TransAmerica video: One for the Kipper

MY KINGDOM FOR A TENT

I’m a little worried. Worried that I’m enjoying the accumulation of gear a little too much. That I find too much joy in researching camping materials and gnatty little moisture wicking technologies. That I squee too hard when I find something that weighs next to nothing to put in my pack. That I bore people to tear tsunamis when I excitedly explain the twiggy-like properties of a tent to them.

I’m worried that I’ll look back on this time a year from now and say: “Well, that was the best part of the trip.”

Because that would suck.

But this part IS fun. Take the two items in this video. The tent and the sleeping bag.

The last tent I ever owned belonged to my brother, meaning I didn’t own it and could only borrow it from time-to-time. Ok, he rarely let me, but I used it a couple of times for sure. It was blue and boxy, and during the sweltering mess of an Australian summer it’d clutch the heat to its nylon body, and gleefully share that embrace with you. The pegs bent if you looked at ‘em wrong, let alone tried to hammer them into hard dirt with a rock. It was a pain in the butt to get back into the tent bag, too.

In other words, it was crap.

Things have changed. OMG, have things changed. Crap has left the building. The tent I bought – the Hubba Hubba HP – is a marvel of modern technology. I tipped it out of the bag, glanced at the instructions (I’m not much of a instruction follower), and put it together in under four minutes first go. Without really knowing what I was doing. It was, dare I say it, fun to do. And fun to look at. And yes, it stayed up for 4 days inside my apartment just because I liked to look at it.

Jot this down – it weighs 4lbs. Twiggy. Svelte.

As for sleeping bags, the only thing I remember about the one I had as a kid was that it smelt like fuel (I wrapped it around a lantern to stop it breaking in the Landy once and learned a hard lesson in why you should think things through). This new sleeping bag smells of pleasant, soft-lensed dreams. Yes, it’s probably going to be too warm, and I’m not even basing that assessment on the short time I spent in it jumping around my kitchen. I just have a feeling it’ll be a hot one. But I run cold anyway, so that’s ok.

I wanted to sleep in this one immediately. It took some serious resisting of urges not to lay it out on top of my bed and drift off into a magnificent slumber. Your time will come, my pretty. Not long now. It’s a Kelty Women’s Light Year Down 20 and it weighs half as much as the tent. I’ll probably end up just sleeping on top of it if it gets too hot.

With these two purchases, I have the beginning of my mobile bedroom. And with these two purchases, I will now reveal my true worry. It’s not that I’ll enjoy the planning more than the trip. Nope. It’s something simpler.

What if I don’t like camping as much as I did when I was a kid?

I might be too old to suffer night after night on a hard tent floor. I mean, think about it. After a day spent riding 65-70 miles, how keen would you be to take even 4 minutes to put up a damn tent?

Even with all this awesome stuff, even with the feeling of freedom from not being bound by four solid walls, I might decide I don’t like camping, say ‘Damn the expense’ and spend every night from then on in a hotel, flea bags included.

And that would be a shame. But at least I’ll have some great gear!

8 comments

  1. You might consider to get 1) a therm-a-rest mat, 2) a comfortable pillow and 3) a repair kit for the tent.

    In the case of the mat and pillow go for comfort. Full length therm-a-rest would be my choice.

    If you get caught in a storm, the wind might bent or break the tent poles. Make sure that the repair kit has some small tubes larger in diameter that your tent poles. And don’t forget to get some duct tape.

  2. Hi Jorge, thanks for the advice!

    I actually ended up getting the Exped 7 sleeping mat based on a review I’d seen on Bike Touring Pro – he’d actually changed from the therm-a-rest to it and it looked super easy to use. Haven’t sorted out a pillow yet…

    Ride on!

  3. Arriving here from Elden’s blog. (I loved your 100 Miles to Nowhere video from last year.)

    I did an almost-all-the-way across the US trip in 1989. 3077 miles from Flagstaff, AZ to the Shenandoah Valley of VA. I tent camped most of the time in a little, wee, “1 person, bike tent”. Makes your tent look like a cavernous dwelling by comparison!

    Gotta’ say I recommend tenting as much as possible. I bailed in the cold rain, as my trip was in Sept/October, but other than that, it was inexpensive. A lot of places would let me do it for free (state parks, esp.).

    I stayed in a private home in Kansas (only 1 time, but I was asked, and the woman didn’t “look” like the ax-murdering type… Actually a school teacher on a farm; she hosted secondary school exchange students. I threw some hay bails as a swap for a bed; that was bliss after about 15 straight days in the tent.)

    Let me just say… there is no better way to see the US than from the saddle of a bike. Enjoy!

  4. Noodle, I’ve also been reading your blog after finding your link on a comment you left on Fatty’s blog. I enjoy your writing and am oh so jealous of your trip.

    Are you going all the way to the west coast, and if so whereabouts? Seattle? Portland? San Francisco? LA?

  5. VA Biker – it is my hope and dream to camp as much as practically possible, and only use hotels as a fall back when the weather is poo or I feel like I need to lie on a proper bed. Also hoping to not run into ax murderers. :)

    Eric – I’m going to finish in Astoria, which is reasonably near to Portland. I’ll take a short break and it is my intention to continue down the PCH, maybe stopping in SFO. Not sure yet. Basically, I have until the end of August to ride around as much as I want.

    Thanks Stephanie – that was the hottest part (hopping around).

    Ride on, all!

  6. Hi, Noodle!

    Did you wind up going with the Selle SMP saddle? I have one and I do love it, despite its vaguely disturbing resemblance to the beak of Gonzo on the Muppet Show. Super-comfy, no break-in time required. In fact, I got one because I rode on one that my friend loaned me when we did 100MoN last year.

    Also, if you would like for Precious to be honest-to-God blessed this weekend after spending all that time chillin’ under Bike Jesus, then stop by St. John the Divine on Saturday morning. http://www.theblessingofthebikes.com/

    Think of it as bike insurance. :-)

    I’m bringing one of my own bikes (“The Finch”) up for the occasion. Would love to see you and Precious there!

  7. Hi Noodle,
    Nice to meet you on the net,
    also planning to ride bike on the trans america trail.
    I plan to start from SanFrancisco ,
    next toNevada, Utah, Colorado,
    that’s western express ,
    and the afterwards are same with trans americatrail.
    Can you inform me anything you know for the
    western express?
    Is it so lonely and hot?
    Hard for logistics?
    Do they usually avoid this route?
    In that case, any reason?
    Or , it’s just choice?
    Sorry for many questions.

    See you.
    Regards.

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