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TL/DR summary - Tough construction, a built in pillow, light and compact to pack - the Nemo Cosmo Insulated Lite sleeping pad is a winner in my book.

So, once your tent is set up, what is going to keep you insulated and warm during the temperature drop at nighttime in the mountains?

*cue the Jeopardy theme music*

A sleeping bag? Thick, warm clothing? Those are important, but it's been my experience that keeping a nice chunk of insulation between you and the cold, hard ground is The best way to guarantee a warm night's rest. Everything else is also important, but without a sleeping pad of some kind, you probably aren't going to sleep soundly. Now, knowing this, you would think that I probably took a long time deciding on which sleeping pad I was going to go with. Dear reader, you are indeed correct.

Nemo Cosmo Sleeping pad

I pored over the online resources, searching through all the reviews, reading forums, and in the end, I went with my gut. I chose the Nemo pad because I wanted to have the comfort of an air mattress - some of you just snorted your drink at that statement - with the additional insulation that design can provide. Now, if you've spent the night on the pool floatie style air mattresses before, it most likely wasn't that great. The long vertical construction of the baffles (the bladders that hold air) means that traditionally styled air mattresses tend to fold up around you as you lie on them. I never knew how much I loathed that until I bought the Nemo Cosmo Insulated Lite.

I got the 20R version, which means that it's 'regular' length, plenty for my 5'10" height to stretch out on comfortably. The baffles on the Nemo models are horizontal, which means they offer increased support and stay flat on the ground rather than curling upwards. The insulation was a must, because I knew I would be sleeping at altitude in lake basin areas where cold air would pool during the night. I tend to sleep cold anyway, so getting a sleeping pad like this gave me peace of mind that I would have a solid foundation on my way to a great night's sleep in the woods.

The mattress comes with a pack sack that collapses down to a size a little bigger than your two fists stacked on top of each other. The worst part about this mattress is having to blow it up at the end of the day, but it's not that bad. When you float comfortably above all the twigs and rocks that you were too tired to sweep out from under your tent, you'll realize it was totally worth huffing a puffing for a couple minutes. You can use the built in foot pump at the base of the mattress, but I never did.

Tough construction, a built in pillow, light and compact to pack - the Nemo Cosmo Lite sleeping pad is a winner in my book.

 

*making purchases on Amazon after clicking through the links above helps me keep this blog going. Thanks for your support! 

 

I'm going to start my gear review series with this post because I believe strongly in the power of getting a good night's sleep when you're out in the woods. For most of us, that's not our normal habitat and we are operating at a level far above what we would normally push ourselves to do. This is great, but, there also needs to be sufficient time to rest or fatigue will overtake you both mentally and physically. Tired bodies get hurt easier, tired minds make more mistakes. For my Wyoming trip, I spent more of my budget on sleeping gear than any other subcategory. Let's dive in, shall we? (TL:DR summary at bottom)

Kelty Tempest 2 - 

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I chose my tent after many hours of researching the conditions that I would be faced with where I was headed. I looked up weather reports from years past, lurked on forums, and called the people I was planning on working with for their local knowledge. Only then did I begin searching for tents that would meet those needs. Because I was trying to work within a budget, I figured that I would look for an older model of tent that had great reviews from people who actually used it as I would be. This is harder than it sounds, and took me three or four days of on and off searching to come to a decision. I am extremely happy with the tent that I chose - the Kelty Tempest 2. It's easy to put up and take down, stable, and handled everything I threw at it without so much as a scratch. It kept myself and my backpack dry, helped keep me warm when it was cold, and provided a much-needed haven from the mosquitoes. The tent stakes provided with the tent were perfectly serviceable. I would however suggest getting some spares just in case. I purchased these from Kelty, but anything similar should do nicely.

The vented design kept condensation on the interior on cold nights from being as much of a problem as it is with non-vented tents. The 'bathtub' style floor kept all water out even without the addition of a ground cloth or tarp underneath. It was really nice to be able to bring in all my stuff (except boots) out of the frost and rain. As for the boots, they slept out under the vestibule, which for those who don't know is like a built-in awning created by your rain fly. This is a great feature because it allows you to keep your muddy boots from getting rained on, yet keep them outside the tent.

The model I got, the Tempest 2, is great as a one man tent, or two people willing to get cozy. It's an older model, like I mentioned, so it might be harder to find that exact one. If you're looking for something for two to three people, or yourself and your trusty adventure dog, then the Kelty Tempest 4  tent is probably more your speed.

I hope that this review helped you out with your tent choice - if nothing else, you know the struggle to find the perfect tent for that awesome trip is very real. If you have other tents to recommend or anything else you'd like to share, please, leave a comment below.

The next day dawned without any frost glazing my tent, which surprised me considering how high up I was. I climbed up on a rocky overlook searching for any signs of the fabled golden trout - not so much as a dimple. Ah well. Since the trout didn't want to play, I put away my fly rod and broke camp, chowing on some trail mix for breakfast.

