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Tent Buying Guide (long, print it out)



 
 
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  #1  
Old August 3rd 05, 04:39 PM
john smith
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Tent Buying Guide (long, print it out)

As various readers are posting and/or lurking on this topic, I am
posting advice ripped directly from the REI website (www.rei.com). This
is the fastest way for me to get information out to you and is one of
the sources I will use for a future posting. As I posted earlier, this
Fall and Winter will afford you opportunities to purchase an excellent
tent for future AirVentures at great savings by watching for sales from
the various camping outfitter websites or your local camping store.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

Tent designs (and prices) can vary greatly from model to model. The
following guidelines will help you select a tent that best suits your
needs.

Step 1: Consider the Basics
Ideally, the tent you choose will be:
• lightweight
• strong, durable and made with quality components
• the right size for your long-term plans
• suitable for the toughest weather conditions you might encounter

Step 2: Compare Three- and Four-Season Tents
Backpacking (three-season) tents work well in moderate conditions during
spring, summer and fall. Their designs involve fewer poles than
four-season tents, which makes them lighter, but they don't shed snow as
effectively as four-season tents.
Mountaineering (four-season) tents are good year-round. Extra poles
increase their snow-load capacity and stability in harsh weather but
also make them heavier.

Step 3: Select the Appropriate Capacity
As a rule, the per-person capacity ratings manufacturers supply are a
little exaggerated. Most two-person tents are a bit snug for two people.
If one of the two people likes to spread out at night, consider a
2-to-3-person tent or a 3-person model.

Step 4: Other Considerations
• Many tents offer a vestibule. This is an extension of the rainfly that
shields an area outside your tent's main door. It's a great place to
leave your boots overnight.
• You can protect the floor of your tent by setting it up on a tarp or a
custom-cut footprint. This buffers your tent's floor from abrasion and
gives you a clean platform for packing the tent away without dragging
half the forest floor back home with you.
• Aluminum poles are lighter and more durable than fiberglass poles.
• Costlier tents usually offer better ventilation (more vents, larger
mesh panels), which helps reduce condensation inside a tent.
Higher-priced tents may also offer features like a second door or a gear
loft for stashing personal items.
How to Choose a Tent

Wind. Rain. Cold. Bugs. Dust. Creepy crawlers. If someone asks you why
you feel the need to carry a tent into the backcountry, those are 6 good
reasons.
Tents also provide a place of privacy in the middle of wide open spaces,
plus an intangible feeling of security once you're zipped inside for the
night. It's impressive how much comfort and reassurance we humans find
between a few well-stitched panels of nylon. Which model is right for
you? Here are some guidelines:
1. Pick a tent equipped to withstand the harshest conditions you
might encounter. Example: If you're a three-season backpacker who hikes
late into the fall, you might want a four-season tent or a convertible
model.
2. Four-season tents are roughly 10 to 20 percent heavier than
three-season models (typically due to extra poles). Convertible tents
allow you to add or omit poles and adjust ventilation as conditions dictate.
3. Freestanding tents (those that can stand without the aid of
stakes) are very handy. You can move them easily or lift them to shake
out debris. Very lightweight tents are rarely freestanding.
4. Capacity ratings, assigned by individual manufacturers, sometimes
tend to be optimistic. A two-person tent may be a tight squeeze for two
large adults and their gear.
5. Use a tarp, ground cloth or footprint to extend the life of a
tent's floor.
6. Want immediate tent recommendations based on your needs? Use our
handy Tent Finder.

Types of Tents
Backpacking tents fall into two general categories: three-season
(general backpacking) and four-season (winter/mountaineering) models.
Here's a look at how tents differ:
Lightweight three-season tents are intended for spring, summer and fall
usage in temperate climates. They perform well in wind and rain, though
their designs are not suited to handle significant snow loads. A
three-season model won't collapse if two inches of snow fall on it, but
20 inches could be a problem.
Super-sturdy four-season tents usually integrate one or two additional
poles into their designs to fortify walls and help them stand firm
against severe wind or heavy snow loads. Winter tents feature some type
of rounded dome design, thus eliminating flat spaces on a tent's rainfly
where snow can accumulate. Of course, these winter/mountaineering tents
work just fine during mild conditions. Their extra poles will make them
a touch heavier than their three-season cousins.

Convertible tents are four-season models that can be converted into
three-season tents. This usually involves shedding one or two poles from
the tent's four-season design. Models may also offer zippered panels
that can be opened during milder conditions or feature a detachable
vestibule.
Warm-weather tents are lightweight shelters, usually designed for one or
two people, that feature large mesh walls for superb ventilation. They
can be used in three-season settings, but their special appeal is their
usefulness in warmer, humid climates.
Single-wall tents are designed with the minimalist in mind. Essentially,
they are rainflies equipped with a few vents you can zip open during
warmer conditions.

Bivy sacks are minimalist solo shelters that offer little space for
anything but you and your sleeping bag.(If you're a climber and plan to
spend nights on steep rock faces where tents would be impractical, a
bivy is definitely the way to go.) If saving weight is your chief
priority, a bivy is worth considering. If you like room to move inside
your shelter, look elsewhere. Is a bivy right for you?

Sleep screens and tarp tents are ultralight shelter options. Sleep
screens, including screen houses, are useful in warm conditions and
offer mesh coverings, some fully enclosed, some not, to keep occupants
shielded from bugs, but not rain. Tarp tents offer minimalist shelter,
at a minimal weight, for three-season usage.

Family (or basecamping) tents and shelters can accommodate large groups
(between four and six usually, sometimes more). Dome-style models can be
transported into the backcountry, as long as group members are willing
to carry a share of the load; house-like models are intended for
campgrounds and basecamps.

A Few Terms Explained
• Dome Tents: Most four-season tents involve some form of rounded,
geodesic-dome design. Domes avoid flat spots and shed snow more easily.
They stand strong in the wind and provide generous interior headroom.
• Tunnel Tents: Many three-season models use this narrow, linear design,
typically involving a rectangular floor plan. Also called hoop tents,
these models use fewer poles, less fabric and often have wedge-like
shapes. Their rainflies, which lie flatter, can collect snow. A heavy
snow load could flatten them.
• Freestanding Tents: Domes are freestanding, meaning they do not
require stakes in order to stand up. You can pick up a freestanding tent
(it's like a huge beach ball) and move it to a different location. You
can also easily shake it out before you disassemble and pack it.

Which Type is Right for You?
Questions worth asking:
Q: What times of year will you use your tent?
• Winter campers need a four-season tent, period. If you have an Arctic
expedition in mind, consult with people who have already made such trips
and get their advice.
• If you're a three-season hiker who heads out in March or tries to
squeeze in late trips in October and November, give yourself an extra
buffer of security—get a four-season tent or at least a convertible.
• If you're a recreational traveler and do the bulk of your camping
between May and September, choose a three-season model.

Q: How many people usually travel with you?
• Do you consistently travel with a partner? You need at least a
two-person tent. Are the two of you large people? You might need to bump
up to a 2-to-3-person model or even a three-person tent.
• Does your group size vary? You'll probably need more than one tent to
fulfill your needs. If your budget is tight, buy the size that fits most
of your trips; when your group size changes, rent a tent.
• If you're sharing a tent at the end of the day, share the load as you
hike. Someone can carry the poles, another person the rainfly, and so on.
• Do you travel solo? If you demand lots of space, look for a compact
two-person model. If you count every ounce, select either a bivy or a
very light one-person tent.

Q: Won't a cheap tent from a discount store work just as well as a
brand-name model?
• Department-store tents are typically mass-produced items that supply
less attention to details. Example: Examine the stitches of a quality
tent. You'll find a greater number of stitches per inch in that tent
than you'll find in the discount tent, and you'll often find seam
sealing. This means a stronger tent is at work for you when the weather
turns nasty. Quality tents use high-grade aluminum poles. Bargain tents
often rely on fiberglass poles, which are less shatter-resistant.
Top-brand tents often give you more ventilation options as well.
• Inexpensive tents use large panels of coated nylon on their canopy
(side walls). That material is not breathable, so if it's a balmy night,
you might swelter inside.

Understanding Tent Specifications
When surveying REI's online selection of tents, you'll find a general
description and a list of specifications that accompany each model.
These "specs" look technical, but the information is really quite helpful.

Tent Capacity
Manufacturers classify their tents according to sleeping capacity: solo
tents, two-person tents, three-person tents and so on. You'll also find
references to items such as 1-to-2-person tents or a 2-to-3-person model.

