Camping gear purchased. Hole in wallet confirmed.

Okay, not Alaska, but it looks pretty close, right?

As everyone on the planet probably knows by now (yep, we’re not shy, and we talk too much), we’re headed to Alaska in July.
We’ll be leaving July 4th (independence day, whoohooo!) and coming back the 3rd of August.
Our friends Steve and John will round out the crew. Of course, anyone else is welcome to go – but I warn you, we’ll probably be pretty grumpy and stinky (aren’t those some of Snow White’s buddies?) after 5 or 6 days.
At first, we planned on doing hotels every night. Then I looked at the average room price, and cringed. Then I looked at room availability during the height of the tourist season, and REALLY cringed! Soooooooo, even though we haven’t spent a night in a tent for more that 15 years, we thought a piece of nylon, a few poles, and a sleeping bag were looking pretty darned good!
Amazingly, tent camping technology has changed considerably since I last looked — okay, I’ll be honest, I’ve NEVER looked at tent camping technology. So, I became the idiot everyone tells stories about after work. We went in to Sportsman’s warehouse and fortunately were helped by a really incredibly knowledgeable guy who was able to keep from laughing in the face of my utter ignorance.
From this initial foray, I discovered that tents are incredibly cheap. This is offset by sleeping pads that are incredibly expensive, and sleeping bags that cost about what I thought they would.
I also discovered that it’s easy to pack it all into a small area – except a comfortable pillow. You can have a comfortable pillow – an bring the car to haul it in, or have a tiny piece of fabric with a few bits of stuffing inside – and fit it on the bike. The two are mutually exclusive. Given the choice, we went with small size. I’ll probably end up sleeping with my head on my riding coat, and wake up with Frankenstein-like zipper marks on my face.

So far, we’ve purchased the tent, a Eureka! Pinnacle Pass 2XTA. It was $90 at Sportsmans’ Warehouse

Our sleeping bags are Slumberjack, they’ve got extra room at your toes, and a hood for added warmth. We got two ‘shop worn’ models (the stuff sacks were a little ratty) for $60 each at Sportsman’s Warehouse:

The sleeping pads are Therm-A-Rest Pro Lite 3. It’s an itty-bitty little bit of fluff, but hopefully will do the job. Best price we could find on these was $76 from Amazon (with free shipping).

Funny thing, when we talked to REAL campers/backpackers about gear, every single one said ‘You’re getting a Therm-A-Rest, of course?’ Sheesh, that company must shell out a bunch of money to pay for all the word of mouth advertising! Either that, or the things are really that good – We’re hoping for the latter!
To keep things as simple as possible, and avoid being bear-feed (as opposed to feeding the bears!)

we also decided not to get any cooking gear. We’ll stop and eat before we camp, and eat breakfast after we leave camp in the morning. I’ll have some powerbars and trail mix in a bear-proof container, just in case.
We hope to get the new camping gear out for at least a few runs before the ‘big ride’. Anyone who wants to come along and point and laugh as we try to assemble the tent ‘in the wild’ is welcome!
______________Update 05/15/2008: Went out on the first run with our new gear, and everything worked great. Of course, we now have a list a mile long of NEW stuff we need. Went to Sportsman’s Warehouse last night and got a stove (yes, I know we said we weren’t gonna do it, we were WRONGGGGGG!!!!). After talking it over with the guys there, we ended up with the MSR Pocket Rocket . You do need the special fuel cannisters, but everything is so compact and quick, it just made more sense than the refillable setup. We also got a coffee press (mmmmmmm coffeee….) and one small pot to boil water. Since I’m darned good at boiling water, I should be a great camp cook!

______________

Update May 30

After a few nights on the small Therm-a-rest, Mike’s back just couldn’t hack it anymore, so we headed back to Sportsmans Warehouse and talked to our camping guru. He found an option that hopefully will give Mike more padding.

It’s the Therm-a-rest Trail Light, which is 1.5″ thick but still compacts down small enough for us to carry on the bike (not having to tow a trailer just to carry a mattress is a GOOD thing!)

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Update – Sometime in June

We weren’t staying warm enough in the twin mummy bags, so back to Sportsman’s we went, and Mike found a set of Slumberjack ‘tapered’ bags which zip together. They still have hoods – so unfortunately one hood is on top and the other is in the right location – but it all works out. This turns out to be a much warmer setup, and actually packs smaller in one medium-sized compression bag than the two separate bags.

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