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PCT sleep system help
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Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Hammock? on 02/02/2010 13:20:37 MST Print View

Opinions about hammocks on the PCT vary a lot; in part this depends on how much better you personally sleep in a hammock. Also related, for me at least, is whether you can at least be "weight neutral". Most times I find that I have to add significant weight to be reliably warm enough in a hammock vs. a single wall tent or tarp/bivy combo.

I had actually thought of switching to my HH hammock after the Sierras, but ultimately decided not to go that route. For much/most of California and most of Oregon, things are pretty "open". Certainly not always (!), but surprisingly often a person can just find an open space to setup camp. WA state is different there (I live in WA) --- almost anywhere there aren't trees there's a lot of brush on the ground, so you're more often restricted to places that other people have camped before you.

But even then I've found myself walking in WA (on the PCT) and finding tent spots as readily as decent hammock hanging spots (or perhaps I should say "equally un-readily"). Sometimes you'll find great trees but enough brush and smaller trees growing among them that it's tough to find a clear hang spot. Sometimes you'll find yourself going through a lot of replanted forest where the trees are too *close* together, or the branches/understory goes all the way to the ground (visualize the Christmas tree in your living room).

If you want to make a hammock work, you'll make it work and I'm sure you'll be happy with it, so long as you have the ability to at least "get by" with setting it up on the ground as a sort of awkward bivy sack if conditions should warrant --- I suspect this would be quite rare.

For me, a tarptent is an easier, lighter approach in general.

Best of luck with whatever you select!

Evan Chartier
PCT sleep on 02/03/2010 12:44:42 MST Print View

Hey there-
Wow I was not expecting such great answers, so thanks! Reading all the replies again, it seems that I can get by with the poncho/tarp and bivy as long as I am off the trail by September, which I plan to be. Although it may be more comfortable to use a single wall tent or tarptent, at 28 oz as I saw mentioned, even using the silnylon poncho tarp and TIgoat bivy I plan to buy I would be saving 10 oz, a considerable weight savings. Add a cuben tarp, and it only goes up. After thinking about it, carrying those extra 10+ Oz over so many miles, even if it is just OR/WA, for a "possible" storm (seems unlikely before Sept)is not worth it. Many people mentioned that it is easier to cook in the tarptent, however I dont plan on cooking so that should not be a problem. Please correct me if I am wrong, but seems like I can ride out any storm I may see at the end of the hike with a tarp/bivy and save the weight the rest of the 2,650 miles?
As a side note, if I do change the 12 oz sea to summit poncho tarp I have now for a cuben tarp (+-5oz?) is there rain gear that I can add to the system and still save weight? Wouldnt want to add expense for no weight savings. I was planning on taking the poncho tarp as rain gear paired with a montbell wind jacket and possibly a trash bag for emergencies. You guys have been great, I really love this forum! Happy travels,

David T
(DaveT) - F
pct sleep system on 02/03/2010 12:53:54 MST Print View

I think you have a good plan. If I did the PCT again, I'd definitely try to do it as LIGHT as possible, both for comfort and probably as a bit of a challenge. That would probably be a MLD poncho tarp and no bivy for much of it; planning to finish by the end of August definitely means you'll avoid most bad weather. Keep in mind that bad mosquitoes can really make things unpleasant - I'd still probably want some kind of place to retreat into when the bugs are really bad.

When you get a draft gear list together, definitely post it up on the Gear Lists section, and folks can give you great input on your whole system. The PCT (in general) is a great trail to go FAST and LIGHT on, plus it's endlessly beautiful.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Adjust for bugs ... on 02/03/2010 13:09:26 MST Print View

"... it seems that I can get by with the poncho/tarp and bivy as long as I am off the trail by September..."

The wild-card here IMO is how well you deal with mosquitoes. Without an enclosed tent, your options are to use just a headnet (rest of body enclosed in sleeping bag) or one of those units that sort of drapes over you, something like this:

For some people, a headnet is sufficient. Well, so long as it's not too warm to keep the rest of you inside your sleeping bag. For myself, I'll accept the extra weight to have a decent enclosed bug-proof zone.

It "bugs me" a lot when the mosquitoes are buzzing around right at my ears and around my face, even if I know that the headnet will keep them off me. And it's great to be able to quickly cook up something outside the tent and then retreat inside it to eat it.

This boils down to another case of "know thyself", but while I was happy with a poncho-tarp over the first 700 miles, I found a single-wall solo tent worth carrying after that.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: PCT sleep on 02/03/2010 16:41:17 MST Print View

"As a side note, if I do change the 12 oz sea to summit poncho tarp I have now for a cuben tarp (+-5oz?) is there rain gear that I can add to the system and still save weight?"