Getting a Good Fit
How do you know if a tent is a good fit—physically—for you?
Here's one technique—not perfect, but certainly useful—to help you
envision how you might fit into a tent: Measure your backcountry
sleeping pad and use its dimensions as a general guide when you consider
a tent's measurements.
• Example: The popular Therm-a-Rest standard model from Cascade Designs
is 72" long and 20" wide. Width is the crucial measurement. To fit two
people inside a tent, you will thus need at least 40 inches of width to
feel even marginally comfortable—if you don't mind sleeping close. If
you need a few inches of separation, then add a couple of inches to your
measurement. If you thrash around a lot at night, you might need to add
several inches.
Compare your numbers with the floor dimensions provided with each tent.
That gives you some idea of how snug, or spacious, a tent might feel.
Floor dimensions, of course, indicate only the maximum width a tent
offers, typically the spot where your shoulders lie. Tents often taper
in the foot sections, and walls angle in toward the ceiling. All of this
impacts the amount of space found inside a tent's walls. Roomy tents are
nice, but tend to weigh more.
Tip:—Looking at two-person tents? Consider one that could adapt well to
some of your other travel plans. Maybe you're anticipating future solo
hikes, or a long-distance bike trip. If so, a 1-to-2-person model might
be a good choice. If you're a couple and you sometimes invite along a
friend or relative, consider a 2-to-3-person, or even a three-person
model. You'll like the flexibility, plus the extra bit of space, these
models give you.

Additional Considerations
Do you camp often in rainy climates? Take a look at roomier tents, and
consider adding a gear loft. That's basically a piece of interior
netting that stretches out, hammock-like, near the ceiling of your tent.
Overnight you can dangle damp items from a loft and hasten their drying
process.
A tarp, ground cloth or footprint can help protect the floor of a tent
and extend its life. Plus, it gives you a clean place to fold your tent
in the morning.

Does Everybody Need a Tent?
Some hardy souls will argue that a tent is a burdensome luxury.
Ultralight advocates point out that a tarp, a little cord and some
ingenuity are all people need to create sufficient shelter in the
wilderness.
In many situations, that's a valid point. But then an unexpected
overnight weather front blows through, or skeeters arrive by the
thousands, or you're not really sure if a nearby ant hill is inactive
after all. A night or two like this is usually all it takes to convince
most recreational hikers that the full enclosure a backpacking tent
provides is worth a little extra bulk and weight in their packs.
Chosen wisely, a tent will add only a modest amount of weight to your
load. In return, it will give you the confidence to know you are
equipped to take shelter from just about any rude surprise nature may
dish out during your trip.

Quick Review
• Tents serve both a physical and psychological function; they protect
you from the elements and surround you with a sense of security.
• Anticipate what awaits you in the backcountry—the weather, number of
people in your party—and seek out a tent equipped to accommodate your
most demanding ambitions.
• General backpacking (three-season) tents are excellent, lightweight
performers; winter/mountaineering (four-season) tents are good
year-round and give you extra stability during harsh conditions.

Range of Tent Sizes

Mountaineering/Backpacking

Solo (1-person) tents: Personal, lightweight shelters for the rugged
individualist—and not another soul. You'll find no fudge factor for
extra space in this minimalist category, which includes bivy sacks.

1-plus or 1-to-2-person tents: These are shelters with enough space to
provide a spacious shelter (at a reasonable weight) for a solo hiker and
a snug fit for 2 people.

2-person tents: The most popular size in backpacking tents, with
plentiful choices. Designs can vary widely, so seek out one that offers
a combination of features that appeal to you.

2-to-3-person tents: These are 2-person tents cut wider and often taller
to provide extra elbow room for its inhabitants. In a pinch, you could
squeeze in a third person; it's unlikely, though, you would want to do
so on a regular basis. These models can make good choices for parents
with a small child.

3-person tents: If your trail party is consistently a threesome, these
models are custom-fitted for your needs. Or, if you have a 2-person
party and you simply prefer loads of room inside a tent and don't mind
carrying a little extra weight, these models offer a luxurious amount of
space.

4-person tents: Compact, low-profile group backpacking tents designed to
be split up and carried by all members of the party. They typically
weigh between 13 and 16 pounds. These also make good car-camping tents
for those who want to avoid the bulk of a traditional cabin tent and
don't mind a tent where you can't stand up.

Family (or basecamping) tents: A few models can be transported in the
wilderness by several people who share the load. Standard family tents,
meanwhile, use inch-thick poles and heavy-duty materials that are great
for drive-in campgrounds.

Tent Specifications Explained

Suggested use: Descriptions include "general backpacking" (good for
spring, summer and fall usage in temperate climates) and
"Winter/mountaineering" (good for harsher weather conditions; designed
to shed snow loads). Basically, winter/mountaineering tents are good any
time of year—which is why they're also called "four-season tent's—yet
are capable of withstanding severe weather conditions, even for
prolonged periods. General backpacking tents, or three-season tents, are
intended for non-winter use in weather that can be nasty but rarely
extreme.

Average minimum weight: The total weight of the body, rainfly and poles
only—the bare essentials. It is the weight you should use for
comparative purposes when buying a tent.

Average packaged weight: The total weight of all tent components: body,
rainfly, poles, stakes, stuff sack, pole sack, instruction book, and any
additional items a manufacturer may include.

Sleeping capacity: The number of adults that manufacturers estimate can
sleep comfortably inside their tents. Sometimes these numbers are a bit
generous.

Floor dimensions: A tent floor's maximum measurements, shown in inches.
The first number is length, the second is the crucial one—width. Thus a
measurement of 98" x 60" means a tent is 98 inches from head to foot and
60 inches wide at its widest point. Keep in mind that tents often have a
tapered design, so a tent with a 60" maximum width may actually be much
narrower in the foot area.

Peak height: The maximum interior height. This tells you how much room
you have to sit up inside a tent. Roughly 42" to 48" is typical.

Floor area: The square footage of a tent's interior.

Vestibule area: The square footage of the ground covered by a tent's
vestibule. (A vestibule is an extension of the rainfly that, when staked
out, shields a section of ground outside a tent's door. Protected from
rain, it's a good place to store your boots overnight.)

Packed size: The size of a folded and rolled tent when stored inside its
stuff sack. A reference to 7" x 24" means a tent's packed size is 7" in
diameter, 24" long.

Pole material: Two options are customarily available: aluminum
(preferred for its strength and durability) and fiberglass (less
expensive option). Easton aluminum poles are highly regarded. Both
aluminum and fiberglass tent poles are almost always hollow and are
usually linked by long elastic cords. These are known as "shock-corded"
poles. These are popular because they make pole assembly a quick
process. Some inexpensive tents sold in discount store use solid
fiberglass poles. Solid poles can easliy split or break when stressed.

Number of poles: More poles give tents added rigidity and stability.
Winter/mountaineering tents, designed to stand up to brutal weather,
typically have more poles (at least three) than general backpacking
tents. Extra poles, of course, mean extra weight.

Rainfly fabric: Typically this is coated (waterproof) nylon taffeta, a
heavier, more abrasion-resistant fabric than used for the canopy.

Canopy fabric: Most often this is ripstop nylon, a lightweight fabric
where every quarter-inch or so the nylon weave is reinforced, creating a
tiny checkerboard appearance.

Floor fabric: Again, this is most often coated (waterproof) nylon
taffeta—a heavier fabric designed to withstand abrasion.

Doors: The number of doors a particular model offers. An extra door
gives people an optional entry/exit point—a nice feature if your
companion is snoozing and you want to step outside. Single-door tents
usually have doors placed at the head of a tent. A side entrance on a
single-door tent may be awkward if one person wants to leave without
disturbing the other. Tents with more than one door are usually more
expensive.

External guy points: The number of guy points (or lash points) on a
tent's rainfly. You use guy points, guy lines and stakes to establish
tautness in your rainfly during bad weather. Doing so helps your rainfly
shed water effectively and prevents it from sagging and touching the
uncoated tent canopy. (If the two touch, moisture could get inside the
tent.) Guy points are reinforced loops of webbing stitched into the edge
of a rainfly.

Guy lines included: Indicates whether or not the manufacturs includes
guy line with the tent.
• Using guy lines and guy points: Procedu 1) Attach guy lines to guy
points; 2) pull the rainfly taut by stretching it out and away from the
main tent body; 3) tie the lines to stakes and drive them into the
ground, maintaining tension on the rainfly and the lines. Rainflies
usually include at least two guy points, sometimes more. Do not stretch
a rainfly too tightly; it could weaken stitch points or distort the
weave of the nylon.

Pole diameter: In backpacking tents, a common diameter is 0.34 inches.

