From last year's trip
I'm currently packing for a weekend camping trip in Big Bear and doing my best to pack whatever cold weather essentials I'll need as we're headed for a low of, ahem, 26 degrees. Lovers (or even mild likers) of mountainous photos and snow-capped mornings might appreciate the photos from last year's trek to Holcomb Valley. To wit, I obsessed endlessly about wild animals prior to last year's excursion, but it was the weather I was woefully underprepared for. Sure, a balmy daytime high of 60-something calls for nothing more than a sweater but once the sun goes down, all bets are off. I was prepared in theory for the frigid below-freezing temps, as I'd packed plenty of layers and pairs of wool socks and whiskey to get me through the evening. However, the crucial detail I'd overlooked was the temperature threshold of my sleeping bag.
I've had my bag for years. It was one my parents had gotten for both Jody and I when I was still in high school. It was mummy-style, forest green, and until last year, a trusty companion on whatever trip I'd taken it on. I knew what the weather was going to be in Big Bear that weekend. I knew it would be cold. So when I asked Jody if our bags were cold weather bags, I never thought to question her when she affirmed that, in fact, they were.
I spent the first night at the campsite in a tent by myself, freezing my everloving ass off.
I emerged from my tent after ten restless hours that included many heat-seeking contortions but, mercilessly, not a wink of sleep, and there was snow on the ground. Jody, meanwhile, was borrowing someone else's bag, and had spent the night in the bed of a truck under the protective cover of a camper shell.
The following night, after a full day of beer drinking and a giant pasta dinner, I climbed into a different tent between Tyler and Todd, both of whom had taken pity on my cold weather plight and offered to make me the sliced turkey in their man sandwich. Hey, I surmised, body heat. Right?
Oh, body heat. And so much more. It turns out, body heat only gets you so far when the temperature hovers below freezing and your bag wimps out at 60 degrees. The real problem that night wasn't so much that I was still freezing, or that I didn't sleep. The crux of this tale comes midway through the night while I was rolled to my right side, facing Tyler. In the soundness of his sleep and in joyful response to the aforementioned day of beer and pasta, he let rip one of the most noxious, pickled egg farts in the history of gaseous miasmas. It came like a plume of smoke, funneling through the opening of his mummy bag and right into my face.
Of all the horrors. Of all the roadkill and soiled diapers and rotten sink smells.
Eyes watering, I shuffled around till I was on my left side, facing Todd--also sleeping like a swaddled baby. Not three minutes later, Todd's mouth opened and from the acrid hinterlands of his stomach cavity came the most ferocious beer burp in the history of barley-scented decay. A pungent cloud of stink filled the tent and I spent the rest of the night on my back with my mummy bag cinched tightly around my face.
So this year, while I prepare for another chilly weekend in the mountains, I've wisely borrowed a friend's zero degree bag, because as it turns out, those are a lot easier to get ahold of than gas masks.