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  • Backpacking tents

    Hey guys,

    I don't know how many of you are avid campers, but my wife and I started camping quite a bit more this summer than we have in the past. After some bad experiences with noisy neighbors at the big NPS campsites, we are ready to head out to the back country and we need a good, light tent we can carry at least 5-7 miles in and out with us.

    Can any back country campers here recommend a good 2-3 person tent (we have a golden retriever, so we might need a 3)? We don't want to break the bank, since this is the first time we've considered back country camping, but we also want something that will give us enough room, keep water and condensation out, and last us a year or two.
    "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
    He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

    - Attributed to General George Patton, Jr.

  • #2
    Re: Backpacking tents

    Don't go to Wal-Mart and buy any unless you plan on buying some tarps/canvas. I have yet to buy a single tent from Wal-Mart that is water proof, they may say water proof but most aren't. The seams leak really bad in the ones I have bought. What I have done though is went and bought one or two of the cheap blue tarps/canvas to put over the top that was large enought to even cover some of the sides for added protection. I also used one on the ground before setting up the tent when the ground was extremely wet.
    So a cheap leaky tent can be made into a nice dry one cheaply. It may never last a hard gust though, guess that depends on how well you tie it down.

    EDIT:
    Read a review that claims this is a really good 2 person tent, not to badly priced either. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000VF9M8K?...0&linkCode=asn
    If you notice it has the extra piece that covers the top to help with water protection too.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Backpacking tents

      Good find, Eureka seems to be the best value I've found so far. I'm mainly looking at REI (because I'm a member there) and Amazon right now, so Wal Mart is out of the question anyway.
      "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
      He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

      - Attributed to General George Patton, Jr.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Backpacking tents

        I had a North Faced and a Siera Designs. Liked both of them and both cost above $500.

        And neither where waterproof coming out of the box. You need to spend some time with seam sealers. The outer "tarp" is very important in waterproofing a tent. In fact most high quality tents have the inner skin specifically not waterproof and very breathable to allow better circulation/air exchange.

        In the beginning I would look at some Coleman stuff. A friend had one of their tents and it was pretty good for fair weather camping and < $150. Be sure to buy a replacement pole/rod and a good repair kit.

        But consider spending a bunch more on a tent if you plan on doing some deep backwood trecks, especially in the late or early summer. A good tent can be a lifesaver especially when you are a day away from help. Me and a freidn went camping in the canyons of New Mexico and came across a couple that had a mid price dome tent that had failed completely. They where miserable and the rain didn't help much.
        Iím not racists, I have republican friends. Radio show host.
        - "The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity". -Jacob Burkhardt
        - "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson
        - "People should not be afraid of it's government, government should be afraid of it's People." - Line from V for Vendetta
        - If software were as unreliable as economic theory, there wouldn't be a plane made of anything other than paper that could get off the ground. Jim Fawcette
        - "Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving." -Friedrich Hayek
        - "Don't waist your time on me your already the voice inside my head." Blink 182 to my wife

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Backpacking tents

          this place has alot of great deals on closeout stuff. http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ i would check there (i found this: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/3...-3-Season.html). i have a bibler 4 season single-wall tent that i use for any serious back-country stuff, and i love it. they have been taken over by http://www.bdel.com/ they make amazing quality stuff and have he BEST customer service ever (i broke a brake on one of their ski bindings, and when i explained that i was instructing, and needed a replacement ASAP, they fed-exed me 2 for no charge, and i had them the next day) but you will pay a premium for their gear. still...its the best ;)

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          • #6
            Re: Backpacking tents

            Originally posted by El_Gringo_Grande View Post
            And neither where waterproof coming out of the box. You need to spend some time with seam sealers. The outer "tarp" is very important in waterproofing a tent. In fact most high quality tents have the inner skin specifically not waterproof and very breathable to allow better circulation/air exchange.
            I tried waterproofing one of the tents I had, when it did work it was like you said, no air circulation in it at all. I was very uncomfortable in it cause it felt like i was smothering in it. It did finally wear out which I was glad, it was the best tents I had. That was when I decided to buy the extra tarp to throw over the top whenever it started to rain. Helped out a lot and then the next time I went camping after that I bought an additional one for the flooring. The tent I had also let a lot of water in at the floor so we stayed dry on our heads but our feet started to get wet. If you do it just right you can take the tarp on the bottom and role it up to the edge of the tent and partially up the wall and pin it. This will not let any rain actually fall on the tarp and still get in. Tarps are really cheap and to me a big investment to include to your tent with not much added weight.

