Lakes of the Washington Pacific Crest Trail, Part 1

The Pacific Crest Trail passes by quite a few lakes in Washington, which is not surprising, especially since about 70 miles of the PCT goes through a place called ‘Alpine Lakes Wilderness’. Heck, just a few miles north of the Bridge of the Gods there is a lake – Gillette Lake.

Gillette Lake, near the Bridge of the Gods.

Some names for lakes appear over and over again – for example, I passed by three different lakes called ‘Sheep Lake’.

Of the three different lakes called ‘Sheep Lake’ I passed in Washington, by far the most beautiful was the ‘Sheep Lake’ a few miles north of Chinook Pass in Mount Ranier National Park.

First of all, lakes often provide good camping! In a land full of mountains, it is sometimes hard to find a good flat spot to pitch a tent, but lakeshores tend to have flat places for tents. Of course, camping is bad for the vegetation around lakes, which why most (all?) wilderness areas have a rule saying that camping is prohibited within 100 feet of the lake. However, a lot of people ignore this rule.

Though I appreciate the camping opportunities offered by lakes, they do have a few disadvantages. First of all, they may be havens for flying insects which bite humans. Second of all, they increase the risk of condensation in tents, which was an important consideration for me since my tent will get condensation if I do not choose a good site for it. These two problems are the may reasons I would prefer to camp next to a creek over camping next to a lake. But the most important consideration for picking a camping place is whether it is where I am at the end of a hiking day, and sometimes my hiking day ended at lakes rather than creeks or dry camps.

Anyway, here is a run-down of all of the lakes where I camped:

Pipe Lake, William O. Douglass Wilderness, Southern Washington, about 7 miles north of White Pass.

Pipe Lake is a lovely lake, but what I remember most about the lake is that I camped next to some people from the Tri-Cities area. It was a pleasure to share the evening with them.

Dewey Lake, Willaim O. Douglass Wilderness, Southern Washington.

Dewey Lake was magnificent in a way which my photos fail to capture. It was not the best camping spot due to the abundance of flying insects which like to bite humans, but it worked well enough as a place to sleep. Besides, did I mention that it was magnificent?

Ridge Lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Central Washington.

Ridge Lake was an important water source because it was the last water source for over five miles (unless you were desperate enough to get water from puddles), and those were five of the hardest miles on the PCT in Washington at that. I didn’t just get water at Ridge Lake, I slept there (and many others camped there too, including rock climbers).

Lake Janus in the morning, Henry M. Jackson Wilderness, Northern Washington.

Like many hikers, I decided to camp at Lake Janus since it was the last major camping area (not to mention the last campsite with water) before an uphill climb that none of us were in the mood for that evening.

Near Purple Point Campground, Stehekin, Northern Washington.

Purple Point Campground, which is where I slept in the town of Stehekin, is just a stone’s throw away from Lake Chelan, which is the largest lake in the entire state of Washington (!), the third deepest lake in the USA (!!) (the PCT also passes the deepest and second deepest lakes in the USA – Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe).

Hopkins Lake, Pasayten Wilderness, Northern Washington.

Last but not least is Hopkins Lake, the very last place I camped on the PCT before I completed my hike through Washington. I admit that I was not having the best hiking day, and I was really looking forward to seeing the lake. I wasn’t thinking much about reaching the USA/Canada border, I wanted to see the lake because that meant I would be able to stop hiking. And indeed, when I first saw the lake from above, I was really happy, because even though it took a little while before I was actually at the lake, I knew that I was near my place of rest. Furthermore, it was the first water source after 10 miles of no water – getting to a water source after 10 dry miles is always a relief. A lot of people camped there (it’s arguably the best campsite near the USA/Canada border), and it had great meaning for most of us because it marked the ends of our hikes, however long or short they were. I couldn’t believe that it was my last night in my tent! For those of us who were continuing into Canada, it was our last night in the United States.