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I had slept well in my Kelty Dualist 22 sleeping bag, although as the temperatures dropped during the night I was glad that I had both a warm sleeping bag liner and a knit cap. I'll take time and detail my whole gear list in a later article, to let you know what worked and what didn't.

Backpack cinched in place, rod tube firmly strapped and game face grim, I headed up the talus slope on course to break over the top of the promontory and get a view of my destination from on high. I think it was here that I first heard the signature calls of the high altitude rodents known as pica. Their warning calls often preceded ahead of me, and then popped up again behind me as I wound my way through the treeless areas of my hike. It was the first time I had ever actually seen them in real life, which I considered quite the treat. I tried to take pictures, but not only are those critters wary and fast, they're perfectly colored to blend in with their rocky surroundings. So, thanks to Google, I give you a pica. Cute, huh.

I bet that would make some lovely dubbing.
I bet that would make some lovely dubbing.

So anyway, there I was, scrambling up the slope, occasionally trying to fall, and generally loving life. Making it to the top of the outcrop, I was treated to a unobstructed view of my goal.

Thar she blows!
Thar she blows!

I sat for a while, ate some more trail mix, and considered life. I decided if I didn't catch a trout that day, I would try to make it to another one of the nearby lakes and see if fortune favored me more there.

As I moved around the edge of the lake, I walked through an area that seemed to have remained aloof from the human disturbances down by the water's edge. It was pine trees and trickling rivulets, thick moss and the smell of growing things. The sound of running water followed me everywhere, a soft counterpoint to the wind shushing through the pines. As I rounded a blind turn at the base of a huge boulder, it occurred to me that I probably wasn't being loud enough. This was griz country after all. Ah, what the heck. I wanted to see if I could sneak up on some of the elk that left the tracks I was following, and besides, the wind was blowing from my back. Any bear worth his salt would smell me long before I got anywhere near them... right? Maybe.

As I moved through the trees, boggy patches of soil sprouted beautiful flowers of different shapes and sizes. This one was my favorite - the Colorado Columbine.

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I also stumbled across this - I was thrilled, in a totally unashamed, nerd-out kind of way. Because I had stumped across...

 

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A slime mold! They're so cool. Seriously. Check them out - they're essentially aliens. Wikipedia link for slime molds. I had never found one in the wild.

And since this is apparently 'geek out about all the cool stuff I found' time, I also happened to come around the corner and see this beautiful scene.

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So, the water coming down at this spot was roaring, and I was walking slowly towards the log but still a few yards off to the side. Poof! Out of nowhere, a Boone and Crocket sized pine marten springs up on the log and lopes across with that funny-looking run that all cousins of the weasel seem to have. I had never expected to get to see one in the wild - it was a great moment. He never saw me, or ever figured out that I was there.

I wanted to finish this series today, but 5:30 comes early. Tomorrow, I finish this.

As I pushed onward and upward, the obvious choice seemed to be to closely follow the creek as it wended down through a narrow slot that water had carved over the millennium.

Picking my way through even more deadfall, I finally gained my first glimpse of the lake. Victory!

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I eagerly began moving along the shoreline, looking for good places to scan the lake for trout activity. However, I was immediately confronted by a freshly vacated campsite. I checked the ash in the fire ring - still warm. Someone had just left the area, probably this morning. And there, sitting on top of the ashes at the edge of the ring, was a Jolly Rancher candy wrapper. I picked it up, feeling thoroughly annoyed.

Trying to keep my spirits up, I headed on around the lake, searching for my own spot to set up camp that would be far enough - 200 feet or more - from the water, as per the wilderness area guidelines. As I walked, I noticed first one additional campsite, then another, then another. They were in varying degrees of freshness. What was this, Yellowstone?!

I was practically stomping along by this point as I rounded the lake and came smack up against a large vertical thrust of rock. My fatigue was really starting to catch up with me, and I made the decision that I wasn't going to climb the scree up and over the prominence. It would've been too easy to take a misstep and get hurt.

I found a flat area at the base of the scree in a clump of pines that - no surprise, at this point - had another old camp site in evidence. I set up my Kelty Tempest 2, a great little tent, and prepared my air mattress and sleeping bag. I gotta tell you, reader, that at this point I was in a serious funk. Melancholy was the mood as I halfheartedly fly fished for a bit (no trout anywhere to be seen or felt), and snapped a picture of the beautiful sunset over the lake.

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Tomorrow I would climb the scree slope, top the promontory, and go to the head of the lake where the creek fed in. There had to be fish there. In the meantime, I was exhausted, in a bad mood, and ready to give up on my day. I clicked on my headlamp for a bit of journaling, plugged my phone into my external battery, and I slept.

 

 

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