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cowboy camping

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  • katyjepsen1
    Just curious what spots on the trail are people s favorite to cowboy camp at? (meaning, no bugs, good open skies, not too cold or misty out). We re going in
    Message 1 of 28 , Mar 20, 2014
      Just curious what spots on the trail are people's favorite to cowboy camp at? (meaning, no bugs, good open skies, not too cold or misty out). We're going in August between full moons and I'm hoping to see some good views of the night skies. 
    • Ray Rippel
      Guitar Lake! (That is if it isn t hailing like the last time I was there!) .
      Message 2 of 28 , Mar 20, 2014
        Guitar Lake! (That is if it isn't hailing like the last time I was there!)

        .

      • straw_marmot
        Katie, In general, weather permitting, I think just try to get higher up for cowboy camping. Better views and fewer bugs above the treeline. A nice general
        Message 3 of 28 , Mar 20, 2014
          Katie,

          In general, weather permitting, I think just try to get higher up for cowboy camping.  Better views and fewer bugs above the treeline.   A nice general approach in the southern half is to aim to camp partway up the climb to a high pass - judging according to the weather how high you're comfortable going to pitch camp.   Then you'll be going over the top of the pass in the early part of the next day, before afternoon thunderstorms kick in.

          Ralph
        • beth.bill
          This dry year I bet there will be very few bugs by August. I love cowboy camping just about anytime in the sierra when there is little risk of rain (which is
          Message 4 of 28 , Mar 20, 2014
            This dry year I bet there will be very few bugs by August.  I love cowboy camping just about anytime in the sierra when there is little risk of rain (which is most nights).  Sometimes I set up the tent for emergencies and then cowboy camp just next to it.   I prefer no trees blocking the view and no bright moon.  I love lying under the stars at just before sleeping, and if I wake in the middle of the night there is always something interesting to look at.
          • straw_marmot
            REAL cowboys don t pitch the tent just in case . But then I suppose they probably also don t carry duct tape, PLBs, or freeze-dried lasagne, do they?
            Message 5 of 28 , Mar 20, 2014
              REAL cowboys don't pitch the tent "just in case".   But then I suppose they probably also don't carry duct tape, PLBs, or freeze-dried lasagne, do they?
            • rnperky@sbcglobal.net
              Katy, going in August of a year like this will afford you the luxury, ( barring thunderstorms ), to cowboy camp anywhere you darn well please! I was hesitant
              Message 6 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                Katy, going in August of a year like this will afford you the luxury, ( barring thunderstorms ), to cowboy camp anywhere you darn well please! I was hesitant to go that way myself, as I like the 'cocoon' feeling of my tent, but after getting used to it, I feel claustrophobic when I'm back under my tarp for storms. It is a pretty cool feeling staring up at the stars at night. I do occasionally get frost on my bivy depending on where I'm camped, so it isn't without some minor inconveniences. 
              • Rick Jernberg
                I ve done some cowboy camping and loved it.  My question is on southern half of JMT is dew a problem?  As in, do you have to deal with drying your bag each
                Message 7 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                  I've done some cowboy camping and loved it.  My question is on southern half of JMT is dew a problem?  As in, do you have to deal with drying your bag each morning?
                • John Ladd
                  ... I ve had the problem, but rarely. I think it helps to chose a site away from water, fairly high (e.g. a bit below treeline - in the foxtail pine belt) and
                  Message 8 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                    On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 7:03 AM, Rick Jernberg <rpjernberg@...> wrote:
                    I've done some cowboy camping and loved it.  My question is on southern half of JMT is dew a problem?  As in, do you have to deal with drying your bag each morning?

                    I've had the problem, but rarely. 

                    I think it helps to chose a site away from water, fairly high (e.g. a bit below treeline - in the foxtail pine belt) and with some wind circulation, which you generally want to do anyway for the star-gazing potential and skeeter avoidance. 

                    When its cold you can get some frost on the outside of the bag, probably because your body offgasses some water vapor overnight, which passes thru the bag and condenses and freezes when it gets to the bag's outer surface. Shake the frost off off before it starts to melt and it's not a big issue

                    When I've had the issue, the amount of water I've had on the bag has usually been minimal and usually is gone by the time I leave camp. Sometimes, esp. if I pack up and start hiking without a cooked breakfast, I've needed to take the bag our of the stuff sack at lunch break and let it dry out.

