Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Nov. 10, 2004)
It's camping time
For months we’ve sweated and boarded, hulked broken tree limbs and debris to the curb, shopped for batteries, water and plywood. Now it’s our turn to play. Get out the tent, hang the sleeping bags on the line, oil up the pan, we’re going camping.

Camping offers families a time to get away from the stress of everyday life and an opportunity to teach children about our magical planet. The mistake that is often made is going to the local discount retail store to buy “cheap” equipment so the family can “try it out.” Big mistake. Don’t be left out in the cold with inappropriate sleeping gear or feeling all wet under a tent that didn’t live up to your expectations of reasonable shelter.

Tents: First decide what kind of experience you need. Do you want to spend a week upon an island roughing it or lay back in the chaise lounge while the kids use the KOA pool? Weight becomes the deciding factor in either case. A 5- to 7-pound tent is appropriate for backpacking onto an island. Whereas a 30-pound tent wouldn’t be considered too heavy if you’re offloading it from your trunk directly to set-up. Height is your next consideration.

Are you planning on sliding into your sleeping bag with just enough headroom to sit up and touch the gear loft or do you need 6 feet, at least, headroom so you can make beds in the adjoining chambers of the main tent’s compartment. Suggestion: You don’t necessarily need the latest, greatest design. You’ll probably be just as comfortable with last year’s design, which may be reduced considerably, better suiting your budget.

There are four main categories for tents: Expedition, four season and convertible tents, three season camping and backpacking tents, large family cabin and dome tents, tarps and shelters. As you can detect by the categories, your three major considerations are size, weight and weather.

The new improved dome tents are smaller and often lighter weight, and made of rugged materials. They are easier on the back while backpacking and because of their lower profile they are better able to withstand wind and rain. Domes usually have the minimum of poles making them easier to set up.

Cabin tents offer stand-up headroom, near vertical walls, lots of ventilation enabling your camping experience to resemble a vacation home.

We own two specifically designed tents. Our main base camp tent is the Eureka Tetragon 9. It is 9 by 9 feet. It has two large mesh windows, one large mesh front door and large mesh top vents.

Our second tent is a three-season, adventure backpacking dome, lightweight, 6 pounds, 7 ounces, 7x7 foot floor dimension, and 4 feet 4 inches center height, Eureka Tetragon 7. In addition to being reasonably priced, it seems to withstand just almost anything, although we haven’t been snowed in with this one, as of yet.

Ask yourself, do you need to pay extra for a four-season tent or would you be just as satisfied with a three-season tent, saving quite a few dollars?

There are some features you can’t live without. Proper ventilation, front door “D” style opening, bath tub bottom design, double sealed seams, and a fly that shelters openings and windows.

Proper ventilation is obvious. A tent can “weep” to the degree that you may believe it’s raining inside. Great ventilation is a must-have feature.

D-style door opening: There’s nothing worse than a trampled down, mud laden door rolled up at the bottom of a tent opening.

A protective fly: A fly that extends out beyond the windows is necessary. Once more this seems obvious but there are quite a few tents on the market that look “pretty” with cute little overhangs when once sodden with water dumps that water directly into the windows. Pretty design does not compensate for practical requirements.

Before buying a tent do your research. Visit sites like back packer.com. Read the reviews. Study the specs and have a good idea of how you will use this shelter. Remember it’s all you will have between you and inclement weather.

Tips:

Reseal all seams and give an extra coating of spray waterproofing before your trip. Never pack a tent wet. If possible, dry it out as soon as possible. A ground cloth will add years to protecting your investment.

Go with a reputable dealer. Discover deals online at numerous sports outlets, such as www.rei.com - Gear up for camping!, www.campmor.com or www.eurekatent.com.

Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.

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