Some More Backyard Camping Gear Reviews

Last night the temperatures were forecast to reach freezing and the winds were to be mild and gentle. So, this was the perfect opportunity for me to get out there and try out some more of my gear. Since I am on call and cannot go anywhere I simply pitched my tarp in my yard.

With the wind not blowing much, it probably would have been a better idea to pitch the tarp in an A-Frame, but I wanted to try out the half pyramid pitch this time. So, when I pitched the tarp I did not drop it all the way to the ground, but instead I left about a 4 inch gap all around the edges and of course the front was open. I used a piece of Tyvek as my ground sheet under the tarp.

I set the tarp up earlier in the day yesterday, but I didn’t go out until around 10:30 last night so it was pretty cool already (40 F). Also,  I did not carry my sleeping gear out until I went to bed so that the local kitty cat wouldn’t come by and paw my NeoAir and also so that the gear wouldn’t be cold when I went out.

When I went out, the tarp already had a thin layer of condensation formed inside the tarp, but not too bad. It wasn’t forming drops yet anyway. I carried out my NeoAir with intentions to use it alone but I did have a piece of a ccf pad I had cut down to the size of my NeoAir next to me just in case I started getting cold from underneath. Also, the day temperatures were in the mid 60’s so the ground wasn’t really cold to begin with. Probably because of this, I did not need to use the ccf pad since the NeoAir kept me plenty warm all night with nary a cold spot.

I also carried out my Marmot Helium and a silk liner. I ended up not using the liner though. And to sleep in I wore a pair of UA stretchy shorts and my long sleeve Cap 2 shirt with a pair of medium-weight SmartWool socks. I also used my regular Buff to help keep my mouth and nose warm once I went to sleep. For my choice of pillow last night, I used the Cocoon Ultralight, which is my newest pillow.

When I woke up to answer the call of nature at around 2:30 or so in the am, the temperatures had dropped to 33 F. (I had taken the thermometer off the front of the house and leaned it up in front of the tarp so I could get an actual temperature reading.) At this time I also noticed a thicker layer of condensation on the inside of the tarp, but none was falling off and hitting me yet, at least that I knew of.

I awoke again around 6:30 this morning and felt quite refreshed and good. Then I laid there for about 45 more minutes just enjoying the morning. At this time the thermometer said 29 F and I could see spots on the tarp where the condensation had frozen. Was kind of neat. Then about 7:15 I got up and carried my sleeping gear inside and then got ready to go to work.

So, like I said the NeoAir kept me completely warm all night (and morning) and the temperature reached a low of 29 F where I was, however I do understand that the ground was probably not that cold. Neat thing though, even when I sat up last night I could not feel the cold ground under me, but a few weekends ago when I would sit up at Max Patch I could feel the cold ground. Maybe the ground was colder there. Anyway, last night the NeoAir kept me warm. However, it is not definite yet how this pad does in cold weather, so I will be sure to get it out much more now that the temperatures will be dropping and the ground will be getting colder!

As for comfort, the NeoAir is still the winner for me. There is not other pad that is equal in terms of comfort, for me. Even though it is the regular width, I still love it. Of all my purchases this year, this is one of the best decisions I have made.

As for my Marmot Helium, it was great too. I never felt the cold come through, but then again this bag is “EN rated to 16 F” so I shouldn’t feel the cold at this temperature, and I didn’t. In these temperatures I was completely comfortable. I did not have to curl up inside the bag to stay warm, actually I could spread out my legs and arms, even push them against the bag (probably compressing it somewhat) and never had a problem with it. And the cool thing is that the bag is wide enough for me to stretch out enough to feel comfortable and not cramped. So far so good.

The hood on the Helium is very nice too. This was the first night that I got to use my hood cinched up. The hood contoured around the top of my head, and the top of the sleeping bag came across my neck to form a very nice, comfortable fit that also did a super job at keeping all the warm air from escaping. On my other sleeping bag, when I cinch it closed the opening forms a hole that wants to sit on the top of my head and is uncomfortable, but the design of the hood on the Helium actually does cradle my head. Very nice. And it also kept my noggin warm. I did not use a boggin, but I did have one available, I just never needed it. The hood on the Helium provided both comfort and warmth.

Now I did wear a Buff to sleep in. I did not wear it over my head, but rather around my neck and then I simply pulled the front up to cover my mouth and nose to keep them warm (which it did) but I was also hoping that it would cut down on some of the moisture being exhaled from my breath. However, on the flip side of this, I was hoping that all the moisture would not collect on the Buff making the Buff wet and cold and nasty. What I found is that the microfiber that the Buff is made of does a great job of staying dry. It did hold a little moisture, but not enough to make it feel abnormally wet or cold or nasty. Although, when I saw the amount of condensation on the inside of the tarp when I woke up, I realized that the Buff did not really cut back the amount of moisture being exhaled. Oh well, at least it kept me warm and for the most part dry. And of course, it kept my head out of my bag…

The Cocoon pillow did well too. I slept with the ripstop side up because the polyester side did a better job at sticking to the NeoAir and staying in place better. I did not use the shirt trick I recently learned because I wanted to see how the pillow did on its own. Also, I did not sleep with the pillow inside my bag because I really don’t like to do that, and besides I was cinching my hood closed and the pillow would have made it uncomfortable being crammed inside there. Anyway, the pillow did in fact stay in place pretty good throughout the night. I did have to move it back a few times, but in my opinion, it did a good job. One thing worth noting, I did feel a cold spot in the pillow when I got up to pee in the early morning and then laid back down. It took it a few minutes for the pillow to warm back up, but then it was fine.