Seam sealer included? Some manufacturers include a bottle or tube of
seam sealer, which you apply to your tent's rain-exposed seams at
home—before you use it in the field.
• Why must seams be sealed? Wherever panels of fabric have been stitched
together, the sewing process generates thousands of tiny needleholes. In
areas exposed to moisture—the rainfly, the tent's floor—water could work
its way inside your tent through these holes. You might think: "Oh, come
on; those holes are too tiny to matter." Trust us—anyone who has spent a
rainy night in a tent with unsealed seams knows how much water can find
its way inside via those little holes. To prevent this, you must "seal
the seams"—plug the holes—with a product that resembles liquid cement.
It is, we admit, a laborious exercise. Happily, more and more
manufacturers are offering "factory-sealed seams"—usually a strip of
tape stretched over seams and heat-bonded to the fabric. It's an
attractive, time-saving bonus worth a few extra bucks if a manufacturer
offers it.
Tip: REI offers an online chart that shows a side-by-side comparison of
tent specifications. Search out "Tents," then choose your preferred
style—"General Backpacking" or "Winter/Mountaineering." After clicking
on a style, your next screen will include four buttons on the left side
of the screen. One reads "Spec Charts." Click on that for a list of tent
specifications. You can customize the chart according to individual
specs (price, weight, sleeping capacity, et al.).

Additional Considerations

Weight: As a general rule, group backpacking tents should weigh
approximately four pounds or less per person. Some 1-person or 1-plus
tents exceed that guideline—understandable because a solo hiker will be
toting all tent components (stakes, poles, etc.) on his or her own.

Pole sleeves or clips? Poles hold the tent's canopy upright and give you
space to move around inside. Poles connect to the tent in one of two
ways—via sleeves or clips. Some tents have "continuous" pole sleeves,
meaning you don't have to thread poles through multiple sections of
smaller sleeves. It makes tent setup a little easier and speedier. Clips
are a breeze to use. They generally provide a larger gap between the
rainfly and canopy, which helps minimize condensation on the body of the
tent. Sleeves are considered more stable.
• Note: In damp or wet conditions, avoid letting your tent canopy touch
the rainfly. If it happens, count on moisture invading your tent space
at that point. Use guy lines to keep it taut.

Ventilation: On balmy or humid nights, you want your tent to encourage
air flow. If you frequently hike in warm-weather environments, consider
tents that offer plenty of mesh openings to take advantage of nights
when you don't need a rainfly.
• Note: Ventilation is one reason why you want to buy a quality
backpacking tent. Inexpensive department store tents offer very little,
if any, breathable fabric on their canopy walls. If you're inside such a
tent on a mild night, your body heat can turn it into a sauna and leave
you sweltering. These tents may also include lower-quality poles and
irregular, mass-production stitching. Their low prices are head-turners,
true, but their durability is suspect. These tents may be fine for
backyard campouts, but not for long-term trips into the backcountry.

Price: REI works to accommodate campers with budgets of all kinds.
Because REI was created to serve the needs of the professional
mountaineering community, part of our tradition involves offering the
public some of the highest-quality equipment available.
Expedition-quality tents, we acknowledge, sometimes carry a high price
tag. We also carry models such as the REI Camp Dome 2 that outperform
department-store tents and offer budget-minded explorers a quality
product at a fair price.

Pole sections: Length is a factor to some people. Shorter sections are
handy, making it possible to pack a rolled tent in a more compact spot
inside your pack. Long poles often must be carried vertically while
strapped to the outside of your pack.

Shape: The most popular shape in tents these days? Domes. Their
symmetric design, strength-to-weight ratio and relative ease of assembly
has endeared them to the camping and hiking masses. Weight-saving
designs, particularly wedges, have also remained popular.

Ground cloths: Many manufacturers are now creating "footprints" for
their tents—customized ground cloths tailored to fit specific tent
models. Footprints are sized slightly smaller than the tent's floor to
prevent pooling of water underneath you during rainy weather. Most come
with attachment points that connect them to the tent. Both footprints
and traditional ground cloths/tarps help shield a tent's floor from
abrasion and, in the morning, offer you a dirt-free place to roll up
your tent. It's smart to carry one.

Extras: Look for helpful nuances such as inside wall pockets (very nice
to have), gear lofts, factory-sealed seams and convenient vent windows.
Roomy vestibules are also nice.

Setup: Practice setting up a new tent before you take it into the
backcountry. If you need to seal the seams, you'll have to set it up
before your first trip.
Ads
  #2  
Old August 3rd 05, 05:23 PM
Tom McQuinn
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Looks like some good reading. One of the few people I talked to who
stayed dry during the Monday deluge at Oshkosh was in an REI tent in row
559.

Tom

john smith wrote:
As various readers are posting and/or lurking on this topic, I am
posting advice ripped directly from the REI website (www.rei.com). This
is the fastest way for me to get information out to you and is one of
the sources I will use for a future posting. As I posted earlier, this
Fall and Winter will afford you opportunities to purchase an excellent
tent for future AirVentures at great savings by watching for sales from
the various camping outfitter websites or your local camping store.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

Tent designs (and prices) can vary greatly from model to model. The
following guidelines will help you select a tent that best suits your
needs.

Step 1: Consider the Basics
Ideally, the tent you choose will be:
• lightweight
• strong, durable and made with quality components
• the right size for your long-term plans
• suitable for the toughest weather conditions you might encounter

Step 2: Compare Three- and Four-Season Tents
Backpacking (three-season) tents work well in moderate conditions during
spring, summer and fall. Their designs involve fewer poles than
four-season tents, which makes them lighter, but they don't shed snow as
effectively as four-season tents.
Mountaineering (four-season) tents are good year-round. Extra poles
increase their snow-load capacity and stability in harsh weather but
also make them heavier.

Step 3: Select the Appropriate Capacity
As a rule, the per-person capacity ratings manufacturers supply are a
little exaggerated. Most two-person tents are a bit snug for two people.
If one of the two people likes to spread out at night, consider a
2-to-3-person tent or a 3-person model.

Step 4: Other Considerations
• Many tents offer a vestibule. This is an extension of the rainfly that
shields an area outside your tent's main door. It's a great place to
leave your boots overnight.
• You can protect the floor of your tent by setting it up on a tarp or a
custom-cut footprint. This buffers your tent's floor from abrasion and
gives you a clean platform for packing the tent away without dragging
half the forest floor back home with you.
• Aluminum poles are lighter and more durable than fiberglass poles.
• Costlier tents usually offer better ventilation (more vents, larger
mesh panels), which helps reduce condensation inside a tent.
Higher-priced tents may also offer features like a second door or a gear
loft for stashing personal items.
How to Choose a Tent

Wind. Rain. Cold. Bugs. Dust. Creepy crawlers. If someone asks you why
you feel the need to carry a tent into the backcountry, those are 6 good
reasons.
Tents also provide a place of privacy in the middle of wide open spaces,
plus an intangible feeling of security once you're zipped inside for the
night. It's impressive how much comfort and reassurance we humans find
between a few well-stitched panels of nylon. Which model is right for
you? Here are some guidelines:
1. Pick a tent equipped to withstand the harshest conditions you might
encounter. Example: If you're a three-season backpacker who hikes late
into the fall, you might want a four-season tent or a convertible model.
2. Four-season tents are roughly 10 to 20 percent heavier than
three-season models (typically due to extra poles). Convertible tents
allow you to add or omit poles and adjust ventilation as conditions
dictate.
3. Freestanding tents (those that can stand without the aid of stakes)
are very handy. You can move them easily or lift them to shake out
debris. Very lightweight tents are rarely freestanding.
4. Capacity ratings, assigned by individual manufacturers, sometimes
tend to be optimistic. A two-person tent may be a tight squeeze for two
large adults and their gear.
5. Use a tarp, ground cloth or footprint to extend the life of a
tent's floor.
6. Want immediate tent recommendations based on your needs? Use our
handy Tent Finder.

Types of Tents
Backpacking tents fall into two general categories: three-season
(general backpacking) and four-season (winter/mountaineering) models.
Here's a look at how tents differ:
Lightweight three-season tents are intended for spring, summer and fall
usage in temperate climates. They perform well in wind and rain, though
their designs are not suited to handle significant snow loads. A
three-season model won't collapse if two inches of snow fall on it, but
20 inches could be a problem.
Super-sturdy four-season tents usually integrate one or two additional
poles into their designs to fortify walls and help them stand firm
against severe wind or heavy snow loads. Winter tents feature some type
of rounded dome design, thus eliminating flat spaces on a tent's rainfly
where snow can accumulate. Of course, these winter/mountaineering tents
work just fine during mild conditions. Their extra poles will make them
a touch heavier than their three-season cousins.

Convertible tents are four-season models that can be converted into
three-season tents. This usually involves shedding one or two poles from
the tent's four-season design. Models may also offer zippered panels
that can be opened during milder conditions or feature a detachable
vestibule.
Warm-weather tents are lightweight shelters, usually designed for one or
two people, that feature large mesh walls for superb ventilation. They
can be used in three-season settings, but their special appeal is their
usefulness in warmer, humid climates.
Single-wall tents are designed with the minimalist in mind. Essentially,
they are rainflies equipped with a few vents you can zip open during
warmer conditions.

