Of Mice and Mummy Bag

by Rebecca on July 14, 2010

in Outdoor Observations, The Camping Adventures

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been camping off and on for the past 2 months. Now, just for clarification, by camping I mean: In the Outdoors. In a tent. On the dirt. No modern anything. In all the years that I’ve camped, which is the whole of my life, I’d never invested in a decent sleeping bag. This means I had 5 cheap sleeping bags laying around which I would pack into the Fishcruiser and pile around myself in a fruitless effort to keep warm at night. In other words, the last few months my sleep has been cold, miserable and less than desirable.

The Elkhorn of Heat

A few weeks ago, I finally sucked it up and purchased a sleeping bag that promised toasty feet and heat radiating peace. I purchased The North Face® Elkhorn 0-Degree Mummy Sleeping Bag.

Now, I had a few things to get used to with this new sleeping bag. For one, sliding into this new slim version of a sleeping mode lived up to the description of Mummy Bag. Insta-claustrophobia. I had no choice but to stretch out my legs, arms pinned to my sides, shoulders encased, with just my face peeking out.

The second obstacle: Conventional wisdom suggested that in order to let the bag ‘properly heat up’ one must strip down to bare skin. As in nadda in the line of clothing protection. With my previous sleeping bag arrangements, I’d crawl into my bags with wool socks, sweat pants, a sweatshirt, curl up into a newborn position and still freeze my arse off. So the idea of going into the confines of straight bodied claustrophobia without the additional clothing protection went against everything (me) rational. But I did it and the 8 seconds between strippin’ in the tent and diving into cold bag was pure icy agony.

However, I discovered after my first nervous night that I could survive the feeling of mummification and—this is a big AND—I stayed warm. In fact, I was so warm I’d even venture to express that I got HOT. As in camping, in the back country when it was 34 degrees at night and I didn’t experience any of my normal hypothermia related tortures! Each night I was a wee cooking butterfly in her cocoon who emerged each morning rested and ready to fish. It takes alittle wiggle dance to actually get out of my mummy bag, but I didn’t mind. I was warm all night! (Ok, there was the issue about leaving the cocoon in the buff and diving into clothes, but I’m not complaining)

It was after a week or so that I had been lulled into a false sense of sleeping utopia when I was instantly awoken around 5:00 a.m. For illustration purposes: I was sleeping on my stomach, mummy zipped up to my neck, arms down to my side when—and this is a big holy shit WHEN—-I woke up with an unmistakable feeling of something inside my sleeping bag, crawling over my ass. My bare ass mind you. I’m pretty sure my body did an involuntary jolt and I felt that something run up my bare back to my shoulder blades.

I tried to pull a Superman. You know, when he bursts out of his street clothes, shredding them to bits and  flies off into the sky. Cept’ it was me, mummified and trapped in a cozy warm tomb with SOMETHING that suddenly became just as alarmed as me running around on my back. I jolted, I twitched. I convulsed. I swirled and twirled. I may have even dropped a few vocal F-bombs……As the IT clawed me, I clawed for my mummy ripcord.

As soon as I escaped the tomb of terror, I fled to the corner of my tent, grabbed my flashlight and looked for the nasty little invader. And there, under the bright glare of my maglite, I spotted a mouse. Now, under normal circumstances I don’t have anything against mice, no irrational phobia, no heebie jeebies……but at 5 a.m. discovering one crawling over my bare ass in my sleeping bag flipped some sort of switch in my mind and it was GAME ON!.  I’ll just say, it became boot against one springy little mouse bastard. Those things can jump and spring and fling and run!

Score one for the Kenetrek boot.
Thank you very much.

I’ve heard the rumors before.
The Outdoor legends about snakes, animals, and bugs crawling inside a sleeping bag to shock an unsuspecting camper, but until last week I’d never had the pleasure of such a personal invasion. Surely something like this has happened to someone else??

