Backyard Camping: Gear Reviews

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Last night the kids and I decided to spend the night out. The temperatures have been dropping to make for a nice night to bundle up in a warm sleeping bag under a bright starry night. So, we did just that. And of course it was a nice chance for me to use some of my gear in cooler temps, rather than the 80* + temps that we have been having. Also, this was a nice chance for me to break some of my gear out and knock the dust off of it in preparation for my hike coming up at the end of next week!

So, the pieces that I carried out to use, which I will detail a little more are:

  1. GoLite RS 1+ Season Quilt
  2. Jag Bag Silk Liner
  3. Exped Air Pillow
  4. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir
  5. 8 x 10 OES Sil Tarp

So, last night we went out about 8:30 pm and started getting settled in. The kids do what they do best and ask questions, and I did my best to answer them… My daughter asked if the bugs would crawl up and get her since we were under a tarp rather than a tent, and I told her that they could, but it would probably get too cold for them to be out and about. She said it was ok though because she had her pumpkin with her that she picked from the Pumpkin Patch earlier that day at school. My son laid next to me and reminisced about some of the past hikes we did and told his sister about sleeping in the mountains under the tarp. It was grand!

So about 10:00 pm they started drifting off while I lied there staring up at the stars and the tarp, and down at my quilt. Squishing the NeoAir beneath me with my hands debating if I should put a few extra puffs in it, but it was fine. And of course, I would pull out my phone and check the weather conditions using the Weather Channel app (and I would even take a peak at Backpacker.com).

By 11:00 the temperature had only dropped a few degrees to around 57*, and I began to wonder if the temperature would ever get to the predicted 46* mark. The mornings had felt cool after walking out of the house to go to work, and this cool weather is what I was looking for tonight! I decided to come out of the silk liner and just lay under the quilt. Soon after I started drifting off.

About 2:00 am I woke up. I ruffled around a little bit and noticed it was definitely cooler. I checked the Weather Channel app and it said that the temp was now at 49* with about 60% humidity. The dew point was listed at 32*. At this point I got up to answer the call of nature, then hurriedly made my way back to get under my quilt. I now also decided to get back in the silk liner as well as under my quilt. I got all bundled up and then laid there for a while longer, again staring up into the starry sky, and at the tarp…

A little after 4:00 am I awoke again. This time I felt a little cool, maybe actually even a little cold. I checked the Weather Channel app again, and now the temp was 41* and the humidity was now about 71% with a dew point of 38*. Now, I reached down and put my socks back on trying to warm up a little bit. I also decided to finally try out the straps that came with the GoLite quilt. However, after searching around for them I only came up with one. So, I used it on the lower end and snapped the button at the top and then cinched the opening closed around my neck to help hold some heat in. This only helped a little bit. I tried to stay still trying not to move around and disturb my warmth I had built up. I drifted in and out of sleep the rest of the morning.

The temperature stayed at 41* for the rest of the morning until the sun came out and began to warm things up. However, me and the kids decided to come in around 8:00 am. They needed baths, and it was time to find something to eat. So, I gathered up all of our sleeping bags and pads and pillows and carried everything inside to let it dry out from any dew that may have gotten on them. The tarp is still set up outside. I will let the sun dry it out, plus I am curious to see if the tarp will rentension itself once the sun dries the dew off. (This is the good thing about using the backyard as opposed to on the trail, I can leave it be for a while rather than packing it up and moving on along.)

So, this has been the coolest temps that I have been able to use the above mentioned pieces of gear. I was able to draw some more conclusions about them and thought that they are worth noting. And just to clarify what I used; from the ground up:

  • Tyvek Ground Sheet
  • CCF pad (cut to size of NeoAir)
  • NeoAir
  • Jag Bag Silk Liner
  • GoLite RS 1+ Season Quilt
  • 8 x 10 OES Sil Tarp

I wore a pair of cotton boxers, a cotton T-Shirt, and a pair of synthetic UA shorts. I also wore a pair of ankle cut cotton socks. So, now that that is out-of-the-way, these are my observations:

GoLite RS 1+ Season Quilt

The 40* GoLite RS 1+ Season quilt. I got this quilt late this past spring. I had used it a quite a few times since receiving it but the temperatures were never lower than 55*. This quilt is marketed as a 40* quilt so of course it worked in those conditions. However, last night I got to push the quilt a little, all the way down to 41* F and under a tarp at that (read: not enclosed in a tent so the 41* temp was true). What I found is that while laying under this quilt in the above described clothing, at 49* I was ready for something a little extra. I was definitely a little cool. I combined this quilt with a silk liner at this point and it perked up for another few degrees, but not many more (about 3 – 4* more comfortably before the “cool” started coming back). I was actually surprised because I thought that I would have a problem with drafts coming in from the sides, however, once it got to this temperature, I noticed that the quilt itself was just cold. While laying beneath the quilt at this temperature, I could just feel the cold pressing through the quilt itself, making me feel cold.

Just based on this, I would have to say that for me this is actually a 50* quilt, in these conditions. I understand that some of these conditions could be improved upon which would carry this quilt even closer to its 40* rating, such as being inside a tent, wearing long bottoms / tops or using a liner with the quilt; but I was curious as to what this quilt would do for me on its own. And on its own, 50* is my comfort level with this quilt.

