The Sleeping-Bag (2)

After much searching – mostly during class, ra ra – I think that this is the best bag for me:

WHO: The REI Igneo


Minimum Safe Temperature: 19*F [less than the minimum required]

Comfort Temp: 30*F [spot on for my needs]

Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz [really light]

Material: Ripstop Nylon

Fill: 700-fill duck down [longest-lasting fill, at a good quality]

Compressed size: 5.2 liters [%$@$ tiny as far as these things go]

WHEN: As soon as I want to spend $299 on a fuckmothering bit o’ blanket.

WHERE: Teh Amazons. Derr.




The Sleeping-Bag (1)

We move deeper into the territory which this blog was designed to help discover: shit I don’t know a damned thing about.

Some reading has convinced me that these are the variables involved in differentiating one sleeping-bag from another: SHAPE – WEIGHT – SIZE – TEMP – MAKE – WATERPROOF – OTHER.

1) Temperature. That is, how cold it can get before the sleeping bag stops keepin’ you toasty. (Or, the corollary: how warm it can get before you flash-roast.)

Most sleeping-bags are rated with a lower bound of temperature. Common bounds are -10F, 10F, 20F, 35F, 50F. Any colder and you’re talking exposure suit. And warmer andyou’re talking birthday suit.

There’s also the occasional employ of the more colloquial tripartite division of “Winter,” “Three-Season,” “Summer.” Meaning, respectively, about 0F, 35F, and 50F. This terminology is disfavored because it is imprecise. Also because left-coast types buy lots of this stuff, and the left coast hasn’t had proper seasons since the Pleistocene.

I pulled a bunch of weather data for various points along the route (this is me being neurotic! this is me having fun!). Here are some of the better datapoints.

(Also, laying this out sucked, because WordPress. Bear with me.)

MAY (average high / average low / record low):

Plymouth, NH: 69/42/21

Burlington, VT: 67/45/24

Morristown, NY/Brockville, ON: 65/46/19

Ann Arbor, MI: 70/50/20

St. Ignace, MI: 60/45/x

Crandon, WI: 66/38/x

Elk River, MN: 70/46/17

Casselton, ND: 70/50

Glendive, MT: 70/45

Kalispell, MT: 64/39

Sandpoint, ID: 65/40

Wenatchee, WA: 65/45


basically adds 5-10 degrees to all totals



Statistically speaking, I am likely to encounter at least the occasional night which is in the 30s – especially starting out, where elevations will be high, winter nearest, and cruel New England undertire. It is possible, but unlikely I will encounter a cold snap of many 30 degree days. It is possible, but very unlikely, that I shall ever experience the 20s. It seems essentially impossible I will experience anything lower.

If the year is average of kindness, nighttime temperatures in the 40s will be commonplace through the month of May. Nighttime temps in the 40s and 50s will be the average throughout the entire trip.

Based upon this thinking, a sleeping bag with a 35 degree temperature rating is the bare minimum required. A 20 or 25 degree bag might also be of benefit.


1) If you purchase a sleeping pad, this can dramatically increase the temperature efficiency of a sleeping bag. This because you won’t be having your precious body heat stolen by the nasty nasty ground. Some sleeping pads are almost heat-neutral, whereas some boast a heating factor of 10 to 15 degrees.

2) A good tent will provide “dead air” of between 5 and 15 degrees of warmth, once you’ve sat in it for a bit.

3) Sleeping naked is less heat-efficient than sleeping in microfiber sleep pants and top. Which could be carried on the trip for just this purpose: one set, laundered every week or every other, just for sleepin’ warm.


All of the above, or averages thereof, are quite possibly calculated into temperature ratings assigned to sleeping bags.


I open up the sleeping bag and use it as a blanket. Failing that, I pick up a cheap blanket and use that. Failing that, I sleep under the stars like fuckin’ Pocahontas.


It seems best to purchase a sleeping bag with a 35 degree rating at minimum (maximum), perhaps as low as 20 degrees. This, and to go armed with a good tent, a mattress pad, and a set of PJs – just in case, and especially for the first week of biking.

2) Shape. Namely, whether ’tis a mummy or a caterpillar. I made that latter term up.