Bivy sacks are minimalist solo shelters that offer little space for
anything but you and your sleeping bag.(If you're a climber and plan to
spend nights on steep rock faces where tents would be impractical, a
bivy is definitely the way to go.) If saving weight is your chief
priority, a bivy is worth considering. If you like room to move inside
your shelter, look elsewhere. Is a bivy right for you?

Sleep screens and tarp tents are ultralight shelter options. Sleep
screens, including screen houses, are useful in warm conditions and
offer mesh coverings, some fully enclosed, some not, to keep occupants
shielded from bugs, but not rain. Tarp tents offer minimalist shelter,
at a minimal weight, for three-season usage.

Family (or basecamping) tents and shelters can accommodate large groups
(between four and six usually, sometimes more). Dome-style models can be
transported into the backcountry, as long as group members are willing
to carry a share of the load; house-like models are intended for
campgrounds and basecamps.

A Few Terms Explained
• Dome Tents: Most four-season tents involve some form of rounded,
geodesic-dome design. Domes avoid flat spots and shed snow more easily.
They stand strong in the wind and provide generous interior headroom.
• Tunnel Tents: Many three-season models use this narrow, linear design,
typically involving a rectangular floor plan. Also called hoop tents,
these models use fewer poles, less fabric and often have wedge-like
shapes. Their rainflies, which lie flatter, can collect snow. A heavy
snow load could flatten them.
• Freestanding Tents: Domes are freestanding, meaning they do not
require stakes in order to stand up. You can pick up a freestanding tent
(it's like a huge beach ball) and move it to a different location. You
can also easily shake it out before you disassemble and pack it.

Which Type is Right for You?
Questions worth asking:
Q: What times of year will you use your tent?
• Winter campers need a four-season tent, period. If you have an Arctic
expedition in mind, consult with people who have already made such trips
and get their advice.
• If you're a three-season hiker who heads out in March or tries to
squeeze in late trips in October and November, give yourself an extra
buffer of security—get a four-season tent or at least a convertible.
• If you're a recreational traveler and do the bulk of your camping
between May and September, choose a three-season model.

Q: How many people usually travel with you?
• Do you consistently travel with a partner? You need at least a
two-person tent. Are the two of you large people? You might need to bump
up to a 2-to-3-person model or even a three-person tent.
• Does your group size vary? You'll probably need more than one tent to
fulfill your needs. If your budget is tight, buy the size that fits most
of your trips; when your group size changes, rent a tent.
• If you're sharing a tent at the end of the day, share the load as you
hike. Someone can carry the poles, another person the rainfly, and so on.
• Do you travel solo? If you demand lots of space, look for a compact
two-person model. If you count every ounce, select either a bivy or a
very light one-person tent.

Q: Won't a cheap tent from a discount store work just as well as a
brand-name model?
• Department-store tents are typically mass-produced items that supply
less attention to details. Example: Examine the stitches of a quality
tent. You'll find a greater number of stitches per inch in that tent
than you'll find in the discount tent, and you'll often find seam
sealing. This means a stronger tent is at work for you when the weather
turns nasty. Quality tents use high-grade aluminum poles. Bargain tents
often rely on fiberglass poles, which are less shatter-resistant.
Top-brand tents often give you more ventilation options as well.
• Inexpensive tents use large panels of coated nylon on their canopy
(side walls). That material is not breathable, so if it's a balmy night,
you might swelter inside.

Understanding Tent Specifications
When surveying REI's online selection of tents, you'll find a general
description and a list of specifications that accompany each model.
These "specs" look technical, but the information is really quite helpful.

Tent Capacity
Manufacturers classify their tents according to sleeping capacity: solo
tents, two-person tents, three-person tents and so on. You'll also find
references to items such as 1-to-2-person tents or a 2-to-3-person model.

Getting a Good Fit
How do you know if a tent is a good fit—physically—for you?
Here's one technique—not perfect, but certainly useful—to help you
envision how you might fit into a tent: Measure your backcountry
sleeping pad and use its dimensions as a general guide when you consider
a tent's measurements.
• Example: The popular Therm-a-Rest standard model from Cascade Designs
is 72" long and 20" wide. Width is the crucial measurement. To fit two
people inside a tent, you will thus need at least 40 inches of width to
feel even marginally comfortable—if you don't mind sleeping close. If
you need a few inches of separation, then add a couple of inches to your
measurement. If you thrash around a lot at night, you might need to add
several inches.
Compare your numbers with the floor dimensions provided with each tent.
That gives you some idea of how snug, or spacious, a tent might feel.
Floor dimensions, of course, indicate only the maximum width a tent
offers, typically the spot where your shoulders lie. Tents often taper
in the foot sections, and walls angle in toward the ceiling. All of this
impacts the amount of space found inside a tent's walls. Roomy tents are
nice, but tend to weigh more.
Tip:—Looking at two-person tents? Consider one that could adapt well to
some of your other travel plans. Maybe you're anticipating future solo
hikes, or a long-distance bike trip. If so, a 1-to-2-person model might
be a good choice. If you're a couple and you sometimes invite along a
friend or relative, consider a 2-to-3-person, or even a three-person
model. You'll like the flexibility, plus the extra bit of space, these
models give you.

Additional Considerations
Do you camp often in rainy climates? Take a look at roomier tents, and
consider adding a gear loft. That's basically a piece of interior
netting that stretches out, hammock-like, near the ceiling of your tent.
Overnight you can dangle damp items from a loft and hasten their drying
process.
A tarp, ground cloth or footprint can help protect the floor of a tent
and extend its life. Plus, it gives you a clean place to fold your tent
in the morning.

Does Everybody Need a Tent?
Some hardy souls will argue that a tent is a burdensome luxury.
Ultralight advocates point out that a tarp, a little cord and some
ingenuity are all people need to create sufficient shelter in the
wilderness.
In many situations, that's a valid point. But then an unexpected
overnight weather front blows through, or skeeters arrive by the
thousands, or you're not really sure if a nearby ant hill is inactive
after all. A night or two like this is usually all it takes to convince
most recreational hikers that the full enclosure a backpacking tent
provides is worth a little extra bulk and weight in their packs.
Chosen wisely, a tent will add only a modest amount of weight to your
load. In return, it will give you the confidence to know you are
equipped to take shelter from just about any rude surprise nature may
dish out during your trip.

Quick Review
• Tents serve both a physical and psychological function; they protect
you from the elements and surround you with a sense of security.
• Anticipate what awaits you in the backcountry—the weather, number of
people in your party—and seek out a tent equipped to accommodate your
most demanding ambitions.
• General backpacking (three-season) tents are excellent, lightweight
performers; winter/mountaineering (four-season) tents are good
year-round and give you extra stability during harsh conditions.

Range of Tent Sizes

Mountaineering/Backpacking

Solo (1-person) tents: Personal, lightweight shelters for the rugged
individualist—and not another soul. You'll find no fudge factor for
extra space in this minimalist category, which includes bivy sacks.

1-plus or 1-to-2-person tents: These are shelters with enough space to
provide a spacious shelter (at a reasonable weight) for a solo hiker and
a snug fit for 2 people.

2-person tents: The most popular size in backpacking tents, with
plentiful choices. Designs can vary widely, so seek out one that offers
a combination of features that appeal to you.

2-to-3-person tents: These are 2-person tents cut wider and often taller
to provide extra elbow room for its inhabitants. In a pinch, you could
squeeze in a third person; it's unlikely, though, you would want to do
so on a regular basis. These models can make good choices for parents
with a small child.

3-person tents: If your trail party is consistently a threesome, these
models are custom-fitted for your needs. Or, if you have a 2-person
party and you simply prefer loads of room inside a tent and don't mind
carrying a little extra weight, these models offer a luxurious amount of
space.

4-person tents: Compact, low-profile group backpacking tents designed to
be split up and carried by all members of the party. They typically
weigh between 13 and 16 pounds. These also make good car-camping tents
for those who want to avoid the bulk of a traditional cabin tent and
don't mind a tent where you can't stand up.

Family (or basecamping) tents: A few models can be transported in the
wilderness by several people who share the load. Standard family tents,
meanwhile, use inch-thick poles and heavy-duty materials that are great
for drive-in campgrounds.

Tent Specifications Explained

Suggested use: Descriptions include "general backpacking" (good for
spring, summer and fall usage in temperate climates) and
"Winter/mountaineering" (good for harsher weather conditions; designed
to shed snow loads). Basically, winter/mountaineering tents are good any
time of year—which is why they're also called "four-season tent's—yet
are capable of withstanding severe weather conditions, even for
prolonged periods. General backpacking tents, or three-season tents, are
intended for non-winter use in weather that can be nasty but rarely
extreme.

