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Tents

Selecting a Tent
If you are new to camping, the first thing you need to consider is what type of tent to buy. Over the years, we have owned several tents. We started with an inexpensive two-person nylon tent. We quickly learned that we needed a plastic sheet under it and a tarp over it if we wanted to stay dry when it rained. It was also too small. From that, we graduated to a larger six person low-budget tent. The roof of that tent also dribbled when it rained, so our standard setup included a tarp over the top. A sheet of heavy plastic film served as a ground cloth to keep the bottom of the tent dry. Today, we have an octagonal six-person tent with a good rain fly which eliminates the need for a tarp over the tent. We still use a ground cover consisting of a plastic sheet cut to slightly smaller than the footprint of the tent. If the ground cover is larger than the tent, water running off of the tent will collect atop the ground cover and run back under the tent.

Our previous tent did not have a covered entryway. If we entered the tent in the rain, we had no way to remove our wet and muddy shoes and the rain got into the tent when we opened the flap. I fabricated a porch for the entrance using a small tarp and a couple of poles. It worked fine. We also placed a 2x3 foot throw rug outside the flap so that we did not have to step on the ground in our stocking feet after removing our shoes. We still use that idea. The flaps on that tent also opened from the outside, so we had to go outside to close them if it started to rain or if it got chilly during the night.

Our current tent has a covered igloo-like entry that opens on either side allowing us to enter the tent without exposing the opening into the tent to the rain. Both side flaps on the covered entry can be tied up to provide better ventilation during nice weather. Although we remove our dirty shoes outside the tent, we set them just inside during the night to make sure that no critters craw inside.  The flaps on our current tent open from the inside which is really nice for controlling the ventilation. Our current tent is also high enough for us to stand upright which helps a lot when we are dressing.

Setting Up the Tent
If you are camping with a new tent, practice setting it up at home before you head out for your camping trip.

When you arrive at a camping area, take a few minutes to drive around and look at the available sites. You are looking for a site that has a large enough flat area for your tent. Most of the time, you will be setting up in a designated camping area with sites that are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings. Be sure that the site you choose has both. Campers often move picnic tables to other camp sites to accommodate the size of their groups thereby leaving a campsite without a table. In some cases, the fire ring is also missing. If you plan on having a fire, make sure the fire area is far enough from where you will set up the tent. The fire should be downwind of the tent so that hot embers and smoke from the fire do not reach the tent.  When you select your campsite, be sure to consider the locations of the restrooms. You do not want to set up your camp downwind of a pit toilet or Porta-Jon.  However, you want to be close enough to the restroom to make that midnight trip without having to take a long hike especially if children are with you. In the more developed wilderness camping areas, the potable water supply is often near the restrooms. Be sure to look at the lay of the land to make sure that you are not setting up your tent in a low area where water collects or runs during a rainstorm. If you like a site, walk over and check out the potential tent location to be sure that there are no rocks or tree roots poking out of the ground. Those are hard on your ribs when you are trying to sleep. Look overhead. Shade trees are nice, but you need to make sure that they are solid to minimize the likelihood of a limb breaking off and landing on your tent in case of a storm. Do not set up your tent under pine trees. We did that one year and awoke to a tent covered with sticky drops of pine resin which never came off even after we brought the tent home and spent many hours scrubbing. When you select the site for your camp, consider how far from your vehicle you will have to carry your tent and other equipment.

When we do the set-up, we start by putting down the plastic ground cover which is about an inch smaller than the floor of the tent. Then, we unroll the tent on the ground cover making sure that the entry flap is where we want it. We stake down two corners on one side of the tent and then stretch the tent floor out from them until we can stake down the two opposite corners. Those need to be snug, but not extremely tight. After the floor is down, we erect the tent. We usually put the rain fly on the tent unless the probably of rain is extremely small. We put a 2 foot by 3 foot throw rug just outside the entry flap. After our tent is up, we bring in the air mattresses and use the little battery driven pump to inflate them. Then, we toss in the sleeping bags and bring in our camping box which I made by modifying a rolling toolbox.


Taking Down the Tent
In the morning, we deflate the air mattresses by removing the caps. Usually, we let them deflate while we are cooking breakfast. Then, we roll up the sleeping bags and transfer those back into the truck. If we have time, we open all of the flaps and let the tent air out while we have breakfast. We carry a small whisk broom and dustpan kit for cleaning any debris from inside the tent before we take it down. Keeping the main flap open, we remove the poles and collapse the tent onto the tent floor spreading the canvas over the floor as evenly as possible. Then, we remove the stakes from the corners on two sides while leaving the stakes in the middle of the tent . We each grab a corner and fold the tent in half using the side stakes as stops. If we remembered the plastic ground cover, the bottom of the tent is usually clean and dry. If it is not dry, we wipe it before removing the two stakes on the opposite corners and folding the tent into quarters. Then, we remove the center stakes and roll up the tent which fits into a large duffel bag type carrying case.
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