"Wow," one of the other campers said, as I pulled my sleeping bag out of its stuff sack. "What happened to that thing?"
The fact is that there was no reason, other than sentimental value, to make me hang on to that old sleeping bag. It had been repaired with a mix of dental floss, used as thread, and duct tape.
It was fitting that I should tell the stories about the sleeping bag damage around the group's campfire, since both incidents occurred at night.
The duct tape patched holes that were created by direct contact with hot coals, an event caused by a chipmunk. I'd been leaning against the back wall of an Appalachian Trail shelter, reading by candlelight, with a cheery fire burning.
I had my sleeping bag pulled up under my arms and a fat, white candle rested on a 2-by-4 just above my head. But a chipmunk, interested in the bag of food hanging from the shelter rafters, kept running along the 2-by-4 and every time he jumped the candle, it went out.
After this happened a few times, I got my hiking stick handy. If I could time it right, I could give the chipmunk a scare, and maybe even a good smack.
But I didn't time it right. I missed the chipmunk, but he jumped. He landed running into the top of my sleeping bag and kept going, towards my feet. I shot out of the shelter, tripping and rolling, and tumbling through the fire and luckily into the snow.
Dental Floor Repair
I performed the dental floss repair after an incident in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Up until then, even though the summer nights were hot, I'd slept in my tent because of the following warning I'd read before the hike:
"Large-bodied snakes have been known to crawl into sleeping bags with people during the night, when they seek warmth."
I'd read that and it etched into my brain. I didn't care how hot it was, I was sleeping in a zipped-up tent!
But in Shenandoah National Park, my friends Larry and Scott and I arrived as a designated camping area to find that all the shelter and tent spots were taken by a large group of scouts. There was only enough room to roll out sleeping pads and bags in one small spot.
I tied my two dogs to me with parachute cord, so I'd have control of them in case a raccoon or skunk visited the campsite, which often happened in the big national parks. Soon after dark, everyone settled in for the night. I cinched my mummy bag tight under my chin.
And then, of course, during the night I woke up to find that my biggest fear had come true. A large-bodied snake had somehow gotten inside my sleeping bag, and was lying on top of me. I started yelling to Larry and Scott, and got the snake by the neck.
I tried to pull the snake out of the bag and also keep it from touching me. The dogs had been woken and were barking at the suddenness of their wake-up call, and since they were tied to me and pulling, cinched the whole mess up tighter.
In confusion, I found myself traveling downhill, rolling some, and being towed by the dogs. The scouts and their leaders were shouting at one another, and Larry and Scott were trying to find me in their flashlight beams.
Finally, I lodged up against a big tree, at last pulling the snake out of the bag. At the same time, Larry and Scott got me in their flashlight beams, and I looked down to catch a glimpse of the snake before I flung it out into the woods.
But I only had a hold of my own wrist. It hadn't been a snake at all; it was that my arm had fallen asleep.
It's a sorry-looking sleeping bag. It's lost a lot of stuffing, but it's full of memories -- and great for a couple stories around a campfire.
For a fine assortment of Sleeping Bags, including those designed for cold weather, click here.