So, later on this summer, I am going to Glacier, Yellowstone and Teton National Parks for 3 weeks with my camping buddy so I wanted to get a new lightweight 2 person tent. I was reading Backpacker Magazine’s “Best of” issue and the tent they recommended the most was the Kelty TN 2. What attracted me about it was that it was only around 4 pounds and it has a feature that most other tents DO NOT have, which is the ability to partially roll up the fly for star gazing or sun blocking. It was also fairly affordable as lightweight backpacking tents go – it was only $250 but they were having a 20% off for members sale at REI so, I got it at a discounted price! We decided to take the tent on a test backpacking trip, partially to try out the tent, but also just to kind of practice everything we would need to do and see what we should or should not bring with us on our other backpacking trips in the Rockys.
We decided to go to Henry Coe State Park since it’s only about an hour south of Oakland, where we live. We set out on a Friday night and did car camping the first night. That evening was a great test of the new tent because it was really windy, and fairly cold (for the Bay Area in May). The next day, however, dawned sunny and warm as we packed up and set out to the Willow Ridge area. Henry Coe has their backcountry camping set up so that once you get past a certain point you can basically camp anywhere, and that point is about 7-8 miles out. They also kind of parse out different back country campers, so they don’t send too many people to the same area, so you’re guaranteed an experience of solitude.
The hike out there was fairly uneventful. The first few miles were full of people. When we got to a place called China Hole, which is a stream, there were people swimming and basking on the rocks. We stopped on the stream a bit past that to eat a lunch of rice, beans and corn that I had made the night before and put in ziplock bags. It was really pleasant to bask in the sun and watch the little waterbugs balance on the water’s surface.
We finally reached the boundary of where we could do dispersed camping around 2 or 3 pm after maybe 5 hours of hiking with our heavy packs. We hiked about a mile past that and found an old campsite that was just perfect. It was relatively near some water, and had an old fire pit, though, at this time fires were not permitted because there is a huge drought in California. We set up the tent first thing. We put the fly on but rolled almost all of it up except the back part of the tent to block the sun, then we laid down for a few hours and read, napped and just enjoyed the surroundings. It was really cool to be able to be shielded from the sun and bugs but still outside in the middle of nowhere.
That night we made a delicious meal of pasta and vegetables with avocado. The only thing I wished I had was a cold beer or soda, but besides that everything was perfect. We chilled outside until it was dark, then got in the tent and rolled down the fly most of the way except the part that was covering our heads so we could gaze at the stars. It was a bit cold but besides that, it was amazing.
I laid awake for a long time just staring, and feeling very in tune with nature and the universe.
That night I was very proud of myself for one thing: I didn’t not wake up in the middle of the night to pee, which I hate doing while camping. I partially hate it because you have to stumble around in the dark and try to find your headlamp, which you THOUGHT you put right in a specific spot but it moved around while you were sleeping. Then you have to try to put on your shoes if you didn’t bring any flip flops, or stumble around with them half on, and go 100 feet or yards or whatever away from the tent and hope a bear or mountain lion doesn’t eat you. Whenever I go camping I try my best to hold it all night, but usually I just can not. This night, however, I did!
The next day we got up pretty early, ate some oatmeal and packed up and headed out. When I first woke up my body was somewhat sore and stiff after the previous day’s long hike with a 30-35 pound pack. When I first looked at my pack I thought, “There is no way I will be picking that up today!” but by the time we got to hiking, my body felt fine.
We needed to refill our waters which I was excited to do because we were trying a new product called Aqua Vita, a chemical water purifier that is different from iodine and kills more things than iodine. We filled them up in part of the stream and used the chemicals. It was great, it didn’t take too long and it really didn’t taste like much of anything at all. There was a faint hint of a chlorine taste, but it wasn’t too bad.
The hike back out wasn’t too bad, but by the end of it I was definitely ready for it to be over! The last mile or so I was so tired. But in the end it was exhilarating to finish such a great hike. When we got out near the ranger station, a family came up to us and asked us all about our hike. They had never done backpacking before and were intrigued by all of our gear. We gave them some information and I hope they did it! They seemed truly excited by the idea.
Then we went into the nearby town and had some burgers and a beer. A perfect ending to a great weekend. Here are some notes we took, since this was kind of a reconnaissance mission for our other backpacking trips:
– Don’t bring fruits/vegetables that have waste you need to carry out like avocados or oranges
– Instead of bringing heavy pre-cooked food, maybe bring dried food like a box of rice pilaf or something
– Bring instant coffee packets
– We basically used 3 liters of water per person per day in moderate heat conditions
– Remove packaged food from the packages to save weight
– We can easily hike 8 miles/day in moderately strenuous conditions