Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ice Cream for the Apocalypse

This past weekend Mike and I went to Chicago for what we have taken to calling Second Christmas. My family lives in Maine, and Mike's lives in Chicago, which has presented a bit of a problem with figuring out what to do around the holidays. Right around Christmas Mike and I turn into tiny children, and absolutely want to do nothing else but sit around in our pajamas playing with our new toys. This makes it difficult to travel from one place to another just after Christmas, as airport security tends to frown upon grown adults in flannel onesies and fluffy slippers who cry when you take their legos away.

Our solution to this problem is to have "real" Christmas with one family, and then have Second Christmas with the other family over Martin Luther King Day Weekend, when you have a Monday off. We have done this two years in a row (last year Chicago got "real" Christmas, and this year Maine got "real" Christmas), and it has been a blast. It also helps to stave off the post-holiday curmudgeonly grumpies, as our holiday season lasts until most of the way through January.

Thus, two days ago, I was sitting in front of a Christmas tree in PJs and knee-high giraffe socks (courtesy of my fabulous mother-in-law) and opening a giant cardboard box from Mike. Inside was approximately 50 packages of astronaut ice cream.


Astronaut ice cream tastes just like regular ice cream, but it does have a distinctly bizarre texture. I happen to like the texture, but other people have likened it to "melty chalk," "chalk dust" and, "no really, it's like I'm licking a chalkboard." But it tastes good! Mike got it for us to have on the trail, as it is lightweight and requires no refrigeration. It is, in essence, a freeze-dried square of ice cream that is ostensibly eaten by astronauts. We will keep a couple of packages with us as we hike and the rest we will put into our "Bounce Bucket" (stay tuned for a post about the Bounce Bucket, as I will explain it soon), so that we can have a steady supply on our trek up the east coast. Though I will be shocked if any of it makes it past the first week.

Mike and I have spoke about the fact that we will be well supplied and prepared if the apocalypse happens while we're on the trail. We'll already have everything we need for sleeping and surviving in the woods, and we'll have ice cream until the end of days.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sleeping Bag Woes

from XKCD

When we were camping in November, we tried out our new sleeping bags, the REI Sub Kilo 20 degree bags with the Sea to Summit sleeping bag linerThey were warm at first and I was able to fall asleep just fine. However, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like my rear end had been replaced with a bag of ice. This made it somewhat difficult to fall back asleep. It also gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "on the rocks."

Sleeping is a critical activity, which is funny to me, as it is more or less actively doing nothing at all. However, if I don't sleep properly, then my muscles won't have time to repair, my food won't get digested, and my experiences won't be able to get transferred from short term memory into long term memory, which means that this blog will basically devolve into ruminations about the nature of the color chartreuse. As entertaining as that may be, I rather like being a fully functioning human being. And chartreuse is a completely ridiculous color anyway. Mauve, on the other hand; that dude means business.

We were also conflicted as to whether or not we should stick with a down-fill bag or switch to synthetic-fill bags. Down is significantly lighter, but it also becomes completely useless if it gets damp. I'm not planning on wearing my sleeping bag like a giant caterpillar and jumping into any lakes, but the odds of my sleeping bag getting damp are pretty high. Imagine setting up the tent in the pouring rain, and having to take off all of our soaking clothing, blowing up our sleeping pads and rolling out our sleeping bags. Even if we tried to dry everything in that cramped tent before we unrolled the sleeping bags, things are bound to be a bit wet. Water is like the James Bond of elements; irresistible, stealthy, and all up in your business.

Synthetic bags on the other hand, do not lose their "loft" when they get wet, which means that though they'd be damp, they would still retain their warmth. However, switching to synthetic bags was daunting, as it meant that my pack weight might increase an extra 2 pounds. Not only that, but I needed to find something a little bit warmer (a 15 degree bag at least) to keep the bag-o-ice butt syndrome at bay. 

What's a girl to do?!

We went to REI and did a fair bit of research, and I think we've found a happy medium. There is a treatment that can be done to down to make it somewhat more water resistant. It still can't get soaked, but if it gets damp it will still retain its warmth. Not only that, it helps if you are a sweaty sleeper. In a regular down bag, if you sweat from the warmth, then that sweat can dampen the loft of the down, causing it to lose heat and then your sweat becomes cold. By trying to keep yourself warm you end up causing your own coldness. It's sort of like how if the polar ice caps melt, the polar water could screw up all of the warm ocean currents and potentially cause another ice age. And yes, I just compared being a sweaty sleeper to the devastation of global warming. I HAVE NO EXCUSE.

These are the bags we got:

Sierra Designs DriDown 15 Degree

Weight: 2 lbs 6 oz

Fill: Down treated with DriDown: this process treats each individual duck down plume with a hydrophobic finish. This means the insulation retains its loft and stays dry 7 times longer than untreated down. It also dries faster.

Other cool stuff: It is a lot roomier than our other bags were, which means I can more easily curl up, which I really like. Also the color makes me feel like I'm sleeping in an alien space pod. Which is ESSENTIAL.

I got into one of these while we were at REI and it felt a lot more comfy than our other bags. Awesomely, we were able to return our other bags to REI, and the 15 degree bags were on sale, so we broke even. These are slightly heavier than our other bags were, but they are warmer, and it quells a little bit of my worry about my bag getting wet. 

This is going to be my bed for 6 months. 

Sweet dreams!