Travel Tips: part one – choosing a tent

When my children were very young I had little resources for travel. I took them to an Omnimax show about national parks, and I was feeling disappointed that I couldn’t afford to take them on fun vacations. As I sat there I started thinking maybe I could afford to take them places if we could camp instead of going to motels or hotels.

That started a long tradition that has served us well over many decades. I have found places to go where a two week stay costs what a single night would cost at a hotel in many cities. The key, I discovered, was a combination of choosing good locations and providing safety and comfort through the selection of good camping gear.

I couldn’t afford to accumulate the best equipment all at once, but over the years I have added items (and subtracted others) to increase our camping enjoyment. So I will share some of what I learned on a series of blogs.

This one will focus on choosing a tent. Future blogs will include ideas regarding choosing the right location and tips on what to pack for maximum comfort and fun.

Our first tent was small and inexpensive. We crowded in and slept on the floor. This was fine until it rained, and the tent leaked, causing us to spend precious time in laundromats, washing and drying all of our gear.

Investing in a good tent made all the difference. My favorite brand is Eureka! My favorite style is the Sunrise, but I have used several styles and sizes by Eureka! and all have been very well made. I like the Sunrise because like all Eureka! tents, it does not leak, and it also has great ventilation.

I learned that it is wise to use the extra tie downs that are included, in case of high winds.

I have never experienced getting soaked in these tents. Occasionally the floors may get a a small trickle or corner puddle in extreme conditions, but no flooding. I have learned some tricks for keeping everything cozy and dry, which I will share in another blog.

The Sunrise is also easy to put up and take down. I have done so alone, and my 2 pre-teen children were able to do it without my help. It takes just a few minutes. There are two main poles that hold the tent up, and four smaller poles that keep the door and window covers open. There are windows on all sides that offer cross ventilation and great views in the right location.

I have also tried an LLBean tent that I like. It has straight walls that give taller campers good standing room. It also has a vestibule that allows campers to remove footwear before entering and gives shelter from rain. The model is quite spacious and is great for setting up a table for writing, art projects or board games, still leaving space for sleeping. This model has been discontinued, but I do recommend the brand as the tents are well made. If you can get to an LLBean outlet store you may get a great closeout model at a good discount.

We often take two tents – one for day use and one for sleeping.

The cost can be reduced substantially by purchasing tents directly from the manufacturer and choosing one that has slight flaws. These flaws may include things like minor misallignment of panels, or irregularly placed pockets – nothing that interferes with the stability or water resilience of the tent.

While these tents are more expensive than some other brands, I can purchase a good dry tent that will last for years – and we have used these for up to six consecutive weeks at a time, year after year.

Ventilation in the LLBean is not as good as the Eureka Sunrise, however, and rain flaps are operated from outside the tent. The Sunrise allows window covers to be opened and closed from inside, a real advantage in sudden downpours that wake you at night.

Disclaimer: My comments on products in these travel blogs are based solely on my own experience and preferences. I have no vested interest in any of these products, just an interest in sharing what has worked for me.

It is important to choose a tent that fits your own needs and preferences. We camp in the cooler northern states, so I cannot vouch for how comfortable these particular tents might be in hot climates.

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Writing for my life; working for social justice; grateful for community.

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