Choosing the right gear for the season
The time of the year that you are heading out camping plays a big part in the type of gear that you'll have to take with you to have a safe and enjoyable time. Here's a run down of some of things you might want to consider while preparing for your next adventure.
The type of shelter you choose depends very much on the time of year and the locations you see yourself camping.
Three Season Tents:
A three season tent will offer ample shelter for lower level camping throughout most of the year (Spring, summer, autumn). One advantage of a 3 season tent is it's weight. Today even an entry level, 2 person, 3 season tents like the Outdoor Connection Gunya 2 weigh in at 2.5kgs or less.
Outdoor Connection's 2.5kg Gunya 2 3 season hiking tent
Three season tents are cooler and have increased ventilation. The warmer weather version of One Planet's Goondie 2 with a mesh inner offers improved airflow and thus cooling compared to the full nylon inner version design for colder conditions.
Comparison of the warmer nylon inner and cooler mesh inner options of One Planet's Goondie 2
Due to less bulky fabrics being used for the inners and often a need for less poles, guylines and pegs etc. a three season tent will pack down smaller than a four season or expedition tent. The innovative designed MSR FreeLite 2 for example packs down to just 46 x 15cm making it easy enough to fit in or attach to any hiking pack.
Four Season Tents:
If your planning on camping through the colder months, in alpine conditions or in the snow a four season tent is the way to go. A four season tent offers greater protection against the cold and harsher weather consitions.
Four season tents will generally be structurally more robust to withstand high winds and snow loads, have more guy points / guy lines to help anchor it down and have a predominantly nylon inner with less mesh to provide added warmth. A good example is MSR's Storm King tent
The Storm King's nylon inner helps retain warmth. The pole layout with multiple crossing points provides a stable, robust structure under harsh conditions and snow loads
The Stom King's fly features multiple guy and peg points for ensuring stability in high winds
The type of sleeping bag you'll need when heading out camping is dependent on the time of year and the region in which you are hiking. Being comfortable and able to have a good night sleep while out in the bush is essential for avoiding both mental and physical fatigue.
For summer camping at lower altitudes and along the coast night time temperatures are fairly mild. In these situations a bag like Sea to Summit's Micro MCII is ideal. It has a comfort rating of between 2 and 7 degrees which is ample for summer nights but the beauty of this bag is that a drawcord at the foot end allows it to be opened up as a duvet on warmer nights improving comfort and versatility. Other benefits include the high warmth to weight ratio of the 850+ loft down fill, a highly breathable shell great for warmer conditions plus a low weight and small pack size.
Sea to Summit's Micro MCII has a drawcorded base to increase versatility
If you're planning on camping throughout spring and autumn a three season sleeping bag is the way to go. A classic three season sleeping bag is something like One Planet's Bungle -7 . A versatile bag with a wide range of features that will be of benefit on both the cold nights and the warmer nights.
When the temperature drops the Bungle -7 has an insulated 3D hood and foot, vertical baffles to stop the down fill from sliding off you, a drawcorded neck baffle to help retain heat inside the bag and a thermally efficient water repellent down fill. For warmer nights it's tapered rectanguar shape is less restrictive than a full mummy bag, the two way full length side zip is handy for venting and a zip along the base allows it to be opened full as a blanket.
One Planet's Bungle -7 is a versatile 3 season bag with features to aid comfort on both cooler and warmer nights
For occasional winter camping if you already have a 3 season sleeping bag you can consider using a thermal sleeping bag liner that will help to boost the temperature rating of your bag. Sea to Summit do a range of these liners including their Thermolite Reactor Liner. Constructed from Thermolite it's an easy to look after fabric with excellent insulating properties and is lightweight and packs up small. It's also able to boost the performance of a sleeping bag by up to 8°C
Sea to Summit's Thermolite Reactor Liner is able to boost a sleeping bags performance by up to 8°C
For those that regularly camp during winter or above the snow line a four season sleeping bag is well worth considering.
