May 22, 2017 – Camping Issues-The Tent

I have been having a lot of discussions about camping lately all ahead of another possible change in lifestyle. The only constant in life is the fact that change will happen, sooner or later, even if we are not prepared for it. So seeing we plan on moving on again in the near future, its time to start the process that gets us back on the road. Parting with things that just will not fit in the back of our little Chevy S-10, planning on how to pack up what will go with us, and looking ahead to the things we might need to replace or acquire.

We started with replacing our current camping tent. So here are some of the thoughts that happened:
1. Coleman Instant Cabin Tents (which is what we had to replace)do not have ports for electrical cords. Running a cord through a zipper leaves an opening for snakes, spider, and scorpions.
2. The zipper on the “D” style doors of most tents do not hold up very long at all. No more “D” style doors for us because when that zipper fails, you no longer have a secure or private structure to retreat to. There is something about a curved zipper that seems to shorten its life.
3. Too many tent makers do not consider that the sun will warm up the interior to a temperature that can be deadly. When night time temperatures remain in the 90 degree range, any tent without adequate ventilation becomes a toaster oven. Off grid trips also complicate this by not having the ability to run a fan. At the same time, most tents are designed too cheaply to hold any kind of heat when the night time temperatures drop into the 30’s and 40’s.
4. The so called “Bath-tub” bottoms are cheaply made and wear out far too quickly if you spend any amount of time inside the tent. Tiny rocks, twigs, and any surface that is not completely flat and smooth will result in small holes in the flooring which opens up a way for bugs to enter. Sure, you can buy an area rug but who has the space to tote that around with them long term?
5. Height is always a problem in tents. At 6’1″ my husband needs to be able to stand up occasionally. Most tent manufacturers think 5’7″ is adequate. Many more are far smaller. We are okay with a 10′ x 10′ footprint but why should we have to stoop all of the time? That may be great for kids, but how many kids actually go tent camping all by themselves. And stop claiming you can fit 6 people in these tents when we all know that means you can fit two adults and maybe one child or dog. We live in this and do not walk through the door to drop into a bed because there is no room to walk or even change clothing with any form of comfort. Covering the floor with mummy bagged people means you can uncomfortably put 6 very small and underweight people inside one tent if you have room to put ALL of the rest of your camping supplies into a vehicle or a second tent.
6. To answer the height problem, we started buying cabin tents. The side walls are fairly straight and most of them are just over 6 foot high at least in the very middle. This style is right, however the design of the set up leaves a lot to be desired. With plastic hubs at the top of the Instant Cabin Tents, breakage happens. Pinched fingers are common, and the pressure needed to make the legs click into place to extend the tent upwards makes it a trial for the less than fully fit person. Its a struggle to set them up or tear then down in any kind of wind unless two to four people are assisting you. Odds are, its only going to be one or two people setting this monster up and there are four or more legs. The design is definitely flawed.
7. Weather proof? Really? I have yet to see one tent that will totally stop the rain from oozing in after the third set-up. The first few times are okay if they are for very short periods of time without exposure to real weather. We however set up a tent and expect it to last at least a year. Unfortunately, we are discovering that they tend to only last for about 6 months from set up to trash bin. When your living on a fixed income and a tent is your alternative housing arrangement, its hard to plan to drop half a months worth of income on a new tent every six months. Sure you can spray everything down with a silicone product to reduce leakage but even that can be short lived when your tent is set up in a region that has 100 degree days. The sun cooks it until it dies. So once a month we were budgeting $12.00 for two cans of spray, waiting for a low wind day, and saturating the entire tent down again. Which by the way means we had to sleep in the stink that those sprays create.

We ended up buying a Bushnell Instant Cabin Tent for the next leg on our journey. They have come up with some nice features that we are hoping will make the experience a little more enjoyable. They have developed a rain fly that has a reflective barrier that they claim keeps the interior cooler. This new tent also has an air conditioner port as well as an electrical cord port. Would be nice to try out that feature however we do not have room to tote an air conditioner with us and we are not always in places that have electricity. The rain fly also extends beyond the straight zippered door (remember, no more “D” doors for us) which allows you to step outside the tent without being exposed to the weather beyond. It also has some outside netted storage pockets on the front of the tent (protected by the rain fly). While that will free up some space inside, I cant see it as very practical when everyone and every critter can have free range with your personal property. Time will tell if they get used or not. Because it is a cabin tent, the height is good. The new size dimension of 11′ x 9′ will be interesting to see if it actually feels like its any bigger than the traditional 10′ x 10′. We set it up for a brief trial run and had a heck of a time getting it back into the skin tight bag they provide but that seems normal too of most manufacturers. They forget they have machines to put those tents into those bags prior to shipping. Out in the field, all you have is common sense and your own two hands.

As our daughter says, “Common sense is not common anymore”. I believe even as young as she is (25)that she is on to some old school ways of thinking. Makes me think we did something right with her. How I would love to set down with some of these tent manufacturers that never seem to field test their products before thrusting them unto unsuspecting families and explain what is truly important for long term camping in various regions of the country. What we need is a company that customs makes tents to individuals needs. Of course that would be expensive I’m sure. But one can dream, right?

So many more topics to cover, so little time. Air mattresses, water storage and shower bag needs, food storage, clothing needs and limited space…and the list goes on and on. Until next time, happy traveling and camping.

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