(Un) Official Northface Elkhorn mummy bag review:
1) The feeling of claustraphobia goes away in one restful nights sleep
2) Keeps a bare body toasty and warm at night
3) Stuffs into a little sack without the irritations of ‘rolling’ it up
4) May attract little/big varmints seeking warm shelter or midnight action
5) Will not rip apart, burst or shred under extreme physical duress/panic/freak outs
6) Could use some work in the “mouse proofing” department (wisely added by Clif of Lunker Hunt)

And lastly: In case anyone is blown away by this killer gear review and runs out to buy a Mummy bag, please keep in mind Brett Colvins ( blog Fly To Water) sage advice:  “The mummy bag also poses a serious threat to those who do not bother to mentally prepare for all possible scenarios. As an example: What do you do if a bear enters your tent in the pitch blackness of eternal night? Do you lose the precious seconds needed to unzip, or do you set the land speed record for the gunnysack race? Personally, I recommend the gunnysack method followed by a “Stop, Drop, and Roll” exit at the 100-meter mark.”

 

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett ColvinNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

New nickname: Zippy

Here is some advice from a seasoned user of the mummy bag:

It’s not entirely true that you should completely bare-ass the sleeping experience. It’s wise select clothing which you don’t mind showing up in public wearing after a midnight, high-speed jettison event. Also, the apparel should be conducive to sprinting should the need arise.

The mummy bag also poses a serious threat to those who do not bother to mentally prepare for all possible scenarios. As an example: What do you do if a bear enters your tent in the pitch blackness of eternal night? Do you lose the precious seconds needed to unzip, or do you set the land speed record for the gunnysack race? Personally, I recommend the gunnysack method followed by a “Stop, Drop, and Roll” exit at the 100-meter mark.

I give this post the Colvin Seal of Excellence.

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KirkNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

Perhaps the best sleeping bag review I’ve read to date. Hard to believe you waited so long to acquire a proper back country bag…but better late than never. I agree with Brett’s advice- one should always wear something to sleep in which they would not be embarrassed to wear in the presence of others, should a unanticipated midnight scramble into public view be necessary. Just sayin’.

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DaveNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

Ok, Zippy, you brought me out of my quiet shell. Honestly, I believe I’d have had the same reaction, and roasted mouse would have been on the menu for breakfast (not for myself). I’m pretty sure some lucky scavenger would have appreciated the juicy, recently dismembered morsel of the mouse that invaded my coffin and dared to disturb the sleeping dead.
As for sleeping in the buff, all I can say is… I’d be right at home.

So, the fish are here… Summer steelhead and springers by the thousands, and trout by the truck-loads (no pun intended, as we all know I prefer native fish). Hand-tied (my hands) flies are being added to the ever expanding fly box(es) almost daily. Early morning and late evening trips are frequent occurrences. Since mid June I’m estimating that I’ve caught more than 250 trout. My best day was June 23 (my birthday) which I brought over 60 trout to hand. Many days, I land 15-40 ranging in size from 3″ to 20″. The question remains. When? And the invitation is still open!

Dave

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ColoradoAnglerNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Haaaaaaaaaaa! One of the more entertaining posts I’ve read in a while! Mice…darn things are tough to catch/squash even under normal conditions. Nekkid, in a tent during the wee hours of the morning…I gotta hand it to ya.

It sounds counter-intuitive: strip down to sleep when cold-weather camping…and I’ve been viewed with more than a few suspicious glances when telling folks this. Not that I blame them…

As I was taught back in the day, wear the minimal amount of clothing possible…but enough not to scare others should the need arise to vacate said bag and tent in a hurry.

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Kentucky JimNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Now, this is one of the funniest posts I’ve read in awhile. But if you were in a tent, how did the mouse get in with ya? Whatever, this is a great story. Great visual, Rebecca.

I loaned my daughter the Northface sleeping bag I bought in 1973. She is using it in Sequoia at a place called Lodgepole, which is 6700′ altitude; it gets a bit chilly at night. She assures me that it is still plenty good.

In those days all Northface products were made in West Berkeley, Ca. I don’t recall the name of the model, but it was rated to ten degrees below zero. It had a nice feature – double zippers, so you could open up from the bottom, so as to control the warmth. Also, if you were backpacking with a friend, and he/she had the same model, the double zippers allowed you to zip both bags together; happy backpackers. I’m surprised that they have done away with the double zipper feature.

