Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Early Spring Flowers

The first warm days of spring are upon us.  :)
Get out and get hiking, and keep your eyes peeled for April Michigan Wildflowers.

Top: Bloodwoot, Dutchman's Breeches, Hepatica, Jack-in-the-pulpit
Bottom: Marsh Marigold, Spring Beauty, Wild Garlic, Skunk Cabbage

DNR Michigan Wildflower Viewing Sites Guide

Michigan Wildflower Photo Contest Muskegon, MI

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sleeping System

So I hear you're in the market for a sleeping bag?
Some questions you will have to ask yourself:
  • What is my budget? (Buy the best you can afford, or you will probably be upgrading in the future)
  • What is the weather like? (Bags have temperature ranges for different seasons. We have a summer and a spring/fall sleeping bag)
  • What kind of camping am I doing, backcountry? (If so, you'll want to keep weight in consideration and go as light as possible)

Down vs. Synthetic Guide
Down Pros: Warmer, retains shape and can last forever, lightweight, highly compressible, moisture wicking
Down Cons: Loses insulation value when wet, requires special cleaning, costly, potential allergens
Synthetic Pros: Dries quickly, provides insulation when wet, easy to care for, less expensive, hypoallergenic
Synthetic Cons: Bulky, heavier than down, breaks down over time.

Popular Brands: MarmotBig AgnesMountain HardwareThe North Face, Western Mountaineering

Sleeping bags come with a right or left zipper. If you travel with a companion and want to zip the sleeping bags together, you'll want to get one of each. Also think about what side the zipper on your tent is on and have your sleeping bag open in that direction for convenience.

Sleeping Pad: We carry a Therm-a-Rest to sleep on, we're also a fan of the compact seating system that turns your sleeping pad into a camp chair. You will want to consider the questions at the top. If you are backpacking you'll want something lighter, if you are camping in colder weather you will want something with more R-value, get something that fits your needs and comfort level.

Pillow: Most minimalist backpackers will try not to carry anything they don't need. Some stuff their clothes into a pillow case for a pillow, but I like to travel with a small thermarest pillow. I have to be honest though, it can be cumbersome to pack.

Liner: A liner will keep your body oils and dirt from getting on the bag. The liner can be machine washed very easy compared to the bag itself.  It also adds a little bit of warmth. Most backpacking bags simply have nylon inside which is sticky to the skin, a liner is usually made of a more comfortable polyester or fleece. I have used the Cocoon. Disclaimer, if you toss and turn in your bag, you’re apt to have the liner twisted around you tighter than a pair of briefs by morning.

Care: Be sure to air it out after each use. Sweat and condensation get in the bag when you sleep. Even if it feels dry to the touch, it will be moist enough inside. You don’t want it smelling or degrading the insulation over time. Give it a couple hours hanging in the breeze to let it air out when you get home.

Storage: When storing your sleeping bag and pad, NEVER leave them compressed and crunched down, most sleeping bags will come with a large mesh storage bag and a small stuff sack with compression straps for carrying. Make sure to fluff everything up and put it in the large bag for storage.

LOL, or you can just get these: