Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Backcountry Camping => Topic started by: bacon_on_top on December 27, 2018, 09:11:48 AM

Title: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: bacon_on_top on December 27, 2018, 09:11:48 AM
Hi all! So Iím trying to get past the psychological barrier of backpacking in the desert with a tent vs a tarp. Ive gone with a tarp/bug net set up, but I feel like the bug net was added weight that was there for peace of mind. Iím always a little weirded out by the idea of waking up to some snake/spider/millipede etc hangin our in my sleeping bag for the night. Does anyone know of that ever happening? Is that even a real risk, or is the bug net providing me with some real risk protection?


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Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Jalco on December 27, 2018, 09:16:29 AM
I've "cowboy camped" many times and have never had anything like that occur.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: mule ears on December 27, 2018, 09:42:44 AM
I have cowboy camped 100's of nights and nothing has ever tried to get into my bag or bother me.

Plus you get killer views like this  :icon_biggrin:

(https://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/P1040797.jpg)
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: catz on December 27, 2018, 10:48:59 AM

One of the best things about hiking in the desert is that you rarely need a tent. 
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: VivaTerlingua on December 27, 2018, 11:35:46 AM
I hiked the Cross Canyon trail in April 2017.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky when I began the hike and I was going to leave my tent behind.  Luckily, for whatever reason, I brought it with me.  That night there were thunderstorms all night.  All the lightning was in the distance, so I was safe.  But it poured most of the night and I would have been miserable without a tent.

That being said, I have hiked many times in Big Bend without a tent and was glad to save the weight.
Title: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 27, 2018, 11:46:30 PM
I hate sleeping with anything between me and the sky, but I ALWAYS take a shelter just in case. For the last twenty years or so, my preferred option has been my floorless tarptent. Itís an Integral Designs Silshelter: 100% waterproof, 0% bugproof, but Iíve never, ever had a problem with bugs or any other critter. The Silshelter weighs 10oz., plus 3-4oz for stakes. It uses one or two trekking poles to hold it up. And itís stormworthy. Unfortunately, itís no longer made, but Six Moons Designs makes something similar and possibly even better: the Deschutes.


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Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: austin gorpchomper on December 28, 2018, 12:32:17 PM
I've camped many, many nights in the desert and the mountains with no tent and no creature surprises. I do two things 1) use a ground sheet about 6" larger than my bag which gives a bit of a buffer zone and a sand/dirt free place to step if needed, and 2) use a waterproof/breathable bivy bag as an overbag which adds warmth and weather protection. I think i've only zipped up the top covering my head once or twice in my life. And I'm old, so that's a long time.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Ranger Tim on December 28, 2018, 01:04:15 PM
I rarely bring a tent unless I am expecting weather, and often then I'll just bring a light-weight tarp. Though I have been sniffed out by coyotes in the middle of the night, the only negative interactions I have had were the result of me not be diligent and attracting mice. Waking up to the stars is the best cure for insomnia!
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Hang10er on December 28, 2018, 01:46:05 PM
Seen this question and read numerous comments on "cowboy camping".  Last trip I did it.  Although only car camping, instead of pitching the tent (which was in the truck) I threw my tarp and bag in the bed of the truck and slept there.  Loved waking up and seeing the stars.  Next night I went a step farther and threw it on the ground and slept comfortably.

Got past the psychological comfort that some thin wall of canvas provides.  Everyone either says "I have always slept under the stars in the desert" or they're at least referring to the Big Bend area.  Also, usually in the winter months.

What about wooded areas?  Summer time camping in the Hill Country?  I look under my ground tarp when camping there and find all sorts of bugs and roly polys and spiders. 

Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: presidio on December 28, 2018, 01:52:45 PM
What about wooded areas?  Summer time camping in the Hill Country?

TICKS !!!!  :willynilly:
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: austin gorpchomper on December 28, 2018, 03:11:55 PM
I live in the hill country but don't camp here in the summer. I really dislike humid conditions, esp when camping. And ticks. Sometimes in the Rockies at altitude i'll have mosquitoes; I've worn one of those bug net things that you wear on your head with success. But i usually sleep away from water  if I can. I prefer sleeping on big flat rocks, actually, if available.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: mule ears on December 28, 2018, 03:23:54 PM
Like austin gorpchomper I rarely go out in the warm months but do occasionally here in North Carolina and still just use a bivy sack and a tarp and have not had any problems with ticks or other critters but yes ticks would be the issue.