Four season sleeping bags are equipped with a range of features to offer warmth and protection in colder and harsher conditions. They are often more tapered to contour the users body. They will have 3D baffles allowing the fill, usually down, to expand evenly across the whole bag. Some have vertical baffles which help to stop the down sliding from the top of the bag. Most have 3D hoods and feet. All features designed to eliminate cold spot and make the bag as thermally efficient as possible. Other common features on four season bags are neck and zip baffles to help retain heat and water resistant down and shell fabrics to protect the down insulation from damp in order to allow it to insulate effectively.
One Planet's four season Winter Lite -12 is a perfect example of a well designed and constructed winter sleeping bag packed with all the features required to keep you comfortable and safe in colder nights.
One Planet's Winter Lite -12 is a well designed sleeping bag with all of the features you would expect on a four season sleeping bag
The ground is potentially one of the biggest sources of heat loss when sleeping out. It's a very efficient heat sink and rapidly draws heat away from the body. Unfortunately just having a warm sleeping bag isn't good enough to protect you. Any parts of a sleeping bag you lie on are compressed and no longer trap air so don't insulate well. It is therefore as essential to have a good sleeping mat for warmth and comfort at night.
In the warmer months when the air temperature is high and the ground has some resiual heat from the day it possible to be comfortable with a thinner or more minimal mat. Something like a closed cell foam mat like Therm-a-rest's RidgeRest, a lightweight air mattress like Therm-a-rest's NeoAir Venture WV or a thin self inflating mat like Wechsel's Lito Mat.
Thermarest Ridge Rest closed cell foam mat
Thermarest NeoAir Venture WV air mat
Wechsel's Lito 2.5cm self inflating mat
The R-value of a sleeping mat is the measure of how good an insulator the mat is. The higher the R-value the better an insulator For colder conditions and winter use a mat with an R-value of at least 3 is recommended. In recent years there has been a lot of development in sleeping mats and manufacturers have been coming up with a range of innovative solutions to creating lightweight yet warm and comfortable sleeping mats.
Therm-a-rest's NeoAir Xtherm is one of these new breeds of mat. With an R-value of 5.7 it provides ample insulation for winter use. Although similar to an air mat it offers far more insulation due to a series of internal cells that help reduce heat loss via convection. As the mat doesn't contain a foam core it packs down smaller and weighs less than a self inflating mat with similar R-value.
The innovative Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xtherm range provide excellent warmth to weight and pack size
Developed by Sea to Summit the Comfort LIght Insulated cellular air mat provides great comfort and insulation through clever design. As well as using a cellular construction to reduce heat loss through convection this mat features Thermolite synthetic fill and a reflective Exkin Platinum layer to provide increased insulation. The regular size weighs in at just 580g and has an R-value of 4.2, warm enough for winter use.
Sea to Summit's air sprung Comfort Light Insulated mat features a layer of Thermolite and Exkin Platinum for added insulation.
After a long day hiking there's nothing better than having a warm drink and hot meal. A stove is a great way to quickly heat food and drinks but it's important to keep in mind the time of year and the temperature you will be camping in to determine the best stove to take.
For spring, summer and autumn use there is quite a range of stoves to choose from. Probably the most popular are the folding gas canister stoves like the Optimus Crux Lite. This style of stove is relatively safe and easy to use has good flame control, is lightweight and packs up small.
The Optimus Crux Lite is easy to use, compact and lightweight
The main disadvantage with the gas canister stoves is that they don't perform very well come winter time and when the weather gets cold. Stoves that do work well in the cold though are liquid fuel stoves. The ability to pressurise their fuel bottle and the fact that these stoves generally use a generator to preheat the fuel to vapourise it before it is ignited makes them far more reliable in harsher environments.
MSR's Dragonfly is a good example of a liquid fuel stove that can cope with with colder temperatures plus it burns a wide range of fuels, is super stable, has excellent flame control, is efficient and packs up fairly small
The MSR Dragonfly liquid fuel stove performs well in cold conditions