Testing My New Tent

Te Araroa Trail Day 122 - Camping outside Upper Travers hut

A New Tent.. Woooooo!

With four months to kick-off before I hike Te Araroa Trail, I thought it would be a good idea to see how my tent and sleep system worked for me.

I set up the tent in the garden – the perfect way to test everything, with the safety and comfort of a real bed only minutes away! Picking a reasonably cold winters night (3 degrees Celsius with no wind or rain forecast) I unwrapped my lovely new items.

I pitched my Hilleberg Enan tent during the day, selecting the least the least sloping area in the garden. Hooking up the footprint, and the mesh inner to the outer fly, only took around 6 minutes. Note that subsequently, with all this already hooked up, it took just a minute or so to get the tent up when I was actually on TA.

Next I inflated my Thermarest XTherm sleeping pad. It took around 50 full breaths (a couple of minutes) to fill it until firm. I threw in my small feather pillow which I had stolen from an airline years ago. Unfortunately this turned out to be too big/heavy to fit in my pack, so I subsequently switched to a Sea to Summit Aeros inflatable pillow which was very small, light and comfortable. I learned that the key to a good inflatable pillow is not to over-inflate it!

After much research I had decided upon a Katabatic Gear Palisade quilt for my sleeping bag. “Quilt” sleeping bags don’t have a hood, and have a ‘gap’ at the back which can be cinched closed with ribbon/ties as required. Mine came with strings which wrapped around my sleeping pad, allowing you to clip the quilt to the pad – again only if you need to.

At 8.15pm I tore myself away from the comfort of the house and ventured outdoors. I dressed in a lightweight merino long-sleeve t-shirt, a thicker Icebreaker merino jumper,a Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer down jacket, and merino leggings on the bottom with warm socks completing the outfit.

First impressions:

Amazing!! I was warm and very comfortable. Thirty minutes later it was a different story. As the night went on I found myself slipping everso slightly to the left, downhill – a feeling which worstened as the night went on. (On Te Araroa trail I became a master in identifying and remedying any lumps, bumps, slopes and holes by storing items – spare clothes etc. under my sleeping pad for leveling purposes, which worked a treat). I remained awake for ages getting used to the noises around me, before donning some earplugs and eventually falling asleep.

Adjustments:

I woke at 11.30pm due to overheating! Upon discarding the down puffa jaket and the heavier merino layer I was much more comfortable. I needed the bathroom, so plodded back to the house, annoyed with myself for forgetting the head torch.

Back in bed a few minutes later I tossed and turned – ample opportunity to test the functionality of the pad and quilt. I made some key adjustments: First I deflated the pad a little which gave me more bounce/comfort. Next I activate all the clips on the sleeping quilt to the strings on my pad (which I had forgotten to do earlier). This closed what had felt like a gaping hole by my lower back.

The final problem was that when lying on my back my arms fell off the sides of the pad, which was very uncomfortable, but it was equally as uncomfortable having to clasp my hands over my body to stop them falling down the sides… grrrrr. (On Te Araroa trail I positioned my food bag and other items next to my pad so I was “cocooned” rather than sprawled).

I eventually fell asleep, but woke up approximately every 45 mins to turn over. In the morning I was stiff and tired, but nice and warm. I did experience some condensation in the morning on the outer fly of the tent. I waited for the sun to rise any dry it out.

Lessons learned:

  • Test your gear to see what works for you.
  • Camping pitch – will you suffer from downhill drift in the night? And if so, which is your preferred direction, and what can you do to prevent it?
  • Inflatable sleeping pad – Is the pad wide/long enough? Will you have 50 breaths at the end of each day or will you go for one which takes less effort to fill? Should you take a lightweight inflating device?
  • If using a quilt, set it up immediately – don’t be fiddling with strings and clips at midnight
  • Dress appropriately. I would always err on the side of overdressing – you can always disrobe later.
  • Bring earplugs.
  • Have your head torch handy.
  • Make sure the tent is well ventilated, and have a rag handy to wipe any condensation off the inside in the morning.

Click here to link to my Te Araroa Trail gear list

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