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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Tent, New Site, New Trail

Thanks to "New Girl" (whose name, ironically, is Jessica) I didn't have to work on Monday so I packed up my car, tossed in my newly delivered tent and headed out to Kettle Moraine on Sunday night.

Kettle Moraine South's Pinewoods Campground had 5 walk-in sites which I noticed on my last visit.  Three of them are in the "no noise" dog-free loop and I randomly chose site 28 to try out.  Only one other camper shared my 36 site loop.

That little spot of red is my car at the bottom.  I'm about a third of the way up the trail to the site.  After the surprisingly steep ascent I counted the steps on my way down.  It's about 160.  Not so bad, but over the course of 24 hours I was up and down that path 6 gluts and quads got a workout they never get at the gym!

Where's the campsite??

Yeah, it was about halfway up that I regretted bringing nothing but my phone with me. What was I thinking?  Luckily my air mattress is the slim-twin size and was easy to carry draped over my backpack on trip #2 after I inflated it down at the car.  I bought a self-inflating mattress at REI earlier this year but have yet to try it out - it looks awfully thin.

Trip #3 was for the rest of the gear, including my new Mountainsmith Morrison  "2 person" 3 season tent.  I was impressed with the quality of the tent poles.  Much more rugged than my Walmart cheap-o tent, especially the cord.

I was a little surprised at how small it was when I spread it out.  Good thing I'm a shortie!  If you're taller than 5'4" I'd go up a size.  On the up side, very easy to lay out and set up.  I pegged the four corners, put the tent poles in the color coordinated corners and attached them to the clips quickly and easily.

Even the first time out of the bag it only took a few minutes to set up.  Plenty of room for me, my mattress, backpack and overnight bag.  Instructions are printed right on the outside of the stow bag.

I also purchased a "footprint" to help protect the floor which is thinner and more delicate than my cheaper tent.  It hasn't arrived yet.  I paid around $30 for the footprint and about $130 for the tent itself.  This tent was rated as an "Killer Deal" and "Killer Value" in 2011 by Backpacker Gear Guide, going up against more expensive tents.  The tent pegs were crazy sturdy when I pounded them in with a rock but lightweight.

Rain fly clips on - color match means no doubt which side goes where

I was a little doubtful it would keep me any warmer or drier than my other small tent, but knew it had to keep me warmer than the big orange one does.  It's like sleeping in a wind tunnel, great for summer nights and extra guests, but that's it.

Of course there's no room to stand up inside, but I only use the tent for sleeping.  You know me, out and about until dark!

Speaking of out and about until soon as I was all set up I started investigating what looked like a possible trail behind my site.

I didn't really expect it to go anywhere, just thought it might peter out.

After about 10 minutes walking it fed into an actual trail.  I don't know if it's an "official" trail, but there was an abandoned trail brochure box that looked like it hadn't seen use in a few years except for as a home for spiders.

There were some hunting restriction signs about as well (now you know why my camera backpack is bright orange!) and I just couldn't resist walking toward the setting sun and seeing how far I could go.

After about 10 more minutes walking (but three times that long with photographing fungi stops) it actually ended at the Ice Age Trail.  I fought the urge to keep going and made the smart choice to turn around and get back to camp.  I got back in plenty of time to beat dark and settled in to my cozy new home.  The size is perfect for me and is a great replacement for my tent cot (which got moldy over the winter, don't store your tents away damp or in the basement!) and I have no guilt about handing my $30 blue tent over to the kids next door!

Once it got dark it got strangely noisy.  First the cracking of branches got me thinking about how far from my car I was (I've never been more than 20 steps away from the ability to hop in and go) but after shining my iPhone outside the tent in flashlight mode I was reassured a herd of animals wasn't checking me out.  I settled in to listen to hooting owls and at one point the lovely melody of a distant coyote pack.  But the noise of traffic started taking over the stillness of the night, and even the occasional helicopter or airplane roared overhead.  Good grief!  I still can't figure out what road the steady traffic noise was coming from at 11:00 on a Sunday night, all I can assume is that the wind was bringing it from I-94 about 15 miles away.  But, I did fall asleep and the few times I woke in the night I was comfortably warm in my flannel and wool snuggled in my sleeping bag, not even my nose was cold and it got down to 43F overnight.  In the morning the interior of the tent was mostly condensation free and when I broke down the tent later I discovered it was because the large vents let the moisture through and all the dampness was on the inside of the rain fly. Drying down the fly and what little moisture was on the tent was quick and easy and I didn't rub my hair against a wet tent wall during the night!  I'm looking forward to using this tent often and it packs away small and light at just under 5 lbs.

My only complaint was the tent wall zipper kept getting caught on the rain fly, but the zippers themselves ran smooth and didn't catch on the tent wall which they did in my cheap tent.  I'll just have to lift away the fly a little when I'm entering the tent.


  1. You're so funny. I was wondering who was taking the pictures, then realized you must have been setting the timer. This created some funny images, especially of you diving into the tent. Glad you like your new purchase.

    1. Always happy to provide some amusement. I was pretty glad I didn't have any neighbors when I set up the shot of me dragging the mattress up the hill!

  2. I admire you still willing to sleep on the ground. Good for you.

  3. Tenters definitely get the best sites. I miss being all alone in the woods. Your new tent looks terrific!

  4. It sounds like you had a wonderful time break in your new tent. I agree with Sherry that tenters do get the best sites. But that won't be me:) I struggle with 30 amp electric...haha!!