Tent practice

I have slept in tents but not for many years. Over the past days I realised that I have never camped in a tent without a car nearby, except for my overnighters on the Overland Track (during which I stayed in huts). That is, all my bushwalking experiences have been day walks not requiring the carrying of a tent.

Recently I set out to practice sleeping in my new tent in order to accustom myself to the noises of the night (at home I have double glazed windows so that sleep time is a silent time).  In order to complete my record of all aspects of my trek along the Derwent, I am including this post – but you will recognise a nincompoop in capital letters when you read about my first experience.

Last week I was tired when I put on shoes and socks (trying to be a little authentic), slipped on my headlamp and treked off into the night from my home’s front door. A few metres down the hill into my backyard, where I had pitched my tent earlier in the day, I unzipped the rain-dropped tent fly, fumbled with the tent zip, and quickly fell through the hole created, into the tent. Twisting around, I was immediately sitting comfortably on my borrowed mattress (thanks Ju) all the while slipping around on the new sleeping bag, reaching out and rezipping my tent fly, and untying my shoe laces. Off came the shoes and I was really pleased with the way one side of the tent fly makes a little vestibule. The shoes could sit there on the grass protected from the rain. Pulled in the legs and zipped the tent. It was difficult to keep still; the shiny sleeping bag surface was constantly moving beneath me.

I have an incline for a back yard, not very steep but my block of land is not horizontal.  Earlier in the day I had installed the tent in a place where the trees and bushes wouldn’t scratch past the tent if there was any wind, and where it didn’t seem as steep a slope as elsewhere. Of course I discovered a shiny sleeping bag on a slope is not conducive for continuous sleep. Ridiculously hopeless from the beginning and a good lesson learnt.

Inside the tent I had plenty of room, and was perfectly set up for a good night’s sleep. The sleeping bag was snug and cocoon like. I was wearing a thermal top, socks and fleece trousers but it was too hot in that little tube to wear them all. So I am very happy with the ability of my new sleeping bag to keep me warm overnight.

But whenever I wriggled or turned over, down I slipped heading towards the bottom of the tent. Each downward slide required a new effort from me, inside that zipped up close-fitting cocoon, to lump/hump myself back up towards the top of the tent. Get positioned. Go to sleep. Wake up to find I am turning over in my sleep and heading south. Grunt and groan to get myself back uphill again. Super sleep. Oh oh. Going downhill again. Repeat the manoeuvre. Rest. Contemplate how happily warm I am. Fall deeply and happily asleep.

Waking yet again, I realised the mattress was turning cold. I was very warm inside my nylon tube but where my body touched, a penetrating cold was coming through. Why, I wondered. Was the mattress deflating? No it did not seem to be. Unexplainable but not good. I willed myself to sleep and slipped off yet again into the land of nod.

It was when I awoke around 4am, the mattress was too cold, and I was at the bottom of the tent heading towards a foetal position that I remembered I did have a bed to go to.  Feet into the shoes, out into the drizzle, and then ‘home’. Yes – later I did feel rested. Friends can see a cartoon or two coming out of this ‘adventure’!

This weekend I headed into the country and, thanks to blog follower Ju, I was able to camp on a more rural property out in an apple orchard. Deliberately I set the tent up in an area that is normally considered a possum and wallaby thoroughfare because I wanted to see if the scampering and vocal gymnastics of these native animals would wake or alarm me.

Tasmania is home to 5 species of possum.  The type most commonly found where I camped would have been the Common Brushtail Possum (photo below is from Tasmanian Wildlife Matters http://www.wildlifematters.org.au/Brushtail_Possum.htm)

Common Brushtail Possum

Which of Tasmania’s two species of wallaby were grazing around me overnight, I will never know. It could have been either or both the Bennett’s wallaby

Bennetts_Wallaby2

(Photo from Tasmanian Wildlife Matters http://www.wildlifematters.org.au/Bennetts_Wallaby.htm) or the Pademelon also known as the Rufous wallaby (Photo from Tasmanian Wildlife Matters http://www.wildlifematters.org.au/Tas_Pademelon.htm)

Pademelon

There are no funny stories from my night in the orchard. I slept flat. The mattress didn’t become cold. The animals didn’t wake me.  I slept.  Outside in the morning, a carpet of hard frost covered the land – but I was never cold inside the tent. Apprenticeship over!

A light rain dusted the tent before dismantling, and continued while I packed up. So my only issue now is to find a clever way to dry a tent before repacking when I am out and about on my walks.

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