Saturday, March 31

My camping cargo!

Well, I’m set for my solo camping adventure.

Not knowing if solo camping is a permanent part of my motorcycle touring, I’ve kept my expenses low. The equipment I sought had to fit three criteria: decent, inexpensive and small. First the tent: I found one for $90 that was on clearance for $34. Can’t beat that! I grabbed it. The tent was made in China. I mention that in an effort to (perhaps) explain why the abysmal directions for erecting the tent. In two short, confusing paragraphs, I learned nothing! I’m one of those people who reads manuals, highlights directions and really follows instructions. But this tent came devoid of any coherent instructions. I studied the photo of the assembled tent and put it together based on the picture. It took me two tries to get it right. Once erected, I was happy I had decided to get a 2-person tent rather than a one person. This is a small dome tent that has just enough room for me and my loot—not an inch more. Its igloo design has a wide front entrance, privacy flaps and nice mesh cover. I like it; it will definitely serve me well. On a five star scale, with five being superior, I give the tent a 3.5; the instructions get a minus one!

Sleeping Bag

I selected the mummy style as I recall being bug-snug in one before. I am amazed that tents and bags run the price gamut! I found sleeping bags for $10.00 to well over $700.
After much research, I realized I could easily eliminate the high priced all-season, goose down-filled bags, guaranteed to keep me warm in below zero temps. I will not be scaling any icy mountains in the dead of winter. I opted for a hugely discounted bag for a whopping $35, which was a more than 50% discount. In print, it sounded good. In reality, it looks pretty darn good too. On the few nights I plan to use it, it will suffice. The bag earns a 3.5.

Sleeping bag pad

I found many sleeping bag pads, those items you place between your sleeping bag and the floor of your tent. Doing so will prevent you from feeling the cold and damp ground on which your tent is placed. To me the most important thing about these pads should be their ability to retain body heat, resist moisture, and ideally, add a little softness to the ground. Am I missing something? By now, I've learned that one can spend any amount on gear. I wanted cheap but good quality and I now know that it is possible if one is willing to hunt for bargains, which can be taxing. I found pads ranging in $10 to well over $200! A huge range in style and function exists. I found one $25 that was discounted to $12. When I opened the package and revealed a thick spongy pad--sort of like the memory foam mattresses--I wondered how well it would work. Well, it is surely better than nothing—I hope. For now, this gets a 3.


This is too cool!
The lamp is large and operates from a twist wheel adjacent to the lamp. It is lightweight with an adjustable strap. The light is bright enough to illuminate the way if I have to answer a nature call in the middle of the night. It also doubles as a nice reading lamp. The only thing I don’t like about it is the military fatigue strap, but hey, I only pad $15 for it and I think it’s one of my favorite purchases. (Sidebar: while waiting at the airport to pick up my daughter who was home for spring break, I had a chance to use this as a reading light. It drained new batteries in thirty minutes!) Note to self: take extras. I rate this 4 out of 5.


Another potentially pricey item. Initially, confused with the mm numbers and zoom and power figures, I did some research to find out which features were necessary for my needs. One can’t go strictly by price as the same features can be found at all price levels. If desired, I could spend thousands of dollars on binoculars! Price varies also by function, glass quality and brand name. There is no need to buy binoculars designed for astronomy if all I want to do is birding. Do I need a zoom function? Lightweight, compact or something more robust? Sometimes I wish I were the kind of person who could see something, make a decision and get on with my life. This was not an easy purchase. Since I didn’t want to spend a ton, but didn’t want to buy junk, I found a pair of Bushnell (a name inextricably linked with binoculars) that retailed for $110. I bought them for $55. Good deal, eh?
They are compact, lightweight and have a medium zoom function. They fit my small hands well and I’ve already spied on an apartment building across the river. I was also able to read the fine print on a street sign far into the distance. I’m very pleased with this purchase. This gets a whooping 5 out of 5.

If camping becomes a permanent feature in my motorcycle touring, I will eventually upgrade the equipment. Until then, it’s good to know that I’m set for the season.

By the way, my friend Lucas, a serious outdoorsman, has ribbed me about my lack of desire to camp and cook my meals. To him camping and cooking go hand-in-hand. I believe him. I did it many years ago. Now, I've redefined things. Any activity that reminds me of domesticity will not be allowed on my trips! Camping is roughing it enough. I'd rather fast than cook on a vacation! So, don't expect any reviews of cooking gear--and don't try to convince me of its virtues, thank you very much.