I sheltered in place last night (and tested some gear) with a backyard campout

I sheltered in place last night (and tested some gear) with a backyard campout

This new Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL sleeps two and weighs just 2 pounds and 12 ounces. Chris LeBlanc photo

I can’t get to the backcountry right now, so I pitched a tent in my Allandale backyard in Central Austin last night instead.

I didn’t do it just because I’d rather sleep in a tent than on high thread-count sheets in a fancy hotel, although that’s true. It gave me a chance to shake out some new gear before my next backpacking adventure, optimistically planned for May.

The two-person Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL tent I put up replaces an older version of the same tent that I slept in during my 15-day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail two years ago. The new version is taller inside, and has a slightly different door zipper system. But it retains the features I like most about it – ultra light (less than 3 pounds); two doors, one on each side (so no one has to crawl over the other to get out); and lots of mesh paneling, so if the rain fly’s not on I can stargaze while tucked in my sleeping bag.

Oh, and it’s orange and cream-colored, just like the fat cat named Bob who lives down the street. Groovy.

This new Sea to Summit sleeping pad is 4-inches thick. Pam LeBlanc photo

My husband, after making hoot-hooty noises from the house when I left to curl up in my sleeping bag with a stack of books, eventually broke down and came out to the tent too (who could resist?), bringing with him his new Sea to Summit sleeping pad, which is thicker and cushier than the 3-inch NEMO pad I use. Now I want one, too.

Reading material fit for a backyard campout during a shelter-in-place order. Pam LeBlanc photo

A backyard campout during shelter-in-place orders seemed like an appropriate time to daydream about where I’d like to travel next, so I perused three new ones – “Atlas of National Parks” by Jon Waterman, “100 Hikes of a Lifetime,” by Kate Siber, and “Complete National Parks of Europe,” by Justin Kavanagh.

I didn’t fire up the campstove this time (I’m still working my way through a vat of lentil soup I brewed up on Sunday), but I did check my supply of dehydrated camping meals. I’m down to a dangerously low stock of one pouch of Cajun Ranch Chicken Salad, which you just mix with cold water and load into tortillas or bread. It’s from Austin-based Packit Gourmet (www.packitgourmet.com), which makes my favorite camping meals. Dottie’s Chicken and Dumplings, Texas State Fair Chili, West Memphis Grits and Santa Fe Corn Pudding top my list of options.

Austin-based Packet Gourmet makes the BEST dehydrated meals. Pam LeBlanc photo

And since I was rooting around in the gear box, I pulled out a stack of retro, chicken-shaped paper plate holders, because, well, they were there and they made me smile, and you’ve got to take a smile where you can get it these days.

These plate and cup holders date back to the 1960s or 70s. Pam LeBlanc photo

I slung up a hammock, too – a purple one made by Austin-based company Kammok. I spent a few nights sleeping in a Kammok in West Texas for a story I wrote for the Austin American-Statesman a few years ago. (Read it at https://www.statesman.com/news/20170404/the-latest-outdoor-trend-hammock-camping.) 

Are you dreaming about camping too? Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Outdoor Family program is planning a “camp-in” from 1-8 p.m. Saturday, May 2. They’ll live-stream a park ranger who will answer all your camping questions in real time.

Texas Outdoor Family offers a whole calendar of live virtual programs this month, on topics from fire building to fishing to Dutch oven cooking and stargazing. For more information, go to the Texas Outdoor Family Texas Parks and Wildlife page on Facebook.


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