                    I join other posters in feeling that I'm glad I made myself get used to cowboy camping (it was harder at first) and in that I really like it, esp. for the stars. I set up a shelter nearby about half the time in case rain, excessive cold or wind make it desirable to retreat into it. Last trip (Sept) there were 2 or 3 nights where I was glad I had set up the shelter.

                    John Curran Ladd
                    1616 Castro Street
                    San Francisco, CA  94114-3707
                    415-648-9279
                  • straw_marmot
                    Rick, Re - condensation on sleeping bag when cowboy camping: I don t think it s usually a problem on the JMT in summer. Humidity is usually low. I recall
                    Message 9 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                      Rick,

                      Re - condensation on sleeping bag when cowboy camping:  I don't think it's usually a problem on the JMT in summer.   Humidity is usually low.   I recall that John Ladd, who has many years on the trail in the Sierras, said something like 1 night in 7, or 1 night in 10?   When it does occur, it wets only the outside surface of the bag, it won't soak the down through, so it dries easily.

                      For those who aren't aware of the issue, there's a constant flux of water vapor from your body.   When sleeping in a shelter, the air inside the shelter is usually warmed enough by your body heat that this water vapor will not condense until it's exposed to ambient cold, so condensation occurs mostly on the inside surface of the outermost layer of your shelter.   When cowboy camping, the outside of your bag is directly exposed to the ambient cold, so water vapor from your body may condense on the outside surface of your bag.
                    • straw_marmot
                      Ha, thanks John! I posted before I d seen your comments appear.
                      Message 10 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                        Ha, thanks John!   I posted before I'd seen your comments appear.
                      • longritchie
                        The last time I walked the Muir trail I cowboy camped the whole way. With good weather and no bugs (it was in September) it was great. Condensation on the
                        Message 11 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                          The last time I walked the Muir trail I cowboy camped the whole way. With good weather and no bugs (it was in September) it was great. Condensation on the outside of the bag happens in humid areas, near lakes or boggy meadows. If it's windy that usually prevents the temperature inversion that results in a drop below the dew point. Wind keeps the bugs away too.

                          I think it's best to be up high in a rocky area away from water and other people and trees that obstruct the view of the sky. Then hope for a little breeze.
                        • straw_marmot
                          A minor nitpick on the wet sleeping bag phenomenon. It s not caused by dew. Dew is a result of radiative cooling of exposed surfaces at night (the ground,
                          Message 12 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                            A minor nitpick on the "wet sleeping bag" phenomenon.   It's not caused by dew.  Dew is a result of radiative cooling of exposed surfaces at night (the ground, grass, leaves etc.) below the ambient air temperature.  If the layer of air above the cold surface is cooled by contact with that cold surface below dewpoint, moisture from the air condenses on the surface.

                            You will not get dew directly condensing on your sleeping bag, because your body heat keeps the bag surface much warmer than the air.  The source of any wetness on the surface of your sleeping bag is not moisture from the air, it is moisture from your body.  Water vapor from your body diffuses out through the bag, encounters the cold air, and condenses on the surface of the bag.

                            Having said that, this is a somewhat arcane point, because both dew and the condensation on your bag are more likely to occur under similar ambient conditions - a cold, moist surface layer of air (inversion), no breeze.
                          • longritchie
                            You will not get dew directly condensing on your sleeping bag, because your body heat keeps the bag surface much warmer than the air. The source of any
                            Message 13 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                              "You will not get dew directly condensing on your sleeping bag, because your body heat keeps the bag surface much warmer than the air. The source of any wetness on the surface of your sleeping bag is not moisture from the air, it is moisture from your body. Water vapor from your body diffuses out through the bag, encounters the cold air, and condenses on the surface of the bag."

                              I know what you mean but I've often had dew on my sleeping bag. It's been on my pack and groundsheet and shoes as well. With a tent it has formed on the outside surface of the waterproof fly. It often happens near lakes and in boggy areas. This never happens when you camp?

                              It's off topic but I can't help but be skeptical of your notion that the temperature of the outside of the sleeping bag is "much warmer" than the air. How do you know this?
                            • Mike Bake well
                              Shouldn t this exchange be between you two and not the entire group? Sent from my iPad
                              Message 14 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                Shouldn't this exchange be between you two and not the entire group?

