tents, sleeping bags and such....

Discussion in 'Camping, Hiking, Cooking' started by Chef, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Chef

    Chef New Member

    Thinking of getting a tent but to be honet, I have no clue what to look for in a tent.

    Suggestions? Advice?
  2. bitterroot

    bitterroot Love vintage graphite!

    Hey Chef,

    I recently bought an REI "Half Dome 2+" and I love it. I'm sure it would be a good 3 season tent and it's easy to pitch. I'm usually camping alone and it's a palace for one person.
  3. Chef

    Chef New Member

    Any issues with leakage? does the rain slick come all the way to the ground? Do you use an air matress?
  4. Dustin Bise

    Dustin Bise Active Member

    I also use a halfdome. If i want to go lighter i use a bivy or a tarp tent. The REI halfdome is a great bombproof tent at a good price. It will keep u dry if u pitch it decent.

    I sleep on a thermarest, or a car camping pad if i am so lucky.
  5. Dan Nelson

    Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    What do you plan to do with the tent? Backpacking? Car camping? One person? 2? 6?

    The 'ideal tent' depends entirely on your planned use.
  6. Joe Smolt

    Joe Smolt Member


    Couple of comments. Like others have asked....what the hell do you want for the tent. Family car camping, backpacking, etc.

    If backpacking, get a self standing tent. Half-dome aint a bad choice. Most folks only need a three season tent and make sure it is self standing. I've been in situations in snow/scree areas where self standing is essential. I've had tents that requiring staking. Stupid choice in high country rock fields.

    One very universal law....subtract the label claim of occupancy by at least 1. If it claims 3 person tent, it is really 2 person at most, etc.

    If you are tall, test the tent. Lay in it as if you are going to sleep. If any part of your body touches the outer walls of the tent, bad news. Moisture will wick through. As a person of modest 6' 2", I am surprised at how many tents are non-accomidating to my "lizard" sleeping style. Retail sales person may misrepresent (as in my cases) the non-wicking aspects of tent walls. Plain and simple, if any part of your body touches wall, bad news, too small.

    Our most recent tent was purchased to fit two cadillac thick thermo rest pads. Two pads just squeek in. Paradise!! Tent relatively unimportant. Sleeping pad, the real story.

    Two other features to consider: 1) extension of tart for vestibule space to store boots and whatnot is nice for backpacking, 2) two entry/exit tents for midnight pee runs. First, I will never forget a torential downpour in the smokies. Neighbors were relaxing in a vestibule. I suffered. If you are taking it on a fishing trip with your fishing buddie, don't tell me you aint going to drink too much. Nothing worse than 2 in the morning pee urge and questioning whether to do anything cuz you got to crawl over people. Two sided entry solves that conundrum.

    Those are my thoughts. Tent technology has improved tremendously for backpackers. Great tents out there meeting all your needs.

  7. Freestone

    Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

    Chef, lots of good suggestions. My number one suggestion is to buy your tent at an outdoor/camping/backpacking store, not a department store (Walmart, Kmart, etc) or a general sporting goods store (that also sells baseballs, golf clubs, etc.). Typically, tents sold in these types of store will be of much lower quality and while they may be ok for dry summer camping, they are often not up to handling the wind, rain and bad weather that most fly fishers will expose them to. They might work for a while and there are exceptions to every rule, but I'd buy something from REI, Marmot Mountain Works (Bellevue), The North Face or even Cabelas if I wanted to stay dry, have it last and not have the poles bend or break in the wind.

    If you don't ever intend to backpack with it, consider getting a bigger, roomier tent. Tents are sized by the number of people they can fit but this assumes that the people are stacked like cord wood with no space between them and no gear inside the tent. As someone said, add at least one to the number of people listed; add 2 for even more comfort and gear storage if you aren't backpacking. For car camping, even a 3 person is not too big for just me and a 4 person is my minimum for 2 people and their gear. If I am car camping, I also like to have a tent that I can stand up in or nearly stand in if I will be in it more than a night or two.

    Tents are rated by the number of season's that they are designed to be used. A 3-season tent means spring, summer and fall, not winter. A 4-season tent means it can be used in winter and by winter, it means snow, not NW rain in January. Unless you plan to snow camp, do not get a 4-season tent as they can be miserable to use in the rain (they often don't ventilate enough as they are designed to hold in heat) If you think you'll do both, there are 3-4 season convertible tents. If you buy a tent at an outdoor store, you are pretty much assured to get one that has the seams taped (so they don't leak) and it will have a full coverage rain fly. For car camping, I also like a big enough vestibule that I can get my wet things off before getting in the tent and/or keep gear out there I need to. (vestibule = a space in front of the door formed by an over-sized rain fly that extends out from the tent body) There are all kinds of other bells and whistles to make them more livable and/or last longer.

