Have you decided to buy a tent and do some camping, maybe save some money on accommodation costs on your fishing trips? Here are a few things to consider.
If you go to the local sporting goods store or discount retailer, tent options abound. Remember size is important. Fortunately tent manufacturers have made the size issue easier than it used to be. Now it states in writing how many persons the tent was designed to sleep right on the outside of the tent box or bag. You can purchase a tent, take it camping and find out these numbers are total garbage. Tent manufacturers must test their products for size by sending grade school kids on a backyard camping trip. There are two problems this creates. The first is that grade school kids are not very big! Second, grade schoolers on a backyard camping adventure remain active until they absolutely can no longer keep their eyes open. Then they fall asleep in whatever position they happen to be in. The result is a large sleeping pile, somewhat like sheep on a cold night. So unless you’re as friendly with your camping companions as grade schoolers at a sleepover, take the sleeping capacity on the tent and cut it in half. That will give you a fair result.
Once you get your tent out of the bag it came in set the bag aside. You might need it to put hiking boots in for your next trip or store extra fire starting supplies, but you will never get your tent back in it. Once a tent is unpacked for the first time it gains more than 25% in volume. It cannot be rolled back into the bag.
Packaging engineers (yes there is such a profession) take great pride designing packaging for tents. In fact, I think it must be the final barrier to becoming a fully fledged packaging engineer. You design a bag that a tent can be packed into only once. After the engineers are certified they sit around drinking coffee, bragging about their designs, laughing sadistically at the thought of the end user actually trying to return their tent to the original bag.
There are a wide range of tent designs. Of course camping veterans are well aware that the pinnacle of tent designed was achieved more than a generation ago with the advent of the dome. Nothing has really been produced since with as much functionality, but that doesn’t keep the tent manufacturers from coming out with new designs every year. However, most are just variations of the dome.
As I child I spent much of my camping trips sleeping in one such tent, the pop up from King Seeley Thermos. It could easily be set up in less than five minutes. It slept two people and kept rain out. Of course, manufacturing of it ceased long ago. Most campers find it much more appealing to wrestle with a tent, rather than set up quickly and move on to other important camp activities, like eating s’mores.
After buying a tent you should set it up in the yard before actually taking it on a camping trip. This will allow you to learn the idiosyncrasies of your own tent, and make sure everything is in working order before taking it to a campsite. No one ever does this. The only one who would have time for such activity would have to be retired. In that case, they don’t need a tent, they already live in an RV and spend their days travelling from “campground” to “campground” with their spouse and an annoying little dog. The only reason they own a tent is to keep the grandkids out of the RV when they insist on traveling with them. Grandkids are easily duped into thinking that it is much more fun to sleep outside the RV, in a tent on the hard ground, with the bears and such.
No, the proper time to set up a tent for the first time is after dark in a crowded campground with rain threatening, while being bitten by a horde of mosquitoes. Your wife should be positioned close by, dutifully holding a lantern and making suggestions as to what parts are what and how the process could be speeded up if you would do it right.
You need to make sure to pound the stakes in hard, so as to make as much noise as possible. This is especially true if you are using metal stakes. No trip to a campground is complete without the sound of someone nearby frantically pounding stakes under the threat of pending darkness, rain or both. An alternative to this is to just yell loudly, “I am a self centered imbecile who should have been here an hour ago to set up my tent when it would have been less disturbing.” Thereby confirming what everyone in the campground has already said. It will accomplish the same purpose as stake driving in the minds of your neighbors, but it will do little keep your tent up.
When you get done you can start to sit back to take in your work and realize you still have to assemble the rain fly. These used to be basically an extra layer of tent material strung over the top of the tent, but that was much too simple. Designers figured out they could cause much additional consternation by building rain flies that had to have rods inserted. Not that it made much difference in keeping out rain, but again modern tents are not supposed to be simple. So you assemble the rain fly and stretch it over the tent, but wait – something is askew. The rain fly doesn’t quite fit right. It’s because you borrowed a tent from a buddy. Not a bad idea before investing in your own tent, but you conclude that the rain fly you borrowed is not the rain fly to tent you borrowed. Another reason to set up even a borrowed tent in advance, but again no one would ever do that. Once the rain fly is on you get to drive in some more stakes to hold it in place.
There you are, tent assembled. Rain will stay out, but not moisture from the ground. See you should have put down a ground cover before assembling the tent. Of course no one would know this unless they were told by a veteran camper or maybe read the instructions. However, no ground cover comes with the tent. Tent makers long ago knew to try to keep water out of the top of the tent, but often paid no attention to water from the bottom of the tent. So make a note before you leave on your next trip to go buy the discount store and buy $10 tarp to go under the tent. Of course you could just buy a $10 tarp in the first place and forgo the tent, with similar results.
There you have it, about everything you need to know to start tent camping. Take-heart, you will soon be spending the night in your assembled tent, wide awake in your soggy sleeping bag wondering how much one of those RV’s costs.