This is Memorial Day at 5000' just lounging in the grass

(https://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/imgp3039.jpg?w=640)
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: badknees on December 28, 2018, 03:50:02 PM
What about wooded areas?  Summer time camping in the Hill Country?

TICKS !!!!  :willynilly:

CHIGGERS!!!!
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: presidio on December 28, 2018, 04:22:20 PM
What about wooded areas?  Summer time camping in the Hill Country?

TICKS !!!!  :willynilly:


CHIGGERS!!!!



Yeah, them too!
Title: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 28, 2018, 07:17:42 PM
I cowboy camp everywhere, any time, all year. Except when out with my family or inexperienced friends. Only my 13-year-old son is willing to sleep under the stars, everyone else needs a nylon or mesh roof at the end of the evening.

As previously mentioned, I ALWAYS bring my 10oz Silshelter tarptent with 3-4oz of stakes. 14oz of never having to worry about the forecast is worth it to me.

I also carry an essentially weightless mesh headnet in places where mosquitoes and other winged biters might be a problem. Used it many times in very buggy places and it works.

As for creepy crawlies, they just donít bother me or worry me. I suppose some day Iíll roll over onto a a scorpion in the middle of the night, get stung, and will then change my mind. You do have to be mindful of ticks in appropriate habitat. Theyíll go straight for you. Best response if youíre in serious tick territory is daily full-body self-inspection. It takes most ticks many hours to infect you with whatever they might be carrying.

Now, chiggers....well, not much to be done about them, in or out of a tent. Two Septembers ago, I took a friend to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on his first ever backpacking trip. We used a brand new REI Half Dome tent and I still came away with well over a hundred chigger bites. The aftermath was bloody miserable. I hate chiggers.


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Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Txlj on December 30, 2018, 06:52:32 PM
I carry a uv flashlight just to check the area. If none in the area, Ill give it a try. If I find one, I normally find more in the area. Time to move on.

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Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: House Made of Dawn on December 30, 2018, 07:13:08 PM
Now thatís a great idea!


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Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: jeffblaylock on December 31, 2018, 01:15:52 AM
I've spent many nights in the Bend sleeping under the stars with no horrors to report, except for the night it poured down rain at 4 a.m. All those creepy crawlies out there are looking for prey much smaller than you.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Homer67 on December 31, 2018, 08:28:01 AM
I love just throwing a bivy! I carry a lightweight tarp to build a rain/windbreak if I need it, but usually just throw a strip of tyvek, use my pack as  a pillow with my top quilt. Only once did I wake with a daddy long legs on my face - no biggie, felt like a feather on my face.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Jim on December 31, 2018, 09:49:15 AM
There are some who think a tent is good precaution against Chaga's disease:

http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/west-texas-wonders/the-cone-nose-and-chagas-disease-west-texas-realities-to-reckon-with/
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: badknees on December 31, 2018, 10:39:55 AM
There are some who think a tent is good precaution against Chaga's disease:

http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/west-texas-wonders/the-cone-nose-and-chagas-disease-west-texas-realities-to-reckon-with/

You just creeped me out!
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Al on December 31, 2018, 12:35:31 PM
There are some who think a tent is good precaution against Chaga's disease:

http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/west-texas-wonders/the-cone-nose-and-chagas-disease-west-texas-realities-to-reckon-with/

It is common south of the border and is considered rare in the southern US.

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/chagas/gen_info/detailed.html
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: hunterhughes on December 31, 2018, 01:47:45 PM
I go tentless most of the time.  The exception is if I am expecting heavy rain or uncertain about the presence of fire ants.  I was surprised to have a few mosquitos buzz me while I slept on a plateau near Mule Ears Spring.  It was too warm to pull my bag over me so I draped a shirt over my face and it keep them at bay.  I woul NOT adding bug netting to my Big Bend packing list.  I also read for a few hours each night so my light tends to attract insects.  During the summer snakes will move around at night and when it is cooler they will mve around during the day.  When it is cold they will not move at all.  Your biggest risk would be going for a leak at night and stepping on one.  But that is there with or without a tent.  Even during the summer, I think it is an irrational fear... but always check your boots and shake out your bag if it has been unattended for a long period. :icon_biggrin: :).

