Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Sleepiest of Times

In an earlier post, I made mention that my sleeping bag deserves its own blog post. It really does. At something like 35-years-old, it is one of the oldest blankets I own. It is one of a set of two that my parents had, and I'm pretty sure my brother currently has the other of the pair. There are a lot of memories associated with this sleeping bag. I remember snuggling in it at Brownie camp at the age of six; sleeping under the stars in it at Girl Guide camp at age ten; hauling it to many, many a-sleepover, a couple school camps, and to the summer I spent in Sorrento at 16; and then finally removing it from my parents' basement sometime in university and claiming it as my own for independent adult adventures.

The sleeping bag is olive green on one side, and... 70's-printed (for lack of a better description) on the other. I'm pretty sure it's reversible, although I have never opted to sleep with the printed side out. I don't think I--or anyone I was sharing a tent with--would sleep properly with a print that... loud. It's definitely not the most aesthetically attractive sleeping bag out there. It's as if it walked out of a 70's camping catalogue and straight into the 21st century without looking in the mirror.

My bunk at Sorrento Centre

I seemed to sense the sleeping bag's dated quality even when I was young. As a child, I was often envious of the shiny, slippery fabric and fun colours of my peers' sleeping bags, and--while I was small enough--I always, always pined for a mummy bag to snuggle down in (now that I'm an adult with a tendency to sleep like a starfish, I appreciate the extra inches of roll-around space that barrel bags provide). However, I knew that until my sleeping bag was worn right out, there was no way my parents were going to just up and buy a new one. And this thing had a lot of give. Then why did you take it instead of buying a new one when you had the first chance? you ask. Srsly? You had to ask that? Hello--free sleeping bag. I had other, more important camping gear to buy at the time. Like a tent. And as an adult, the sleeping bag became a conversation piece. Laugh at the cheeziness; marvel slightly at the retro factor.

Anyway, in the last four or five years, Olive's old age has finally revealed itself. While still physically in great shape--only one small tear on the loud side from its zipper--thermally, its ability to stand up to Alberta Rocky Mountain camping has declined. At first, I noticed I was just a bit chilly at night, often requiring an extra layer over my PJs. I chalked it up to being a girl with little self-produced body heat. Then last year, after two ridiculously cold camping experiences in which three layers plus a toque and mittens didn't even help, I decided I was done with Olive. 2010 would be the year of the new sleeping bag.

I did my research on the MEC website. I looked at the temperature ratings. I debated the synthetic vs. down. I briefly compared bag weights (important factor in backpacking trips). I even considered my colour options. In the end, I chose the MEC Mirage sleeping bag--a synthetic barrel sleeping bag with a -5C (23F) rating. And while each of MEC's sleeping bags only come in one colour, this one just happened to be red. It's like it was meant to be.

My new sleeping bag made its maiden camping trip was this past weekend. I went camping with N and her little ones in Jasper National Park. The temperature went down to about 10C (50F) at night, and while my cold experiences from years prior involved night temperatures of 1-5C (34-41F), I was nevertheless smiling in my sleep at how fantastic the experience was! The first night, I ended up taking off my hoodie, and the second night, I opted out of the camping socks as well. I never once woke up because I was cold (one of my coldest nights last summer had me shivering so badly I only slept for four hours, and they weren't consecutive).

Olive still came along on this trip. I can't bear to part with her quite yet. Given that we were sleeping on air mattresses, which tend to make for colder sleeps, the aging sleeping bag was opened up and spread out (loud side down) on the air mattress that N slept on with the kidlets.

I have a backpacking trip in a couple weeks that I am quite excited about. I am expecting the temperature to be colder at night, as we will be higher in the mountains at a later point in the summer. Still, it's comforting to know that I will be warm, and therefore able to sleep solidly through the night. Pleasant dreams!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Door

Oh, the metaphorical door of opportunity. I have been in and out of several. Thing is, I sometimes wonder...

How do I know if the door of opportunity really is closed, or if there's just someone leaning against it on the other side, waiting to see how hard I'll push?