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Thread: Bedroll Feasibility

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    Senior Member GreatUsername's Avatar
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    Default Bedroll Feasibility

    (Dear mods: not sure if this is primitive enough to be in this section, if you think it ought to be moved, my apologies)

    I've always been interested in the idea of going camping with less-than-modern techniques, and recently started my journey that way by camping in single digit temperatures with modern stoves, lighting, and shelter, but non-modern clothing. By non-modern, I mean wearing primarily wool and flannel, no synthetics, no waterproof shells (other than a trenchcoat I oiled myself) and no rubber except the soles of my boots. I found myself quite comfortable in that environment even though I was the only person in my group without a parka, and now I'm curious to see how I can further delve into older methods. The next step in my mind is bedrolls. I have only gone camping without a tent a handful of times, and those were in very mild temperatures.

    For some background, the bedroll I plan on using is one (or two, depending on weather) rough-grade wool blankets, one merino-wool blanket, one tarp (I'll use my synthetic tarp for now, but I'd like to get a lightweight canvas one eventually) for rainfly purposes, and my oiled trenchcoat for a groundcloth to cover the (presumably pokey) debris mattress I'll make on site. In addition, I'm going to try to have all of my gear either in the bedroll itself or on my belt, and go "old-school lightweight". The environments I plan on camping in are upland forest/temperate rainforest in my area, temperatures ranging from below freezing to 95 degrees, depending on the time of year.

    Assuming I'm smart about how I dress, will this setup work well in all of these environments? How does it suit for ease/comfort of carry? What are the major advantages and disadvantages? Your thoughts/experience/advice with this technique are much appreciated.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    While trying to go back in time, I have given this some thought and tried a few things involving canvas and wool blankets.

    Botton line is that it is a heavy "kit".

    Have looked at bedrolls, kinda marketed as Cowboy bed rolls....One example:
    http://shop.vtarmynavy.com/canvas-co...FQVgMgodXW4AFg

    Light weight canvas can be water proofed but if you lay on it, pressure points seem to get wet/damp.

    Keep in mind that a lot of the 'kits" were not carried on one's person, but by pack horses, wagons etc.

    You see pictures of the blanket rolled up and worn around the shoulder, but I have to believe those guy just froze their butts off.

    Interesting subject........
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    Senior Member GreatUsername's Avatar
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    True, it could be pretty heavy, but I imagine there is some reduction in equipment weight when going old-fashioned (no stoves, gas-cans, heavy flashlights etc) and I can't imagine it would be much worse than some of the 70-lb packs I've shouldered. Granted, I'm a big guy, this may not be for everyone. Food and cooking kit would probably have to be pretty lightweight to account for this. My impression is that bedrolling gives you the limited resources of ultralighting, at the heavy weight of normal backpacking. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I would still like to try it out.

    The lightweight canvas could be a problem if it leaks that easily, especially in the Olympic Rainforest... (150 inches per year) Do you know if that same problem happens when used as a rain-fly? (I probably wouldn't use the canvas for a groundcloth, even if it was heavy) I haven't tested my coat as a groundcloth for inundated conditions, but it has worked well on snow and mild dampness.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Good canvas will shrink when it gets wet and tighten up the weave, making it water resistant.......light weigh canvas (read drop cloth) I don't believe you could water proof it unless you added gallons of whatever "stuff".
    Good canvas is expensive.

    My lodges for rendezvous are good canvas and are not treated as far as I know.......they do remain dry, unless something is touching it.

    I had gone on a overnighter, hot day, so just brought a wool blanket for a cot, and it did drop in temp during the night....

    So slipped the blanket roll inside the canvas bag the tent gets packed in, and really made a difference as far a being comfortable....that kinda got me started on bedrolls.
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    Senior Member postman's Avatar
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    The thing that I like about a bed roll over a sleeping bag is the versatility. You can add or subtract blankets as needed, they are more fire retardent than a sleeping bag, and also more waterproof. And if your wool blankets do get wet they will still keep you warm, and they are easier to dry as seperate peices than trying to dry a sleeping bag.

  6. #6

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    I have not done exactly what you propose, but here is some experience that might help from when I was in the scouts in the mid 1960s. When I first joined, our troop was poor and our tents were ancient, floorless, single wall canvas wall tents with heavy, mismatched poles and pegs. They were all frayed and ripped and repaired with candle wax. They were too heavy and bulky to carry in a pack. But they didn’t leak unless something touched the canvas during a rain.
    I got a surplus military poncho and used it as a tarp so I did not have to depend on the tents. I learned to make a reflector fire in front of the tarp and that would keep me warm – though having to wake several times to feed the fire – no matter how cold it got (this was in New York and included camping in March, when a freeze was possible). Now I’ve learned a long log fire would be even better. (I wonder about combining a reflector with a long log). I also used a very old military canteen with a metal cap as a hot water bottle.
    We didn’t have sleeping pads. I learned to pile leaves and other duff – especially pine needles – to make a 12 inch thick mattress that was good insulation.
    So it seems to me what you propose is definitely doable with a small canvas tarp and some skills.
    Sounds like fun.