You really don’t have to take it all off, Rebecca, but it makes for a sooo much better story… :-)

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RebeccaNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Ok ~ so here’s the deal, and this will fall into the “Too much info” range ~ I didn’t want to get into specifics (I tried a few ways when I wrote this) but decided to just skip it. BUT I was wearing undies (see, this is why I skipped it in the entry, visuals via written word about something I never dreamed I’d write about HERE-EVER) Anyway, so I wasn’t completely in the buff, but I didn’t bring anything like say, boxer shorts, with me on the trip, so I opted for a modest undie attire. My arse was bare (which I believe is an important fact to my story) because of, well umm….the style of my intimates. There, I’ve admited and gone where I shouldn’t have gone.

So in the case of say, Bear attack, after my gunnysack record hop (I’ll keep that in mind Brett!) drop and roll, I would have had a little something covering the ‘zone’.

However, in the FUTURE, to ward against midnight raids, I will be bring some sort of shorts attire that are comfy to sleep in and will provide modest coverage in case I need to run into the next campground full of fisherman. To keep the shock value down anyway.

By the way, You all make me laugh ;) In the best of ways….

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ColoradoAnglerNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

HAAAAAAAAAAAA! Now THATS funny! Damn, Garlock! That’s a story for the ages and one you’ll be telling the grandkids about years down the road.

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RebeccaNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

If I tell my Grandkids someday all the stories I have like this (since weird shit always seems to happen to me) they’ll think 1) I’m crazy Grannie and 2) they won’t want to go fishing and camping with me ;) But I’ll make them anyway ~

Should be fun times!

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ClifNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

(Un) Official Northface Elkhorn mummy bag review (continued):
6) Could use some work in the “mouse proofing” department.

And why did everyone assume you would be embarrassed to be seen? Everyone has their thing and who are we to judge. :)

Great post Rebecca, I enjoyed a hearty laugh. Stories like that were made for blogging.

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RobNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I have the same close confines panic in my mummy bag. I like to stretch out all over the place so I don’t care for them unless I’m camping outside of Florida. My Sleep Cell is tapered and has a few nifty little features like a zipper in the middle not the side, and a nice little inflatable noise maker errrr pillow that will keep everyone up at night if you use it.

I have around a half a dozen sleeping bags of various styles and temperature performances, and none of them require rolling……What’s up with that?

Funny story though. Loved it!

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Kentucky JimNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 6:28 pm

“…the style of my intimates.”? Hmmm…ya know, Rebecca…oh, never mind. ;-)

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RebeccaNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I know Kentucky Jim…….you don’t even have to say it. =)

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Austin CampbellNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 7:21 pm

From an Eagle Scout, a previously avid camper, and someone who actually has a minor in Outdoor Leadership (I went to college in Denver, what can I say?) the trick for staying warm from sleeping bag to clothing is to buy the extra long sleeping bag and stash your clothes for tomorrow at the bottom. Your body heat will warm up the clothing and it should then only be a momentary moment of icy blast in the morning. However, some folks find the brisk morning air to be refreshing and revitalizing, I disagree with them.

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EmilyNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I’m so glad that I read this before going on my fishing/camping trip next week to Henry’s and Yellowstone!!! And I was worried about bears…never thought about a mouse getting into the tent…ha. : ) Great post Rebecca… (oh, and no mummy bag for me…got to be able to kick around those mice! ) 6 days and counting til my first real camping experience…hopefully, it will be a little less eventful than yours!!!

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RebeccaNo Gravatar July 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Emily ~ I won’t tell my bear story until after you get back from your trip (I’ve got one of those too, complete with a tent visit) ;) I hope you have a wonderful time! You’ll love camping and if weird things happen…well, that’s all part of the fun and adventures in the Great Outdoors. Catch that big one on the Madison!

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ken morrowNo Gravatar July 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

My wife’s been in Iraq for the past 8 months. So I’m having trouble getting beyond the whole naked and thong underwear part.

