Front yard camping

11:24 p.m. on December 6, 2009 (EST)
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Hi does this belong in Backcountry? I camped in my front yard last night and it really snowed and got down to 17 degrees. My wife thought I was crazy but I told her I'd come in if it got too cold. Actually I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag and long underwear, but I was sleeping on a thermarester and I guess it was too thin. I mean it was warm enough, but way too thin - it hurt my knees and back, so I came in at 2am.

I started to set up a heavy tent but when I unrolled it there were no poles - whoops, glad I hadn't driven to a snowpark. So I found my single walled summer tent (51 oz) and set it up. It worked really well and this morning when I went out to get my stuff out of it, there wasn't any snow in it, even though it doesn't have a real door, just a screen door and two outer door pieces that close together and have a line out to a stake but there is a gap a foot high under them, but there wasn't any wind, just 4 inches of snow.

I forgot my water bottle too. I think I'll do it again tomorrow night, but I have a 4" foam rubber pad that should be a lot more comfortable, sort of like my pillow top mattress. Around here its easy to get deer sleds so I could take it to the snowpark I guess. Would a candle lantern make the tent warmer? And my hands got cold in the sleeping bag.


3:00 a.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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A candle lantern used to be a handy thing to have in the winter. It doesn't do a lot of warming in the tent, but it does give a comforting glow - just dull enough not to be able to read with; and does set up some minor currents up to the top of the tent to help evacuate moist air from your clothes and body. The lights they now have in a head lamp (double use is prized in the outback) are much more efficient, lighter weight and shine an amazing amount of light for a long time. They are a good candle replacement.

Yard camping is a good idea to check many things. You did a few things right to check out your sleeping system (bag, pad/s, gloves, clothes and watchman's hat) and to insure your insulation under your body was sufficient. It is efficient to take two pads -- one on top of the other. Just make sure both are not 'air' mattresses but enclosed foam.

Before you retire for the night make sure you are well fed and watered.

Even though your summer tent managed to work in the front yard, you mentioned you did not experienced the kinds of wind or depth of snow that you will find in the woods. Your summer weight tent and screen door will not keep blown snow and spindrift from almost filling the inside of the tent. Leave it at home. Look for those missing poles before you leave.

Make a checklist of EVERYTHING you need (including that water bottle) and go through it before you leave your front door. Update it after every trip to discard or include things you do/don't need.

The next time you camp out on your porch, see what happens to your water bottle over night. You have to keep the water inside liquid. One way is to fill it full of hot water and take it inside your sleeping bag with you - well wrapped in clothing. You might also put on the checklist a square shaped bottle (different to distinguish it from your water bottle) with a wide mouth for a pee bottle. Saves trips out into the cold at night. When used it can also keep you warm for awhile inside your sleeping bag.

That dear sled might make a good pulk replacement.

2:11 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Gee, JS, we have snow here in the SFBay Area today - the hills are all white!

7:08 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Bill S

In the interest of the maximum learning curve for the most people some things are better off left unsaid. Sometimes exmples that make people think are the best way. Many more people learn from thinking than from being told.

I am enjoying the amount of useful information that is being offered, but mostly demonstrations show the usefullness of certain gear. Also I was trained to say "I don't know".........

I did find my tent poles, now I have to find the leak in my big agnes insulated airmattress. Since there is also a leak in my bathtub the mornings water ran out before I could use it to test the airmattress.

I wonder whether most people waste a whole match lighting their camp stove or use a BIC since all you need is a spark anyway? Maybe one of those sparker doo dads would work?

Greenhorn ok I'm green I admit it but isn't green in these days?

7:23 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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I've done hundred of nights in back yards or on decks or porches or behind churches or in tents set up in a yard. Right now I have an Integral Designs MK3 tent set up in the yard and I'm about ready to unplug and dive in cuz it's cold! Yippee! Why sleep indoors when you can sleep out and get your bag nights? Especially in winter.

Here's my in-tent candle lit up on my last backpacking trip. I use Manischewitz shabbat candles, 4 inch by 3/4 inch and burns for 3 hours. I use a Blistex lip balm container for the holder. Candles are required for me during winter nights just to keep my fingers thawed over the flame. These things are available at nearly any grocery store. (Note nifty little Sangean radio: listened to the Florida/Alabama game at 10F).

8:10 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Tipi Walter

Does it ever get too cold for the candle to burn and will they burn before sunset? How do you keep your Manischewitz from freezing - with the candle? Actually warming you fingers on them sounds like a good idea. Can I warm my fingers with a candle lantern as well? I guess so huh... I wonder if a flame can freeze? I mean its just parafin gas right?

