Cowboy camping

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by hdlv, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    I've been fully converted to tarp/bivy camping for about 4 years now, the only time I've used a tent in that time was for a road trip where we were camping at crowded car camping grounds. While I've been on the tarp band wagon for as long as I have been I'd estimate that only 2 of the 4 years did I consistently set up the tarp when it came time to bed down.

    I'd pit that outcome mostly on the two long trails I've hiked in 2016/2017. The Appalachian trail was really what set me up for the way I camp today. I fully lost any discomfort I had with sleeping outside without being fully enclosed. For five months we stayed in lean to shelters or under the tarp, however if we weren't at a shelter and the weather/condensation didn't seem like it'd be bad we'd cowboy. Last summer on my 5 month thruhike attempt of the Pacific Crest Trail I only set up the tarp maybe 4 or 5 times, no shelters (considering days off in town that's close to 4 months cowboy camping almost every night). I guess these extended wilderness trips allowed me to really feel at home outside, much more aware which resulted in becoming much more comfortable.

    I will say there have been a few times where I've woken up in the middle of the night and had to set the tarp up fast, with my set up I can get it up in less than 2min with my wife helping and just a bit more on my own.

    It's funny, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this phrase "you'll feel more connected to nature" when I was originally researching tarp camping but now I can't imagine staying in a tent outside unless I really had too.
    My question is how many people here will take any opportunity NOT to set up their shelter and fall asleep under the stars... or trees.
     
  2. WY_Not

    WY_Not Supporter Supporter

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    I've done it a few times when I know the risk of rain is nil. One example... in Wyoming I just laid the tarp down with sleeping bag on top and pulled the tarp over as an improvised bed roll.

    I'd love to get my hands on an actual old style canvas bed roll for use with a couple of wool blankets.
     
  3. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    I rarely set a tent in summer. Just a canvas bedroll. Rest of the year, depends, but I woke up to snow on it a few times.

    Never mind if it's cold, that things plenty warm.
     
  4. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    I'd like to try the old school bed roll as well. I guess I should clarify that I'm using a modern sleeping bag and pad with my bivy as a ground sheet. But it's still right there under the sky.
     
  5. tentsleeper

    tentsleeper Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t used a tent much inyears, hammock ,tarp or bivy is what I use.
     
  6. WY_Not

    WY_Not Supporter Supporter

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    Yep. About the same thing. The tarp is just there to serve as ground cloth, and when pulled over the sleeping bag, to keep it somewhat free of dew and moisture. On the Wyoming trip, the tarp only covered the bag from about armpits down. Before falling asleep, I was gazing up and some very bright, very beautiful stars. After these many years, still amazed at how many are obscured by lights in the distance.

     
  7. CampCowan

    CampCowan Wabi Sabi Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    It is nice looking up at the stars and drifting off to sleep. I’m usually 50/50 on outside or under a tarp, a mss bivy makes this extremely easy.
     
  8. Muleman77

    Muleman77 Hobbyist Hobbyist Supporter

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    My canvas bedroll, is big. You can fold up the top over your face, down about your waist, and keep the dew off even.
    Inside that is a sleeping bag, and big agnes air pad. It's no lightweight deal, but the mule don't care.

    On fires, or lightweight trips, a bag on the ground is fine with me, tent if it's bad weather.

    I often sleep on a cot if I'm around the vehicles at a trailhead, with no tent.
     
  9. Duncsquatch

    Duncsquatch Heed the call. Supporter

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    I don't mind being "exposed" when sleeping, there is nothing out there that really wants me (other than bugs). Just my food is what the critters are after, and that is not next to me, usually in a tree. Gortex bivy is a sweet item.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  10. werewolf won

    werewolf won TANSTAAFL Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Many moons ago I was pushing the lunatic fringe of minimalist gear. I figured a bivy is just a breathable sack, and so were my Gore-tex waders and wading jacket. So I carried a 3 x 3 foot sheet of nylon cloth with grommets at the corners and a bug head net as my total sleeping gear. During the day as I fished I’d look for decent places to haul out for the night and as darkness came on I’d return to them pull on the coat and set up the tarp so I’d not get rain of dew on my head. I fished back then at a State forest where camping was legal so while I was not at the campsites per say I was not stealth camping. I did this two or three times, it worked, but it had some comical problems.