Like I said, there was a pretty good bit of condensation inside the tent, but luckily the lower section of my bag was dry so obviously none of the moisture had formed drops and fell on top of my bag. However, when I woke up this morning the top of my bag, and even around the hood, was a little wet. I assume the hood was wet because it was near the outside of the tarp and it was from the dew, but the section over my chest was wet from my breath. I assume here that, as I exhaled, the moisture from my breath quickly saturated and fell back down onto my sleeping bag. I say this because the humidity was high last night and I absolutely did not breath into my sleeping bag during the night. The entire inside of the bag was 100% dry and warm. So it was just on the outside.

It is hard for me to tell if the moisture got through the shell of the sleeping bag and into the bag. Some of the drops on the bag were pretty large, so I would probably go with yes, a little did. However, it did not compromise the warmth of the Helium over my chest like my North Face Aleutian (synthetic) will do when wet, even from condensation. The down in the Helium stayed lofted well, keeping me warm. But, with this in mind, if I were to be using the Helium for multiple nights in a row and were to experience the amount of condensation I did last night I would definitely want to make sure that I made time to set it out and let it dry as much as possible during the day. Just to be safe.

And truth be told, after seeing this, and realizing that the bag was nearly 5 oz heavier than was listed when I purchased it, I probably would have went with the EQ Membrane shell version. Since it came from REI it is still an option… Anyway, don’t get me wrong though, I absolutely do love the bag. It is roomy, warm and very comfortable. And it is light…

The tarp did great too. The extra tie out’s that Brian at OES put on for me did a good job at keeping the tarp pulled up and away from me giving me more room inside the tarp. This is good, considering the tarp is silnylon and the amount of condensation last night pretty much soaked the tarp through in a lot of places, making the silnylon sag. I did re-tighten the guy-lines when I went out last night to go to bed since the condensation at that time had already caused the tarp to sag some. This morning when I woke up I did not take the tarp down since I am letting the sun and the air dry it out first. Overall, I do like the tarp, but I am starting to wonder about the silnylon. That stuff stretches a lot.

In terms of pitch and my opinion, the A-Frame pitch does a much better job with this larger (8 x 10) tarp. Probably because the tarp hangs from the ridge line in the A-Frame pitch whereas in the half pyramid pitch the tarp does not hang on the ridge line. I don’t know. I still need to get used to the different pitches and how to pitch them most effectively in those pitches.

So, anyway, these are my thoughts so far. If I forgot something I will add it later. What y’all think?

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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4 Responses to Some More Backyard Camping Gear Reviews

  1. Self Ordained Windbag says:

    You coming out of your house to sleep is a lot different than you being exhaused after a day of hiking, especially if you have a calorie deficit (which most hikers do because they burn way more than they consume). Your NeoAir set on grass also would also offer a completely experience than if it were on what you would find in a forest.

    Basically, sleep in your yard all you want, but the “test” environment just isn’t the same.


    • Stick says:

      Self Ordained Windbag,

      You bring up good points. There is a difference between backyard / car camping and hiking and then camping. Also, the different types of ground that you are sleeping on can in fact also give different results. However, I would argue that there are plenty of grassy areas to be found on the trail, and in the forest in which I hike in (which is in the Southeast US). I would argue though that my backyard camping experiments are not to be looked over. I can get a much better idea of what my gear is capable of by using it rather than letting it set inside and only taking it out when I hike, or when I am depending on it.

      In situations in which cold weather especially is to be expected, I would recommend anyone to take their gear outside (even if it is in the backyard) to give it a “test” run. A lot can be learned from these backyard camping test. The specs that are listed on websites, as well as what a piece of gear does for someone else may not be the same for me, or you. Best thing is to test them out, even if it is in the backyard.

      Also, I will in fact sleep in my yard all I want. Just being outside is a great thing to experience, whether it is in my back yard or on top of a mountain. Of course though, I would rather be on the mountain, but hey, I take what I can get. Work makes it hard to get out as much as I would like.

      The temperatures for this Friday are forecast to hit 23 F, and possible rain. You can better believe that I will have my tarp pitched outside and I will have my gear back out there. I want to see how well the NeoAir will do in these subfreezing temperatures, for me. And in my opinion, thanks to the “tests” I will have a much better idea of how the gear does in real life rather than by the specs on a website or from what others say.


  2. Jason says:

    How bout a pic of your tarp set-up for this review?

    Nice review and good information.


    • Stick says:

      Jason, I took 2 pictures using my phone when I woke up but the lighting wasn’t great and the pictures aren’t very great. I may post one on here later…


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