            My buddy took a cheap tent and also added a 12"x12" square hole for a peice of metal flanging to put his little cook stove in the tent. He said he can cook inside with an exhaust pipe with no problems when the weather is to bad to cook outside. I just get so amazed sometimes when you see people camping in cheap tents and what they did to that tent to get it to be a lot better. Most tents you can't cook in but at least I know now how to go about doing it cheaply and very little added weight.

            If you hear of the guy in WV that got burnt up in his tent you know who it was, lol.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Backpacking tents

              A good light tent is going to be costly. Some things to remember:
              Pack a tent for the climate. If you're somewhere that gets a lot of fog or dew, make sure to get the tent with the roof cover (most tents have a mesh roof, the dome cover prevents a lot of moisture buildup on the inside). If you buy one that has one and dont need it, dont take it (weight!). Also, fiberglass poles are often much much heavier than aluminum poles but are less likely to break or bend. A tent that sleeps one means it sleeps one. A tent that sleeps two will do so in very close quarters (i.e. you and the missus sharing a sleeping bag). If you want a roomier tent, look for a small three-four person tent.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Backpacking tents

                What ferris said. And if you are going to take a dog get a bigger tent.

                A couple of things to look for/buy that makes things a bit more comfortable.

                Get a tent with a nice sized vestibule. This is a area cover by the tent fly that allows storage of gear that is protected from most the weather but not inside the tent itself. The Sierra Designs one I had had two nice sized vestibules, one for each entrance. If you are careful, and I mean really careful, you can do some cooking in the vestuble as well. Especially nice if it is raining. (But if you are camping where there are bears, do not cook or eat near your sleeping area.)

                Anther thing is a ground cover like msdz said. It does two things. First it reduces wear on the tent floor. Second it helps keep mud etc off the tent when you pack it since you have to role it up. And it can help with keep water out in a big down poor. And pack your ground cover separately. You can also use the ground cover to act as a simple lean-to when the weather is nice.

                One way to make the ground cover a bit more convenient is to use the good quality peel and stick velcro stuff. Most of the better tents have a pan type bottom and you can basically make a secondary floor by following the outline of it.

                Another nice feature is having a tent that has two entrances. It doesn't seem like much but when the weather shifts and starts coming from the other direction it is very nice.

                One thing I recomend HIGHLY for backpacking is the Sierra Zip Stove. This is a camp stove that uses any dense, burnable material for fuel and has a battery operated fan to get things really hot. I had head to head tests with some friends who had liqued and gas camp stoves and I could get water boiling within 20 seconds of their stoves. And if I had a couple brikets of charcoal my times where just as good. This stove is also allowed in most places that open campfires are not. But check the local rules.
                Iím not racists, I have republican friends. Radio show host.
                - "The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity". -Jacob Burkhardt
                - "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson
                - "People should not be afraid of it's government, government should be afraid of it's People." - Line from V for Vendetta
                - If software were as unreliable as economic theory, there wouldn't be a plane made of anything other than paper that could get off the ground. Jim Fawcette
                - "Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving." -Friedrich Hayek
                - "Don't waist your time on me your already the voice inside my head." Blink 182 to my wife

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Backpacking tents

                  We did quit a bit of back packing in our younger years but one thing I would definitely say is if you have a dog DO NOT take it into the back country with you. OK into a campground but not in the back country.

                  Know it's heart breaking to have to leave it behind. We had to leave our two in a kennel whenever we went but believe me , your trip will be safer and more relaxing without your fury companion along.

                  You're more than likely going to run into some kind of wild life out there (anything from a squirrel to a full blown bear) and the last thing you want , especially with a larger animal , is your furry companion deciding that:
                  A) that looks edible. I'll run it down for supper.
                  B) That looks dangerous. Better protect my humans. OOPPS..it's much bigger than me. Better run back to my humans for protection (with one angry bear/moose on it's heels).
                  C) everyone's sleeping. Maybe I'll go exploring.

                  We came up with some ideas to lighten our packs and reduce the amount of paraphernalia we had to carry (even seasoned back packers we met on the Chilkoot took some of our ideas..yay for us!!). Can jot them down if your interested.