                                Sent from my iPad

                                On Mar 21, 2014, at 12:55 PM, longritchie <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                                 


                                "You will not get dew directly condensing on your sleeping bag, because your body heat keeps the bag surface much warmer than the air. The source of any wetness on the surface of your sleeping bag is not moisture from the air, it is moisture from your body. Water vapor from your body diffuses out through the bag, encounters the cold air, and condenses on the surface of the bag."

                                I know what you mean but I've often had dew on my sleeping bag. It's been on my pack and groundsheet and shoes as well. With a tent it has formed on the outside surface of the waterproof fly. It often happens near lakes and in boggy areas. This never happens when you camp?

                                It's off topic but I can't help but be skeptical of your notion that the temperature of the outside of the sleeping bag is "much warmer" than the air. How do you know this?

                              • straw_marmot
                                You ve had a wet sleeping bag, but it s not dew. Dew, by definition, is water vapor from the air condensing onto a cold surface. The water on your cold pack
                                Message 15 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                  You've had a wet sleeping bag, but it's not dew.   Dew, by definition, is water vapor from the air condensing onto a cold surface.  The water on your cold pack and cold shoes is dew from the air.    On your warm sleeping bag, the moisture comes from your body, it's not dew from the air.

                                  Your body is constantly generating heat.  That heat needs to be lost somehow, or you will die.   Ok, technically the heat could be lost by radiation rather than conduction, but in practice it's both.   That's why down insulation and air pads work - heat conduction through air is much slower than through most solids.   But it still occurs - there's a downward gradient of temperature between your body and the outside of your bag, as your body heat is conducted away and lost to the air.   The formation of dew, by definition, requires that the temperature gradient be in the opposite direction. 
                                • straw_marmot
                                  Ritchie, just to add - I should have been less black and white about this. For example, the foot of your bag, where you re body isn t generating so much
                                  Message 16 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                    Ritchie, just to add - I should have been less black and white about this.   For example, the foot of your bag, where you're body isn't generating so much heat, can cool down and accumulate dew, so obviously there's a grey area, where in principle I agree that you can get enough radiative cooling from the surface of some or all of your bag that it's not offset by the flux of body heat, and yes then I agree it's dew that's forming.    But the condensation of moisture from your body is a different process, and it can happen when there's no dew on the ground anywhere else.

                                    Ralph
                                  • longritchie
                                    I was expecting a better answer from you! You re quite sharp. At least you re willing to admit that sometimes you can have dew on a bag. But think about it. If
                                    Message 17 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                      I was expecting a better answer from you! You're quite sharp. At least you're willing to admit that sometimes you can have dew on a bag. But think about it. If it's possible on the toe of a sleeping bag then it's possible on any part. If the heat source is weak enough or the insulation is thick enough so that the heat conduction is slow compared to the radiation then the surface temperature can drop below the dew point.

                                      Haven't you ever noticed how sleeping beneath a tree instead of out under the stars can sometimes keep your bag dry?
                                    • straw_marmot
                                      Agreed, I thought I d already conceded that I was wrong for those reasons... if that wasn t clear, then yes, I was wrong! If you do a reductio ad absurdum
                                      Message 18 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                        Agreed, I thought I'd already conceded that I was wrong for those reasons...  if that wasn't clear, then yes, I was wrong!    If you do a reductio ad absurdum to a 3-foot thick sleeping bag, then it's clear that dew can form on the outside.   So it's dependent on the particular conditions which process is at work, both moisture from the ambient air (dew) or moisture from your body can contribute.

                                        Ralph
                                      • Rick Jernberg
                                        All:   Thanks for feedback. Bottom line for me is mositure on the bag is not going to be a big deal - no matter how it gets there. AND a tent backup on iffy
                                        Message 19 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                          All:  
                                          Thanks for feedback. Bottom line for me is "mositure" on the bag is not going to be a big deal - no matter how it gets there. AND a tent backup on iffy nights sounds prudent. 
                                        • Jim Seamans
                                          I, for one enjoy reading these types of discussions and do not think they should be taken off board. I lurk and read most posts and find many of them
                                          Message 20 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                            I, for one enjoy reading these types of discussions and do not think they should be taken off board.  I lurk and read most posts and find many of them educational or at least interesting.  If it doesn't appeal to me I can ignore and delete it.  Be open minded and let everyone contribute what they can.