    Water snakes seem to feel slithering under warm things is the thing to do. Let’s just say snakes and I am barely friendly to each other!

    I have a buddy up north who uses a cowboy roll from either Frost River or Duluth he really likes it.
     
  11. alukban

    alukban Guide

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    The first time I cowboy camped was when I was 13 yo. It was by Crystal Lake in the Lake Tahoe area, CA. That must've been aboit '82. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was aneasy decision back then because our cheap tents became swimming pools when it rained anyway.

    I mostly hammock now but, even in winter, I prefer no tarp even with hammocks whenever possible.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Riverpirate

    Riverpirate Supporter Supporter

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    I am with @alukban , I am mostly a hammock guy. In the south yo need a mosquito net just about yea round. But I forgo the tarp over the hammock when at all possible.
     
  13. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    I used to camp a lot with no shelter at all. Rain is the only real issue, IMO. If it is COLD, snow won’t hurt and if it is clear, no roof is necessary.
    One time in the Grand Canyon, I did set up the tent, just because. We camped on a sand dune quite high above the river. We we didn’t figure out where the dune came from until after dark. WIND! OMG, glad I had the tent that night.
    Otherwise, wing it! Enjoy the stars... and snow.
     
  14. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    I do it quite a bit...around here, the odds of rain are pretty much always low :). It's a really nice way to sleep out, IMO.
     
  15. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    You guys need to challenge each other to a ‘build off’ and make your own canvas bed rolls. We will watch and learn. :dblthumb:
     
  16. WY_Not

    WY_Not Supporter Supporter

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    Then send them to me. I'll act as the impartial judge. :4:
     
  17. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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  18. IzaWildman

    IzaWildman Grey Owl Supporter

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    It's fun waking up covered with the morning dew!
     
  19. City Bushcrafter

    City Bushcrafter Hooah! Supporter

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    I love cowboy camping, just a ground sheet and sleeping back. The only thin is your bag will be moist from dew in the morning, but well worth it.
     
  20. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    It sounds like it should be fun to do. But the dew. That's what puts me off about it. I have slept outside before with no cover and woke up pretty damp.

    I haven't tried it with my mss yet. A big canvas setup does sound very comfortable though. :)
     
  21. Duncsquatch

    Duncsquatch Heed the call. Supporter

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    If you're worried about dew why not fall asleep under the stars and when inevitably you wake up at 2 in the morning to take a leak... Move your bedroll under a natural canopy of plant life.
     
  22. Midwest.Bushlore

    Midwest.Bushlore Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Where I generally camp if you didn't have a tent or at least a bug net the mosquitoes are bad enough that there'd be nothing left of you but a pile of bleached bones by morning!
     
  23. Evilwhitey

    Evilwhitey Tracker

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    I hate mosquitoes. If it's a clear night and there are no mosquitoes I have no problem cowboy camping and I've always enjoyed doing so.
     
  24. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    That's a crazy set up!

    Sometime last July my wife and I had just finished what ended up being our longest hike on the PCT, just over 36 miles that day. Exhausted, we blew up our air mattresses put them with our sleeping bags and pillows inside of our bivys and went over to a picnic table to make dinner. After we stuffed ourselves she walked back to our bags to tuck in while I stayed up and chatted with another hiker. A few minutes after she left I heard her scream, I waddled over as quickly as I could and found her with her backpack over her shoulder, full bivy in hand and a pretty big snake on the ground in the middle of the print her sleep system had made In the sand. I can't remember the species but recall recognizing it as non-venomous. He must have slithered under to enjoy the R-value of her pad while we were having dinner. That snake was lucky Lauren decided to move her setup before settling in, he would have had a rough night!
    IMG_2003.JPG
     
  25. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    Pick the right spot and that's usually not an issue. Pick the wrong spot you might wake up soaked!
     
  26. Beach Hiker

    Beach Hiker Traveller Supporter

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    I don't even want to think about all the times I've been woken up at 3am by pouring rain. ...
    I have often slept in several layers of warm clothes. Just lie down and go to sleep. Close the hood do you can comfortably breathe.
     