Average minimum weight: The total weight of the body, rainfly and poles
only—the bare essentials. It is the weight you should use for
comparative purposes when buying a tent.

Average packaged weight: The total weight of all tent components: body,
rainfly, poles, stakes, stuff sack, pole sack, instruction book, and any
additional items a manufacturer may include.

Sleeping capacity: The number of adults that manufacturers estimate can
sleep comfortably inside their tents. Sometimes these numbers are a bit
generous.

Floor dimensions: A tent floor's maximum measurements, shown in inches.
The first number is length, the second is the crucial one—width. Thus a
measurement of 98" x 60" means a tent is 98 inches from head to foot and
60 inches wide at its widest point. Keep in mind that tents often have a
tapered design, so a tent with a 60" maximum width may actually be much
narrower in the foot area.

Peak height: The maximum interior height. This tells you how much room
you have to sit up inside a tent. Roughly 42" to 48" is typical.

Floor area: The square footage of a tent's interior.

Vestibule area: The square footage of the ground covered by a tent's
vestibule. (A vestibule is an extension of the rainfly that, when staked
out, shields a section of ground outside a tent's door. Protected from
rain, it's a good place to store your boots overnight.)

Packed size: The size of a folded and rolled tent when stored inside its
stuff sack. A reference to 7" x 24" means a tent's packed size is 7" in
diameter, 24" long.

Pole material: Two options are customarily available: aluminum
(preferred for its strength and durability) and fiberglass (less
expensive option). Easton aluminum poles are highly regarded. Both
aluminum and fiberglass tent poles are almost always hollow and are
usually linked by long elastic cords. These are known as "shock-corded"
poles. These are popular because they make pole assembly a quick
process. Some inexpensive tents sold in discount store use solid
fiberglass poles. Solid poles can easliy split or break when stressed.

Number of poles: More poles give tents added rigidity and stability.
Winter/mountaineering tents, designed to stand up to brutal weather,
typically have more poles (at least three) than general backpacking
tents. Extra poles, of course, mean extra weight.

Rainfly fabric: Typically this is coated (waterproof) nylon taffeta, a
heavier, more abrasion-resistant fabric than used for the canopy.

Canopy fabric: Most often this is ripstop nylon, a lightweight fabric
where every quarter-inch or so the nylon weave is reinforced, creating a
tiny checkerboard appearance.

Floor fabric: Again, this is most often coated (waterproof) nylon
taffeta—a heavier fabric designed to withstand abrasion.

Doors: The number of doors a particular model offers. An extra door
gives people an optional entry/exit point—a nice feature if your
companion is snoozing and you want to step outside. Single-door tents
usually have doors placed at the head of a tent. A side entrance on a
single-door tent may be awkward if one person wants to leave without
disturbing the other. Tents with more than one door are usually more
expensive.

External guy points: The number of guy points (or lash points) on a
tent's rainfly. You use guy points, guy lines and stakes to establish
tautness in your rainfly during bad weather. Doing so helps your rainfly
shed water effectively and prevents it from sagging and touching the
uncoated tent canopy. (If the two touch, moisture could get inside the
tent.) Guy points are reinforced loops of webbing stitched into the edge
of a rainfly.

Guy lines included: Indicates whether or not the manufacturs includes
guy line with the tent.
• Using guy lines and guy points: Procedu 1) Attach guy lines to guy
points; 2) pull the rainfly taut by stretching it out and away from the
main tent body; 3) tie the lines to stakes and drive them into the
ground, maintaining tension on the rainfly and the lines. Rainflies
usually include at least two guy points, sometimes more. Do not stretch
a rainfly too tightly; it could weaken stitch points or distort the
weave of the nylon.

Pole diameter: In backpacking tents, a common diameter is 0.34 inches.

Seam sealer included? Some manufacturers include a bottle or tube of
seam sealer, which you apply to your tent's rain-exposed seams at
home—before you use it in the field.
• Why must seams be sealed? Wherever panels of fabric have been stitched
together, the sewing process generates thousands of tiny needleholes. In
areas exposed to moisture—the rainfly, the tent's floor—water could work
its way inside your tent through these holes. You might think: "Oh, come
on; those holes are too tiny to matter." Trust us—anyone who has spent a
rainy night in a tent with unsealed seams knows how much water can find
its way inside via those little holes. To prevent this, you must "seal
the seams"—plug the holes—with a product that resembles liquid cement.
It is, we admit, a laborious exercise. Happily, more and more
manufacturers are offering "factory-sealed seams"—usually a strip of
tape stretched over seams and heat-bonded to the fabric. It's an
attractive, time-saving bonus worth a few extra bucks if a manufacturer
offers it.
Tip: REI offers an online chart that shows a side-by-side comparison of
tent specifications. Search out "Tents," then choose your preferred
style—"General Backpacking" or "Winter/Mountaineering." After clicking
on a style, your next screen will include four buttons on the left side
of the screen. One reads "Spec Charts." Click on that for a list of tent
specifications. You can customize the chart according to individual
specs (price, weight, sleeping capacity, et al.).

Additional Considerations

Weight: As a general rule, group backpacking tents should weigh
approximately four pounds or less per person. Some 1-person or 1-plus
tents exceed that guideline—understandable because a solo hiker will be
toting all tent components (stakes, poles, etc.) on his or her own.

Pole sleeves or clips? Poles hold the tent's canopy upright and give you
space to move around inside. Poles connect to the tent in one of two
ways—via sleeves or clips. Some tents have "continuous" pole sleeves,
meaning you don't have to thread poles through multiple sections of
smaller sleeves. It makes tent setup a little easier and speedier. Clips
are a breeze to use. They generally provide a larger gap between the
rainfly and canopy, which helps minimize condensation on the body of the
tent. Sleeves are considered more stable.
• Note: In damp or wet conditions, avoid letting your tent canopy touch
the rainfly. If it happens, count on moisture invading your tent space
at that point. Use guy lines to keep it taut.

Ventilation: On balmy or humid nights, you want your tent to encourage
air flow. If you frequently hike in warm-weather environments, consider
tents that offer plenty of mesh openings to take advantage of nights
when you don't need a rainfly.
• Note: Ventilation is one reason why you want to buy a quality
backpacking tent. Inexpensive department store tents offer very little,
if any, breathable fabric on their canopy walls. If you're inside such a
tent on a mild night, your body heat can turn it into a sauna and leave
you sweltering. These tents may also include lower-quality poles and
irregular, mass-production stitching. Their low prices are head-turners,
true, but their durability is suspect. These tents may be fine for
backyard campouts, but not for long-term trips into the backcountry.

Price: REI works to accommodate campers with budgets of all kinds.
Because REI was created to serve the needs of the professional
mountaineering community, part of our tradition involves offering the
public some of the highest-quality equipment available.
Expedition-quality tents, we acknowledge, sometimes carry a high price
tag. We also carry models such as the REI Camp Dome 2 that outperform
department-store tents and offer budget-minded explorers a quality
product at a fair price.

Pole sections: Length is a factor to some people. Shorter sections are
handy, making it possible to pack a rolled tent in a more compact spot
inside your pack. Long poles often must be carried vertically while
strapped to the outside of your pack.

Shape: The most popular shape in tents these days? Domes. Their
symmetric design, strength-to-weight ratio and relative ease of assembly
has endeared them to the camping and hiking masses. Weight-saving
designs, particularly wedges, have also remained popular.

Ground cloths: Many manufacturers are now creating "footprints" for
their tents—customized ground cloths tailored to fit specific tent
models. Footprints are sized slightly smaller than the tent's floor to
prevent pooling of water underneath you during rainy weather. Most come
with attachment points that connect them to the tent. Both footprints
and traditional ground cloths/tarps help shield a tent's floor from
abrasion and, in the morning, offer you a dirt-free place to roll up
your tent. It's smart to carry one.

Extras: Look for helpful nuances such as inside wall pockets (very nice
to have), gear lofts, factory-sealed seams and convenient vent windows.
Roomy vestibules are also nice.

Setup: Practice setting up a new tent before you take it into the
backcountry. If you need to seal the seams, you'll have to set it up
before your first trip.


  #3  
Old August 3rd 05, 06:01 PM
RST Engineering
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Do you regularly quote 500 lines of message for a 3 line answer? Not all of
us are on broadband, y'know.

Jim


"Tom McQuinn" wrote in message
...

Looks like some good reading. One of the few people I talked to who
stayed dry during the Monday deluge at Oshkosh was in an REI tent in row
559.