There were, of course, lakes where I did not camp but are still extremely worthy of mention! I will share them with you in Part 2!

I have to share with you another photo of Hopkins Lake because I love it so much! Seriously, if you ever find yourself in the Pasayten Wilderness, I highly recommend spending some time at Hopkins Lake.

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Does My Palace Cause Cancer? What Can I Do?

Is my palace (tent) spreading toxic chemicals?

I’m working on a draft of a blog post about Leave No Trace and my experiences with camping. Working on that draft, I started thinking about the chemical impact of tents on the environment, so I decided to do some research, and then decided that this topic was important enough to merit its own blog post.

Spoiler: My palace (i.e. tent) is probably carcinogenic.

Most backpacking tents contain toxic chemicals. There are different types of toxic chemicals they may maintain.

One types of toxic chemical is fluorocarbons. They help waterproof fabrics, including tent fabrics. They also wash off fabric when it rains or water is otherwise applied to the fabric, and they damage the ecosystem, and since they are persistent (i.e. it takes a long time for them to break down) they can spend a lot of time damaging the ecosystem. Lovely. Oh, and fluorocarbons are also bad for humans because they are hormone-disruptors.

I had already been aware that many rain jackets / shells / etc. contain fluorocarbons, that they are a toxic pollutant, that fluorocarbons have been found in even the most ‘pristine’ wilderness areas, and that was one reason I chose fluorocarbon free rain gear for my big hike in Washington (which I ended up not using much because it only rained twice, but if it had rained a lot, my rain gear would not have poisoned the trail ecosystem with fluorocarbons).

However, I had not thought about whether my tent contained fluorocarbons.

Does my tent have fluorocarbons? I do not know, and I have not asked the manufacturer (Big Agnes). Based on my research, my guess is that my tent probably does not contain fluorocarbons. However, that is an educated guess, not a certainty, and maybe I’ve guessed wrong.

Another common type of toxin found in tents are PVC and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). They cause cancer and mess up the ecosystem. The manufacturer of my tent says that my tent is PVC and VOC free, so I don’t have to worry about that, hurray! I will have to pay attention to that if I ever get another tent.

And then there are flame retardants. You can learn many of the gory details by reading this article. The TL;DR is: flame retardants cause cancer, do NOT improve fire safety, and for legal reasons, are found in the vast majority of the tents sold in the United States and Canada. Lovely.

I did contact Big Agnes (the manufacturer of my tent) to ask about flame retardants. Their answer was: ALL OF THEIR TENTS CONTAIN FLAME RETARDANTS. They have not told me which flame retardants they use, but the range for flame retardants (in terms of toxicity and effectiveness in fire safety) is not good thru bad, it’s bad thru horrible, so if I get a list of the specific fire retardants they use, all that would tell is is whether they are on the bad end of the spectrum, or the horrible end of the spectrum, and I do not think that information would affect my decisions.

I repeat, BIG AGNES HAS TOLD ME THAT ALL OF THEIR TENTS CONTAIN FLAME RETARDANTS.

I understand that they probably do it for legal reasons, and I thank them for telling me.

Though I did not get this information from Big Agnes, based on my research, it seems that the flame retardants are most likely in the PU coating. If this is so, that means that they are probably not leeching much into the environment (like fluorocarbons, flame retardants are bad news for the ecosystem). On the other hand, they are in the area where I sleep.

So now what? Here are my options:

OPTION 1: REPLACE MY PALACE WITH A NEW TENT

I love my tent! This would make me sad. But knowing that my tent might give me cancer will definitely affect my love for my tent, and will possibly make it harder for me to sleep in my tent.

This would also raise the question of how I would dispose of my tent. Landfill? Let it sit in my closet indefinitely? Sell it – “Hey, I’ve stopped using this tent because it causes cancer – want to buy it?”

