I didn’t do any actual hiking with all my new gear before I started the trail, but I did make sure I tried everything out at least once, and I spent a few nights camping in my parents’ back yard.
I wouldn’t really say it went all that well.
It took me almost twenty minutes to set up my tent the first time. I guess that’s not terrible, and surely someone has taken longer, but we’re not talking about a complicated piece of equipment here. There is one pole. There are two stakes. All the Youtube videos show people throwing that thing up in under a minute. Consequently, I did not feel the warm sense of pride I hoped to feel once I finished, although that might possibly be due to the fact that my mother and father spent those twenty minutes standing in the window of their family room, waving at me and ignoring the increasingly rude gestures I kept making as I tried to get them to go away.
But I got the stupid thing up, and eventually my parents got tired of taunting me, so I moved on to Stage 2: Putting Things Inside.
First up, my sleeping pad. I blew it up. I carefully placed it in the center of the bathtub floor. I crawled inside to lie down. DENIED. The mattress immediately slid to far left edge of the tent. I repositioned it. Sadly, that did not help.
Fun fact #1: Turns out silicone-coated nylon, or silnylon, is really slippery. Like, really fucking slippery, even if you put dots or lines of silicone sealer all over it. I ended up cutting a torso-length section of Slip-Stop shelf liner to put under the pad, which added two more ounces to my base weight, but at least allowed me to turn over without sending the pad shooting out from under me.
Then I unrolled the sleeping bag, crawled inside, zipped it up and tried to get comfortable.
Fun fact #2: If you are a restless side sleeper trying to stay balanced on a ThermaRest NeoAir inside a silnylon tent while zipped into a mummy bag with zero pad attachment points, it is not going to work. You are going to fall off the pad.
So, fine, I decided I would just use my sleeping bag as a quilt. Why not?! Sure, it would have made more sense to spend a little more money for an actual quilt, but unfortunately I didn’t realize I was definitely a quilt person until I’d already cut all the tags off my brand new bag.
Here is a tip: Do not cut all the tags off your brand new gear until you are sure you really really really really like it. I do not care how much you enjoy cutting off tags; you will regret it later.
So yeah. That was two hours of my life, from start to finish, that I am never ever getting back. I found the entire experience very demoralizing and didn’t bother trying to sleep in the tent until four nights later.