Tom



  #4  
Old August 3rd 05, 06:18 PM
John Larson
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Good point. You also might mention that it is somewhat annoying to have to
scroll down a ga-zillion lines to the reply posted at the end of the
message.

Why do I mention that? Because probably lots of us have already seen the
previous post and are looking to read the reply.

My 2 cents worth ...


"RST Engineering" wrote in message
...
Do you regularly quote 500 lines of message for a 3 line answer? Not all
of us are on broadband, y'know.

Jim


"Tom McQuinn" wrote in message
...

Looks like some good reading. One of the few people I talked to who
stayed dry during the Monday deluge at Oshkosh was in an REI tent in row
559.

Tom





  #5  
Old August 3rd 05, 07:27 PM
Tom McQuinn
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Actually I don't regularly participate in USENET discussions due to a
lack of common civility. But I won't waste time trying to explain that
to you.

But it was a mistake I'll try not to repeat! I do remember what dial up
was like.

Tom

RST Engineering wrote:
Do you regularly quote 500 lines of message for a 3 line answer? Not all of
us are on broadband, y'know.

Jim


  #6  
Old August 3rd 05, 08:25 PM
Montblack
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

("Tom McQuinn" wrote)
Actually I don't regularly participate in USENET discussions due to a lack
of common civility. But I won't waste time trying to explain that to you.

But it was a mistake I'll try not to repeat! I do remember what dial up
was like.



This is a pretty civil place - rough sometimes, yes, but seldom crude. Your
last paragraph is one of the reasons why this is such a great place to
visit - many new people to the group will see it and learn from your
example.

Thanks again for trimming future posts.


Montblack

  #7  
Old August 3rd 05, 11:06 PM
Mike Rapoport
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
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Good stuff, IF you are going to carry the tent.

I have numerous tents from $40 tents from Costco to a single-wall
mountaineering tent that I will be taking to Mt Vinson in Antartica next
January. I believe in cheap tents for events like bike tours (unless you
are carrying the tent) and airplane camping. You can casually abuse a cheap
tent and not worry about it. You can let your dogs wreck the floor with
their nails. Usually you need one or two more $1 stakes than they give you.
When you go somewhere like OSH you need something to pound the stakes into
the ground (usually you can borrow a hammer though) I also have six
sleeping bags. I have everything from 1lb 30F ultralight bage to an $800,
5lb -50F bag, but the one I bring plane camping or bike touring is a $40 bag
I got at Walmart that has ducks on the flannel lining. I use it because I
don't care if it gets chain lube on it and it costs as much to buy as a down
bag costs to clean.

Do not underestimate the value of cheap.

Mike
MU-2


"john smith" wrote in message
.. .
As various readers are posting and/or lurking on this topic, I am posting
advice ripped directly from the REI website (www.rei.com). This is the
fastest way for me to get information out to you and is one of the sources
I will use for a future posting. As I posted earlier, this Fall and Winter
will afford you opportunities to purchase an excellent tent for future
AirVentures at great savings by watching for sales from the various
camping outfitter websites or your local camping store.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

How to Choose a Backpacking Tent

Tent designs (and prices) can vary greatly from model to model. The
following guidelines will help you select a tent that best suits your
needs.

Step 1: Consider the Basics
Ideally, the tent you choose will be:
• lightweight
• strong, durable and made with quality components
• the right size for your long-term plans
• suitable for the toughest weather conditions you might encounter

Step 2: Compare Three- and Four-Season Tents
Backpacking (three-season) tents work well in moderate conditions during
spring, summer and fall. Their designs involve fewer poles than
four-season tents, which makes them lighter, but they don't shed snow as
effectively as four-season tents.
Mountaineering (four-season) tents are good year-round. Extra poles
increase their snow-load capacity and stability in harsh weather but also
make them heavier.

Step 3: Select the Appropriate Capacity
As a rule, the per-person capacity ratings manufacturers supply are a
little exaggerated. Most two-person tents are a bit snug for two people.
If one of the two people likes to spread out at night, consider a
2-to-3-person tent or a 3-person model.

Step 4: Other Considerations
• Many tents offer a vestibule. This is an extension of the rainfly that
shields an area outside your tent's main door. It's a great place to leave
your boots overnight.
• You can protect the floor of your tent by setting it up on a tarp or a
custom-cut footprint. This buffers your tent's floor from abrasion and
gives you a clean platform for packing the tent away without dragging half
the forest floor back home with you.
• Aluminum poles are lighter and more durable than fiberglass poles.
• Costlier tents usually offer better ventilation (more vents, larger mesh
panels), which helps reduce condensation inside a tent. Higher-priced
tents may also offer features like a second door or a gear loft for
stashing personal items.
How to Choose a Tent

Wind. Rain. Cold. Bugs. Dust. Creepy crawlers. If someone asks you why you
feel the need to carry a tent into the backcountry, those are 6 good
reasons.
Tents also provide a place of privacy in the middle of wide open spaces,
plus an intangible feeling of security once you're zipped inside for the
night. It's impressive how much comfort and reassurance we humans find
between a few well-stitched panels of nylon. Which model is right for you?
Here are some guidelines:
1. Pick a tent equipped to withstand the harshest conditions you might
encounter. Example: If you're a three-season backpacker who hikes late
into the fall, you might want a four-season tent or a convertible model.
2. Four-season tents are roughly 10 to 20 percent heavier than
three-season models (typically due to extra poles). Convertible tents
allow you to add or omit poles and adjust ventilation as conditions
dictate.
3. Freestanding tents (those that can stand without the aid of stakes)
are very handy. You can move them easily or lift them to shake out debris.
Very lightweight tents are rarely freestanding.
4. Capacity ratings, assigned by individual manufacturers, sometimes
tend to be optimistic. A two-person tent may be a tight squeeze for two
large adults and their gear.
5. Use a tarp, ground cloth or footprint to extend the life of a tent's
floor.
6. Want immediate tent recommendations based on your needs? Use our
handy Tent Finder.

Types of Tents
Backpacking tents fall into two general categories: three-season (general
backpacking) and four-season (winter/mountaineering) models. Here's a look
at how tents differ:
Lightweight three-season tents are intended for spring, summer and fall
usage in temperate climates. They perform well in wind and rain, though
their designs are not suited to handle significant snow loads. A
three-season model won't collapse if two inches of snow fall on it, but 20
inches could be a problem.
Super-sturdy four-season tents usually integrate one or two additional
poles into their designs to fortify walls and help them stand firm against
severe wind or heavy snow loads. Winter tents feature some type of rounded
dome design, thus eliminating flat spaces on a tent's rainfly where snow
can accumulate. Of course, these winter/mountaineering tents work just
fine during mild conditions. Their extra poles will make them a touch
heavier than their three-season cousins.

Convertible tents are four-season models that can be converted into
three-season tents. This usually involves shedding one or two poles from
the tent's four-season design. Models may also offer zippered panels that
can be opened during milder conditions or feature a detachable vestibule.
Warm-weather tents are lightweight shelters, usually designed for one or
two people, that feature large mesh walls for superb ventilation. They can
be used in three-season settings, but their special appeal is their
usefulness in warmer, humid climates.
Single-wall tents are designed with the minimalist in mind. Essentially,
they are rainflies equipped with a few vents you can zip open during
warmer conditions.

Bivy sacks are minimalist solo shelters that offer little space for
anything but you and your sleeping bag.(If you're a climber and plan to
spend nights on steep rock faces where tents would be impractical, a bivy
is definitely the way to go.) If saving weight is your chief priority, a
bivy is worth considering. If you like room to move inside your shelter,
look elsewhere. Is a bivy right for you?

Sleep screens and tarp tents are ultralight shelter options. Sleep
screens, including screen houses, are useful in warm conditions and offer
mesh coverings, some fully enclosed, some not, to keep occupants shielded
from bugs, but not rain. Tarp tents offer minimalist shelter, at a minimal
weight, for three-season usage.

Family (or basecamping) tents and shelters can accommodate large groups
(between four and six usually, sometimes more). Dome-style models can be
transported into the backcountry, as long as group members are willing to
carry a share of the load; house-like models are intended for campgrounds
and basecamps.

A Few Terms Explained
• Dome Tents: Most four-season tents involve some form of rounded,
geodesic-dome design. Domes avoid flat spots and shed snow more easily.
They stand strong in the wind and provide generous interior headroom.
• Tunnel Tents: Many three-season models use this narrow, linear design,
typically involving a rectangular floor plan. Also called hoop tents,
these models use fewer poles, less fabric and often have wedge-like
shapes. Their rainflies, which lie flatter, can collect snow. A heavy snow
load could flatten them.
• Freestanding Tents: Domes are freestanding, meaning they do not require
stakes in order to stand up. You can pick up a freestanding tent (it's
like a huge beach ball) and move it to a different location. You can also
easily shake it out before you disassemble and pack it.

