There is nothing quite as dreamy as sleeping out under the stars. It is magical to just be out there. There’s also nothing quite as dreary as waking up to a steady pitter-patter on your face or mosquitos buzzing your ear ready to raise welts.
A goose-down sleeping bag, renowned for lightness, warmth, and packability, is beyond useless when wet as it becomes dead weight.
Sticky: Gear intro
Thankfully, there are several options that don’t involve harvesting cedar boughs, as fragrant as that might be. A simple tarp can go a long way to keeping the wilderness traveler dry.
One trip, my Eagle-Scout friend, Sean, strung one up for us between a couple of trees with some fancy slider-knot that surely has a clever name. This worked great for the California climate and canopied location where the chances of sideways rain were slim to none.
I haven’t bothered to learn my knots and I prefer to camp up in areas where only the hardiest trees stand, or none at all.
For the solo hiker there are a few options. The first is the lightest and most compact.
A bivy sack is essentially, a waterproof sack. Models differ in design, but essentially they all keep the fabric off your face and most come with a bug screen.
Besides packability, the greatest advantage of a bivy sack is the body sized footprint. With no tent stakes to stomp into the hardpan, your choices of sleeping spots multiply exponentially. Climbers tend to choose this option.
One has to wonder, however, how to cook or simply change clothes when the skies open up. This option is NOT for the claustrophobic. Plus, where do the dogs sleep?
Traditional tents come in a dizzying variety of styles and sizes. They are rated for how many sleepers might comfortably fit.
There are some sub-categories to be aware of. A tent can be either single-wall or double-wall. A single-wall tent is one piece of waterproof fabric. The double-wall has a tent body and a removable rain fly. My single-wall tent is warmer than my double-wall, likely because it seals out drafts.
Many tents with rain flies these days are able to be set up without the tent body. In this case the footprint locks under the poles creating a very light weather-proof shelter. Obviously, this option is not preferable when the bugs are bad!
A tent can be free-standing which means it will stay set-up on its own without help from staking or guying.
These are easier to set up on rock or snow. They can also be cleaned out quickly by turning them upside down and shaking. Like this –>
A tarp tent is designed to be set-up with the help of trekking poles. See this post on trekking poles for more on that.