                                            On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 5:40 PM, <ralphbge@...> wrote:
                                             

                                            Agreed, I thought I'd already conceded that I was wrong for those reasons...  if that wasn't clear, then yes, I was wrong!    If you do a reductio ad absurdum to a 3-foot thick sleeping bag, then it's clear that dew can form on the outside.   So it's dependent on the particular conditions which process is at work, both moisture from the ambient air (dew) or moisture from your body can contribute.


                                            Ralph


                                          • longritchie
                                            If you do a reductio ad absurdum to a 3-foot thick sleeping bag, then it s clear that dew can form on the outside. Yes, but I was thinking that more a
                                            Message 21 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                              "If you do a reductio ad absurdum to a 3-foot thick sleeping bag, then it's clear that dew can form on the outside."

                                              Yes, but I was thinking that more a realistic case would work as well. A quick back of the envelop calculation (down sleeping bag, 2 inches of loft, mid-30s air temperature) put the conductive heat flux and radiative loss at the surface of the bag in the same ballpark. I considered posting this calculation but feared that somebody might get upset. And I also worried I might embarrass myself.
                                            • berdomb
                                              In cold humid still conditions sleeping under stars, Ive had the outside of my bag get coated with ice. With significant loss of loft as well due to
                                              Message 22 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                                In cold humid still conditions sleeping under stars, Ive had the outside of my bag get coated with ice.  With significant loss of loft as well due to condensation in the down.   Made for a pretty cold night at 34, when Ive been toasty in the same bag in the upper 20s many times.   
                                              • straw_marmot
                                                I agree that a realistic bag can work as well. I was using the reductio ad absurdum just to show that my prior assertion that it could NEVER happen was
                                                Message 23 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                                  I agree that a realistic bag can work as well.   I was using the reductio ad absurdum just to show that my prior assertion that it could NEVER happen was obviously wrong, and that it's a quantitative question rather than a qualitative one.   For some reason, I had assumed that conductive heat loss through the bag would always be orders of magnitude greater than radiative heat loss from the outside of the bag.  In retrospect, I didn't really have any basis to assume that, I think it's just wrong.   Of course, dew will be somewhat less likely to form on a heated object, so I think that if the bag is wet and nothing else in the environment is wet, then it's unlikely to be dew on the bag.   But if dew is present on the ground and the plants, it may be that the air in the down is such a good insulator that it's quite easy for dew to form on a bag too.  Presumably a thicker bag will acquire dew more easily.
                                                • Frank Dumville
                                                  I have made it a habit on longer trips to regularly air out my sleeping gear during a long break when weather permits regardless of visible dew/condensation.
                                                  Message 24 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                                    I have made it a habit on longer trips to regularly air out my sleeping gear during a long break when weather permits regardless of visible dew/condensation. Moisture can build up just from the water vapor coming from the body.
                                                     
                                                    Frank

                                                    On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 7:42 AM, John Ladd <johnladd@...> wrote:
                                                     Sometimes, esp. if I pack up and start hiking without a cooked breakfast, I've needed to take the bag our of the stuff sack at lunch break and let it dry out.

                                                     
                                                  • cehauser1
                                                    This dew/moisture discussion is very interesting, but most of the moisture coming from a sleeping person is coming from the breathing/exhalation. If you are
                                                    Message 25 of 28 , Mar 21, 2014
                                                      This dew/moisture discussion is very interesting, but most of the moisture coming from a sleeping person is coming from the breathing/exhalation.  If you are cowboy camping in a bivy sack, be sure you don't have your face tucked inside the bivy, otherwise, there will be a lot of condensation inside, and it could soak the sleeping bag.

                                                      Chris.


