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  1. #1
    Senior Member chiroptile's Avatar
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    Camping out in the Desert

    Hey guys.. This is a question for some of the desert foxes out there. Leaving from Portland, Ore. in Mid may.. Heading out East. Will be going through some desert along the way in East Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. The nights in the desert are supposed to be very cold. I was wondering if any of you who have had an opportunity to camp out in those parts could share your experiences? How cold can it get at night? (End of may, beginning of June) Would you guys recommend an insulated sleeping mat, or will a regular pad with sleeping bag (Rated to 30F) be sufficient if I bring some sleeves and long johns for sleeping? Is there anything else to consider for the campouts?

    Would really appreciate any input..
    Thank you

  2. #2
    Senior Member knurly's Avatar
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    I happen to reside in eastern Oregon. I bought this sleeping bag recently, and expect at least one miserable night this summer. For a mat, I have a cardboard box broken down and rolled up. Another recent purchase, I've tested this stove, really great if only the fuel was more available. The tent will have to do too. The package was bought considering weight and volume.

    So far I've had one good day trip, 25 miles out for a picnic. 2000' uphill going out but a nice 20mph cruise on the way back. Suddenly there are more campers on the road and I don't expect the campgrounds to be empty anymore. But on Nat'l forests or even BLM, you can camp anywhere and skip the 6-13$ overnight fee. You only get a craphouse, perhaps some tap water and a flat spot any way. Oh, I should mention this chair too as a picnic table may not be available. Prepare for bugs, ticks & mosquitoes.

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    You can look up weather data. I just looked at Bend, OR and the average low temp in May is 35.4F. In June, it's 40.9F. So a 30F bag might be challenged if it's colder than normal, but probably OK. And that's assuming it's a real 30F rating for you.

    If you're not used to desert camping, be real careful with inflatable pads. It can be done, but carefully. Ditto with water bladders. I use a closed cell foam pad and gatorade bottles here in AZ. It's not as bad in OR.

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    You may also try camping on higher ground. On those clear desert nights, the denser cool air flows downhill, following the general drainage pattern, so the coldest spots will be near streams and river channels.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiroptile View Post
    Hey guys.. This is a question for some of the desert foxes out there. Leaving from Portland, Ore. in Mid may.. Heading out East. Will be going through some desert along the way in East Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. The nights in the desert are supposed to be very cold. I was wondering if any of you who have had an opportunity to camp out in those parts could share your experiences? How cold can it get at night? (End of may, beginning of June) Would you guys recommend an insulated sleeping mat, or will a regular pad with sleeping bag (Rated to 30F) be sufficient if I bring some sleeves and long johns for sleeping? Is there anything else to consider for the campouts?

    Would really appreciate any input..
    Thank you
    i've backpacked diagonally through (yellowstone to laramie) wyoming in sept/oct '81. as i recall i had a medium weight down bag (Snow Lion IIRC) and a thermarest mattress. long underwear too. was comfortable enough.

    deserts CAN get cold at night, but i think all the hubbub is caused by the dramatic range of temperature in a 24 hour period.

    remember what they say about the temperatures in the desert... when the sun goes down, it's like the difference between day and night!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Clarabelle's Avatar
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    Beware of the 30 degree rating on a bag. From my experience, that number doesn't mean you will stay warm at 30 degrees, but rather you won't die of hypothermia.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I used a 32 degree bag when we rode through there on the TA in June of 2007 and was fine.

    I actually have switched to a 45 degree Mountain Hardware Phantom since then and wouldn't hesitate to use it there. It is actually warmer than my former supposedly 32F bag. I found it to be fine in 18 F with a silk liner and one layer of clothes in a bivy sack on my recent tour. I was using a NeoAir pad. Most people tell me that they would freeze with my setup though so you really need to figure out what works for you.

    Edit: Forgot to mention... Take a pair of warm socks to sleep in if it will be cold it helps a lot.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    There's a lot of factors to take into consideration when deciding upon what gear to take on a camping trip. A lot of it depends upon the individual. Some folks will naturally need more insulation at night, some won't. I know a guy who can sleep in sub-freezing temps with apparently nothing more than a blanket and be fine. His body just seems to throw a ton of heat at night. Some folks need electric blankets to sleep in heated homes comfortably. How well your tent holds heat will also be a factor. Whether or not you'll have someone in the tent with you also makes a difference. My girlfriend needs much more insulation to stay warm at night than I do.

