Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Faerieworlds Tent & Sleeping Arrangement

Last year before Faerieworlds I got a 10x12 tent for just under $80 at Sears. I don't need so much floor space for just myself, but what I was after was an affordable tent with enough room to stand up in. The Coleman Oasis 6-person tent fills that bill. The "6-person" part is, as always with tents, optimistic. There wouldn't be very much space for anything else after six narrow air mattresses and/or sleeping bags were arranged in it. It would have to be a very close group of six to hack a night in that tent. Three people, four in a pinch, maybe.

It worked out pretty well, but I wasn't crazy about getting up once or twice at night to pull on clothes and footwear to make my way across wet grass to the porta-potties. I'd thought that was the end of camping for me. But this year's finances are still tight, and I'm able to get a $40 vendor camping pass, plus the weather should be much drier at the end of July instead of in mid-June. So, I'm camping again, getting more use out of a tent that's only been pitched once and slept in four nights.

There was a problem last year I didn't fully consider. I have a nice twin-size air mattress, also Coleman, that's 38 inches wide. I also have a cot I bought way beck in the '80s or perhaps early '90s. But the cot is only 25 inches wide. So I decided I'd use the two together and just keep to one side. That side was with the cot near the back of the tent and the overhanging air mattress part also near the back so I could get up off the cot and be near where the headroom was.

There was one problem with that. I think it was the second night when I turned and rolled too far toward the back of the tent. Suddenly I was on the floor of the tent between the back wall, in my sleeping bag, with the mattress on its side and the cot on its side. Now what? Would I have to call out to get help?

No, after a minute or so I realized I could get the bag unzipped because the zipper was on the up side of the bag. Once I did that, I was able to sit up, reach over the mattress to the cot and move it over enough, then move the mattress, scramble out of the small space and get things rearranged.

Did I feel stupid? Yes, but fortunately nobody else saw what happened.

This year, I looked into wider cots, but they're a bit pricey. Then I had an idea. I opened up the cot and measured the distance between the floor and the top of the cot. I have one plastic milk crate I'd bought years ago. I measured that while it was on its longer side. Top to bottom was very close to the same distance from floor to top of the cot.

Next stop, the Internet and a search engine. I typed in "plastic milk crate" and began comparing them while also trying to find measurements. Eventually I found Target sells them. They're made by Sterilite in Townsend, MA (I once dated a woman who worked in the office there) and best of all, they were only $3.99. I would need five.

So I hopped on the MAX to head for the nearest Target. I haven't driven since December, so I didn't know in the meantime that Target had closed. I walked a few blocks from the MAX, then into the shopping area past Safeway and a few stores before I realized the Target was no longer open I couldn't really see it because of the angle from which I approached it. Not recalling there's another one not all that far away, I just did some shopping a couple of more stops down the line and came home. The next day I headed for the now-nearest Target which, I'd found, was the only one in the area stocking the crates.

Today I decided to put things to the test. I inflated the mattress, set up the cot in the living room, and got the crates. They're now serving as T-shirt storage, but for once a year they'll do duty as mattress support.

I got everything together and it's working just fine. The crates are a bit higher than the canvas of the cot, but not by too much. One refinement I made was to put a blanket under the mattress to prevent it from making squeaking noises whenever I move. I may even leave things set up and sleep in the living room tonight.

Could I have gotten a wider cot? Probably, but the crates cost only $19.99 and I can use them year-round. A cot that's wide enough runs around $75.

One more refinement I'm thinking of is extra support in the three middle crates which will bear most of my weight. Just so happens that not long after moving from Massachusetts, I got interested in playing a didgeridoo. A friend from Australia actually hauled one that had belonged to her late husband to St. Louis where we met at a Callahan's Saloon (a Delphi Forum) Gathering in 2000. I'd read it was easy to make a didge out of PVC pipe and beeswax for the mouthpiece, so I got a length of it from Home Depot. Not wanting a 10-foot didge, I cut off four feet and used that.  The other six feet of pipe have stood in a closet ever since. The supports need to be exactly one foot long. So I'll cut up the pipe and use two pieces for the middle three crates. I'll use duct tape to keep them in place, then after Faerieworlds I'll just take out the supports until next year.

If I'm gonna camp, I don't have to completely rough it. The cot is really necessary because at my age I have found it much harder to get up off the floor or ground than I used to be able to do ten years ago. With the cot and a tent I can stand in, things are far easier to deal with for probably 1/6 the cost of a motel for four nights. I'll just have to deal with the porta-potties instead of a flush toilet right near a bed. I'll live.

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