Over the last few weeks I have been doing my best to get out in the woods to shake out some new kit, specifically the sleeping bag from Eureka and the Superfly tarp from Warbonnet Outdoors. But like everyone else, life got in the way. Then, I got an idea.
I had to teach for three days, two days of driving and one day of land nav. The hotel had already been booked, but I canceled it. Besides shaking out the new gear, I also wanted to work on camping in a non-permissive environment. Or in other words acting like I was homeless. I was hoping for some cooler weather. It only got down to the low 50ís, but there was some heavy rain.
The goals were to pack light, sleep out at night, and during the day make use of the facilities at a local gym that I would have access too.
While I was driving in the first night, I called a local LEO buddy and told him where I planned to camp. It was deep enough into the woods that I had actually planned to leave my camp set up while I worked. My buddy told me that there was some heavy duty poaching going on in the area and that there would be officers in the woods all night. OK onto plan B. There are several hotels in the area, and I have stayed at both of them. One in particular had a nice wooded patch that was about 100 yards wide but pretty deep. I figured that it would be so easy to see light from the road that nobody would figure anyone would be in there for anything.
It was about 10:00 PM when I backed my vehicle up to the corner of the parking lot, right next to a maintenance shed that cast a nice shadow into the woods.
After taking my belongings out of my vehicle, like any other guest, I made my way into the wood line. Up until that point, I had not even taken my Warbonnet Superfly tarp out of the bag. That meant that I had no idea how it was to be set up or how much cordage I would need. There was a little miscalculation in my recollection of how close I would be to the road. Close enough that I was not comfortable even using the red lens on my Petzl Tactikka Plus headlamp. So I did the whole set up by feel. The tarp had 10 total lashing points. I used slip knots and taut line hitches to tie it off to the tree and stake it out. After cutting my paracord to the size I needed, I just tied a small overhand knot on the tip of each end to keep it from fraying instead of risking the chance of the flame of my lighter being seen.
It took me about 30 minutes to set up and I settled in for the night, sleeping in my Warbonnet Blackbird Doublenest Hammock. I was pretty beat after the three hour drive to get there, so I dozed off after setting the alarm on my phone. About an hour into my slumber, my wife called and woke me up. I had the phone all the way up because I sleep like a rock. The other problem with that is every time I got a text or e-mail it would sound too. I am going to add the smallest battery powered alarm clock to my kit that I can find.
I was not comfortable leaving my tarp and hammock up during the day, so having to be at work at 7:00, I got up at 5:00 and packed everything away while it was still dark. After showing up at work and freshening up in the bathroom, I went back out to my car and made my coffee with my Jetboil Zip Cooking System. Steaming hot coffee in about 2-3 minutes. I prepack my coffee and sugar mixture in little plastic bags. Then I just went to work like any other day.
We got done late that day. I headed to the office/gym to take a shower. My mistake was leaving my cell phone charging in the office when I went to shower; I came back and found the door locked. I would have no way of getting up in the morning, and especially did not want to get caught out in the daylight. I drove to the hotel where another instructor was staying and crashed on his floor that night. I took the opportunity to get a better handle on the tarp and attach paracord to all of the tie out points. Prior to settling in for the night, I went out back and fired up my small propane grill that used the one pound tanks. I cooked up some BBQ chicken that I had marinating in the cooler.
The last day was an earlier day. I went to shower and kept my phone with me. I was done around 5:00 and had to meet a buddy at 6:00 for dinner. Since it was already dark, I took the opportunity to make camp before dinner. I was in the hammock sound asleep by 9:00. During the night it poured, but I was bone dry and slept like a baby with the pitter patter of the rain. Luckily, it stopped for a while when I woke up and packed out.
I had a great time on this trip. The best part was saving the money on the hotel. Here are some thoughts-
There are plenty of places that you can camp while being hidden in plain sight. Many will require you to go in and out under the cover of darkness. The closer you can park your vehicle to the woods the better, less distance to travel. Park and ride rest stops are what come to mind. You want to park where people are used to seeing strange cars come and go.
The hammock and tarp, especially those from Warbonnet, are the way to go, especially for me. It doesnít matter if it is raining; there is snow on the ground, or even if the ground is rocky. You are high and dry. Set up can be done in less than 20 minutes in the dark, and nothing is on the ground. The Superfly not only covered me, but it camouflaged me. You would have probably walked into me before you saw me.
The Jetboil Stove was great for getting my morning coffee. I have not used it extensively and purchased it on the recommendations from others. You could live quite comfortably as long as you could find canisters. Obviously if you are trying to go undetected, you canít have a fire. Plus unless you need it for heat, you use a lot of energy and time attending to it. You can also find access to microwaves if you look.
Luckily I had the ability to shower at work. If I didnít and was doing this long term, I would be looking for a cheap gym membership or the YMCA. I also picked up a Microfiber Towel that is more packable than a regular towel.
If for some reason I had to travel somewhere for a period of time or did end up homeless, I believe with some planning and preparation I could get used to this minimalist lifestyle. I plan on doing more of these in the future in different weather extremes.
For the record, had I been found in the area I was camping I most likely would have been just told to leave. I was between properties, and outside of sleeping there, I was committing no crimes.- George