Which Type is Right for You?
Questions worth asking:
Q: What times of year will you use your tent?
• Winter campers need a four-season tent, period. If you have an Arctic
expedition in mind, consult with people who have already made such trips
and get their advice.
• If you're a three-season hiker who heads out in March or tries to
squeeze in late trips in October and November, give yourself an extra
buffer of security—get a four-season tent or at least a convertible.
• If you're a recreational traveler and do the bulk of your camping
between May and September, choose a three-season model.

Q: How many people usually travel with you?
• Do you consistently travel with a partner? You need at least a
two-person tent. Are the two of you large people? You might need to bump
up to a 2-to-3-person model or even a three-person tent.
• Does your group size vary? You'll probably need more than one tent to
fulfill your needs. If your budget is tight, buy the size that fits most
of your trips; when your group size changes, rent a tent.
• If you're sharing a tent at the end of the day, share the load as you
hike. Someone can carry the poles, another person the rainfly, and so on.
• Do you travel solo? If you demand lots of space, look for a compact
two-person model. If you count every ounce, select either a bivy or a very
light one-person tent.

Q: Won't a cheap tent from a discount store work just as well as a
brand-name model?
• Department-store tents are typically mass-produced items that supply
less attention to details. Example: Examine the stitches of a quality
tent. You'll find a greater number of stitches per inch in that tent than
you'll find in the discount tent, and you'll often find seam sealing. This
means a stronger tent is at work for you when the weather turns nasty.
Quality tents use high-grade aluminum poles. Bargain tents often rely on
fiberglass poles, which are less shatter-resistant. Top-brand tents often
give you more ventilation options as well.
• Inexpensive tents use large panels of coated nylon on their canopy (side
walls). That material is not breathable, so if it's a balmy night, you
might swelter inside.

Understanding Tent Specifications
When surveying REI's online selection of tents, you'll find a general
description and a list of specifications that accompany each model. These
"specs" look technical, but the information is really quite helpful.

Tent Capacity
Manufacturers classify their tents according to sleeping capacity: solo
tents, two-person tents, three-person tents and so on. You'll also find
references to items such as 1-to-2-person tents or a 2-to-3-person model.

Getting a Good Fit
How do you know if a tent is a good fit—physically—for you?
Here's one technique—not perfect, but certainly useful—to help you
envision how you might fit into a tent: Measure your backcountry sleeping
pad and use its dimensions as a general guide when you consider a tent's
measurements.
• Example: The popular Therm-a-Rest standard model from Cascade Designs is
72" long and 20" wide. Width is the crucial measurement. To fit two people
inside a tent, you will thus need at least 40 inches of width to feel even
marginally comfortable—if you don't mind sleeping close. If you need a few
inches of separation, then add a couple of inches to your measurement. If
you thrash around a lot at night, you might need to add several inches.
Compare your numbers with the floor dimensions provided with each tent.
That gives you some idea of how snug, or spacious, a tent might feel.
Floor dimensions, of course, indicate only the maximum width a tent
offers, typically the spot where your shoulders lie. Tents often taper in
the foot sections, and walls angle in toward the ceiling. All of this
impacts the amount of space found inside a tent's walls. Roomy tents are
nice, but tend to weigh more.
Tip:—Looking at two-person tents? Consider one that could adapt well to
some of your other travel plans. Maybe you're anticipating future solo
hikes, or a long-distance bike trip. If so, a 1-to-2-person model might be
a good choice. If you're a couple and you sometimes invite along a friend
or relative, consider a 2-to-3-person, or even a three-person model.
You'll like the flexibility, plus the extra bit of space, these models
give you.

Additional Considerations
Do you camp often in rainy climates? Take a look at roomier tents, and
consider adding a gear loft. That's basically a piece of interior netting
that stretches out, hammock-like, near the ceiling of your tent. Overnight
you can dangle damp items from a loft and hasten their drying process.
A tarp, ground cloth or footprint can help protect the floor of a tent and
extend its life. Plus, it gives you a clean place to fold your tent in the
morning.

Does Everybody Need a Tent?
Some hardy souls will argue that a tent is a burdensome luxury. Ultralight
advocates point out that a tarp, a little cord and some ingenuity are all
people need to create sufficient shelter in the wilderness.
In many situations, that's a valid point. But then an unexpected overnight
weather front blows through, or skeeters arrive by the thousands, or
you're not really sure if a nearby ant hill is inactive after all. A night
or two like this is usually all it takes to convince most recreational
hikers that the full enclosure a backpacking tent provides is worth a
little extra bulk and weight in their packs.
Chosen wisely, a tent will add only a modest amount of weight to your
load. In return, it will give you the confidence to know you are equipped
to take shelter from just about any rude surprise nature may dish out
during your trip.

Quick Review
• Tents serve both a physical and psychological function; they protect you
from the elements and surround you with a sense of security.
• Anticipate what awaits you in the backcountry—the weather, number of
people in your party—and seek out a tent equipped to accommodate your most
demanding ambitions.
• General backpacking (three-season) tents are excellent, lightweight
performers; winter/mountaineering (four-season) tents are good year-round
and give you extra stability during harsh conditions.

Range of Tent Sizes

Mountaineering/Backpacking

Solo (1-person) tents: Personal, lightweight shelters for the rugged
individualist—and not another soul. You'll find no fudge factor for extra
space in this minimalist category, which includes bivy sacks.

1-plus or 1-to-2-person tents: These are shelters with enough space to
provide a spacious shelter (at a reasonable weight) for a solo hiker and a
snug fit for 2 people.

2-person tents: The most popular size in backpacking tents, with plentiful
choices. Designs can vary widely, so seek out one that offers a
combination of features that appeal to you.

2-to-3-person tents: These are 2-person tents cut wider and often taller
to provide extra elbow room for its inhabitants. In a pinch, you could
squeeze in a third person; it's unlikely, though, you would want to do so
on a regular basis. These models can make good choices for parents with a
small child.

3-person tents: If your trail party is consistently a threesome, these
models are custom-fitted for your needs. Or, if you have a 2-person party
and you simply prefer loads of room inside a tent and don't mind carrying
a little extra weight, these models offer a luxurious amount of space.

4-person tents: Compact, low-profile group backpacking tents designed to
be split up and carried by all members of the party. They typically weigh
between 13 and 16 pounds. These also make good car-camping tents for those
who want to avoid the bulk of a traditional cabin tent and don't mind a
tent where you can't stand up.

Family (or basecamping) tents: A few models can be transported in the
wilderness by several people who share the load. Standard family tents,
meanwhile, use inch-thick poles and heavy-duty materials that are great
for drive-in campgrounds.

Tent Specifications Explained

Suggested use: Descriptions include "general backpacking" (good for
spring, summer and fall usage in temperate climates) and
"Winter/mountaineering" (good for harsher weather conditions; designed to
shed snow loads). Basically, winter/mountaineering tents are good any time
of year—which is why they're also called "four-season tent's—yet are
capable of withstanding severe weather conditions, even for prolonged
periods. General backpacking tents, or three-season tents, are intended
for non-winter use in weather that can be nasty but rarely extreme.

Average minimum weight: The total weight of the body, rainfly and poles
only—the bare essentials. It is the weight you should use for comparative
purposes when buying a tent.

Average packaged weight: The total weight of all tent components: body,
rainfly, poles, stakes, stuff sack, pole sack, instruction book, and any
additional items a manufacturer may include.

Sleeping capacity: The number of adults that manufacturers estimate can
sleep comfortably inside their tents. Sometimes these numbers are a bit
generous.

Floor dimensions: A tent floor's maximum measurements, shown in inches.
The first number is length, the second is the crucial one—width. Thus a
measurement of 98" x 60" means a tent is 98 inches from head to foot and
60 inches wide at its widest point. Keep in mind that tents often have a
tapered design, so a tent with a 60" maximum width may actually be much
narrower in the foot area.

Peak height: The maximum interior height. This tells you how much room you
have to sit up inside a tent. Roughly 42" to 48" is typical.

Floor area: The square footage of a tent's interior.

Vestibule area: The square footage of the ground covered by a tent's
vestibule. (A vestibule is an extension of the rainfly that, when staked
out, shields a section of ground outside a tent's door. Protected from
rain, it's a good place to store your boots overnight.)

Packed size: The size of a folded and rolled tent when stored inside its
stuff sack. A reference to 7" x 24" means a tent's packed size is 7" in
diameter, 24" long.

Pole material: Two options are customarily available: aluminum (preferred
for its strength and durability) and fiberglass (less expensive option).
Easton aluminum poles are highly regarded. Both aluminum and fiberglass
tent poles are almost always hollow and are usually linked by long elastic
cords. These are known as "shock-corded" poles. These are popular because
they make pole assembly a quick process. Some inexpensive tents sold in
discount store use solid fiberglass poles. Solid poles can easliy split or
break when stressed.