  27. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    I hear you. Maybe one of my most valued gear purchases was a MLD serenity bug net. I really had no problems with bugs on the Appalachian trail but had heard horror stories of the mosquitoes in the high Sierra. We found out they were all true. I grew up in Florida and thought I'd seen bad mosquitoes but those were nothing compared to those clouds of death. So for about 300 miles I carried the bug net... maybe next time I'd bring a flamethrower as well!

    IMG_2151.JPG
     
  28. IzaWildman

    IzaWildman Grey Owl Supporter

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    I've had it happen more than once.
     
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  29. LongAgoLEO

    LongAgoLEO Scout

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    If weather is forecasted to be cooperative, we'll typically set up our tarp per usual and then fall asleep under the stars next to the fire. This makes the move to shelter an easy relocation if necessary. Even in a bivy, the morning dew is an issue (to me). Just waking up with my head a bit soggy and the surrounding ground soaked is always an uninviting wake-up call. I'll snuggle against a stiff breeze all night in exchange for everything being dry come morning.
     
  30. UAHiker

    UAHiker Supporter Supporter

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    have still yet to try it, if the weather is good enough on my next trip i think i'll give it a go!
     
  31. 66drifter

    66drifter Guide

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    as i have said before THE COWBOY BEDROLL works quite well for those who learn how to use one

    whether sleeping under the stars or in some form of shelter the cowboy bedroll provides virtually all one needs in a sleep system

    rain/moisture protection, bedding organization & protection from ground issues, and personal gear organization

    all bundled in one easy to pack package

    they are bulky heavy and usually only employed when traveling in or with some kind of wheeled conveyance be it wagon cart car truck or mule/horseback which is my preferred means...

    some are sewn in a manner which compartmentalizes and fasten with simple snaps/clips

    Unknown.jpeg

    some are simply folded

    63f107f862cf49c1ff57435fd0f5c2bd.jpg

    some are a combination of both methods

    it kinda boils down to personal taste and in most cases one's DIY abilities/skills or one's $$$ for retail purchase

    for those w/ limited skills and funds a painter's canvass drop cloth is a good place to start

    grommets can be used for string ties(kits available at any hdwr/big box store)

    larger holes

    th-1.jpeg

    smaller holes (sometimes called eyelets)

    th-3.jpeg

    if you have a thread injector and can make button holes BACHELOR BUTTONS can be your friend(no sewing required to install)

    th.jpeg

    HAVE FUN
     
  32. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Guide

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    I sleep in the open quite often, my favorite way to sleep! I use a tarp 99% of the time when I do use a shelter. I planned to sleep under a tarp lean-to last summer in Alaska but the mosquito swarm pushed me into a tent for most of the summer. I was bummed to be sleeping in a tent but incredibly thankful at the same time.
    In the sun-scorched mountains of Southern Oregon it literally doesn't rain for like 6-8 months out of the year so I can get away with sleeping exposed most of the time.

    My dad and I hunt the backcountry quite a bit and usually go on several outings per season and we always sleep exposed. Same goes for fishing trips! It's more indian camping than it is cowboy camping though haha. No bed rolls, just a sleeping bag and evergreen boughs.

    Heres our camp from our last hunting expedition (my dad likes to carry his own bodyweight in food and coffee lol)
    1510208218101.jpg

    We got rained on once during a fishing trip while sleeping exposed. We just got up and hit the water at like 3am and night fished until morning, the early wake up led to a productive day!
    1510212401810.jpg

    Sleeping exposed lends a sense of adventure that being enclosed in a tent just doesn't provide. Anyone who hasn't slept under the stars should really give it a shot!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  33. longhunter

    longhunter Northman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    + 1 for the cowboy/ tarp camping. Usually if it starts raining and the tarp isn’t up I will just cocoon my self in it rather than taking time to set it up.
     
  34. CaliforniaCanuck

    CaliforniaCanuck Guide

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    I started out backpacking without a tent but after my third trip I realized the amount of snakes and mice in So Cal, I got a tent!