Mummy-bags are generally more heat efficient. This goes double for bald bastards like m’self. Probably a good idea to get – but not necessary.

Some mummy bags also have “pillow pouches,” wherein one can store a pillow – or, more easily, some wadded up clothing that shall have the same effect. This might be very nice. Otherwise, I’ll have to get a travel pillow, which is ‘nnoying.

3) Weight. Literally – how much the damn thing weighs. Important for one reason: one single ounce, pushed by human power some 10,000 miles, assumes princess-and-pea proportions.

Some sleeping bags weigh ten pounds. Some way one pound. Obviously the closer I can get to the latter is preferable. It’s not worth paying $100 for an ounce, but paying $50 for a pound might, actually, be worth considering.

4) Material. If it has its own implications. Some do, some don’t.

Down is best. 900-fill is the awesome, 700-fill is pretty great, 600 is acceptable. The higher the number, the lighter it’ll be, and the more long-lived.

Otherwise, synthetics are OK. Short-staple fills are better because they compress to a smaller size.

As far as I can tell, material really effects the temperature achievable at a given size (compressed) & weight – and price. By analyzing these factors independently, actual material is not important to me.

5) Size. The smaller the better. Because packing. Not worth significant dough to depart from the mean. But must be kept in mind.

6) Water-proof-ed-ness. Important on a planet that is mostly water.

On the other hand, my tent will be waterproof, and also my stuff-sacks. So the thing should never get wet.

On the other hand, PLANET THAT IS MOSTLY WATER. So waterproof is preferable if at all possible.

7) Weight. Lighter the better. Period.


In conclusion, what is preferable is:

A three-season (20-30 degree) bag, made of good goose-down or synth, waterproof, mummy-shape, lightweight and small.

Tomorrow I’ll go a-shopping, and see what I can see.

The Musics

If you had several months to listen to only certain musics, what would they be?

This is just a little variation on The Desert Island Game, which I’ve been wont to play since I was wee. Like, super duper wee. I’m like two inches of beard-length from aspergerish coenobitism here, people.

Of course, I won’t be entirely cut off from the world. I can sit in a library or router’d diner, any time I want, and torrent two albums a minute. But by the same token I can stop at any given bike shop or sporting goods ‘porium & refit myself from tip to tail, near any time I want. The goal is to avoid the need for such a thing. Not the least, lest I have my nose rubbed in how easy the modern world is – for a white boy with a credit card.

Likewise, this is not simply an exercise in survival. It is also about the setting of other goals. After all, if this activity is so easy – and made easier still by a superabundance of preparation – that gives me room to impose other goals upon myself. What kind of food do I want to eat – what is healthiest? What kind of books do I want to read – have read? What kind of music do I want to listen to?

This trip shall provide me the opportunity to break from the easy routine of the restaurant next door & the books at hand. Why not take the opportunity to force myself, just a wee bit, to broaden my musical horizons? Maybe – Maybe – to carry that same adventuresome spirit, too much lacking, back to my ‘umble life here in Stationaryville.

Creating an auditory curriculum is no easy feat. But the imposition of too strict a methodology smacks of the tweed. A happy medium is needed: opportunity to wax self-educational, opportunity to chillax with good tunes.

What, of my collection, have I really been meaning to listen to? And really, really, *listen* to?

-Anthology of American Folk Music

-Art Tatum – Solo Masterpieces, Pablo Group Masterpieces

-Bach – Art of Fugue, Well-Tempered Clavier – various instrumentations

-John Fahey – all of it

-Kronos Quarter – their new 10CD boxed set

-Robbie Basho – as much as I can find

-Thelonious Monk – The Complete Riverside Recordings (I always start with the Prestige Recordings and then end up hitting “repeat” forever)

-Wes Montgomery – Complete Riverside Recordings

-what of the Penguin Crown Guide to Jazz that I have not already well nommed upon

-maybe some mixed classical? should I really build myself a corpus, work through?

-a whole pile of Folkways

…doesn’t sound bad, does it?

The Books

If I am to be on-the-move eight, ten hours a day – and undoubtedly sleeping a full eight hours a night – I might still find myself with six hours of day, every day.

