Time for a New Tent

We have been going tent camping for years, but never for more than a few days at a time, and as soon as it rained more heavily than a “sprinkle” we’d always bee-line it for the nearest motel.

This time it would be different. After outlining our basic itinerary, it became clear that we would be camping out for between 21 and 28 days. And the campsites would vary from large, well-equipped campgrounds to truly remote, primitive backcountry locations with zero facilities. At many sites we would be able to camp right next to our jeep, but there were a few places where we would have to “hike in,” carrying our gear to interior backcountry campsites.

Yes, it was time to get a “grown-up” tent. No more $29.99-special-on-sale-at-walmart tent, we would have to invest in a high-quality shelter with zippers that don’t get stuck and seams that don’t leak. Oh, and maybe something a bit bigger than the “four-man” tent that could barely fit us — two women and a 10-year-old — the last time we went!

CHOOSING A TENT

In selecting a tent, we would have to think about the conditions we were traveling in. We would be constantly on the move, almost never spending more than one night at the same campsite (HINT: ease of set-up/breakdown is probably important to us). And we would be facing potentially extreme weather. It would be HOT… extremely HOT… in some of the desert sites. It could be very windy in the canyons. And there was always a likelihood of violent thunderstorms (meaning heavy rain) at that time of year (not to mention the certainty of rain somewhere)…

ONE TENT, OR TWO?

Initially we thought about getting two smaller tents (which would be lighter, and give us some additional space, but require double set-up) rather than one BIG tent (which would necessarily be heavier). Then we refined the idea into a “big+little” option.

The “big” would be the principle tent, something really solid that we could stand up in, and where the three of us could sit out the rain comfortably for a stretch. It should be well-made, really water-proof and with a profile that will not easily be blown over. However, this would not be something we could easily carry to “backpack” hike-in sites, nor would it likely be really quick to put up and take down.

That is where the “little” will fill in. A smaller, lighter tent, similar to the kind we have always used, it will be easy to put up and take down and light enough to carry. As we will not be using it every night, it won’t matter if it is a bit of a tight fit, or if the zippers are troublesome.

NARROWING DOWN THE TENT CHOICES

Choosing the “big” tent was still complicated because we didn’t know that much about tent manufacturers and we couldn’t actually “see” the tents in a showroom, since we would have to buy online. We narrowed down the choice to two:

The Eureka Copper Canyon (see the website): This tent has had excellent reviews. It will fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:

COPPER CANYON10DIMENSIONS:

tent = 10 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 26 lbs 8 oz. / center H is 7 ft)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

We can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot of space between us.

The only “negative” or “concern” we had about this tent is related to its weight (if we decided to use it for the Hike-In sites) — at almost 27 pounds it is relatively heavy (can be carried by one person, but that person couldn’t carry anything else, so we would have to split remaining gear between two of us).

The Eureka Tetragon 1210 (see the website):  This tent was also well-recommended with excellent reviews, and it weighed a bit less than the Copper Canyon. It will also fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:

80DIMENSIONS:

tent = 12 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 17 lbs 11 oz. / center H is 6 ft 4 inches)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

We can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot and a half of space between us.

The one concern we had related to reviews. Some reviewers complained about leaks, whereas the Copper Canyon reviews spoke about “no leaks” — not sure if it is just a difference in people’s experience or if there is some difference between the quality of the tents, but it influenced us, and we chose to go with the Copper Canyon.

For the “little” tent we had many options. Ideally we would each have one of those personal back-pack tents, that weigh next to nothing and roll up smaller than a sleeping bag. But they are quite expensive — the best price we saw was around $90 each — and as we needed three, and only for a few days of the journey, it didn’t really seem like a viable option.

Then, a friend suggested we get one of those “2 second” Quechua tents, which you basically can just toss out on the ground and they pitch themselves. They were very reasonably priced at the Decathlon store in Paris, where they also had this amazing Base 4.2 tent. The most practical was the “2 Second” tent — the “one-man” version is very light, and a larger “three-man” version is not that much heavier. The only drawback is these tents fold into big round discs, which is fine in the back of the Jeep but is much less practical in terms of carrying them on a hike. The Quechua tent had a good Gear Junkie review and also the comments from folks at ukcampsite were quite helpful, as they had used the bigger version of the tent.

We decided on the “3-man” Quechua 2-Second tent for our “little” backcountry option.

TESTING THE BIG TENT

On the first day that it was nice enough outside, I took out the big tent to seal the seams and also to see how long it would take to put it up for the very first time (figuring that as we learn how to do it, it will go much faster). I started at 11:04am and had it up by 11:43am — all by myself!

It went up really easily, with only a minor difficulty getting some of the little metal pegs into the bottoms of the wall poles. When we would be doing it as a team it would go up in about 20 minutes, max — even when we have been driving all day.

Seeing it pitched on the lawn, I felt sure it would make a very pleasant shelter. It is really roomy (I swear it is bigger than some studio apartments I have lived in! — especially in New York City!) and the windows everywhere are GREAT! It also has a skylight that would let us see the stars at night without having to actually sleep uncovered! It seems like a lot of thought went into the design.

Overall I think we made a good choice. The windows and skylight make it very comfortable inside — and we can configure them in a lot of  different ways to maximize airflow while maintaining some cool shade. The zippers seem to be pretty good quality, and the whole thing seems sturdy.  It looks like it will hold up for the duration of the trip, if we are somewhat gentle with it (and we will still have duct tape handy in case of emergencies)!


Here are some relevant links on choosing a tent:

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