  9. #9
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    I've hiked in the Arizona mountains in January and not only does the temperature drop drastically when the sun set but the wind increases, blowing out any heat from your tent. I used tent, thermarest, -20 degree synthetic bag, long silk underwear, socks and beany hat. I wished I had my mid-weight wool base layer instead. This was at 3,000 feet near Phoenix, AZ when the night was from 6pm to 6am, a long time to be in the sleeping bag, daytime temperatures in the 70's and night temperatures mid to upper 30's.
    One man's adventure is somebody else's boring life. These are my adventures: http://adventurelaus.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I've done most of my touring early in the year, including in higher elevation, semi-arid country. Many times the temperature dropped below freezing, especially pre-dawn and into early morning. I've used a tent, thermarest pad, light 32* thermacell bag, and have had no problems even though the odd time it dipped to -5. I attribute it to my wearing wool socks, toque, my cycling leggings, and burning a candle lantern suspended inside the tent. In the desert you'll want to be on your way early, so you should bring warm socks and ski gloves (they don't weigh much but sure are appreciated) It also is important not to use cycling shoes that are a bit too tight. If it is below freezing early in the morning, I sometimes wear a pair of running shoes with the wool socks until the temperature rises.

  11. #11
    Senior Member chiroptile's Avatar
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    Thanks guys.. Appreciate all of your responses. Looks like a bag liner and a warm layer are in the works then. The sleeping pad I have is a big Agnes insulated air core. It blows up like a pool floaty, but supposedly stays warm.. Never used it before, so we will have to wait and see if it actually works. Might also bring along a space blanket to put down between the bag and the pad. The tent is a Eureka Timberline 4.. A frame. It's a big one, and there will be two of us in it.. I don't remember it insulating all that well in the past.

  12. #12
    Senior Member chiroptile's Avatar
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    Also.. Didn't think about winter cycling gear for the early desert mornings.. Thank you

  13. #13
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    +1 on that silk sleeping bag liner. Makes a big difference. I also found that a hat worn at night helps too.

    And +1 on camping on a little higher ground to avoid the cooler air that sinks.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    A portion of our cross country route went through eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and Wyoming. We were not on an ACA route, but generally followed US Highway 20. Our start date was later than your anticipated start. We started the last week of June. We used lightweight 25F bags that were great early in the trip, but were overkill later on. We also used Therm-a-Rest pads which work well all year round. Insulation under you is as or maybe even more important than that on top of you. Our problem was not with cold weather. It was the heat that was challenging to deal with. We hit some really hot temperatures in all all of those states. Daytime temp reached the 109F several times with temps running in the high 90's,s to low 100's on many days.

    I've worked and played quite a bit in the Oregon High Desert, and while the evenings are cool, they are not extreme. the other suggestions of a warm layer will probably see you through. We usually carry a lightweight down or synthetic fill vest that supplements the sleeping bag, is nice to wear in the evenings, and can be worn for the first few hours in the morning. It compresses to a smaller size than a fleece vest, is ligher and warmer. As you get further east the heavier clothes can be mailed home when no longer needed. Most of it can fit in a $15 Postal Service flat rate box.

    There is not much shade in some sections--between Bend and Burns, OR.


    I used the Timberline 4 tent for a number of years ( actually wore it out ) . While you are carrying some extra weight with it, it is a great tent. Using some of the techniques the other posters suggested will likely get you through the coldest part of your trip.

    The same tent and pads (Therm-a-Rest Prolite 4) we use for bike touring, backpacking, spring and early winter ski trips. The sleeping bags change from -20 to +45F, depending on the season. Different tent for mountaineering and winter camping.
    Last edited by Doug64; 04-19-12 at 02:37 PM.

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Even on the Coast, without cloud cover, the day's warmth goes away quickly,
    at sunset.

  16. #16
    Senior Member chiroptile's Avatar
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    Purchased a bag liner today.. Will stick with the big Agnes and report my findings from the field. Thank you all, again. Doug, you always have such neat photos to complement your posts!

  17. #17
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    PS. If all else fails, fill a leak proof bottle with hot water and slip it into your sleeping bag.

  18. #18
    Charles Ramsey
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    The main problem is not the cold but the temperature difference between night and day. 60 can feel quite cold if the daytime high was 110. I use a space blanket or emergency blanket it weighs about an ounce you can get them in most camping stores or you can get them free grocery stores and pet stores receive food packed in them. Also get a piece of bubble plastic these are also used as packing material there will be pieces blowing around if you are looking for them even a small piece placed under the hip bone helps. Look for scorpions under rocks they don't like comotion and will run off if you make a bunch of noise. Don't freak out Oregon has rabid bats lyme rocky mountain spotted fever etc. Coyotes will stay away from you you may not want to camp in one of their paths.

  19. #19
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    Bring whatever you care about in the tent with you,pack rats can/will chew holes through your panniers.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  20. #20
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    Knurly had good comments about Eastern Oregon. I would not reccommend Bend to Burns. I would stay north and go throught John Day. Nicer scenery and more services. You need to be aware in areas there is not much in the way of services. You equipment will work for you. It is similar to what we used for backpacking. Our bike tours were supported. Watch for goat heads, nasty little weeds that poke holes in your tires. Most of the folks will give you plenty of road room, except of course for the motor homes and travel trailers. If you make it to Baker City, look for my Yellow Sprinter van. I will buy you a beer at Barley Brown's.

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