Also, this means I would have to get a new shelter. High-quality shelters tend to be expensive, so that would hit my wallet hard. Or I could get a tarp shelter, but they require a lot more skill than tents.

Oh, and I would have to make sure my new tent was also fluorocarbon and flame retardant free, which would exclude most of the tents sold in the USA and Canada because of the legal requirements to poison campers. What tents are fluorocarbon & FR free? The Moonlight tents are fluorocarbon and FR free – and the lightest one weighs about 5 pounds. That weight is a dealbreaker for long-distance use (and I don’t use tents for short-distance purposes often enough to justify buying a tent just for short-distance trips). It looks like, based on the description, that the tent has a lot of cool features, but I would be happy to get rid of some of those features to reduce the weight.

Based on this, its seems that for legal reasons, any tent sold by a major retailer in the USA (such as REI) will have the flame retardants. A tent manufacturer based in the USA but not located in any of the states which require flame retardants in tents and which does not sell through retailers in those states is not legally required to use flame retardants, which limits me to tent manufacturers who do not distribute through retailers across the USA/Canada.

I do not know whether cuben fiber tents contain flame retardants or not. If I ever decided I wanted a cuben fiber tent, I would ask the manufacturers about this. Since I do not want to buy a cuben fiber tent, I am not going to research it at this time. However, one manufacturer of cuben fiber shelters, Mountain Laurel Designs, says that all of their bug netting fabric has flame retardants. That rules out any shelter with bug netting, cuben fiber or no cuben fiber.

It seems the best way to get a lightweight shelter without flame retardants is to import from the UK or the EU. Their laws do not require tents to contain flame retardants, so most tent manufacturers there do not use flame retardants. Which means I may have another option…

OPTION 2: USE MY TAIWANESE TENT

I have used my Taiwanese tent on my PCT section hikes before I received my palace, so I know it can work on the PCT. It is also a brand which is not sold in the USA or Canada at all, so the manufacturer did not care about US/Canadian law. Does Taiwanese law require putting flame retardants in tents? I have no idea. I would have to do more research. I also do not know if my Taiwanese tent contains fluorocarbons. It is unlikely to have PVC or VOCs, but I would have to do additional research to confirm that. And doing research would be challenging since the tent model I have has been discontinued (which does not surprise me, since it is a pretty weird tent).

However, while I CAN use my Taiwanese tent on the PCT, there are reasons why I was willing to buy a new tent for use on the PCT (I continue to use my Taiwanese tent for all non-PCT camping trips). The most important reason was weight, though it also has less interior space and I think the tent poles are annoying (I prefer the 12 stakeouts on my palace to putting up the tent poles on my Taiwanese tent, which tells you just how much those tent poles annoy me). If I put my Taiwanese tent to serious use again, I would also want to buy new stuff sacks, because the current stuff sack sucks.

Nonetheless, if I did the research, and found that my Taiwanese tent had no fluorocarbons / PVC / VOCs / flame retardants, then that would be an option which would not require me to spend any extra money (beyond a new stuff sack, which is a lot cheaper than buying a new tent).

OPTION 3: CONTINUE USING MY PALACE, AND BE CAREFUL

As I said, the most toxic chemicals are probably in the interior coating, not the exterior coating, so continuing to use this tent may still be consistent with the principles of Leave Not Trace (I wouldn’t be leaving a trace on the environment, I’d just leaving a trace on my own body by exposing myself to carcinogens).

Research shows that the flame retardants rub off on hands when pitching a tent (you can read more about that research in the article I linked above), and that if those hands are later used to, say, eat food, the flame retardants can enter the body. However, when I am pitching my palace, I am mostly touching the exterior of the tent, not the interior, so I may not be getting into direct contact with the flame retardants. Finally, I usually pitch my tent with my gloves on (even in summer, I do all long-distance hikes with gloves), and I usually eat with my gloves off. I could make it a rule that I ONLY pitch my tent with gloves on and ONLY eat with gloves off.