In addition to stuffing your clothes in the bottom of the bag, you practice the one-handed half-zip using the inside tab. And the other things you stuff inside the bag with you are a short-barreled large bore sidearm and the headlamp. The pistola will warm up too. And wearing shorts and a t-shirt/tank that both breathe aren’t a bad idea just in case. Practice: pistol grip > one-hand zip…pistol grip > one-hand zip. In the dark and woken from sleep, you’ll suck at this without quite a bit of practice. But it may save your life some day!

NOTE: Be sure to choose a handgun that is safe to sleep with! You only need to shoot at point blank range in the dark in a total panic.

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Sammaka Fly Fishing NeedsNo Gravatar July 21, 2010 at 11:54 pm

This is awesome! I like the entry a lot and I would like to link this on my newly created website where I also happen to post articles & videos on Fly Fishing and other related stuffs to it. If you have enough time, you can go over my site & drop some comments if you may. It’ll will be very much appreciated. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/coI6e8

Thanks ahead! :)

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KenNo Gravatar July 22, 2010 at 9:00 am

Hilarious. Thanks for making me smile.

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Mr. BrownlinerNo Gravatar July 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm

OK… I can’t stop laughing. That was frigging hilarious! You are just lucky that in the middle of the night he wasn’t looking for somewhere else to nest ;)

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Hondo LaneNo Gravatar July 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm

This whole fly fishin’ deal just got a whole lot more interesting. Might I suggest the Ex Officio line of undergarments for the outdoorswoman in the know. Mouse proof. Guide proof.

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speedylegsNo Gravatar July 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

Great story Rebecca! Would have loved to have seen you thrashing at that poor little mouse in your state of semi-consciousness. The Loonie Toons cartoon character “Speedy Gonzales” comes to mind – except this time he didn’t win! LMAO!

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RebeccaNo Gravatar July 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm

All I have left to say is….thank you everyone for your comments and I’m glad my experience gave everyone a good laugh. It’s one of those stories that wasn’t very funny during the actual moment….but after the fact I can certainly laugh about it ~ The things I have to endure to get a good blog entry ;)

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Tom ReutebuchNo Gravatar August 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

You are truly one with nature.

Great entry to a great blog!!

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BawbNo Gravatar August 9, 2010 at 3:50 am

Oh Rebecca, that was an awesome story! I feel obligated to give a tip for mummy bag sleeping though. Get yourself a Therm-a-rest ( Benchmark, or REI has a great selection ), they act as a heating pad, and damn comfy to boot, hit the sack with a t-shirt, and a pair of Patagucci capaline bottoms, and just use the TNF bag as a blanket…dont zip it up at all…keep it all the way open. I know you’re a little sissy la la ( or foo foo la la, which ever you like better ) when it comes to being cold, but you will have the best nights sleep.

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ChristineNo Gravatar June 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

WOW! lol what a story. I’ve had a similar event, although not nearly as terrifying. I took care of my cousin’s pet ball python for a while and Jack, the python, would only eat fresh (read: breathing) mice. So every other week I’d drive to the pet store and get 4 mice. At the pet store they go into the back and put the mice into a cardboard box then when I get home I dump the mice into their cage to stay until its feeding time. One day I got home and only 3 mice came out of the cardboard box. I examined the box and there were no holes or chew-marks so I just figured the pet store accidently gave me 3 instead of 4. Fastforward to the next weekend and I’m making the 12 hour drive to see my fiance in Texas. About 7 hours in my music is cranked up and I’m in the road-trip zone, mesmorized by the yellow lines. I feel something on my foot and just assume its a napkin or straw wrapper from lunch on the road. Then it moves again. I look down and see an adorable white and brown mouse crawling over my bare food!! I go from 75mph to 0 in seconds and pull over into the shoulder, all the while freaking out. When I pull over I grab the little guy by the tail and toss him into the brush on the side of the highway. He had been living in my car’s floorboards (probably feeding on stray french fries) for days and decided at that moment he wanted to make himself known! Once I recovered from the shock and pulled myself together I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous that was.

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