Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Solo camping

I went on my solo two-day camping trip last weekend.  It was so great.

My pack was only 22.2 pounds even with a 4-pound tent and a 1-pound stove.  It must have been light because I brought very little water.  My campsite had a water spout, though the water needed to be purified before drinking.

That pink tube on top is the pepper spray.  I'm glad I had it.  I also brought a flashlight, which I never used.

I used my survival school skills to make the wool blanket into a pack.  This saves several pounds from not having a separate pack.

Selfie just before I set off with my blanket pack.

It was a 4.6-mile hike to my campsite.  The distance was just right, with the weight of my pack.  

I decided to eat primarily soup, so it can all be cooked in my single pot.  I experimented with these three varieties.
1. Ready-made soup, 2. dehydrated vegetable bean chili, and 3. gumbo powder.

1. The ready-made soup was shockingly easy.  Two minutes from opening the can to eating the warmed-up soup.
It was a coconut milk based soup, which tasted exotic in the woods.

A commenter on my earlier post said it was better to bring 16 oz of food (soup in this case) instead of 16 oz of chair. I found this to be true.  

2. The dehydrated vegetable pieces in the bean chili turned out to be disgusting.  
I ate a lot of it anyway, even though I could feel it coursing a path of indigestion through my stomach.

When I went to chuck the rest into the bushes, I poked my leg into a plant that made my right shin break out in allergic hives.

3. The gumbo was okay.  I cooked it with potatoes and lentils.  It was nice to eat real food instead of dehydrated or super-processed foods.

One wonderful thing is that I became back in touch with my body, the way I was during survival school.  I could keenly feel indigestion, hunger, weariness.

The weather report said lows were around 53 degrees, but I froze at night.  I woke up every hour from the cold.  (This part of the trip was not so great.)  I could not sleep at all between 2:30am and 4:30am due to the cold.  

The second day, I decided the reason for the cold was insufficient insulation between me and the ground.  I spent an hour gathering pine needles to make into a bed.  

I was so proud of myself.  On the fourth trip to gather pine needles, I poked my unharmed leg into the allergic plant covering most of my campsite, and got hives on my left shin.  The allergic reaction was so painful that I thought I had been stung by a bee.  

This is the horrid death-plant that caused me allergic hives and throbbing pain every time it touched my skin.

I made a pine needle bed. I realize it looks a bit like a grave in the photo.  But it was not scary in real life.  I put my tent on top of it, and my blanket in my tent.  I was excited about my pine needle bed.  I took a nap and it was comfortable and warm.  Then night fell, and ... I froze again.  I woke up every 90 minutes, which is a slight improvement over every hour but was still ghastly.

As soon as I came home, I bought a frou-frou expensive thermarest camping pad with fancy insulation.

Note the circle of allergic-death-plant around my whole sleeping area.  

Walking back to my car!

It was nice being off the grid, sans email.  Peaceful.  Without the sounds of the city, my own inner voice becomes much more clear.


Maria said...

Your death plant is stinging nettle! Next time, bring gloves, and pinch off the young leaves on top to add to your soup - after it's steamed or boiled for a minute the sting goes away and it's a super delicious nutritious green.

Niniane said...

Thank you Maria for identifying the death plant! I read the wikipedia page, and indeed my hives looked like the wikipedia photo.

It seems unfortunate to have stinging nettle all over a frequently-used campsite.

Anonymous said...

Just be glad it wasn't poison oak.

Anonymous said...

Will you go back to stuffing your face with fatty food?

Perl Hacker said...

Thanks for the trip report. Glad you got to spend some much-needed time outdoors. Re: freezing to death at night--I, too, have done this. Went camping with a colleague in a mountainous part of southern Germany. Fool that I was, I only brought a poncho and soft nylon liner, thinking it would be enough. I woke up every half hour after midnight, with my teeth chattering! Not very restful. In the future, I brought a pair of extra warm socks to use at night and a soft woolen cap to pull down over my ears. Later, I also added a Patagonia Puffball vest (best thing I ever bought--synthetic, weighs nothing, huge improvement in core warmth). Of course nothing beats a weather-rated bag, lol, but when you're trying to cut down on your pack load, etc... :o)

Anonymous said...

Camping without tents and sleeping bags? What's the advantage of sleeping on pine needles in open air?

Anonymous said...

Hahaha!!! I also thought that pine needles would help, but they did NOT. My case was in Mount Washington in New Hampshire...in November...and I gathered enough pine needles all morning and made a neat pile too...really was looking forward to sleeping on it!

But then I found out that they did not keep me warm. Go figure, if they did we would have heard about their insulating use, huh?

But there is something very pioneering, very anime, and very Heidi-like about gathering pine needles as an attempt to make a nice warm cozy bed in the middle do the earth to sleep on! It just delights me that you, someone else, also tried this idea!

Niniane said...

@Anonymous 8/18: I was actually taught in survival school that pine needles would insulate me and keep me warm. Maybe I needed to actually sleep inside the nest of pine needles instead of just on top of them. Or maybe the nights were warmer during survival school...

Niniane said...

@Anonymous 8/15: I did have a tent. I didn't have a sleeping bag. But I was sleeping in the tent, not in the open air. (Though I have slept on pine needles in the open air in the past.)

The benefits are:

1. Lighter supplies, so you can hike a longer distance during the day. If you have a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, pack, etc etc, you can only do car camping or at most hike out a couple miles.

2. I like having fewer things to keep track of. I feel more connected to the wilderness if I'm there with a few supplies, versus if I'm there with a mobile home on my back.