Yes, I am writing a blog post about camping. We had reservations at our favorite site at Lake Wenatchee State Park. Because The Hubs had a thing that needed to be done Saturday morning, I spent Friday night at the campground alone. While we were discussing our plans for the weekend, he asked, “Why don’t you use your bivy sack Friday night?” I pondered. Normally I’d reject the idea, as sleeping in a bivy sack in a campground looks ridiculous. (A tent gives you privacy as well as shelter; a bivy sack only gives you shelter. More on this later.) But one advantage of our favorite site is that the tent pad is screened off from view by vine maples, thus providing plenty of privacy.
I pondered because I’m planning some solo hiking trips this year. The bivy is lighter than a solo tent, even with the addition of some other gear I’ve added to make the bivy workable. Because it’d been so long since I’d used it – about fifteen years – I decided this was a good opportunity to see if I was still willing to sleep in a bivy sack.
I really like my bivy, and as far as bivys go it’s well designed. But it’s still nothing more than a tube of material. I cannot sit up in it, so if I’m too warm I have to unzip the head end and sit up to remove anything on the upper part of my body. The trade off is that it’s pretty warm, so I can get away with a light shirt & leggings as sleepwear.
The bivy has the advantage of allowing me to sleep anywhere flat (my solo tent needs to be staked, so there has to be room & either ground into which I can pound a stake or trees/rocks I can use to keep everything in place), and that means I can ‘hide.’ As a woman, I’m critically aware of my security when in the back country, so being able to sleep somewhere out of sight is important. The first time I used it, I felt too exposed leaving the part over my head open. That area is mesh, so it keeps the bugs at bay, but when I lie on my back the mesh lies on my face. (Mosquitos can bite right through it.) I felt vulnerable to parasites of other kinds, as my head being visible means it’s immediately apparent that I’m a woman. I tried zipping up the rain cover. (The manufacturer recommends against zipping it up completely – something about asphyxiation…?) I woke in the night with my face away from the section I’d left unzipped, and it was pitch black, like being in a cave. There was no light whatsoever. My reaction was pure panic. I feared I was dead. Seriously. I then hit upon the idea of using a light-colored rain jacket to cover the mesh area. It works perfectly! It covers me, it keeps the rain off, and it lets in enough ambient light to let my brain know that it’s not dead.
I set up our 2-person tent and laid out the bivy right next to it. I figured that if I couldn’t bear sleeping in the bivy, I’d be able to move straight into the tent. Another experiment for this trip was my sleeping pad. I use a Z-rest pad, and as my body has aged I’ve found it’s getting harder & harder to sleep comfortably on the ground. Thanks to my very short torso, I can fold the pad so that there’re multiple layers under my pressure points (shoulders & hips). I slept okay Friday night – I crawled into the bivy a little after nine, and got out of it at six. When I lie on my side, I have to move from time to time (every 90 minutes or so). I don’t feel the same pressure when I’m lying on my back, but I haven’t perfected the right amount of stuff under the small of my back and my knees to maintain the appropriate curve in my back why I like that way. (I’ll keep working on this, as I’d love to be able to get a full night’s sleep on the trail!)
Having the jacket covering the mesh section of the bivy had the advantage of giving me a lot of space to keep things like my spectacles, a water bottle, my Kindle, a flashlight, et cetera. (My shoes were outside, but they would have fit.) It rained during the night, but I was comfy & dry.
I’d debated what to do with my morning before Jim arrived. I had my mountain bike, hiking boots, running shoes & gear, and fishing gear with me. I’d thought of going for a run before breakfast, but it was chilly and I’d brought gear for running in warmer weather. I decided to have breakfast first. I then walked around, checking out possible fishing locations. (I fished Friday night at the same spot we’d fished two weeks ago, but the wind made the water hard to read.) The water has gone down quite a bit – I’d say at least a foot – in two weeks. I found a spot that looked like it’d be ideal for catfish (assuming there are catfish in that area) and planned to come back later. But oh! the bugs were horrible.
I’ve been almost invisible to mosquitos for almost two decades, and when they do bite the only reaction I get is a small red bump with little to no itching. Not this weekend. I was being attacked. No way I was going back to that spot without bug spray.
I figured Jim would arrive in the early afternoon, but that didn’t work out. The cats went outside, and one didn’t come back until after 1:00 p.m. That put Jim at the campground close to dinner time. We’d talked about hiking up to Big Red, but we delayed that trip until Sunday. Off we went to The Squirrel Tree for dinner. (Great food, but skip anything deep fried. Their oil gives fried things a weird flavor. It doesn’t taste like it’s old. It’s just odd.)
We got up early Sunday and went fishing at the mouth of the Wenatchee River. We caught nothing, but it’s time well-spent, regardless.
Jim declared we were done when he realized the camp store was now open, and we could get lattes. (We agreed that their coffee is terrible. As in, I-don’t-know-you-could-make-coffee-this-bad horrible.) After breakfast, we packed up our gear and headed out for the hike we’d planned to do the night before. Jim finally got to meet Big Red.
As I mentioned before, the bugs were pretty bad. My ankles have dozens of bites, as does my back. I bought a spray bottle of 100% DEET to keep in my fishing creel. (I’ll spray that on my clothes, not my skin.) I also bought some eucalyptus-based repellant. We’ll see how well that works.
This weekend, I’m heading to visit my parents, and I’m considering doing an overnight hike on my way home. I’m currently looking through trip reports to figure out if there’s a hike that I’ve done before, that’s convenient to my drive home, that I’m likely to be able to do as an overnight. Yay, research!