by Patrick O'Brien
I love tents and here are some of my thoughts on their purchase and use . . .
● There is something very comforting when, at the end of the day, no matter where I am, even when cold, hungry or wet, I pitch my tent, climb inside — and, I’m “home”.
● Choose a tent designed for your intended purpose, such as, for example: “tunnel” tents for high wind use or geodesic for heavy snow loads. Many top end tents are a clever combination of both these design elements.
● Purchase the best tent you can afford; a good tent will be the most expensive part of your road kit.
● Good tents have a simple design — avoid tents with complex designs or those offering solutions for problems that don’t exist
● Choose your tent size as follows: if travelling alone, 2 x man tent / if travelling with a partner, 4 x man tent.
● Good tents are distributed with the manufacturer’s repair kit comprising patches for each of the materials used in their construction plus short metal sleeves for broken poles.
● An hermetically sealed tent will protect you from insects, snakes and other assorted creepy-crawlies that nibble ‘n bite in the night. To deter bigger critters, urinate into a container before sleep and spray a circular-perimeter-line about 10 meters out from tent.
● Twin-vestibules provide improved ventilation and alternate access/regress during storms. On good tents, the vestibules will be roomy and may be left open when it rains without leaking water into the cabin.
● A deep, tub-floor will prevent run-off from heavy rain or superficial flooding from entering the cabin.
● Designs with an attached/detachable fly-cover offer more versatility and ease of use.
● Choose a fly-cover that is waterproofed to a minimum of 3500 mm of hydrostatic head tested to British Standard 3424.
● My choice of colour for the fly-cover is dark green or similar.
● Aluminium poles are my preference: greater breaking strain; won’t shatter; can be temporarily repaired in event of mishap (for extreme conditions, carry two sets of poles and double sleeve them).
● To prevent condensation problems through the floor, carry 2 x footprints that have been sized or cut to the dimensions of your cabin. Place one underneath the tent, the other as your first layer inside the cabin.
● Carry a seam sealant and apply liberally on the inside seams of your fly-cover if leaks develop.
● Don’t use commercial products on tent zippers — a soft toothbrush (or similar) is best for cleaning/clearing teeth of dust and grit.
● Good tents are storm proof — but not fireproof, so keep clear of flame and sparks.
● Don’t sleep under trees — falling branches shred tents.
● Cut and carry a length of PVC pipe (or similar) and leave it permanently down the inside of your pack. This serves as a convenient sleeve to insert your pole bag unhindered when stowing.
● Leave a small hand towel (or similar) permanently inside the cabin for wiping out dust and debris prior dropping the tent.
● Carry a small high-absorbent towel specifically to wipe off excess moisture and condensation from the tent prior packing. While it will not always be possible to dry-pack your tent, water is a heavy substance and removing any excess will lessen your weight.
● Remember — it’s not always necessary to actually pitch your tent if the immediate terrain does not provide sufficient screening or cover for your purpose. In some situations it might be preferable to simply use the tent like a bivvy bag.
● Remember, too, that farmers and private land owners all over the world are usually welcoming of the Traveller. Don’t be afraid of asking permission to camp — simply knock on a farm house door before sunset and introduce yourself . . .
● Share the weight if travelling as a couple or with a partner — one carrying the poles and pegs, the other carrying the cabin and fly-cover.
● A combination of daily use and UV light destroys tents — even with care, my tents only last around 18 months!
● My favourite sound in the world is rain on the roof of my tent at night.
● This is my current tent:
Copyright 2010 © Macpac
● A full list of my road kit is available — here
● Free download in PDF format — a useful primmer for tenting in extreme conditions: “Alpine Tech Tip – Shelter For The Storm”