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Semi traditional camp setup

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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Illawarra, New South Wales, Australia
I've started experimenting in the back yard with my new heavy duty canvas tarp and double wool blanket sleep system.
I call it "semi traditional" because much of it is wool and canvas, but I also used a cheap plastic tarp as a ground mat (to provide a moisture barrier and clean surface), and a cheap foam camp mat under the blankets (mainly as insulation), hence the "semi" part of the title. Also I was wearing my warm synthetic jacket.
I'd like to find a better ground mat that isn't as flimsy and noisy as the cheap plastic tarp. Maybe another waterproofed piece canvas. But the plastic tarp works just fine for now.

I've used most of this gear before but not in this particular setup. I've only slept under the tarp only once before (a few days ago) because it arrived about a week or so ago.

Here are some photos of the cold/bad weather setup I slept in last night (it's more enclosed than my good/warm weather setup):
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I can pull the very front pegs out and bring the flaps in to completely close it up if I needed to. But I would only do that in really bad weather or if it's really cold.

I like the idea of going fully traditional.... but practicality is more important to me than rigidly sticking to a particular ideal.
The main reason I like canvas and wool is because they're durable and can handle being close to fire. If it was raining I could set up my little folding fire box (stick stove) or gas cooker under the tarp and as long as it doesn't get too big or hot the tarp shouldn't have a problem. Same with the wool blanket if I get sparks on it or get too close, it'll singe but won't melt or burn completely.
With loads of spare space under the tarp I could pile up the sticks in the corners, the sides, and at the back to keep them dry, and be able to keep myself warm, and cook, to wait out a storm.


The dark, outer wool blanket is a military surplus 80/20 I got from aussie disposals. The thinner inner blanket is just one I had in the cupboard, and it's softer and less scratchy so works well as an inner layer.
When used together they're really warm. Neither blanket on their own are warm enough in cold weather. But when combined it seems the end result is greater than the sum of the parts, so to speak. I think that's because you end up with an air pocket between them, and air pockets in insulation layers are what keep you warm.

I had my summer sleeping bag in the corner of the tarp in case I needed it last night (weather report said it was meant to be a low of 10c, which is fairly mild), as well as an extra jumper and long sleeve shirt... but I was easily warm enough so I didn't need any of them. I actually had to take both my beanie and my jacket hood off for a while because I was starting to overheat.
If I was camping in colder weather I'd likely use the sleeping bag inside both wool blankets and I'd be toasty. The outer wool blanket would keep it safe from sparks.

I really like this heavy duty canvas tarp. The only thing I would want to change is to add tie-outs in the middle at the back, to help raise it up a bit. But that's not a huge issue.
I could tighten all the sliding tension knots (I don't know what they're called) a bit more. Maybe switch to truckies hitch to make it easier to pull it tight. The tarp should be able to handle being strung up really tight so it doesn't sag.
The central eyelet/grommet at the back could also be pegged out really tight, but I ran out of pegs and don't really have any sticks in the back yard to use. I'm guessing that would help.
Or I could get some sticks, rocks, or logs to put under the edges to raise them up slightly.
I could also run some cord from the top/front down to the ground at the back under the tarp, and pull it tight, which could help reduce the sag. I probably will end up doing that. I need to experiment some more.


I've also set up the tarp in a warm weather lean to type setup and slept under it a few days ago. That lean-to setup was the one I originally planned to use it for the most, because I like the open style setup.
But being on the side of a hill in winter it's too open and the breeze made it a bit cool. I also didn't have the foam mat under me when I tested it the other day so the ground was sucking the heat out of my body.
In summer time the lean to setup will most likely be my default. I like it because part of the tarp becomes the ground mat so I don't need the extra plastic tarp as a ground mat. And I can roll the entire thing up as a bed roll with the blankets inside.
With the winter setup there's a bit of wasted space/tarp (which I guess can be used for storing firewood or other gear) but the benefits of having it almost fully enclosed are worth it in cool weather.
Even with the wasted space it could probably just fit 2 people inside, although it might be a bit of a squeeze with gear in there as well.


I'll post more photos of the lean to setup when I do it again. As well as the bedroll when I roll the whole thing back up again.
Now I'm confident in setting up and sleeping under the tarp I need to get off my backside and take it into the bush. But for tonight I'll be sleeping under it in the back yard again.

Edit:

You'll probably notice the carabiner and black thing hanging off the top tie out of the tarp. That's a cheap rechargeable 18650 USB battery pack with a keychain USB LED light.
From my last experiment it'll run for about 14 hours on a charge (longer if I put a better battery in it). I can also use it to charge my phone (or any USB device).
It probably cost me about $3-$4 all up.
It's not super bright but easily enough to light up the inside of the tarp so I can see what I'm doing.
I'll do a post on my portable solar charging and lighting kit when I get a chance, including these USB battery packs and LEDs.
 
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Aussie123

Never Alone In The Bush
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Thanks. Quite a versatile setup.

A pullout in the middle of the tarp would probably make a bigger volume - or a stick/pole to prop it out with
 

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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Looks good. Even more fun starts when you have a fire near the entrance. . ...Experimenting with peaks that keep smoke out but trap warmth.

Yeah it's just not quite the same without a fire going as I fall asleep. I love that campfire smell, and the crackling sound.
The back yard has some limitations. I don't really want to burn the grass (I've already done that a few times) and all I have to burn is off cuts from pine pallets. If I was freezing I'd use them but they don't provide the same atmosphere as a campfire burning sticks I gather from the ground in the bush.
I could use the steel fire pit but that's raised off the ground so it wouldn't be the same as having a fire on the ground in front of the tarp. I wouldn't even see the fire when I'm laying in my bedroll.

Time to wander back out into the bush I think.

When I rolled up the tarp and 2 wool blankets the bedroll came to about 9kg. That's way too heavy for a long distance or bushwacking trek, but for walking an hour or two down a clear trail then ducking into the bush not too far I consider it worth it. The foam mat and plastic tarp I'm currently using weigh virtually nothing so I can add them too and barely increase the weight.

I can understand why people wouldn't want to carry a 9kg bed roll.... but to me it really just depends on the distance and the terrain. Short distance and easy terrain it's worth it IMO, especially if I want to stay multiple nights. Long distance or rough terrain and I'd want to switch to something much lighter.
 
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