When I’m inside my tent, I do put my gear in contact with the fabric. Research shows that flame retardants can rub off on gear too, but I would expect touching gear which touched flame retardant to be less bad than directly touching flame retardant. I do not directly touch the interior tent fabric often, and I can try to limit my direct contact with the interior tent fabric even more.

Not enough research has been done to show if there are other ways the flame retardants in tents can enter the human body. It is possible that it may coat dust in the tent, but AFAIK, this has not been proven. Just because is hasn’t been proven does not mean it’s not happening.

I have read that old PU coatings will flake, and I guess that the flame retardants would be in the flakes.

SO, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?

For now, based on what I know, I am going with option three. If I ever see signs that the PU coating is flaking, then I will retire the tent, but until then, I will continue to use it with caution.

Another thing I’m going to try to do is bring more attention to this issue in the trail community. Even if I am successful in taking care of myself, I do not want tent manufacturers to poison my fellow hikers, nor do I want my fellow hikers to spread toxins around the wilderness. And if the trail community does not pay attention to this, then the situation is not going to get better.

Mortality on the Pacific Crest Trail

The trail register at the California / Oregon border on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I looked through the trail register at the California/Oregon border on the Pacific Crest Trail. I found a place where hikers listed all of the ways they have died on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was started by Mike [from Canada] and the first eight entries are in his handwriting. However, other hikers saw it and decided to add the ways they ‘died’ on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is why every additional entry is written with different handwriting. Here is my transcription:

7/27/16 Mike [From Canada], You guys, we’ve been through so much together, and I can’t thank you enough for supporting me through all the times I’ve died on the trail. Here’s to all the fearmongers who have pushed me this far!

1. Carried 20 L out of Campo. Died from water overdose
2. Froze Solid at Mt. Laguna
3. Lost in snow on San Jacinto
4. Run over by Ziggy & bear shuttle
5. Slipped off Baden Powell
6. Sunk in quicksand @ walker pass
7. Spent too much money @ kennedy
8. Slipped down ice chute @ forester pass
9. SMOKED POODLE-DOG BUSH, DIED
10. Drunk Piss, lived then tried to seduce a bear – Dead
11. Left Seiad w/ 0 liters of water – Heat Stroke
12. Spent 2 nights in Hikertown – died of exposure
13. Fed chipmunk; was eaten in the night by chipmunks
14. Went to drop a deuce in KM; drowned in PortaJohn
15. Stayed in Etna for two nights – died of boredom
16. Tried to walk under Mount Shasta
17. Kidnapped by “that guy” in Sierra City
18. Too much EVERYTHING @ Casa de Luna
19. Lost too much weight – dead.
20. Shot by a hunter
21. GOT LOST FOR 2dAYS in The SieRRA’s.
22. Narrowly escaped the Lemurians
23. spent too long @border, died of starvation
24. GOT ATTACKED by MARMOTS! Don’t trust them. R& H.
25. Fell down a switchback looking for copper ore
26. Got a blister or two… or a hundred
27. Ate 5 lbs of pancakes @ Seiad… exploded
28. Fall in love
29. Twisted ankle taking photo, hit a rock, fell off cliff
30. Went for water @ lost Creek – fell, died
31. Fell down ice chute @ Sonora Pass
32. ^ so did I!!
33. Breathed in too many of husband’s farts
34. Farted too much (or not enough)
35. Died in the fire before Kennedy Meadows
36. Spent too much time reading the Facebook page -> Heartattack
37. BEARS
38. Asschafe
39. Almost dyha dihadrated before Casa de Luna
40. Lightling storm at Mt. Whitney

I think most people, when they first contemplate hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, ponder on the potential of dying on the trail (rattlesnakes! dehydration! mountain lions! falling off cliffs! etc.). I know I did when I first contemplated it, and a lot people who I talk to about it are also concerned about the potential of death. I think the hikers who put together the list above were responding both to all of the ‘fearmongers’ who expressed their concern about dangers on the trail as well as responding to their own fears. I also appreciate this post by Mac at Halfway Anywhere.