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    Me and Hunter and several others have probably already experimented and tested every method, product and peice of primitive equipment you will "invent" in your quest.

    Check out these guys and see if they are "natural" enough for you. One of the stipulation of participation is requirement of all natural clothing and all primitive equipment. These guys are not going to the motel at night, they are camping as primitive as they look.

    http://www.battleofbluelicks.org/htm...o_gallery.html

    http://thephotolane.smugmug.com/gall...82466310_e2tTF

    This was my home for the past two weeks and there ain't any plastic or nulon anywhere in sight!

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    I have done enough research in the methods used in the past that I could probably write several books on the subject. I have been reenacting, camping and trekking with only primitive gear since 1962, not that I do not own and use modern gear also, the historic "natural" gear is simply one of my primary hobby activities. I have spent as long as two weeks in the woods using nothing made after 1800 and have spent many-many weekends using nothing made after 1780. I did one historic camp that allowed nothing invented after 1675.

    Remember that in the "old days" those guys seldom went anywhere alone, they also never traveled on foot unless forced too. Canoe and packhorse were the norm and I know of only one individual that walked into the wilderness alone and with only what he could carry. That was so unusual that it was well documented when it occurred.

    Even armies had supply trains a mile long following the infantry.

    Another advantage they had was lack of fences and property boundires. They could move around and find the best shelters and camp in the perfect locations. Most of those locations have been used by people since prehistory, and are now ILLIGAL to use as campsites due to the laws covering archeology sites. Caves, rock overhangs, natural outcrops and cliffs are all "protected areas" under Federal law, and exactly the best camping locations.

    By never traveling alone that means that the "group" was not restricted to one blaket, they had one blanket each totaling to the number in the group. They also did not have the social restrictions we work under today and four guys piling together with one blanket under and three on top was the norm. You only carried one blanket, but you had access to four blankets at sleep time. Today everyone is searching for the "magic blanket" that will keep them warm in zero degrees like the mountain men used.

    That blanket never existed.

    They had and used oiled canvas extensivly. Fact is they had better oiled canvas than we do today. The manufacturers can no longer put the "good stuff" in the products they sell us, so we have second rate "natural" materials compared to theirs.


    Oiled canvas can be tricky and many people have various recipes. Like all things on the internet there are a lot of recipes out there that have been posted by people that never actually tried the recipe. A lot of good canvas has been ruined in the pursuit of oilcloth. When you are ready to oil your canvas get back in touch. I have oiled enough canvas to cover yankee stadium with a new roof. I have a fool-prof recipe that is cheap simple and safe.

    http://www.wilderness-survival.net/f...light=oilcloth



    Please ask here before you buy, experiment or go to great efforts in your quest for the "natural". There are folks here that have already done the hard part and can save you a bundle of money and a lot of time. If something in the archives is not clear post the question or PM one of us buckskinners. Most of us have "seen the elephant" a couple of times.

    First thing I would suggest is looking into a beter outter garmet. You can do that while searching for you ideal bedroll. Just purchase an extra blanket when you buy your bedroll makings. (Sportsman's Guide usually as some excellent surplus wool blankets from Italy or Sweeden) What you are looking for is an item called a capote. It is a "parka" made from a blanket and has been around for centuries.

    http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/winter/gear/capote.htm

    After you make the capote you will realize that you now have an extra blanket, which you are wearing, seperate from you bedroll. I made mine with a button on hood and tall collar. Make it the way you want it and if it does not work out changer it to suit your needs.

    In spite of our sarcastic abuse of trolls we really do enjoy passing along good information to well thought out questions.
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 02-01-2013 at 02:12 PM.
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    I have used both canvas and my military poncho along with a wool blanket and a sleeping bag. I have found that a military wool blanket and a poncho is basically the best. The human taco roll just can not be beat. Canvas is awsome, but it will never be 100% waterproof. You can treat it or paint it, but that adds weight. Downfall of the wool blanket is that it is bulkier than a sleeping bag. The good about a wool blanket, you can not only sleep in it, but you can also wrap yourself up in it and start walking. Even when wet it will keep you warm. So, my ideal set up is my military wool blanket and poncho. I wear a military wool blanket homemade half sleeve, open front over shirt. Why open front... so if I start to get warm I can just open it a little to cool off. This set up has saved my butt while hog hunting in south Ga. many many years ago. Who would have thought that a south Ga. swamp would get down to 0 degrees.

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    Cool Hmmmm...

    Quote Originally Posted by FVR View Post
    ....Who would have thought that a south Ga. swamp would get down to 0 degrees.
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    Returning to natural materials is a very romantic notion but the truth is that modern materials work better, are lighter and are often more durable.

    I ave a zero rated sleeping bag that weighs 4 pounds. My Hudson Bay blanket, that will not keep me warm down to 40 degrees, weighs 8 pounds.

    My ripstop Tarp weighs only a couple of ounces while my 5x7 canvas oilclth weighs a couple of pounds.

