Monday morning was an absolute beauty here. Bright sunshine, barely a cloud to be seen and temps in the upper 50s. Perfect practice hike weather. I had been wanting to set up my tent in a smoke-free environment (both of my neighbors are diligent in their work as mobile chimneys) so I opted to load my shelter and some additional ballast (for a total of twenty pounds) into my trusty Osprey Kestrel 28 and head to my local recreation area. Last time I felt naked doing this particular trip without my trekking poles, so I brought them along for use on the off-asphalt sections (still haven’t bought those pole tips!) of my short five mile hike.
I had barely left the house, traveling less than half a mile down our road when a neighbor I don’t know who lives beyond us drove slowly past, then stopped and backed up. He powered down his window and, to keep the story short, essentially assumed I was a homeless drifter who had been camping in the woods nearby. After I convinced him otherwise, he moved on, and I did the same.
I guess I should have shaved before I left home.
The rest of the jaunt to the recreation area was uneventful, though I felt a bit paranoid after the above incident. I enjoyed a few miles of gentle hiking on the trail and fields, then stopped to do a quick pitching of my tent:
I roughly timed my effort at seven minutes which, considering I’d only pitched it once before, and that in my living room (without stakes, of course), I was pleased. Granted, I didn’t shoot for the perfect pitch. I didn’t bother adjusting the tensioners or fiddling with ideal staking. I also didn’t have to spend time searching for and prepping my site. Still, I feel that with practice I can do it a bit faster, which will no doubt come in handy on days out in the actual wild with pouring rain and/or high winds.
I slipped inside to check it out, then packed it up and headed for home. Less than five hundred feet from my driveway I spotted a couple walking down the hill towards me, and I decided to go on the offensive and crush any “Oh look, dear. A bum!” thoughts before they were fully formed. I gave them a big smile and said, “Good morning! Yes, I live here. No, I’m not homeless,” to which they responded by cracking up. After assuring them I was out doing a practice hike, we continued on our respective ways with smiles all around.
Moral of the story: Hike in the woods. Or shave. Or, if possible, both.
Tent Talk: I’m a complete newbie to backpacking, but it seems to me that, for a first tent, I made a solid choice, especially factoring in my limited budget. It pitches quickly and easily without instructions, and comes down and packs up just as quickly and easily. The weight is tolerable, too. The only mystery is why they only included five stakes when the tent/rainfly has six stake-out points. They do include a length of paracord, so I’m assuming that the sixth point, mid-rainfly on the back of the setup, is meant to be anchored to a tree, rock, or maybe even a trekking pole (on non-windy days). It’s definitely not a deal breaker. After all, the internal tent is freestanding, so it would be possible to just use one of the corner stakes on the back side. Body and gear weight would keep the tent from bouncing up and down in that one corner. I’ve read lots of good things about MSR Groundhog stakes, so if I try the included shepherd ones and they’re not to my liking, I might be willing to trade them in on a set of ‘Hogs.