wind. I got sort of situated on the pad and under the quilt when I realized the ground was not exactly flat. The pad, while much larger than most on the market was just large enough for me to be able to turn from side to side without falling off. The tilt of the ground did not help, and each time I shuffled my position, the sleeping pad crept towards the downhill side.
Within maybe 5 minutes I could hear something walking outside the tent, and it did not sound like a squirrel. As the sound grew louder, I waiting to see if I could make out any silhouette through the translucent tent. then what sounded like popcorn popping began. It was a light rain, but the Dyneema fabric is pretty loud when rained on. Anyway, no big deal, I had one storm door open for ventilation that did not seem to be getting wet, so I waited for the rain to pass. About 30 minutes later it subsided. About 10 minutes after that it started again. While the rain made it tough to fall asleep, the tilt of the ground was a bigger issue, and the road noise from 1/2 mile away was really surprisingly loud as well. I ended up moving the pack to the foot of the tent, and put the sleeping pad in the middle of the tent so it wasn’t so close to having the quilt get wet from the rain. I finally fell asleep around 11:30 or so, and woke up around 3:00 to a massive downpour. The weatherman has the best job ever! ‘Partly cloudy with a chance of rain’ is all you really need to know.
I fell back asleep and woke up with the sunrise around 6:45. Checking over the tent the roof seemed pretty dry, the quilt was dry (damp on the outside, but not soaked from anything). To my right was a small, maybe 4″x10″ puddle about 1/4″ deep on the floor of the tent right next to the storage pocket. In the puddle lay my iPhone, face down. I quickly grabbed it, wiped it off, and checked for function. No issues!
So I would say the overall test run of equipment was a success. I learned how to set everything up, discovered what may be best for me in some aspects, and also found some limitations that I need to address.
The tent would be better if the bottom of the trekking poles somehow held the bottom of the tent in my opinion.
The sleeping pad was a good choice for comfort, even though it weighs about 2X what other pads I was considering weigh. I am pretty happy with the choice so far.
I did not use the tensioners that came installed on the guy lines (I did not see them), but will in the future.
The pillow is way too small, and wayyyy too light as it sits. I will need to wrap it in a jacket or something to keep it from moving around so much.
I need to cut tags off everything. the tag on the quilt was especially annoying because it happens to be placed where I want to grab the collar when it gets cold.
Not sure how much I can wear to sleep well. The less the better, as long as it is not too cold.
I am not sure how the water puddle formed. Could be through the floor seams (I was set up where water might collect), through the ventilation screens from the rain, or possibly humidity condensation. I guess my upcoming test hike with gear for a few days may reveal more if it does not rain.
Putting the pack at the foot of the tent seemed much better overall for me.
Breakdown was quick and easy, but I am letting everything dry out well before packing it back up.
I probably got about 6.5 hours of sleep overall, but I feel like I can adjust to this setup and get a solid 8 on most nights after hiking most of the day.
Overall, I would not trade out any of the equipment I tested based on the first night trial run.
One night in the Canton, GA (suburbs) wilderness has mostly inspired me to look forward to the big hike in about 4 weeks!
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