    You also asked about sleeping bags and pads. Yes, you'll want a pad as you will loose a lot of body heat to the ground. Do not get a plain cheap air mattress except for warm summer use. They have no insulation inside so you'll freeze if it's cool. The 'gold standard' in camping pads for years has been a foam-filled, self-inflating pad called a Therm-A-Rest. It comes in different sizes and thicknesses. (thicker generally is warmer) There are many knock-offs now but whatever you get, bigger and thicker is better if you are car camping. For backpacking, it's a trade-off between weight and comfort. For sleeping bags, get one roomy enough for you. If not and your body pushes against the sides at points like your shoulders or hips, you'll have cold spots. Figure out what temperature range you'll realistically be camping in and get one that matches it. Don't be tempted to get one too warm or you'll be laying on top of it most of the summer. If you end up camping in cold weather occasionally, you'll be better off getting a liner to add warmth on those trips. Hoods really add a lot of warmth for little weight so many people prefer them. Mummy-shaped bags with hoods are warmer and lighter in general than rectangular bags but have less room to move around. If you are a big guy, there are truthfully only a handful of options on the market in a mummy shape. A semi-rectangular hooded bag would be a good choice too or even a good rectangular bag if you are only car camping.

    I design some of this type of gear for a living but there is so much more to all this than I can explain in this post. This link will tell you all the basics about tents and the other gear you mentioned: http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/camping#tab_4 Let me know if you have more questions.
  8. Chef

    Chef New Member

    soo much to think about in the above posts.

    I dont think I will be hiking with the tent too much. Basically speaking, I would like to have a three season tent. I would like to be able to take it with me fishing if possible... I dont imagine any hikes. i guess i dont know really and need to give it more thought. I would rather camp out versus getting a hotel room... for example... if I go try some lakes in Eastern Washington.

    I am a big guy and then tent would be for me and sometimes my wife if she goes. So a three or four person tent would be nice. I dont want to get wet while sleeping... I know that. And would like to stay warm too.
  9. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

    Sounds like car camping, so tent weight and packability size is less critical than it would be should you be hiking into places with long approaches. I have two four season Walrus tents. No longer made and I think that Walrus was bought out a decade or more ago by MSR. I know they are overkill for most trips spring to fall, but I've been pretty comfortable and dry in them in trips from fall to spring. Good protection and insulation between you and the earth is important. For me this is either a tent footprint or tarp made to be just slightly smaller in all dimensions as the bottom of the tent. Inside when camping in the snow, or just when very cold, I have used some rolls of the mylar backed bubble wrap. I got it at a hardware store where they sell it as "garage door insulation". It rolls up well and makes a decent base inside your tent on the floor to then accomodate your thremarest or air mattress. If you are car camping and already have an air mattress, find a tent that will accomodate that air mattress without it being pushed against any of the walls. In addition to that, I like to have some room inside the tent for some of my stuff. I won't have a tent without external vestibules covered by the rain fly, but some of my stuff I'd rather have inside than outside. As for those vestibule or vestibules, I like them large enough to be useful, I've seen some that really don't offer any more coverage than the tent itself. I also like a tent that I can sit upright in, although if I use a small air mattress in my smallest 2 person Walrus (which is really a one person tent with a touch more space) my head gets raised up right to the top. If you don't like having to be seated or on your knees to be upright, and you are car camping 100% of the time, get a bit ass cabin tent where you can live comfortably on the side of a lake for days...but don't get one with a dinky rain fly that only protects from light drizzle falling straight down. The rain almost never falls straight down anywhere that I've ever been.

    Take a trip to REI, it is like a toy store for grownups...and kids. If you are serious about getting into that level of gear, set a budget, write down the things you MUST have, the things you would LIKE to have and don't be fooled by the other things you don't NEED or WANT. You bring with you what you want to put in the tent, air mattress, thermarest pads, cots, entertainment center, whatever...put it in that tent and see if you can stay in the tent until time to close the store.

    Sounds like you are having a blast, that is awesome.
  10. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

    Chef, everyone here has offered great advice. I'll make one comment. If you are car camping and that sounds like what you are thinking, take a good look at Cabela's or similar retailers. They have some good stuff and great prices. They also have some lower quality stuff, so be discerning. I love REI. I've been a member since the 60's and own a lot of their gear (packs, tents, sleeping bags, etc.), but most of their stuff is aimed at the backpacker. That application demands materials that are more durable and most importantly lighter weight, etc. Buy gear for backpacking and you may end up paying for characteristics and quality beyond what is needed for car camping.

    Regardless, the best advice I can give you is take care of your camping gear. Always clean it thoroughly and store it properly, and it will last for years!