The Jag Bag Fine Silk sleeping bag liner. I also received this liner this past spring. (The fine silk is the blue one on the right in the picture, the pink is the Endura silk.) Since receiving the liner, I have used it on a few trips and outings. So far I have been very impressed with the liner. It is light-weight and packs small, as well as feels nice when next to skin. Also, the Jag Bags are cut generously, so they are nice and roomy, especially when used on their own. The two biggest reasons I bought this liner is to (1.) keep the sleeping bag clean and (2.) maybe add a little extra warmth to the sleeping bag. As far as using a liner to keep my sleeping bag cleaner, it is a no-brainer, it will work. The dirt and oils from my skin will be ground into the liner well before they reach my sleeping bag. As far as adding extra warmth, based on last nights experience using my quilt, the Fine Silk liner did actually bump the comfort level by 3 – 4 degrees. In my opinion, the liner did this by (1.) blocking any wind or draft that may have snuck in under the quilt, and (2.) by creating an extra barrier or pocket around me which actually helped to hold heat in closer to my body.

I have really come to like using the liner, and more particularly with my quilt. If the temperature is warm I can simply lay on top of the liner and only under the quilt, and when the temps drop, I simply slip into the liner. By doing this I can take advantage of the generous cut of both the liner and the quilt rather than being bound inside a tight sleeping bag. The hood on the liner does a fair job at holding my pillow in place as well. This liner does not use a zipper, and with its wide cut that has been fine, but last night I found myself kind of wanting one. However, the advantage of not having one is less weight… So, I am still impressed with my liner and plan on carrying it with me on my hike in the Smokies next week.

The Exped Air Pillow. I recently received this pillow. I have used it about 7 – 8 nights so far. I do not really have much to add about the pillow here but thought that I would include it since I used it last night.

I must say that it has been quite a few nights since I last slept on any of my backpacking sleeping gear. I say this so that I can say this: if it’s been a while, it usually takes me a night or two to break back into it all and get used to it again. The pillow was no exception. I did find myself repositioning the pillow quite frequently last night. Part of this was due to the fact that I kept pushing it off the top edge of my sleeping pad, despite it being inside my liner hood. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the pillow. I like the height of it better than any other pillow I have used so far, and while the contoured design can take a bit to figure out, once settled into place it is comfy. And to be fair, I usually wrap my fleece around the pillow at night which helps the pillow to stay in place a little better as well as provide a little more cushion. I did not do this last night… Anyway, the other reasons that I like this pillow over others is the fact that it is super light and packs down super small! Can’t beat that…

The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir. I bought this little jewel in a size regular just about 2 months ago. (I talked myself out of the size small simply because the regular was still wispy when compared to my other sleeping pads, and I much preferred the full size.) I have been able to use this pad outdoors about 4 nights, however, I have slept on it indoors closer to 17 nights. I have really come to like this pad better than any other I have used. For me, the secret of the success of this pad in terms of comfort all comes down to the horizontal baffles.

This pad sports an R-Value of 2.5. I have heard people say that they have used their NeoAir in all sorts of temperatures, from the low teens to as high as 40*. What this tells me, is that everyone has their own limit. Unfortunately, I cannot attest to my limit yet. I actually used the NeoAir in conjunction with a ccf pad cut-to-size layered underneath it last night. (I may sleep outside again tonight using only the NeoAir, I will have to see.) So, what I can say at this point is that I have not felt any cold sapping the warmth from below me yet while using the pad. Actually, I can feel heat being reflected back up to me. Again, I am not sure if I would continue to feel this heat reflecting back in cooler temps. I will be using this pad over the course of 5 (possibly 6) nights starting next weekend in the Smokies. I will try the pad out with and without the ccf pad beneath. And yes, I will write something up on it when I get back.

The 8 x 10 OES Sil Tarp. I bought this at the beginning of the year, however, recently sent it back for some additions. Once I got it back, I set it up in the yard a few times, but last night I wanted to sleep under it. So, we did. I set the tarp up in an A-Frame pitch and used my trekking poles at each end of the ridgeline. I also used a trekking pole on each side to lift the sides using the new tie-outs that Brian added for me. What I ended up with is a huge interior space. I fit 3 sleeping bags / pads under it easily, with enough room for a fourth if wanted. Of course, if rain was falling out of the sky, I would not want to fit 4 under the tarp for fear of the person on each end getting wet. If it was only a good rain and not mixed with too much wind I believe that 3 under it would be fine. However, if rain is coming in sideways, I would feel better with only 2 people sharing the tarp.

We did not get any rain what-so-ever last night, and the dew did not come until 4:30 or 5 this am. However, the dew and the cold weather was enough to make the silnylon sag. But the self-tensioning lines I put on did a fine job at keeping the slack pulled up and off of us. Actually, the only reason that I noticed the “sag” is because of the sag in the self-tensioning lines. I have left the tarp set up so that the sun can come out and dry it off. Also, I am wondering if once it dries if the tarp will shrink back up a little and if some of the sag will come back out of the lines. (Regarding this, I left the tarp out until about 1:30 pm. Plenty of time for the sun to completely dry the tarp. When I went out to check on it and take it down, I did notice that the tarp was once again taut. I could have retensioned some of the lines just to be sure, but all the slack was out of the lines again at this point. I just thought that that was an interesting thing to know, and share.)

I wanted to set the tarp back up again because we will be taking the tarp with us to use at Campsite # 37 in the Great Smoky Mountains the week after next. I will of course report back with how that went, and with some pics too.

So, these are my thoughts on the gear I used last night. I do understand that more than one night is needed with the gear to effectively evaluate it. And actually I have more than one night with all of the gear, however, this is the first night I have gotten to use it in cool weather. So, I hope that this may have helped out some by providing some good info. Thanks for reading.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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