    I killed a snake right beside my sleeping bag, and my friend pulled a mouse off his face.

    In Northern Ontario it wasn't an issue, especially in the fall no bugs, but here if there's mice there are snakes and vise versa. No thanks!
     
  35. bosque bob

    bosque bob Scout

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    Interesting read on this, thanks. A good bedroll can be well worth the weight IMO. I have one made by David Ellis that works great for me. Not too heavy, weather proof as much as canvas can be, provides plenty of room and can be configured for complete coverage. Where I roam I can sleep out most of the year and it gets a lot of use. Falling asleep under the stars and waking up under the frost or sometimes snow is a comfortable rest for me. Doesn't make getting up in the cold any easier - don't know if there is a fix for that.

    There are places and times where sleeping on the ground is not always a good idea so a cot, truck bed, tent or whatever is used but I still sleep in the bedroll since it's also a good way to protect sleeping gear.
     
  36. Seeker

    Seeker Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

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    I'd love to live in a drier climate, but my three most frequent camping places/climates are here in LA, in the Great Smokies, and in the Adirondacks. All have frequent rains, and if no rain is predicted, there is often an associated wind/stiff breeze that requires at least a wind break.

    That said, I have spent more than a few nights out cowboy style and really like it. My absolute favorite spot was on the back deck of a tank, with the heat from the engine coming up through your foam pad all night...
     
  37. Djektd

    Djektd Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Time for a name change. :)
     
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  38. Birdman

    Birdman Guide

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    I'm a big fan of cowboy bedroll. I just have a Thermarest Ridgerest pad, and fleece blanket in mine, unless it's real cold.
    I've added a 3in wide shoulder strap to mine. I can roll up a day or 2 worth of supplies in it.
    No need for a pack.
     
  39. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe Scout

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    I never owned a tent until I started dating my ex-wife.
    To her, camping was in a motorhome with her family.
    The tent was a compromise.
    I'm back to the ground tarp again unless there are a lot of bugs (ticks being my biggest concern).
     
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  40. ACrawford36

    ACrawford36 Tracker

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    Just spent a few weeks in the desert for work. Basically cowboy camped the entire time. Technically was under a very small camo net 6x8'ish (it was only about 2.5' off the ground and many there to give share during the day). Wasn't bad except up on the mountains a few nights got down to 45 not including 20 mph wind gust. Only having a poncho and poncho liner for warmth really sucked haha. For the most part I prefer cowboy camping when I can.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
  41. Foulwind

    Foulwind Guide

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    Can't say it was "Cowboy camping" but in the late 80's when I used to Wheel almost every weekend and specially any 3 and 4 day holidays, I used to use my CJ-5's body as a make shift shelter (A few times, right off the trail we were on or on the road in to that trail destination for camp) We would simply toss our bags under the jeep, head in (Feet out) quicker that digging out the tent and setting it up, only to have to take it down in a few short hours and stow it again. After all, in my 20's I was immortal (Single too) fortunately never had problems doing those roadside/trailside camps (Usually up in the foothills of the Sierra's, to up in the Sierra's) No way I'd consider repeating those instances now. I'm not immortal, don't heal as fast, and not a fan of hard surfaces for bedding down on now. (Don't have my CJ-5 any more either (Sad face)) I recall now, at the time, of having no fear of spending the night right off the road then. Most of the time if we weren't on a off-road trail , we weren't too far from whatever trailhead we were headed for and wanted to hit that trail in the morning.
     
  42. to Ha

    to Ha Supporter Supporter

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    Until moving back to Florida I cowboy camped as much as possible. Such a free feeling.

    I hang most times now, so I can get away without a bugnet in the winter, even here!
     
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  43. CoolBreeze135

    CoolBreeze135 Scholarly Woodsman Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    You need to check out the Rocky Mountain Swag from Ellis Canvas Tents.
     