                  As far as the tent goes , do get a good (and LIGHT) one but you don't have to go overboard either. A good sleeping bag is FAR more important and that's where I'd put the money. A good one will keep you warm even if wet.

                  We took along a 4 wick emergency candle and if the tent became damp inside because of condensation (really humid conditions in a light drizzle high up in the mountains) we'd fire up the candle and it generated enough heat to dry the tent out before we were ready to climb in.

                  Enjoy..we did.
                  Take lots and lots of pictures (we didn't.. *sob*)
                  [CoFR] BeerHunter

                  You shouldn't feel bad because you're not succeeding. It's far better to feel confident that you have the ability to handle failure

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Backpacking tents

                    It has been a while since I did any serious camping. All the above posts covered things really well:

                    - Vestibules are very handy for storing your gear in a dry space but outside the valuable sleeping quarters. We used to take the "fly" (the outside dome cover for a tent which keeps it dry) and extend our vestibule with it and a sinlge pole to create an even bigger area to work with.

                    - Weight is very important and as such I would recomend the aluminum poles. The only problem I ever had was them freezing together in the middle of winter camping; the stove cured that.

                    - Seal all the seams as suggested, this helps keep you dry. However I only used a role on type stick or brush so you don't ruin the ventilation of the whole tent.

                    - Ground pads rock, just be sure it's foot print isn't bigger then your tents or your creating a nice route for water to under you.

                    - 3 person tents are great for 2 people, 4 person tents are great for 3 people <-- notice the trend :row__593: If your sleeping bag is touching the side of the tent your going to get damp.

                    - Sierra Designs makes some really nice gear, I have used their 4 season tents several times and they are amazing but costly. I have used Eureka tents as well and they aren't as robust but a very good value.


                    Each trip I found a new problem that a piece of equipment could cure. Headlamps are better then your flashlight in your teeth, an aluminum heat/wind gaurd around your stove reduces boil times, frost bite sucks... no solution to that one.

                    PS. some stores will do "Tent Days" where they set up a whole bunch and you can try them out. Some stores also rent tents so you could try out some different types and brands first?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Backpacking tents

                      I was one of the rare year-round backpackers on the Florida Trail. I've worn out many a pair of boots.

                      There are a lot of decent tent makers out there. Everyone has pretty much hit on a lot of good basic stuff so far.

                      My favorite tents so far have been by Marmot and Big Agnes. North Face doesn't make the 3-season that I liked anymore.

                      Definitely buy the 'foot-print' that goes with your tent and definitely do the seam-sealing. I have not had any leaking problems from any of those three tent makers and I've been in some serious extended downpours.

                      The rainfly will always accumulate condensation through the night unless there is a nice breeze and well designed airflow under the fly. [Edit: 'will always' in Florida. :D ]

                      Dogs on the trail? Well, it's possible. You'll have the trouble mentioned previously unless you've really acclimated your dog to the back country and it is a well behaved animal. 'Trail dogs' aren't uncommon around here.
                      sigpic


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                      • #12
                        Re: Backpacking tents

                        Great advice so far...I would recommend you start looking at Backpacker Magazine. They put out an annual buyers guide, come to think of it Outside Magazine does an online one...here is the url

                        http://outside.away.com/outside/gear...exes/home.html

                        --------------
                        I put a few miles in on backpacking trails. I used to carry a Sierra Design ultralight two person tent that wasn't too bad on weight. There are a lot of factors to consider like Ferris said. Ultralight is the big trend in backpacking these days. Do a google on ultralight tents and look in that online buyers guide under "ultralight". You'll pay more money but believe me the pounds add up fast and you'll be looking for ways to shave ounces off your pack list.

                        I'd also suggest you consider NOT carrying a tent. With some planning ahead of time you can easily find trails that have lean to's or shelters available for use. If you backpack in the middle of the week and you arrive early enough you should have no problem getting a spot or two at a shelter. Of course shelters mean no privacy so be aware about that. The Appalachian Trail has shelters about a day's hike apart and it's a kick to hike on that venerable path. You meet some real unique people on the AT.

                        Good luck...if you want info on backpacking in New England in specific send me a pm and I'll give you a few spots to check out.