  11. Dan Nelson

    Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    Now this, I can work with.

    I've field testing and reviewed scores of backpacking tents and dozens of car camping tents. Based on what you state above, the best tent for you (in terms of space, ease of set-up, cost and durability) will be......

    The REI Hobitat 4. If you want extra space, go for the Hobitat 6, but the 4 is plenty big for two (even if one of you is 'big' -- I've 6'2", 220 lbs myself). I've reviewed the previous version, but the new version (for 2010) is MUCH nicer -- look for a full review of it next spring. It is also expandable -- the vestibul (i.e. "front porch") can be modified with different options, so you can have a big garage-sized vestibul to stash bicycles, a screen room to sit and avoid bugs, etc.. Latest version also has an improved fly for greater weather protection. All in all, a GREAT afford car-camping tent that will stand up to NW camping conditions.


    NOTE: My review of the previous version -- lots of similarities to the latest version -- can be seen here:

    Also, feel free to PM me if you have any questions about tents or camping gear – I've used and reviewed most of what's out there at some point.
  12. Bob Jones

    Bob Jones Still truckless now farther away

    Chef there's a couple of things I didn't see mentioned, If you are not backpacking then be comfortable don't skimp. and no matter what kind of camping you do NEVER put gear of any kind away wet. If you do you end up with mold and milldew and rot especialy tent and sleeping bags any material items. You'll find camping people with tents hung or draped all over the house or the the garage untill eveything is dry. I can't backpack any more so I now take an 11x14 tent and a oversize cot and a coleman single air matress and then the things that vary for the weather are mainly the sleeping bag and the rain fly or an extra tarp to cover more outside area or gear. I take a cheap rectangular bag for warm weather and my backpacking bag for the cold. like the others feel free to PM me if you have questions, I still love to camp I just can't back pack any more because of my back. I have all of my camping gear. good luck and Happy camping.
  13. Big E

    Big E Moderator Staff Member

    One thing I always wanted in a tent was seperate areas for sleeping and an area that was covered that could be used for socializing or meals. That seemed to work a lot better than those tents that are just for sleeping in. Tents like those though are bigger and not suitable to hiking with.

    Bags were always a problem as most were too small width wise once zipped up or too short. I think I still have a bag or two that are hardly used for guys our size if you don't mind hardly used at a good price, one for summer and one for winter.

    I don't camp anymore so I'd be willing to part with them.
  14. Dan Nelson

    Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    For this type of seperation of living and sleeping space, check out The North Face's newest "recreational camping" line. You start with the Docking Station, which is a BIG floorless storage / eating / socializing space, then add module: 2-person sleeping space, 4-person sleeping space, mesh space, etc. This is a VERY nice set-up though not inexpensive.

  15. scottflycst

    scottflycst Active Member

    Chef, Add Sierra Trading Post to your list of shopping places. Great name brand gear at a substantial discount.
  16. Bob Jones

    Bob Jones Still truckless now farther away

    Yes, I've gotten some really good deals from Sierra Trading Post. over several of the last years. I've gotten some good camp gear and great clothing and accessories. at fantastic prices. I certainly wish I 'd found them sooner. My big tent that I bought at Costco was a real bargain too. They often have things that just are poor quallity for what they are. but this tent was all I wanted and I looked it over very well top to bottom, knowing exactly what I wanted paid off.
  17. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

    Campmor also has some good deals. Often you can find nice tents from last year or the year before at slashed prices. Like others have said and Bob said best, if you are car camping no need to be uncomfortable, if you can fit it in your rig to make your pop up palace more comfortable, do it.
  18. Chef

    Chef New Member

    I cannot wait to get set up to camp. Should be a lot of fun. :)
  19. Bob Jones

    Bob Jones Still truckless now farther away

    That's great I 've always looked forward to that myself and enjoyed it no matter what else was happening.
  20. IveofIone

    IveofIone Active Member

    Chef, Let me just add a couple of points to the sleeping bag discussion. I know you are a big guy so just rule out a mummy bag altogether. A bag that is warm enough for early spring or late fall is going to be just about impossible to sleep in in mid summer and a mid summer bag will be just miserable in the cold. You should shop for a rectangular bag that measures 40'' x 84''. This will provide a guy your size with the room and comfort to move around without confinement. These bags may be rated as low as -5 degrees-probably more than you need for any fishing trip. For a summer weight bag very little is required. A bag rated at 30 or 40 degrees will work fine. I recently bought one of these on sale at BiMart for $19.95 and it is incredibly comfortable. I have several mummy bags including my old expedition down bag but none as comfortable in summer as this $20 cheapo Coleman. Spend the big bucks on your cold weather gear and as others have said, buy the best sleeping pad possible regardless of the season.