We took the Scouts out for a winter camp so I finally got a chance to try my cold weather setup. As winter nights go, the weekend was fairly mild at -15C (5F).
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don't have any pictures so...
My setup includes a JRB Mt. Washington 4 UQ (the last of the Kelly green's), a JRB Nest and Hudson River (long) as top quilts, HH Explorer Deluxe with HH PU Hex fly and an HH overcover. I expected that combination to keep me warm, and on the second night I was downright toasty, but the first night is a different story.
Before leaving, I rigged my HH with the MW4 and the HH overcover which I stuffed into an OR drybag because I knew I would be setting up in the dark. After arriving, and hiking in 1.5km (3/4 mile) to the campsite we got the Scouts settled. The CAF has a policy of making gear available to Scouting organizations so we were able to borrow winter sleeping bag systems for each of them that are supposed to be rated to -60C (-76F). We didn't have any complaints so I'm guessing they work as advertised.
I got my hammock rigged up, tossed in my quilts and my Nalgene bottle full of hot water. Then I rigged my tarp low so it was resting on the snow and fairly tight to the hammock. I tied the head end flaps together and anchored them into the snow using a carabiner as dead-man. The foot end was left open for ventilation. I got changed into my sleeping toque, fleece pants and shirt, and crawled inside. That's when things started to go wrong. I had the MW4 micro-biners hooked up over the ridgeline, which was fine for the foot end, but the micro-biner on the head end let loose causing a big air gap between the MW4 and the hammock body. So I crawled out, fixed up the micro-biner and crawled back in. It still left a gap, but between the hot water bottle, my fleece PJs, the top quilts, and a small tear in the mesh that I made bigger to tweak the MW4 from inside I was able to get through the night, not exactly comfortable but not really cold either.
The following day I sorted out the rigging on the MW4 and it made a huge difference in my comfort the second night. I had to kick off one of the top quilts because I was too warm. To fix my issues from the first night I clipped one of the head end micro-biners to the shock cord suspension of the other side of the UQ over top of the ridge line and slacked off the MW4 head-end cinch cord completely. Clipping to the shock cord provided enough slack to keep the caribiners from getting overstressed. Slacking off the cinch cord seems to let the MW4 and it's suspension match the circumference of the hammock and ridgeline on the HH Explorer. It seems to me that the shock cords are unable to support the weight of the MW4 on their own so I also took one of the side tie-outs off the Explorer (since I wasn't using it anyway) and tied the MW4 side tie-outs together over the ridgeline to help hold it up in the middle.
So about those lessons learned:
- I can really appreciate the desire to have a side-entry hammock for being able to adjust things when in the hammock, and for getting in when the hammock is strung low. Since my mesh now has a small rip it's time to do the zipper mod, but a WBBB Double 1.7 sure does look tempting... (so many dreams, so little money )
- The overcover when used with the tarp, traps humidity. It wasn't a problem for me since I could hang out the quilts to dry during the day, but if the weather was different, or the trip had lasted a few more days it could have become a serious issue. If I had it to do over again I would probably forego the overcover, or the tarp if I was not camping with the Scouts.
- The MW4 is awesome!