                        Cheers.
                        sigpic
                        |TG-1st|Grunt
                        ARMA Admin (retired)
                        Pathfinder-Spartan 5

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Backpacking tents

                          Originally posted by P8riot View Post
                          North Face doesn't make the 3-season that I liked anymore.
                          Doh! Looks like they brought it back to life! Looks like they made it a little smaller though. I've been pinned down in gale force winds and driving rain in this style tent - the harder it blew the more rock solid it got.
                          sigpic


                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Backpacking tents

                            Ok, now don't give me too much grief, but I use a Wal-Mart "Ozarka trails" tent. I grew up in boy scouts and have done TONS of camping. High adventure stuff in Canada, Davis mountains, even the back woods high in the mountains deep in Mexico. I do believe that my little $30 Wal-mart tent has been great and meets or exceeds the quality of the mega expensive Northface/REI tents I used over 10 years ago. The cheapy tents have come a long ways. What I learned in Boy Scouts was that the waterproofness of a tent can be hindered when you touch the walls of your tent with your bare skin. Something about the oils in your skin. I could be full of crap, but it always seems to hold true for me. I've been careful with my $30 tent and this summer it's rained HARD on me 2 out of 3 camping trips. (Side note: Wouldn't ya know it. Texas has been in drought all summer, but it rains on those weekends I go camping) With these hard torrential downpours, my Wal-mart tent has stayed bone dry on the inside. Not one drop. It even has a nice little "Welcome mat" on the front for me to leave my muddy shoes. I think it's because the rain fly covers the majority of the tent pretty well. I've liked this cheapy tent more than any expensive tent I've ever bought.

                            I'm not really caught up on the latest equipment like many here are, but I will say that if you're not gonna be hooking your tent up to granite cliff sides, or pitching your tent on cactus patches, then a cheap tent will serve you well. Even if it only lasts a few trips, you can replace your cheap tent a bunch of times before justifying the cost of a +$500 tent. That's my take on it at least.

                            Here's the tent I have. Again, I've absolutely loved it...
                            http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...uct_id=5493340
                            (I think the morons in the marketing department set it up wrong for the photo, because when mine is set up, it looks MUCH better than the website shows. It's also bigger than the picture makes it look)

                            And grab a few of these. Makes life easier...
                            http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...uct_id=8586940
                            "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Backpacking tents

                              As said above, Backpacker mag. is awesome. I subscribed for years until recently, and will probably start it up again soon. They have a decent website too.

                              Also, since you are a member of REI, (I LOVE REI), you may have noticed their website just started allowing user reviews, and they can be really helpful. The other great thing about REI is no matter what happens to the tent, you can return it at any time. They have a 100% return policy. I have a bunch of friends that have/still work at REI, and have heard crazy stories about returns. Like one guy that brought back a pile of underware that was used and very nasty, and they still gave him his exchange/money back. A ton of people I worked with at a Ropes Course had the Solomon water shoes with the permanent cable laces, and 2 of them wore the hell out of the shoes for 2 years and when the cable lace broke, they took them back and got their money back. Oh my god those shoes smelled horrible.

                              I also use http://www.outdoorreview.com/ to look at reviews. You can also find a lot of reviews at http://www.epinions.com/.

                              Personally, I never really cared about tent doors, till I used one that had 2 doors, and I will never buy a tent without that feature if I can help it. It made it so easy to get in and out, and great for ventilation.
                              Don't know anything about the tent below, just showing a picture for reference.




                              Also, I would do your best to go to a shop where you can try out setting up the tents you are considering. REI does that, as do others. If you can't figure out how to set it up just by looking at it quickly or have a hard/complicated time in the store, just think how bad it will be when you get to your campsite later than planned, and it is dark or raining. Lots of tents have interesting/trick setup poles that look cool, but consider what would happen if something broke. How hard would it be to fix in the wild.

                              Learn about the different seam sealing technologies and which ones work the best with out upkeep. You don't want to be having to retape the seams constantly to avoid leaks.

                              And as for rewater proofing, might want to consider just proofing the bottom 1/3 of the tent and then rain fly really good. That will allow for good breathability, and most water comes from the bottom as long as you don't have anything touching the sides.

                              Another thing to think of is if you want a free standing tent or not. They both have their pluses and minuses.

                              LINKS

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                              Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at.

                              -Carlos A. Urbizo-

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