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  44. wvridgerunner

    wvridgerunner Scout

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    For a Scouts Ordeal they must sleep alone away from others with only a sleeping bag and tarp. It is part of your pledge in the ceremony and before it starts you pledge to do this or you must leave the ceremony no questions ask and are offered to come the next year and try again. You come to the ceremony circle with only a sleeping bag and a tarp or trash bag. No light, no food. You walk out in the woods following a torch bearer and when he stops the last person in line sleeps at that place and the line moves on .The torch bearer returns in the morning at day light to pick you up. The boys are supposed to be surprised about the nights stay along but the secret usually gets out before the ceremony. That is a big step for boys 11 years old. I have attended this ceremony for more than 10 yrs and never seen one scout leave. Years ago they would give you one match to light a fire and you could have light and heat if you could get your fire started with one match. That is no longer allowed do to forest fire concerns. That part of the ceremony with sleeping alone and listen to the sounds of the night is to become one with nature and the Delaware Indian Spirits. Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui

    The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are:

    · Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.

    · The youth must have experienced 15 nights of Boy Scout camping while registered with a troop or team within the two years immediately prior to the election. The 15 nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of at least five consecutive nights of overnight camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. Only five nights of the long-term camp may be credited toward the 15-night camping requirement. The balance of the camping (10 nights) must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps of, at most, three nights each.

    · Youth must be under the age of 21, hold the BSA First Class rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach, be elected by the youth members of their troop or team.

    · Induction

    · The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values. All candidates for membership must complete the Ordeal.
     
  45. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    I always get the feeling that I'm one of the few tent campers on this site. Hi my name is Matt and I like tents, there I said it.

    As for camping uner the stars I've camped warmer nights without the fly on my tents. So long as I'm under some sort of canapy I've yet to have an issue with morning dew, plus I don't have to deal with condensation on the fly (I flip the fly first thing in the morning to let the sun dry the condensation). Generally there is a break in the canopy somewhere to appreciate the night sky.

    I've looked into tarp camping, but the highly recommend bivy for heat retention and splash protection always seems to be cost restrictive. Not to mention I enjoy having my water and headlamp in arms reach in the middle of the night with little to no fiddling.

    Perhaps I'm looking at it wrong, but the tarp and bivy, hammock and tarp, and tent all serve the same purpose. Protection from the ground, wind block, heat retention, protection from precipitation, and optional protection from insects. Personally I'm looking at a single person trekking pole tent for my next shelter. It's basically a bug bivy with a shaped tarp if you think about it or just a tent depending on how you look at it. Guess I'll never be one of the cool kids :22:
     
  46. Glock Holiday

    Glock Holiday Scout

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    Thanks for this article. Call me paranoid but I dont like being in a small enclosed tent where I cant see outside. I imagine a 2 legged critter prowling around that I cant see and the only way out is the "fatal funnel". They can see me but I cant see them. When I say it it sounds crazy but I got to live with it. Always ready. With open camping I can wake up and look around
     
  47. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Lots of good and valid viewpoints here. Great stuff.

    Warm weather is coming here. I'll have to try out a few of these things before the mosquito swarms come out. :)
     
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  48. Spinymouse

    Spinymouse Tracker

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    Spent some nights trying to stay warm with my poncho liner at the bottom of a foxhole. Can't say I recommend it as a way to get rest.

    Also spent nights sleeping on the engine decks of armored personnel carriers. The residual heat from the engines was nice. But the oil and diesel fumes coming off the engine, even though it was shut down always left me feeling ill in the morning. Also not recommended.

    And then there was a beautiful clear evening at tree line when I slept under the stars. And woke up soaked and frozen in the dark in a steady rain. (Even my toilet paper was a goner. I learned many things on that trip.) Not a fond memory.

    Nowadays, my hammock is my favorite shelter in the bush, followed by my tent, and then a tarp. Maybe, if I lived in a genuinely dry and bug free place, my opinion might be different.
     
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  49. Cheapeats

    Cheapeats Guide

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    AS a kid my dad and I attempted a cowboy camp and the mosquitos drove us home. As an adult I have camped many times without a tent but in the fall winter and early spring when the bugs are gone. I prefer using the burrito roll method lay in the middle of the tarp and fold the right third over then the left third. like WVRIDGERUNNER I slept under the stars when I joined the order of the arrow as an adult the first night was as described but the second night we were allowed to set up tents but I chose to sleep out again with just a bg and tarp.
     
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