Number of poles: More poles give tents added rigidity and stability.
Winter/mountaineering tents, designed to stand up to brutal weather,
typically have more poles (at least three) than general backpacking tents.
Extra poles, of course, mean extra weight.

Rainfly fabric: Typically this is coated (waterproof) nylon taffeta, a
heavier, more abrasion-resistant fabric than used for the canopy.

Canopy fabric: Most often this is ripstop nylon, a lightweight fabric
where every quarter-inch or so the nylon weave is reinforced, creating a
tiny checkerboard appearance.

Floor fabric: Again, this is most often coated (waterproof) nylon
taffeta—a heavier fabric designed to withstand abrasion.

Doors: The number of doors a particular model offers. An extra door gives
people an optional entry/exit point—a nice feature if your companion is
snoozing and you want to step outside. Single-door tents usually have
doors placed at the head of a tent. A side entrance on a single-door tent
may be awkward if one person wants to leave without disturbing the other.
Tents with more than one door are usually more expensive.

External guy points: The number of guy points (or lash points) on a tent's
rainfly. You use guy points, guy lines and stakes to establish tautness in
your rainfly during bad weather. Doing so helps your rainfly shed water
effectively and prevents it from sagging and touching the uncoated tent
canopy. (If the two touch, moisture could get inside the tent.) Guy points
are reinforced loops of webbing stitched into the edge of a rainfly.

Guy lines included: Indicates whether or not the manufacturs includes guy
line with the tent.
• Using guy lines and guy points: Procedu 1) Attach guy lines to guy
points; 2) pull the rainfly taut by stretching it out and away from the
main tent body; 3) tie the lines to stakes and drive them into the ground,
maintaining tension on the rainfly and the lines. Rainflies usually
include at least two guy points, sometimes more. Do not stretch a rainfly
too tightly; it could weaken stitch points or distort the weave of the
nylon.

Pole diameter: In backpacking tents, a common diameter is 0.34 inches.

Seam sealer included? Some manufacturers include a bottle or tube of seam
sealer, which you apply to your tent's rain-exposed seams at home—before
you use it in the field.
• Why must seams be sealed? Wherever panels of fabric have been stitched
together, the sewing process generates thousands of tiny needleholes. In
areas exposed to moisture—the rainfly, the tent's floor—water could work
its way inside your tent through these holes. You might think: "Oh, come
on; those holes are too tiny to matter." Trust us—anyone who has spent a
rainy night in a tent with unsealed seams knows how much water can find
its way inside via those little holes. To prevent this, you must "seal the
seams"—plug the holes—with a product that resembles liquid cement. It is,
we admit, a laborious exercise. Happily, more and more manufacturers are
offering "factory-sealed seams"—usually a strip of tape stretched over
seams and heat-bonded to the fabric. It's an attractive, time-saving bonus
worth a few extra bucks if a manufacturer offers it.
Tip: REI offers an online chart that shows a side-by-side comparison of
tent specifications. Search out "Tents," then choose your preferred
style—"General Backpacking" or "Winter/Mountaineering." After clicking on
a style, your next screen will include four buttons on the left side of
the screen. One reads "Spec Charts." Click on that for a list of tent
specifications. You can customize the chart according to individual specs
(price, weight, sleeping capacity, et al.).

Additional Considerations

Weight: As a general rule, group backpacking tents should weigh
approximately four pounds or less per person. Some 1-person or 1-plus
tents exceed that guideline—understandable because a solo hiker will be
toting all tent components (stakes, poles, etc.) on his or her own.

Pole sleeves or clips? Poles hold the tent's canopy upright and give you
space to move around inside. Poles connect to the tent in one of two
ways—via sleeves or clips. Some tents have "continuous" pole sleeves,
meaning you don't have to thread poles through multiple sections of
smaller sleeves. It makes tent setup a little easier and speedier. Clips
are a breeze to use. They generally provide a larger gap between the
rainfly and canopy, which helps minimize condensation on the body of the
tent. Sleeves are considered more stable.
• Note: In damp or wet conditions, avoid letting your tent canopy touch
the rainfly. If it happens, count on moisture invading your tent space at
that point. Use guy lines to keep it taut.

Ventilation: On balmy or humid nights, you want your tent to encourage air
flow. If you frequently hike in warm-weather environments, consider tents
that offer plenty of mesh openings to take advantage of nights when you
don't need a rainfly.
• Note: Ventilation is one reason why you want to buy a quality
backpacking tent. Inexpensive department store tents offer very little, if
any, breathable fabric on their canopy walls. If you're inside such a tent
on a mild night, your body heat can turn it into a sauna and leave you
sweltering. These tents may also include lower-quality poles and
irregular, mass-production stitching. Their low prices are head-turners,
true, but their durability is suspect. These tents may be fine for
backyard campouts, but not for long-term trips into the backcountry.

Price: REI works to accommodate campers with budgets of all kinds. Because
REI was created to serve the needs of the professional mountaineering
community, part of our tradition involves offering the public some of the
highest-quality equipment available. Expedition-quality tents, we
acknowledge, sometimes carry a high price tag. We also carry models such
as the REI Camp Dome 2 that outperform department-store tents and offer
budget-minded explorers a quality product at a fair price.

Pole sections: Length is a factor to some people. Shorter sections are
handy, making it possible to pack a rolled tent in a more compact spot
inside your pack. Long poles often must be carried vertically while
strapped to the outside of your pack.

Shape: The most popular shape in tents these days? Domes. Their symmetric
design, strength-to-weight ratio and relative ease of assembly has
endeared them to the camping and hiking masses. Weight-saving designs,
particularly wedges, have also remained popular.

Ground cloths: Many manufacturers are now creating "footprints" for their
tents—customized ground cloths tailored to fit specific tent models.
Footprints are sized slightly smaller than the tent's floor to prevent
pooling of water underneath you during rainy weather. Most come with
attachment points that connect them to the tent. Both footprints and
traditional ground cloths/tarps help shield a tent's floor from abrasion
and, in the morning, offer you a dirt-free place to roll up your tent.
It's smart to carry one.

Extras: Look for helpful nuances such as inside wall pockets (very nice to
have), gear lofts, factory-sealed seams and convenient vent windows. Roomy
vestibules are also nice.

Setup: Practice setting up a new tent before you take it into the
backcountry. If you need to seal the seams, you'll have to set it up
before your first trip.



  #8  
Old August 4th 05, 12:49 AM
Mortimer Schnerd, RN
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Mike Rapoport wrote:
Do not underestimate the value of cheap.



Not me. Some of my best dates have been with cheap and tawdry tarts.




--
Mortimer Schnerd, RN

VE


  #9  
Old August 4th 05, 01:24 AM
Montblack
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

("Mike Rapoport" wrote)
[snip]
Do not underestimate the value of cheap.



When people juggle balls, that's usually the one that gets left on the
ground.

Having a 12 year old 130K minivan opens up possibilities that would be off
limits in a 2001 minivan with 35K on it - duct taping (mosquito) screen
netting to the interior window frames comes to mind. :-)

Maybe it's just me, but I've seen the light with those self-inflating
double-high (15"-20") air mattresses. Ours takes 4D batteries and
comfortably fits inside a medium size Coleman cooler for transport.
Batteries have lasted us over a year.


Montblack

  #10  
Old August 4th 05, 03:29 AM
Kyle Boatright
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


"Mike Rapoport" wrote in message
.net...
Good stuff, IF you are going to carry the tent.

I have numerous tents from $40 tents from Costco to a single-wall
mountaineering tent that I will be taking to Mt Vinson in Antartica next
January. I believe in cheap tents for events like bike tours (unless you
are carrying the tent) and airplane camping. You can casually abuse a
cheap tent and not worry about it.


snip


Do not underestimate the value of cheap.

Mike
MU-2


I have a fairly nice 2 person backpacking tent that has a low profile and a
full size rain fly. Despite 30+ mph winds and lots of rain at Oshkosh on
Monday night, the wife and I were essentially bone dry. Our poor neighbor
had a cheapo tent and ended up bailing out his tent the next morning and
having to dry ALL of his stuff - clothes, sleeping bag, etc. He had a
miserable night and said he slept in water (not in damp bedding, but IN
water). Monday was one of those days where spending a few more dollars to
get a decent tent really paid off.

For me, the only good place for a cheap tent is for kids who are "camping"
in their backyard. In that situation, if the tent leaks, you bag the
campout and head inside... No harm, no foul. Otherwise, being stuck with an
inadequate tent really, really, sucks. Trying to sleep in a tent turned
swamp isn't my idea of a vacation... ;-)


 




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