    If no outside restrictions are being placed on me (like historic site requirements) I will choose my modern gear any time severe use is required, or most importantly any time I have to carry ther goods.
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    I suppose so, but my mind turns to an anecdote from my dad about how his ultralight down sleeping bag failed him in wet weather, and he had hypothermia the next morning. I'd rather take something that doesn't chill when wet, even if it weighs three times as much to get the same warmth. I can always forgo some other piece of less essential equipment to balance the weight.

    Then again, if there were some sleeping system that is as warm and wet-proof as wool but at ultralight weights, I'd be interested in that. Would bivy-sacks fit that bill?
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    When I lived in your state on the western (wet) side of the Cascades I backpacked with a Slumberjack -40 bag and a tent. Was always dry and warm at night.
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    There's a wide range of synthetic fill sleeping bags. Here's just one example from a pretty good company: http://www.backcountrygear.com/campi...alamina-1.html. 3.4 lbs good down to 0 degrees F. But expensive!
    I prefer a down bag and I keep it in a dry bag. There are several companies beginning to offer products made with down treated to be almost as good as synthetics when wet. http://www.theactivetimes.com/future...aterproof-down.

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    Junior Member Mouser's Avatar
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    I use a goose down bag...but then again I also use a sleeping pad and long distance hike with a 35lb load.

    Long term I would use a synthetic if I was packing more and didn't have regular stops off into town.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatUsername View Post
    I suppose so, but my mind turns to an anecdote from my dad about how his ultralight down sleeping bag failed him in wet weather, and he had hypothermia the next morning. I'd rather take something that doesn't chill when wet, even if it weighs three times as much to get the same warmth. I can always forgo some other piece of less essential equipment to balance the weight.

    Then again, if there were some sleeping system that is as warm and wet-proof as wool but at ultralight weights, I'd be interested in that. Would bivy-sacks fit that bill?
    And DOWN is a new hi-tech material? Down has been used since the stone age, just like wool. Like wool it has some limitations. That is because it is a natural material and can not cover all the bases.

    There is this myth that wool is warm even when wet, that is BS. I have tried to stay warm with wet wool and it just ain't going to happen. You get wet you are going to get cold using any material you have. If wool maintains 80% of its heat retention and it was already on the edge of its capabilities when you loose 20% you are one frozen popsicle!

    Many of the synthetics now used retain their warmth even when wet better than wool. The top line gear is designed with the use of those materials in mind. A $15 Wallmart bag will not have those features but when you get into the $100 range you will have some of them offered.

    Military sleep systems are designed to be carried to the bivwack area by truck. In every instance I was in we had the option of carrying ammo or sleeping bags. The sleeping bags were ALWAYS left behind. That was one reason the GI poncho liner gained the fame it did.

    In fact, exposure to and enduring the elements is a military invention. We have carried it over into work related activities and now we feel we should be able to recreate in any weather and never feel wer or cold. If we get uncomfortable someone should invent something!

    The real trick is to do what the people in the old days did, When the weather was bad they stayed inside!

    We tend to think everyone has always lived as we do, with deadlines and restriction on time in the bush. We have to get out there rain or shine because this is our ony chance at woods time for 6 months. They sat out the rain, snow and severe weather at all costs. If you were out in the bush when severe weather hit you sought shelter immidiately. Sickness due to exposure was not just and inconvinience to them, it could mean death. Remember that old saying Grandma had about having enough sense to get in out of the rain?

    The rule of threes still applies, three hours with out shelter will kill you, even with good clothing it applies. Find shelter before you get wet. Your parka is not shelter, it is what allows you to roam around a bit and find shelter. And a sleeping bag is for use inside a shelter, it is not shelter.

    The one group that absolutely had to get out in bad weather was the farmer tending his stock. Most of our classic outdoor wear is only slightly modified farm clothing. But the farner never expected or intended to sleep outside.

    Modern gear comes in two forms; expidition gear for rough use and sport gear designed to impress the folks in the ski lodge. Don't get them confused.
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 02-02-2013 at 12:26 PM.
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    Good post Kyrat.

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    Senior Member GreatUsername's Avatar
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    Indeed, good points all around.
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    My great great granddad was rained on and three days later or so he was gone. He was about thirty five years old.

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    I only started using a tent a few years ago. As I get older the ground gets harder and I'm more sissiefied in my old age. A poncho was my tent and I usually had a small plastic tarp for a ground cover. The rest of my protection was in my clothes.

    I think Hunter pointed out above that wool is heavy. Wet wool is VERY heavy and will make you sweat if you are forced to wear it very long. Not good in cool to cold environs. Walking with wet wool is a lot of work. That's the reason lighter clothing was developed.

    You are welcome to your old timer's methods and I wish you luck. I'm just to old not to be comfortable these days.

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    Have to disagree with Kyra on the wool. Years back I decided to go trout fishing in a North Ga. stream, in December. I did not have hip boots or long johns, so I wore a pair of heavy duty wool socks pulled up to my knees. Then I wore my wool leggins. I put on a pair of canvas air force knee boots and hit the water. My feet and knees were wet, but they were warm. It is not a myth, but then you need to factor in what you consider cold. A North Ga. mountain stream in December, pretty freakin cold.

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