Well you can always go with a cuben poncho tarp. MLD is the only one I know of who makes these. I would be uncomfortable with this option given how thick the brush is in some places but you can make it if very careful. Plus it is actually fairly easy to patch cuben.

I don't want to get wholes in my expensive cuben tarp and I dislike the floppiness of a poncho tarp so I used separate rain gear.

The rain gear I used was the Montane Lite-Speed H2O Jacket. It's essentially an epic jacket with taped seams. Epic fabric is used both for wind shirts and for tents and is a versatile material. It's not the most breathable wind shirt and it's not the most waterproof jacket. But at 5 oz it covered both needs for me saving a good deal of weight.

I also wore soft shell convertible pants which I found where fine in the rain.

For rain gear I don't think it's important to stay 100% dry as long as you have a thin base layer (I used 150 g/m2 merino wool) that stays warm even when wet. Besides you'll be working hard enough that you'll dry quickly even if a few drops make it through.

David T
(DaveT) - F
pct sleep. on 02/03/2010 17:33:08 MST Print View

one thing i realized on the PCT in all the rain is that you probably won't be warm and DRY while hiking up hills in the rain, but you'll want to be at least warm and DAMP. you don't want to be COLD and damp. most rain jackets have a hard time keeping up with the perspiration created by hard work hiking carrying a pack in wet weather. i used a marginal Marmot Precip jacket in 2004, and it definitely was a warm and wet situation.

key to this for me was having a dry sleeping bag and dry sleeping clothes (thin long johns and socks) to get into when the day was over, inside a dry-ish shelter.

hopefully you'll miss most of the rainy/colder weather with your earlier-ending schedule.

Roy Staggs
(onepaddlejunkie) - F

Locale: SEC
Thanks on 02/04/2010 12:42:15 MST Print View

I agree that this has been a great exchange of information and I would like to specifically thank Nia and Brian for their input on hammock use. The PCT is something I have been dreaming of for years now and I’m going to have to do it soon or I will be hiking with a walker. Brian my Hennessy Hammock is off to 2QZQ having a zipper mod put in that makes it much more “user friendly” if you have to set it up as a bivy. Having a HH you know exactly what I’m talking about. I am going to have to do some serious number crunching. I may have to buy a bunch of new gear! I do love that “new gear” smell.

Evan Chartier
PCT sleep help on 02/04/2010 18:58:39 MST Print View

Thanks again...few more things...
Brian: Nice point about the bug situation. I think I can deal with them buzzing "around" my head, however on my head would be really annoying. From what I see in pictures, the TIgoat bivy with the net feature should keep them off, correct? Have you used this before? That might be a good compromise between weight and comfort, at least for me (assuming it works!)
Dave T: Trying to go as light as possible! I will definetly post the gear list when I have it nailed down, hopefully to get ripped apart by the great people on this forum! Always love constructive critisizm...
Nia: I am also a little weary of taking the cuben poncho tarp. If I ripped it, I would be mad (although easy to repair with duct tape.) I may have to go with the more waterproof jacket...
Question: Bringing a 2.7 oz montbell wind jacket and trash bag, can I get away with just the cuben tarp? Would it be possible/safe to plan on getting wet when heavy rains come? If I am moving the whole time and have a dry bag, could I potentially stay warm until turning in for the night, and if the clothes are wet just sleep naked? or maybe take the thin long johns that Dave mentioned?
You all are invaluable...

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Re: PCT sleep help on 02/05/2010 11:34:27 MST Print View

"From what I see in pictures, the TIgoat bivy with the net feature should keep them off, correct? Have you used this before? That might be a good compromise between weight and comfort, at least for me (assuming it works!)"

I did that a few times on my PCT trip, mainly in the Sierra Neveda. For those that hike until it's almost dark and goto bed soon after arriving in camp,this works well (I enjoy the scenery on my breaks during the day, not at camp). Most mosquitos leave after it gets dark and the temperature drops, so you don't have to stay enclosed all night. I usually only did the bivy sack netting when it was cold or the bugs were really bad. Normally I went to bed with my head net over my hat (you can turn your baseball cap sideways if you are a side sleeper) and this was fine most nights. The early morning buzzing in my ear by a lone mosquito was my alarm clock and my motivation to get up early and get going as I knew I'd be swarmed if I stayed.

If you like to hang out in camp for awhile, a bivy sack may be too confining until you are ready to go to sleep. A smokey fire can help, but you can't build them everywhere. I normally wore long sleeves and pants and a hat that were treated with Permithrin and other then Rae Lakes and N.Yosemite, this was more the enough to keep the bugs away from me while I had dinner and socialized outside my bivy.

Edited by Miner on 02/05/2010 22:59:50 MST.