I am bringing my tablet with it’s typin’ ttachment for the purposes of prosemaking. But still I shall want things to occupy my mind. Especially when I’m too damned tired to write.

To make sure I have good options available, I’ve compiled a bit of a book-list. And, realizing that I have a Kindle, can easily access them all.

Here’s my little cycling library:

ACHEBE, Chinua: Things Fall Apart

ANONYMOUS. The Book of One Thousand Nights and a Night.

BIERCE, Ambrose. Collected Works.

BOCCACCIO, Giovanni. The Decameron

BRICKHILL, Paul. The Great Escape

CERVANTES, Miguel. Don Quixote

CHEKHOV, Anton. Complete Short Stories

CLARKE, Arthur C. The Illustrated Man

CONRAD, Joseph. NostromoTales of Unrest

CROWLEY, John. Novelties & Souveniers

DOBLIN, Alfred. Berlin Alexanderplatz

DOSTOEVSKY, Fyodor. The PossessedThe Brothers KaramazovWhite Nights & Other Stories

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tales of the Jazz AgeFlappers & Philosophers

GOETHE, J-Dubs. Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship

GRIMM, The Brothers. Complete Fairy Tales.

HAWTHORNE. The House of Seven Gables.

JOYCE, James. Ulysses (again)

KIPLING, Rudyard. Just So Stories.

LANDA, Gertrude (ed.). Jewish Fairy Tales.

LESSIG, Lawrence. Free Culture.

LONDON, Jack. South Sea Tales.

MAUPASSANT, Guy de. Collected Short Stories.

MELVILLE, Herman. TypeeOmoo

PASCAL, Blaise. La Pensees.

PROUST, Marcel. Swann’s Way.

SABATINI, Rafael. Captain Blood.


STEVENSON, Robert Louis. New Arabian NightsTales from the South Seas

TWAIN, Mark. Life on the MississippiTom Sawyer; Huck Finn

YOURCENAR, Marguerite. Memoirs of Hadrian

& any book read before I go cycling will, indeed, be no hardship at all 🙂

EDIT: I had about a dozen of these books bolded as need-to-find. Then I found them all. The internet is pretty okay sometimes.

EDIT II: Read 2, and strafed 2, since starting this list. What rotted cheek!

EDIT III: 2 more down. I’m incorrigible.

The Multitool

The Crank Brothers Multi-19 multitool.

This is their best – and, based on my research some two years ago, *the* best – non-professional multitool now available.

Let’s just say it has everything the body needs… and then some.

For this great trek, I was tempted to buy a new tool – such as the Crank Pica, which has the same tools except they have an indexing feature (whereby the tools lock into place). A nice benefit, and if I were to buy the tools over again I might go for this omega of bike tools. But:

1) The difference is really not worth $35

2) There’s no practical difference at all

3) The 19 tools included in this multi are already at least 15 more than I’ll likely ever, ever, ever need.

Which brings me to the meta-observation:

The goal of this trip isn’t to throw money at it. It’s to do it.

Must remember that.



The Knife

A black K-Bar style tanto, wrapped in nylon paracord. Blade is about 3.5″. Firestarter will get, I’m guessing, 500 strokes. Not that I expect I’ll ever need to use it this summer – but it’s nice to have.

$6 with shipping.

I will also be carrying on my person a Leatherman CS, which is a keychain multitool. The knife is 1″, the whole thing about 1.5″ folded up. It includes a scissors, a tweezers, a file, and a bottle-opener. Everything a boy needs.

$11 but I bought it ages ago.

The Tent

This is the Eureka Spitfire 1.

It’s light, cheap, and well-endorsed by cyclotourists.

I looked at a dozen tents. There aren’t a lot of one-person tents out there. And a lot of them are heavy – some twice as heavy or more.

The Eureka Spitfire uses only 2 poles (aluminum, but if they break I can always upgrade to carbon) and is very easy to set up. It folds up into a really tiny little pouch: the damn thing’s basically just two tarps and a bit of mesh netting. And all told it only weighs 2 pounds and change – which, when you’re thinking of pushing that weight almost 10,000 miles (and up six mountain chains… some twice), rather adds up.

It’s $119.00 at the Kittery Trading Post.

Tent status: DOWN.