So many things to learn. Can I melt snow with candles too? If they will burn at any emperature, why don't more people carry them? That makes me wonder, can my compass freeze and quit working?

What kind of batteries are in the radio? Does temperature affect them? Right now its so cold here that my hot water pipes froze...

I wonder if nylon in tents ever gets so cold as to be brittle? A friend was skiing in Utah and one morning it was -40 and when he slammed the door of his bronco all of the paint shattered and fell off... Paint is a chemical kinda like nylon...

Greenhorn and proud of it

8:28 p.m. on December 7, 2009 (EST)
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Let me head off the Tent Police before they chime in here about the terrible hazards of an open flame candle in a tent. No problemo, just use common sense and no quick movements. Snuff out with wet fingers and don't blow out, a spark could hit the thermarest or the top of your sleeping bag. Pinhole.

Too cold for a candle? Never heard of that one. I did hear of some guy in Alaska who had edible candles that you could eat in an emergency. Pretty neat. I've taken mine down to -10F on camping trips and -14F in the tipi.

Radio batts: 2AA and yes, zero or below and they suffer a bit, not bad. The headlamp gets noticeably dimmer. I never heard of silnylon or polyester tent fabric cracking in the cold, although back in '81 I was bedroll camping next to a church under a maple tree and when I got up I folded my old boy scout pvc ground cloth and it broke in pieces like a saltine cracker. Another fine BSA product.

2:02 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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Also, as far as camping in the yard - any camping is better than no camping! :-)

6:25 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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I have to admit that I am Greenhorn and I had an illegal account in that name that has been eliminated. Its no fun being a senior member. Newbies get to ask all of the fun questions.

Ok? My schooling was in Chemistry and physics but I am a retired electrical engineer and an experienced climber and wilderness camper. Every 3-6 months I come back here to see if I can ofer anything of vakue to the group, I was a member of rec.backcountry.useful long before it eventually became this group. I post 3-5 times then get bored and leave. It was more fun being Greenhorn, so you may not hear from me for another 6 months - not sure.

I didn't mean to hurt any feelings or be dishonest in anyway, but I find that I can get more people to think about useful ideas by asking humble questions than by telling people how it is. Senior members don't get to ask simple humble questions. Can you imagine my friend Bill S asking about how to use a compass? ha ha - right. I know how to use a compass but I think most people who own them don't and thats not meant to be offensive. I collect tents and I have two extreme winter mountain tents, but talking about them wouldn't be as instructive or thought provoking as my original post would it?

BTW It was -20 F here in Sisters oregon last night. I had some duct tape over a GFCI outlet outside and when I tried to remove it to plug something in, it sort of shattered into little pieces.

Jim S

7:44 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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Its no fun being a senior member. Newbies get to ask all of the fun questions.

I think this is an interesting comment, Jim. I can see where you're coming from, though I hope that everyone feels free to ask those interesting and humble questions, without worrying about being judged by others (easy enough to say, right?).

I think it can be easier to be patient with a newbie, than other "experienced" outdoorspeople who have their own entrenched opinions. Sometimes we just have to step back and not take ourselves or anyone else too seriously.

When I first read your newbie post I thought, either it's a troll or someone who has enough guts to ask some basic questions. So, no feelings have been hurt here.

As long as you're honest, feel free to post those interesting questions and scenarios. There's great value in encouraging interesting on-topic discussions.

7:54 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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Gee, JS, we have snow here in the SFBay Area today - the hills are all white!

Bill let the cat out the gate...or bag, or whatever.

My dad used to say....."There's no such thing as a dumb question." Yet when we asked one he would direct us to the large and intimidating set of Britannica's in the study. Thank God for modern internet forums!

8:39 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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The idea of posing a scenario for discussion is an excellent one. The formal name for the teaching method of posing scenarios and asking the students to solve the puzzle is called the Socratic Method (beautifully illustrated in the movie The Paper Chase). As for only newbies getting to ask all the fun questions, Old Fogies (aka Old Folks and other variations on OF) can pose questions like "I was staring at my compass and thinking about how easy it is to make mistakes in using one, even for an OF who has been wandering the woods and hills for decades". Then throwing it open to how can you "foolproof" against 180 degree errors, parallel errors, applying declination the opposite way (adding instead of subtracting or vice versa), avoiding having to use declination at all, and so on. The hidden point in the Greenhorn post above and some of your other comments is that a compass can be pretty obscure in some ways, easy to mess up with (including getting the compass needle to get reverse-magnetized or just demagnetized, or for electronic compasses to so easily get decalibrated - happens all the time with the one in my Garmin 60CSx).