There is something liberating about not having a tent.  Also, making and breaking camp is easier/ faster.  When you climb in a shelter at night you kinda leave the park.  I love sitting on my bag and matt while I have dinner and take everything in. 
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: mule ears on December 31, 2018, 02:16:21 PM
I go tentless most of the time.  The exception is if I am expecting heavy rain or uncertain about the presence of fire ants.  I was surprised to have a few mosquitos buzz me while I slept on a plateau near Mule Ears Spring.  It was too warm to pull my bag over me so I draped a shirt over my face and it keep them at bay.  I woul NOT adding bug netting to my Big Bend packing list.  I also read for a few hours each night so my light tends to attract insects.  During the summer snakes will move around at night and when it is cooler they will mve around during the day.  When it is cold they will not move at all.  Your biggest risk would be going for a leak at night and stepping on one.  But that is there with or without a tent.  Even during the summer, I think it is an irrational fear... but always check your boots and shake out your bag if it has been unattended for a long period. :icon_biggrin: :).

There is something liberating about not having a tent.  Also, making and breaking camp is easier/ faster.  When you climb in a shelter at night you kinda leave the park.  I love sitting on my bag and matt while I have dinner and take everything in.

Sweet camp hunter!
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: badknees on December 31, 2018, 02:41:51 PM
A big ground tarp  is nice. You can stretch out a bit.

(https://mirrormagic.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/D7K_9014.jpg?)
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: austin gorpchomper on January 11, 2019, 09:55:06 PM
...
There is something liberating about not having a tent.  Also, making and breaking camp is easier/ faster.  When you climb in a shelter at night you kinda leave the park.  I love sitting on my bag and matt while I have dinner and take everything in.

Well, I suppose as long as Matt is ok with that...
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: House Made of Dawn on January 12, 2019, 12:40:23 PM
...
There is something liberating about not having a tent.  Also, making and breaking camp is easier/ faster.  When you climb in a shelter at night you kinda leave the park.  I love sitting on my bag and matt while I have dinner and take everything in.

Well, I suppose as long as Matt is ok with that...

 :rolling:

Totally agree with both Hunter and AGC!
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: hunterhughes on January 23, 2019, 09:04:44 AM
I have cowboy camped 100's of nights and nothing has ever tried to get into my bag or bother me.

Plus you get killer views like this  :icon_biggrin:

(https://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/P1040797.jpg)

Muel Ears, if you go to Western Mountaineering's webstie - they are looking for photos of their gear in use.  I noticed your bag...
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: House Made of Dawn on January 23, 2019, 09:10:39 AM
I have cowboy camped 100's of nights and nothing has ever tried to get into my bag or bother me.

Plus you get killer views like this  :icon_biggrin:

(https://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/P1040797.jpg)

Muel Ears, if you go to Western Mountaineering's webstie - they are looking for photos of their gear in use.  I noticed your bag...

ME's bag rocks!  Superlight.  Thanks for the heads-up, Hunter. I need to dig up and send photos of my semi-rectangular WM Mitylite. I use it as my summer bag, and as an overbag in winter, slipped over my Feathered Friends Winter Wren when the temps drop into single digits.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: Hang10er on January 23, 2019, 09:36:00 AM
Thanks for all the feedback.

There are some exceptions but it seems most have no issues with cowboy camping in the desert.  It looks like a tent gets more use in wooded areas, especially during summer time.  Ticks, chiggers and other annoying insects being the main reason.
Title: Re: Sleeping without a tent/big net
Post by: mule ears on January 23, 2019, 10:45:11 AM
I have cowboy camped 100's of nights and nothing has ever tried to get into my bag or bother me.

Plus you get killer views like this  :icon_biggrin:

(https://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/P1040797.jpg)

Mule Ears, if you go to Western Mountaineering's webstie - they are looking for photos of their gear in use.  I noticed your bag...

Thanks Hunter, I will have to check that out.  I am a big fan of WM and also own an Ultralite bag too.   :great: