Test camp

I finally got a chance to spend the night outside in the new tent in the new bag on the new pad! Some pictures and notes on how it went…

Last weekend I went to try out my new Lightheart Gear SoLong 6 in a friend’s back garden in the wilds of West Sussex since I have no safe access to grass where I am in London. My friend Taki is an experienced mountain trekker and was – hopefully – happy to spend an afternoon figuring out staking tactics and optimal guyline angles!

Lightheart Gear SoLong 6 ready for action

Lightheart Gear SoLong 6 ready for action – note use of Sol emergency blanket as a hear reflector and groundsheet

We tried out different stakes in the relatively soft wet ground – there was only a little wind – but in the end the regular titanium shepherd hooks did the job just fine. I intend to take a mixed bag of stakes to be able to cope with the different terrains encountered in 100+ nights of camping but for this night nothing fancy was needed.

Since the tent doesn’t come with instructions and there’s no setup video on the manufacturer website it took a while to figure out how to handle the two stake-out points at each of the four principal corners. Each had a guyline but the bottom one doesn’t need to be adjustable. You can pull out the bottom line so it is fully taut and then stake it down before pulling a slack top line over your stake and adjusting it to be as taut as possible. We struggled to use the supplied line adjusters once the line was within an inch or so of being taut so it helps to really slacken off the line a lot first and get ‘a run up’ from further back in order to get a tauter finish.

I had read a bit about how careful you have to be when inserting your (sharp) trekking pole tips into each end of the clever spreader bar at the apex of the tent. That warning turned out to be true! A couple of times I accidentally put some pressure on the main fabric and my heart was in my mouth but the cuben fiber was tough enough to cope and I figured out two techniques to help reduce the risk of puncture: first, reduce your trekking poles to less than the recommended 120cm length until the tips are safely in place (make sure they are at the right angle as well, don’t fight the spreader bar angle) and only then lengthen the pole to 120cm. Second, keep your hand over the pole tip any time it is near your tent. Better you cut your hand than your tent. (Oh and third, carry a repair patch!)

View from the head end (the two panels with doors are at the other end)

View from the head end (the two panels with doors are at the other end) ready for the night with good ventilation 

We never did manage to get the two outer door panels (left and right sides in the photo above) to be very taut and maybe in a stronger wind they may have flapped a bit but that’s something to figure out another day.

It turns out the garden is on a slope from the house down to the fence at the end, plus to the side (down to the left in the photo above) and that was something I could have coped with better. I should have propped up my sleeping pad with something like my pack to compensate but I didn’t and paid the penalty during the night with some slipping and sliding around. Lesson learned.

The air temperature outside the tent got down to 4c (40f) and it was a bright clear night with only a brief shower. Condensation pretty much only occurred on the single-skin head panel (nearest the camera in the picture above) and I had 3 or 4 big drops land on me during the night. I could have positioned the sleeping pad slightly less near the top panel so my breath would hit higher up and dissipate over a wider area and that may help in the future. It wasn’t really a problem though.

The 20 degree bag from Zpacks was fine. I would say I was toasty until dawn (the coldest part of most nights) which was kind of acceptable since I was only wearing one layer – angora bedsocks, merino wool longjohns, a thin polyester Rab Aeon top and thin fleece liner gloves. Not super-awesome then but at least I know I have more insulation in my armory for when it gets colder than that.

The Exped SynMat UL 7 was certainly comfortable. I used the Schnozzel pump dry bag to inflate it which was easy and quick. I did find it pretty cool under my torso all night so I might have to look at placing some extra make-do insulation underneath in the cooler ends of the trek, like my backpack with the stay removed, map pages, spare clothing, etc.

Zpacks bag and Exped SynMat UL 7 pad

Zpacks bag on Exped SynMat UL 7 pad – note the small outside vestibule where I kept my boots overnight

I won’t claim it was the best night’s sleep of my life but I did get some Z’s and it was an invaluable first step. I was treated to an excellent Thai dinner in a classic olde English pub the evening before and a full cooked English breakfast the next morning so my inner Pavlov’s dog is going to get very confused in a few weeks time now it’s made those associations!

Thanks Taki (and I didn’t post the pic of you in the down hood!)

One thought on “Test camp

  1. You’re very welcome old bean :) It _was_ fun – playing with outdoor kit always is (except if it goes wrong when you’re relying on it most). Wise to spare the world from hoodmares ;)

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