Big Agnes

All was good last summer when I decided not only go on a long road trip, but to spend a chunk of the trip car camping – except that I lacked a tent. For the uninitiated car camping is not about sleeping in a car. It’s more or less being able to drive your car into the campsite as opposed, say, parking at a trail head and walking 10 miles in to the campsite. It might look like this spot in Yellowstone’s West Thumb area:


The variation might be sleeping in your car at the trailhead. Anyway, tents and car camping go hand in hand. I had the car but I had to acquire a tent. My son came to my rescue sending me a Big Agnes Coulton Creek 4 as a combined Father’s Day/Birthday gift.

Now, Big Agnes is a well known brand to camping savvy folk but was alien to me. It seemed more like the name of the warden in a women’s prison than of a piece of camping gear. This was the first of many thousands lessons learned about camping over the next several months.

Another was never attempt to erect a 4-person tent on your own in a gale. That one came the hard way when I camped over at Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho. The wind didn’t seem all that bad at first, but it treated my semi-erected home for the night like an air balloon. It took me the better part of an hour to complete what would normally be a fifteen minute job. Once completed I had a nice view from my front patio of the dunes for which the park is named.


But I also learned that I had bent the tent poles rather severely while working against the wind. The tent was now lopsided and the wind storm that passed over us that night didn’t improve matters much.

The trip moved on to new campsites in new states and parks and the winds followed us. The poles got worse and my patience wore nano-thin from the now more than irritating dance we were going through at each new stop. Joshua Tree NP was the last straw. My next stop after leaving there was the REI in Las Vegas to get a tent that one person could handle in a wind. Then on to Zion I went where it passed the test easily.


I think this is the only picture I took of it. Not very impressive but then I hadn’t set out to photograph tents. There was one exception.

In preparation for some upcoming travel I contacted the Big Agnes people yesterday to see about getting my tent poles repaired or replaced and found them to be very accommodating. Seems it’s not an uncommon occurrence and they have a system established to handle it efficiently. They were also quite personable, a trait I found common among the outfitter staffers that I dealt with over the last year in person and online.

Whilst going through the arrangements I noticed they they had a call posted for photos of BA products in the field so I searched my files and came up with several from various parks that I sent to them. They were all mundane, again because I was only documenting a location. The exception was the photographs taken in Sinkyone Wilderness Park in CA. I had pitched up just before sunset on the side of a hill overlooking the Pacific. The so-called golden hour for landscape photographers. So the pictures taken there turned out to be a little more artistic than the others.


Getting in and out of Sinkyone with the Acura had been a harrowing experience but it was unquestionably a beautiful place to camp and I’d probably go back again given the opportunity.


The Lost Coast should probably be thankful that it remains lost. And I’m thankful that I get such great support from the people who I rely upon for kit. Thanks BA! And Thanks Charles!

T – Minus 6

I have been using a sleeping bag (on those rare occasions I need one) that I inherited from Charles several years ago. It’s big, blue, bulky and seems to be made mostly from cotton and flannel or something. A nice red plaid lining.


I used it on a visit with friends in Port Jervis, NY this past early spring when it was stil cold there. Noticed it wasn’t all that warm. But otherwise I’ve never given much thought to the things. What’s to be said about them anyway? They’re big enough. They have a zipper that doesn’t get stuck. Well padded. Pleasing color maybe. 

Whoa! Little did I know – literally 🙂

Charles let me know that the bag I was using would not really work for The Trip – I’d probably freeze to death – and sent a recommendation for an upgrade. That enticed me to look around a bit to see if I couldn’t become a more informed buyer. It’s like stepping off the side of a cliff into a bottomless pit to see how far you can fall.

Lotsa bags out there!

Charles’ recommendation turned out to be solid – why would I doubt that? – but I decided I wanted a bag with a hood and the one he pointed me to didn’t have one. I also wanted a roomy pouch and not a slender mummy style. I wound up buying a Big Agnes Silver Creek +30 bag. It’s large and has a pouch on the underside to slip the sleepng pad into. It’s a “sleeping system” 🙂


I was hoping to test all this out this weekend on a two trip to WV’s New River Gorge for a rafting event. But my bag might not arrive in time. REI shipped it FedEx Smart Post. It made it from PA to Reston in two days but then they dropped it at the local post office for final delivery and advised me it might take a couple or three days more before I actually receive it. I’m leaving Saturday morning, so I really need it on Friday. There also seems to be some questin about when the new tent that Charles bought me as a late birthday gift will arrive, but that’s another blog. I may wind up on the ground with a sheet the way things are going. Will be all prepared for delivery to the local morgue. 


What’s the penalty for breaking into a PO to get your goods?