Adventures in Camping

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.”