Comparing Backpacking Sleep Systems

I am constantly striving to better my backpacking and fishing experience and knowledge. I try to stay up on the latest trends, techniques and equipment and am very willing to try new ideas that relate to my outdoor hobbies. YouTube is a great way to learn; it gives everyday people a platform to show how and what they use backpacking and fishing and is an invaluable source to learn these new techniques and ideas. So lately I have been watching a lot of young people whose life is thru-hiking, thu-hiking is hiking a long trail, such as the Appalachian Trail, from one end to the other. These guys and girls cover thousands of miles and live out on the trail for months at a time only going through towns to resupply. I mentioned some of these before but Dixie, at Homemade Wanderlust, Joe at Backcountry Banter  and Jupiter at Jupiterhikes all have impressive resumes as hikers and have their craft down to a science. All of them also have another thing in common: they carry ultralight shelters and sleep on the ground.

Watching these videos on YouTube and thinking about what I like to do got me to thinking that perhaps I should maybe give up my hammock for a bit and revisit sleeping on the ground. Cutting a few pounds off my pack sounded fantastic as I am already at a disadvantage carrying fishing gear, especially my wading boots and neoprene socks or waders. This would be a cheap experiment as I already have all that is needed besides the polycro groundcloth which you can see in the link is very cheap. So I put all my kit together, an 8X10 silnylon tarp, polycro ground cloth, 40 degree quilt and a thermarest zlite sleeping pad. Here it is set up in the backyard.
Wow this looks a whole lot like the old days and why I went to a hammock in the first place but if this is the new hotness and what everyone is doing, hey I will try it again myself. I will admit, it did lighten up my pack. This is total pack out minus water for a 2 day trip. Bear in mind there are wading boots and neoprene socks in that pack as well as a fanny pack with fishing gear and an 8 foot fly rod and reel. 
So my mind is made up my gear is packed and there is nothing else to do but get on with it. Checking the weather Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13th, 14th and 15th looked great. A cold front was moving through but not too cold which meant the fishing would probably not be great but hey, this was about the trip not the fish, so I decided to leave early Monday and give it a go. 

I went back to Pisgah National Forest to try another new trail and new creek. Reading the trail reports it sounded a lot like my last trip with a very steep trail but this time going in it was all down hill, which was great going in but would be trying coming out, should be a breeze with this new super light outfit. I was not planning on hiking more than a couple of miles anyway. 

I got to the trail head and could not have asked for a more beautiful day. Blue skies with a few puffballs of clouds and only about 60 degrees, perfect! 
Walking in was just as I expected and very steep going down but the trail was well maintained and an easy walk in. At about three fourths of a mile this was the view I was rewarded with. Waterfalls on both sides of the trail, absolutely gorgeous. 

After another 1/2 mile there was a huge open place with lots of evidence of camping. It was a bit too out in the open and right off the trail so I decided to keep moving. In just another couple of hundred yards was a creek crossing that I had not noticed on the map so I had a bit of a dilemma. Do I dig my wading boots out and change shoes and keep going or go back to the big open area and call it a day?Getting my hiking shoes wet was not an option. I decided to just go back and camp in the open area which was a gorgeous spot but just more exposed than I like. 
After selected a good site free from roots and rocks I set up my palace for the next 2 nights. 
Not too bad at all. I was really impressed with the polycro ground sheet, seemed to be very light and durable and absolutely impervious to water. Time to dig the fishing gear out and see how this creek is.  It is a gorgeous stream and just the size I love to fish it was also known for brown trout which I love to catch. 
As I had mentioned there was a cold front coming through and it was quite breezy, not the most optimum conditions for fly fishing but oh well. I was using a dry dropper rig with a yellow sally as my dry and my take on a pheasant tail for a dropper. The pheasant tail was tied as normal except for some dark dubbing on the thorax and a small amount of ginger hackle on bottom. Not sure if it makes one iota of difference to the fish but I like the way it looks. 

The plan was to walk a mile or so down the trail and fish back up to camp. As I expected fishing was super slow. I got one bite that I missed and saw several nice fish that I spooked wading up the stream. I was almost back to camp and there was one last run I wanted to fish that had a nice seam of somewhat slack water right against a rock face with faster water closest to me. I made a short cast and high sticked the fly/nymph combo through that slack section and this boy slammed the nymph like a freight train. 
Really nice size fish for a creek this size and it fought like it was 3 times as big as it was, but was well hooked and made it into the net. After a couple of pics back in the creek it went and I was done fishing for the day. 

It was after 5 o'clock and so I did a few camp chores, gathered some wood and made supper. I carried a small transistor radio, and in this area there is a radio station called The Ride that plays mainly 70s and 80s rock so I turned on the radio and settled in to read a bit. I am reading the complete works of Walt Whitman and his first hand account of the civil war is sobering and chilling especially with the current state of politics in our country. By about 8:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, pulled my sleeping pad back under my shelter, wrapped up in my quilt and went sound to sleep. I slept very good till about 11 o'clock when I woke up and my back was hurting so rolled over on my side and went back to sleep. Woke up a little after midnight with my hip and shoulder hurting like a toothache and cold. It seems that I had forgotten the straps that hold my quilt to the pad so everytime I moved I opened up a new draft. I got up and dug my long underwear out of my pack and put it on and laid back down on the side that wasn't hurting. I drifted back off until about 1 AM when the other shoulder and hip was hurting so bad I couldn't stand it and I heard voices. I lifted the edge of the tarp and could see flashlights coming down the trail; please remember that it is some time after one in the morning. A group comes off the trail and proceeds to set up camp about 100 yards away from me. This may seem like a long ways but believe me they made enough ruckus that it seemed a lot closer. I was camped right off of the Mountain to Sea trail and figured these were through hikers. This is exactly why I like more secluded camping spots. 

At about 3 AM the other hikers settled down and I went back to lying on one side till it hurt too bad and flipping over to the other. At about 6 AM I said to myself, out loud, "to hell with this". I got up, packed, ate two pop tarts and a cup of coffee and hit the trail back to my vehicle. No way I was doing this for another night!

I was far from well rested and the trail was steep but all in all I felt pretty good. In a mile the trail gained about 1300 feet of elevation and some of it was very steep but the weather was good and I had plenty of sugar and caffeine in my system so I made short work of the hike out. 
Ok I tried it and Joe, Jupiter and Dixie if it works for you more power to you, I have nothing but respect, but this old man will go back to his hammock and just carry an extra pound or two!

All in all it was a fantastic trip and I can't wait to go back and fish this creek under better conditions. Now that I know about the creek crossings I will be better prepared and will choose a better campsite. 
Maybe the highlight of the trip was the abundance of blooming Lady Slipper Orchids. I have not seen these since I was a child. 

Thanks for reading and see you on the creek, Chris


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