Evan Chartier
PCT sleep help on 02/05/2010 16:06:09 MST Print View

Thanks Sean. I also plan on hiking till it gets dark, so good to hear about your experience. I will go with the net hood and use it when needed, as it doesnt add much weight. I dont like to stop for camp while its still light, and I like to be up at sunrise so a mosquito alarm doesnt sound too bad. Do you have the TIgoat bivy with head net, or another one? Just heard that the headnet added to the bivy may cause the bivy to lose a few inches. at 6'3 that might be a negative for me...
I like the sideways cap idea as well.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Re: PCT sleep help on 02/05/2010 23:05:18 MST Print View

I started off with a 2yr old TIG bivy, but lost it near San Jacinto when I slid off the trail in the snow into a tree well. I replaced it with a MLD superlite bivy which also had a net over the face.

I also used the simplissity UL headnet that was sold on this website; its lighter weight and not as hot to wear as you hike since its more breathable (but doesn't work for no-seeums but they aren't on the PCT). A headnet is a necessity for your sanity during breaks in N.Yosemite no matter what you do with your bivy sack.

Edited by Miner on 02/05/2010 23:09:12 MST.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
bivy for bugs in warm weather? on 02/06/2010 12:34:08 MST Print View

I have a lot less bivy experience than Sean. I carried a really light (not waterproof) bivy along with my poncho tarp for the first 700 miles and used it maybe twice, once for bugs. I've done a trip or two with a heavier bivy by itself, but that's about it. A bivy is of course great for utter simplicity, and being able to tuck yourself into sleeping spots that don't work well for others.

And a bivy is better than a headnet --- with one caveat --- but not anywhere close to the relief I have in buggy times to have a bigger bug free zone do be in. It partly depends on your personal psychology and in-camp "style". And the type of bivy, of course --- if via a hoop or tie-out point you can pull the mesh up off of your face, then the bivy starts to get credible (for me).

My caveat to using a bivy to keep bugs off is dealing with warmer weather. I've been in situations where the bugs are just swarming, it's bed time, and yet it's so warm I can barely stand to be in the bivy even outside of my sleeping bag. I'm not saying this will be a frequent problem for you, but it's another reason I like an enclosed tent.

Of course there's no universally "right" or "wrong" answer, it's just good to know the reasons that different people favor different gear choices and then make your best guess!

Evan Chartier
hey on 02/06/2010 20:36:03 MST Print View

Sean: What did you think of the MLD superlite? It seems a bit more expensive and maybe a bit heavier than the goat bivy, no? Also, can you have a closed hood and net hood, or do you have to choose? Which netting option did you use? would love to see a compare review of the two, if you know of one...Was thinking about that headnet thing too, seems everyone loves them. How much did yours weigh, and what did you pay for it? Thanks
Brian: Thanks for the input. I definetly want a bivy with the spot to tie the netting out to keep it off my face. Figured either the bivy would come with it, or I would sew it on myself. This will probably be good for me- although I can see it being very hot and uncomfortable under the bivy at times!

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
MLD Superlite on 02/08/2010 12:40:43 MST Print View

The momentum fabric on the MLD superlite is far more breathable then the DWP material on the TIG bivy. There are pros and cons to this. The pro is that you have very little condensation issues with the momentum so you don't have to dry out your sleeping bag very often. The con is when you are camped in a strong cold wind, the DWP fabric cuts the wind better and you stay warmer; there were 2 nights when camped on a pass over 10,000ft in the Sierras that I had to throw something over the top to better break the wind (using your tarp can help block the wind but I was too lazy to set it up). Overall, I preferred the MLD Superlite for the typical conditions of the PCT though the TIG bivy will work.

When I ordered the Superlite bivy, the only option was the halfmoon opening so that is what I got and it was fine. However, the full net opening would probably be better for most use except the worse weather.

The only night on the PCT that I was too hot to be in the bivy sack, even when on top of my sleeping bag, was a single night about 2 miles before the Feather River near Belden,CA. However, it was also too hot to be in my sleeping bag even without the bivy sack. I slept in long sleeves and pants with no bivy or sleeping bag. Fortunately there were only a few bugs and my permithrin treated clothing and head net was more then enough to keep me from being bitten during the night.

Edited by Miner on 02/08/2010 12:43:39 MST.

Evan Chartier
Awesome on 02/08/2010 23:33:19 MST Print View

Thanks for the info-
found a cheap sea to summit head net for 5 bucks, weighs just over an ounce. This will probably be the easiest and cheapest one, even over MYOG (at least for me) so I will pick that up. Will also do more research on the MLD bivy. Are the waits for the bivys as long as everything else, a few weeks? Maybe I have to get a used one here on BPL gear much gear to get, so little time!!