Your heart was in the right place. These are questions that need to be discussed. But sometimes it is hard to pose the question the right way so that the problem becomes evident (some of the "experts" will just shoot from the hip with "hey dumbo! Everybody knows the answer to that one, which is ...", and then come up with something totally irrelevant, off topic, or just plain wrong).

9:00 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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By the way, I wasn't kidding about the snow here in the SFBay Area. It isn't what the folks in Utah, Colorado, or the Midwest are getting right now, but rather a lot compared to what we usually get. I hiked up Mission Peak today, after a full day of bright sun to melt the snow (that's an urban park in the Milpitas/Fremont area). Here are a couple photos I shot.

9:10 p.m. on December 8, 2009 (EST)
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Bill, is there a fancy name for learning things the hard way?

'Cause I have done a good bit of that. I'm definitely a doer learner.

12:22 p.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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Candles will burn down to a temperature you would not be in. There is a triple point where the chemical reaction will not sustain itself with only 20% oxygen. Had to work it (or something like that) out in P-Chem. The use, traditionally, has been for light and not heat. If you were to try to heat water you will have a mess of lamp black to contend with. I guess a pure tallow candle would have some calories...they hardly put out enough light to read by, however. Plan on taking an extra energy bar instead. They taste better even when cold.

A (lit) candle between your legs with you wrapped up in a large garbage bag can make an uncomfortable situation bearable. Just make sure you breath outside the bag...and mind the flame so near to quality parts.

A Bronco's paint job is not the only thing needing better quality control on it.

Manischewitz? A real greenhorn carries Everclear. No problem about freezing up and is probably in your compass if needed. Steer away from the oil damped ones below -40F. Even diesel has a problem moving at warmer than that.

In our more frivolous days, we'd pour some fuel in a pot, stick the Primus in there, cover up in a sleeping bag and drop a match into the combination. To this day I don't know why we never lost a tent, but after awhile the Primus would have enough pressure to get us a hot breakfast.

The hot coals of the night's fire would also be a good spot to nestle the stove. Again am thankful it didn't go off like a bomb. I still have it, and it still works. Never got so high tech to use sparks. We always used a leaky Zippo.

Back in the day of early transistor radios we'd get about 5 minutes use out of a cold battery before it went into a pocket to get warmed up. Don't have a clue how cold it was on La Plata's, Ellingwood Ridge with temps that night of -40 in the valley a mile below. The tent (canvas) was fine but a tad stiff. We lost interest early on trying to get a weather report. We figured it was prolly to late anyway.

Yesterday, outside of Los Angeles, it was a winter wonderland. 12-24 inches were expected in the mountains -- 3-6 inches seemed more likely. That will only last a few days at most. The larger access roads have been closed because of the fire this year and the expected mud and rock falls.

More snow before week is out. I think everybody is gearing up to be at Mt Baldy Bowl Sat/Sun. Here, it is the primo winter mountaineering training area being relative easy and close in access.

I think they may have all of Wednesday to play this year LOL

Thought that poster sounded familiar.

Jim, were you the troll that started the long flaming thread at rec. asking if it was worthwhile to take skis to top of Everest and then asked for some down hill tips?

Loved the bit later on about getting the most out of a thread with such lousy bait.

7:33 p.m. on December 9, 2009 (EST)
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The fluid in compasses these days is "deodorized kerosene" (still stinks when you break the capsule, as Barb did by tripping and falling during an orienteering competition), not Everclear. When we had our airplane (before moving back to California and discovering that airplanes and California real estate are not financially compatible), we had to top up the magnetic compass every so often (aircraft compasses are designed with that in mind). You can get the "compass fluid" in several on-line aviation shops, if you local FBO doesn't have it. I have never had a problem with the workings of even the inexpensive compasses I use as backups at measured temperatures below -40.

8:14 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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speacock said


Jim, were you the troll that started the long flaming thread at rec. asking if it was worthwhile to take skis to top of Everest and then asked for some down hill tips?

Loved the bit later on about getting the most out of a thread with such lousy bait."

You have a good memory huh. It was such a great place to troll, well I remember - err never mind, but one gal totally lost it and the next day wrote back to say she had been completely sucked in and realised it was just a troll. Thing was - it wasn't a troll, but since everyone thought it was such a great troll I didn't have the guts to tell em it wasn't - as I recall it was about my friend Janice who always wore eyeshadow and earings camping because she was a feminist and needed to do something to look feminine. hehe


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