                                                      ---In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, <ralphbge@...> wrote :

                                                      I agree that a realistic bag can work as well.   I was using the reductio ad absurdum just to show that my prior assertion that it could NEVER happen was obviously wrong, and that it's a quantitative question rather than a qualitative one.   For some reason, I had assumed that conductive heat loss through the bag would always be orders of magnitude greater than radiative heat loss from the outside of the bag.  In retrospect, I didn't really have any basis to assume that, I think it's just wrong.   Of course, dew will be somewhat less likely to form on a heated object, so I think that if the bag is wet and nothing else in the environment is wet, then it's unlikely to be dew on the bag.   But if dew is present on the ground and the plants, it may be that the air in the down is such a good insulator that it's quite easy for dew to form on a bag too.  Presumably a thicker bag will acquire dew more easily.
                                                    • berdomb
                                                      When you cowboy camp on a clear night, the outer surface of your bag can cool below the air temp by radiation. This is why dew occurs on surfaces. If the
                                                      Message 26 of 28 , Mar 22, 2014
                                                        When you cowboy camp on a clear night, the outer surface of your bag can cool below the air temp by radiation.  This is why dew occurs on surfaces.  If the humidity is high enough, and the surface temp is below the dew point, you will be  wet.

                                                        Your body breathes a lot of moisture as well thru the skin.  Body moisture is a real problem for down bags in especially cold and wet/humid conditions right above freezing.  With no dry air and sun during the day, moisture pickup accumulates and after a few nights a 30 degree bag is more like a 50 degree bag. 

                                                         The driviing force , aside from mechanical agitation) for moisture to move thru the bag to the outside, is concentration differential.  It will move from a high humidity environment around your body, to a lower one outside the bag.  If the temp inside the bag insulation drops below the dew pt, it condenses in the insulation.  Usually not a big problem in mild, low humidity conditions.  However, it is always a concern on extended trips, and a reason why many take a bag rated for a lower temp than they expect. 

                                                        If you dont believe body moisture is significant, try sleeping in a plastic bag.  You will shortly be soaked.
                                                      • John Ladd
                                                        ... I agree. Another observation worth mentioning here is probably that daily overcompression of the bag in a tight stuff sack probably exacerbates the
                                                        Message 27 of 28 , Mar 22, 2014
                                                          On Sat, Mar 22, 2014 at 5:28 AM, <berdomb@...> wrote:
                                                          With no dry air and sun during the day, moisture pickup accumulates and after a few nights a 30 degree bag is more like a 50 degree bag. 

                                                          I agree.

                                                          Another observation worth mentioning here is probably that daily overcompression of  the bag in a tight stuff sack probably exacerbates the problem of gradual moisture buildup in the down. One of the advantages of a higher-volume backpack is you don't end up forcing the bag into a tight sack every morning. I suspect it is the combination of compression and the moisture added nightly (due to the factors others have mentioned) that causes the down to start to lose loft over the course of the hike. Less compression and regular airing of the bag are both helpful, and to an extent are alternate solutions to the same problem.

                                                          I've found that I have less issues with the gradual loss of loft since I've gone to a higher volume pack and stopped putting it in a tight compression sack. I still air it out when I know it's gotten particularly wet, but mostly I don't feel the need to. 

                                                          If there's a bit of a breeze, hanging it from a tree limb in the sun can restore the loft quite quickly. It works almost as well as putting the bag in a commercial size dryer for 10 minutes (another great way of restoring loft when you get the chance).

                                                          John Curran Ladd
                                                          1616 Castro Street
                                                          San Francisco, CA  94114-3707
                                                          415-648-9279
                                                        • ravi_jmt2013
                                                          The foot of my down bag (Marmot Helium) got wet a few times due to coming into contact with condensation that formed on the inside of my single wall shelter.
                                                          Message 28 of 28 , Mar 22, 2014
                                                            The foot of my down bag (Marmot Helium) got wet a few times due to coming into contact with condensation that formed on the inside of my single wall shelter.  I attribute this to the fact that my bag is a long rather than a regular, something I do not really need given my height.  This only happened a few times during the hike and on only one occasion was I unable to dry out the bag during the day.

                                                            The JMT generally has low humidity which is very noticeable for those of us living on the east coast.  I am probably going to buy a summer weight quilt for east coast warm weather hiking and I'm thinking about synthetic due to the oppressive humidity and lack of opportunity to dry gear out on humid/cloudy days.  However, I'll stick with the Marmot Helium for the JMT and Colorado Trail since the benefits of warmth from the down along with reasonable weight is definitely appreciated at higher elevations.  I need to compress the bag quite a bit to allow it to fit into my ULA Circuit along with the Bearikade and other gear for the JMT but I won't compress the bag to that extent on the Colorado Trail where bear canisters are not needed.
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