***

Several hikers (they just look like specks in this photo) cross what is reportedly the most dangerous stream crossing on the PCT in Washington. It was not that bad when I was there – I even managed to cross with dry feet – but I can see how this crossing would be a lot more risky in early summer or after a few days of heavy rain.

I know that I am going to die. That knowledge motivates me to do things like hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The knowledge that the trail itself is impermanent (climate change, maintenance failures, erosion, fire closures, etc.) increases the urgency of hiking it while I am still alive to hike it and it is still there.

I can die at home too. Thus, staying at home is not a good strategy for avoiding death.

One of the top causes of death on the Pacific Crest Trail is … being hit by a motor vehicle while crossing a road. Most people do not expect that to be the top causes of death, especially because one rarely has to cross a road with much traffic on the Pacific Crest Trail. However, motor vehicles are so dangerous that even occasional crossings of roads with traffic greatly increase the danger of death on the PCT. However, I think that most people underestimate the risk of being hit by a motor vehicle on the PCT because it is a risk that most people in the United States live with every day. We have been trained to tune it out so that we are not in a constant state of panic as we cross streets.

***

The Dinsmores’ Hiker Haven, Baring, Washington.

I spent two nights at the Dinsmores. The Dinsmores are some of the most famous trail angels on the Pacific Crest Trail – you can learn more about them by reading this recent blog post.

This might be the last year that Andrea Dinsmore hosts hikers (and bikers – they host bikers too). I only saw her a couple times when I was at the Dinsmores, and only for short periods of time, but I felt privileged that I was able to meet such a legend of the PCT. This might be her last year – and she has spent less time with hikers than usual this year – because she has pancreatic cancer.

When I was on the train returning home, I met a couple of hikers who had stayed at the Dinsmores last year. They were shocked when I told them about Andrea’s condition. There was one point when I was sitting at the Dinsmores and I was shedding tears for Andrea.

I know some hikers say that they avoided the Dinsmores because they knew Andrea was sick and they did not want to be a burden. However, one of Andrea’s friends told me that they still wanted hikers to come. The hiking season is Andrea’s favorite time of year, and they do not want to be socially isolated at this time in their lives – they want to continue to participate in the Pacific Crest Trail community.

***

Blooming manzanita bush on Mount Laguna. This is where I met the Chinese hiker. She was probably Chaocui Wang.

This was an especially dangerous summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Many thru-hikers skipped the Sierra Nevada for that reason, or did a flip so they hiked in the Sierra Nevada at a safer time. At the Dinsmores’ Hiker Haven, a hiker who hiked through the Sierras told me that, though she did get through the Sierra Nevada unharmed, if she had understood how dangerous it was, she would have skipped it too.

I heard a few hikers went through the Sierra Nevada very early (by ‘very early’ I mean ‘May’). Even though they had to deal with lower temperatures and more snow/ice, I heard it was safer to go very early than to go in June/July, which in most years is when most northbound thru-hikers go through the Sierra Nevada. That is because, if a hiker entered the Sierra Nevada early enough, they could cross the streams on ice bridges. Stream crossings are the most dangerous part of hiking in the Sierra Nevada in early summer.

There is the story of Marcus Mazzaferri, who lost his pack during a dangerous stream crossing, lost all of his gear (including sleeping bag, shelter, and anything he could have used to start a fire), his food, and his glasses (he is near-sighted), and was all alone in the Sierra Nevada while it was still mostly covered with snow, with no way to contact another human being. He was lucky to survive. You can read his story here.

Two thru-hikers drowned in the Sierra Nevada this year – Rika Morita and Chaocui Wang. I first heard about their deaths while I was hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail from other hikers.

