Adventures demand varying levels of luxury. A two-day backpacking trip with lots of elevation gain? Most luxury items will be left at home. But a two-week basecamp in a questionable weather window? Luxury items are a must.
In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Gearshed, contributor Jenny Abegg walks us through the very thought-out anatomy of a basecamp.
Wake up. Turn on the light. Listen to the rain patter overhead. Water on: coffee. Check your reflection in the mirror: ugh, bed head. Brush the sleep off your face, grab your book. Sit back, turn on some relaxing beats, and pull the covers up tight to ward off the cool morning air.
Periodically, peer out under the tarp to check weather conditions. Retreat to your Therm-a-Rest when clouds continue to obscure your objective: Looks like another rest day in basecamp.
Whether you’re sea kayaking or backpacking, climbing or bike packing, going on a long trip means you’ll likely be spending at least a few days waiting out weather or resting in basecamp. One snapshot of a basecamp can say it all, or at least can give clues to a greater story. Is the team self-supported, or did packhorses, porters, or rafts help to carry gear in? How much weather is plaguing the trip? What are the members’ tolerance for discomfort, or rather, appreciation for luxury? And…how deep into basecamp lounging are we?
An anthropological study of a basecamp, in one photo. Photo: Forest Woodward
Sure, you could wile away your time counting seams in your tent from the discomfort of your cropped sleeping pad, reusing your tea bag for the tenth time, and you’d definitely win hardcore points for doing so. However, without much added effort or weight, you could spend your time in basecamp enjoying Scrabble games, fresh rice crispy treats, and marathon podcast sessions, all cozied under a tarp with your partners.
Here are our suggestions for buffering your basecamp life; careful though, you don’t want to get too comfortable. There are mountains to be climbed, rivers to be run, and trails to be explored!
For the small added weight of a deck of cards, a few dice, a crossword or scrabble pieces, you can have hours of entertainment and friendly competition while you wait out the day’s (or week’s) rainstorm. My favorite set-up is a scrabble board I drew on the insulate pad that forms the suspension system of my backpack; it doubles as a sitting pad and a game board!
Ring toss on the bear-proof racks in the Bugaboos. Photo: Katie Paulson
Willing away a day in basecamp can be tedious; it becomes important to let every task consume a great deal of time. Let your creative juices flow with meals and snacks, and don’t be afraid to get extravagant. Quesedillas are a favorite, but slow cooked and made with extra attention – because what else is there to do? A bit of whisky and some well brewed ginger tea can do wonders. And then there’s rice krispies treats: melt butter and add marshmallows (and even better, some Andes mints too!), then stir in rice krispies and let cool on a buttered lid. Get creative with what you have!
A cold beer is always worth the weight. Photo: Dave Summers.
Before you head out on your trip, load your iPod or phone with music and podcasts. Then, with a small speaker setup and possibly a solar panel to recharge, you’ll have endless fodder for evening dance parties, chill morning beats, and podcast-inducing discussions. It might seem overly extravagant and heavy, but trust me: speakers have almost been scientifically proven to cause a significant increase in the overall quality of basecamp life.
Ingredients for comfort: sitting pads, friends, fire, and some good ol’ fashioned crosswording.
If your group is any larger than two people, or you want to have a space to lounge outside the tent in inclement weather, a light tarp and some skillful rigging can do wonders. Having an outdoor lounging arena is a simple addition that allows for endless rounds of coffee, games of Yahtzee, and passing time in the company of friends.
Even thumbs can provide endless hours of entertainment. Photo: Katie Paulson
Chances are, whether due to weather or a need for rest, you’re spending most of your time in basecamp sitting or lying down. Boulders and trees can serve as wonderful backrests, and sand and snow can be nicely shaped for ergonomic lounging. With just a simple Z-Lite or Z-Seat, any nature-given seat can be transformed into a plush couch. If you’re looking to really up your game, bring along a Trekker Chair or Therm-A-Rest’s new Uno Chair.
If you’re waiting out weather, you might as well be lounging comfortably. Photo: Forest Woodward.