I talked to a hiker who had hiked with Chaocui Wang for a while in the Sierra Nevada, though he had split from her before her death. He said that she had told him that she had lied to her family in China – she told them that she had come to the USA for a job, not to hike the PCT. He hoped that she had told her family the truth before she died.

I never met Rika Morita. However, I did meet one Chinese hiker as I was approaching Mount Laguna during my section hike on the San Diego PCT this year. I recall that we were surrounded by manzanita bushes in full bloom, and I think we talked about how many bees were buzzing around us. The face I see in the photos of Chaocui Wang looks familiar, and the personality of the Chinese hiker I met matches the descriptions of Chaocui Wang. I am not completely sure, but I think it was her.

She died around the time I was crossing the California/Oregon border on the Pacific Crest Trail, where I saw the trail register with the list I transcribed in the opening of this post.

I have a weird feeling when I think back on my encounter with the Chinese hiker, now that I know it was probably about three months before her death and that she was not going to finish her thru-hike or return home, though I will never know for sure if it *was* her. I know that hikers who hiked with her and got to know her rather than just crossed paths with her as I (probably) did must have stronger feelings. The trail community misses and will remember her.

My Palace on the Pacific Crest Trail

A huckleberry bush brushes against my tent. Lake Janus, Henry M. Jackson Wilderness, Northern Washington.

Fond as I am of my tent from Taiwan, last year I decided to buy a new tent to use on Pacific Crest Trail hikes (I still use my Taiwanese tent for all non-PCT camping). Specifically, I bought a Big Agnes Scout 2. I used it for the first time in the Trinity Alps, and I invited the PCT thru-hiker who was at the campsite to check it out. His comment was “That tent is a palace.” Ever since then, I’ve thought of this tent as being my palace on the Pacific Crest Trail.

This was my final campsite in California. Since this tent was used first in California, maybe I could call it my ‘Californian’ tent (as opposed by my ‘Taiwanese’ tent).

Since UV rays damage my tent’s fabric, it’s not supposed to be in the sun. Since I usually pitched my tent in the evening and packed it in the morning, it was usually easy to keep it out of the sun, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid a little sun. Miners Creek Camp, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Northern Washington.

What makes this tent a palace? Space. To keep weight down, most hikers carry small tents, which means it can get cramped inside, especially if they are storing all of their gear in the tent. Some hikers just carry bivy shelters, which are basically tents which only have space for a single sleeping bag.

This is what my tent (in the front) looks like before it is pitched. The other tents in this picture each had 2+ occupants. Unfortunately, I could not get any tree cover, but the condensation was not too bad that night. About two miles from the border of Goat Rocks Wilderness, Southern Washington.

My tent, however, is a two person tent. A REAL two person tent. Officially, my Taiwanese tent is also a ‘two person’ tent, but in reality putting two people in my Taiwanese tent would be very uncomfortable. My palace on the PCT, however, could accommodate two people without having them lie on top of each other. Some hikers assumed that I had a partner simply because they saw how big my tent is. That means that, as a single person, my tent can accommodate me and all of my gear and still have leftover space. Compared to most of the tents used on the Pacific Crest Trail, my tent feels luxurious.

Look at all of that space!!! (I took this photo while I was lying down inside my blue sleeping bag). WELCOME TO MY PALACE!

One hiker told me “It’s great to be one person in a two person tent, but I wouldn’t want to carry the weight.” I then told her that my tent, including stakes, only weighs 1 lb. 9 oz. (710 grams). That’s less weight than nearly all one-person tents (including my Taiwanese tent). By contrast, the two most popular tents on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Big Agnes Copper Spur and the Big Agnes Fly Creek, weigh 2 lb 3 oz. and 1 lb. 11 oz. respectively in their 1-PERSON sizes (and many hikers choose the 2-person sizes even if they are alone because the 1-person versions of those tents are too small).

My tent, with Dewey Lake in the background. William O. Douglass Wilderness, Mount Rainier National Park, Southern Washington.

Even though this is a great tent, it gets very mixed reviews on the internet. In my opinion, the big disadvantage of this tent is that it has a steeper-than-typical learning curve for learning how to use it well, and that most of the complaints which people have about this tent could be fixed by changing the pitching. For example, some people complain about the placement of the trekking poles – it is true that in the beginning I sometimes knocked them down in my sleep, but eventually I trained myself not to do that. It does take practice to learn how to pitch it well so that it will be sufficiently taut, but after using this for over a month, I am very good at pitching this tent, even in non-ideal tent sites. Tip one: if the ground is too hard for staking, use rocks. Tip two: if the tent site is too small for full staking, tie the guylines to whatever is blocking the staking (usually a tree or shrub).

Since this campsite was basically an abandoned gravel road, I could only drive my takes half an inch into the ground, which is not enough. Thus, I used a combination of rocks and tying guylines to bushes. It was not a taut pitch, but since it was not a stormy night, the lack of tautness was okay. One mile away from Stirrup Creek, Central Washington.

One hiker commented that they would not want to use my tent because he did not think it was storm-proof. It’s true that it’s not ideal for going through a harsh storm, but I did use it in Mount Laguna in San Diego county (a very windy place) and it held up, so it’s got enough wind resistance for my purposes. Pitching the tent well goes a long way to making it hold up well in the wind.

This was a nice campsite – but the deer were a bad sign. Fortunately, these deer turned out not be a nuisance.

Another hiker said that he would not want to use my tent because it requires 12 stakes. I asked what was wrong with 12 stakes. He said it was too much labor to set up. I responded that I consider it to be a labor saving tent because of its relatively low weight (also, it does not use tent poles, and I consider setting up tent poles to be more tedious than staking).

The hiker who was impressed by how many stakes my tent required also took a photo of my tent at this very location. Trout Creek, near Wind River Experimental Forest, Southern Washington.

The last common complaint about this tent is the condensation. I, however, rarely had condensation in my tent during this hike, and the few times I did get condensation it’s because I put it in the wrong tent site. Basically, this tent will have condensation unless a) it’s pitched under tree cover or b) it’s very windy.

Unfortunately, there was no good place to pitch the tent at Callahan’s Lodge (i.e. I was doomed to have condensation). Fortunately, I was going into town the following day, and it was a sunny day when I had time to dry gear, so waking up with a wet tent was not so bad (heck, I even washed the tent with soap in town).

Wind is unreliable, so I almost always pitched the tent under trees, even if it meant that I had to put it under a steeper slope or have more awkward pitching. Having used this tent for over a month, I can attest that this tent does not get condensation under trees.

I squeezed my tent into this spot under the trees, even though it was a steep slope (other hikers joked about how I might slide out of my tent) because this was near a lake and I knew I needed the tree cover to keep dry. Guess what – my tent was totally dry the next morning. Pipe Lake, William O. Douglass Wilderness, Southern Washington.

Even though it’s such a spacious and low-weight tent, this is an uncommon tent on the Pacific Crest Trail. Most PCT hikers had never seen this tent model before, which meant they could learn to recognize me by my tent (i.e. if they saw my tent in a campsite they knew that I was around even if they did not see me). And even though I think this tent deserves to be more popular on the PCT, I like that I have an uncommon tent. It makes me feel special.

Here you can see how the trekking pole helps my tent stand up. Near the tributary of the Cispus River, Goat Rocks Wilderness, Southern Washington.

When I was using my Taiwanese tent in Hokkaido, I discovered that one of the cool things about travelling with a tent is that it’s like having your own portable room. Even if you are in a totally unfamiliar place, when you crawl in to go do sleep, it’s the same tent that you have slept in many times before. I felt that effect even more strongly this summer with this tent – though I was in a different place every day, at night, I was able to retreat into my own familiar palace.