Richard Bucker

size matters when it comes to tents

Posted at — Aug 31, 2016

Without any research I bought an 8 person tent; and I was wrong. My thinking was that my family consists of the four of us. Two kids less than 48" and two adults. The choice was made because I thought we would use cots. That’s what my friends were using and so why not me. The problem is that unless you spend upwards of $75 per cot the feet are likely to damage the tent floor; assuming it has a floor. Also, the tent weighs enough that it’s meant for car camping and not backpacking, Finally, it has a high ceiling so that I can stand in the center but to what end? This was still intended for simple camping and there are few activities to be had. Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.Doing a little research I bought a 6 person tent; and I was wrongI was uncomfortable in the first tent so I bought a Coleman that promised a 10% deperature differential and a dark, cave like, interior good for napping. Besides the floor with holes and the damaged tiedowns… I set it up once and quickly realized that the performance was greatly exaggerated. (I missed my return date by almost a month) The tent is also supposed to be a “fast pitch” but it’s not. I’m not sure that setup is as important as disassembly; and it’s far from that. And so I’m reminded… Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.Doing a lot more research I bought a hammock and rainfly; and I was wrongAt this point I had decided that I was going to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I did a lot of research. There are a few options. [a] sleep in the provided shelters [b] tent or hammock in preferred areas [c] stealth camp. The bottom line was that I wanted to be comfortable and my intuition said that hammocks were the way to go. I had also read and watched enough hikers to know that hammocks were a legitimate shelter. (And what could go wrong in 4 days). The problem is I could not test my hammock. The county parks where I live do not permit hanging anything on trees. At the time I was not aware of any national parks and so there I was. A great tent and no place to dance.Doing even more research I bought a bug net; and I was wrongOnce I discovered the Florida Trail I watched everything I could. Most, if not all, hikers were ground sleeping. The videos I watched indicated that the types of trees might be useless for hammocks. I was not feeling good about this. So it dawned on me that since I did not have a bugnet with my hammock, I was relying on permethrin, that re-purposing my hammock tarp and adding a bugnet style bivy I might have multiple choices as far as how/where to sleep. And as at least one section was mostly underwater setting up a hammock off-trail in the swamp was possible instead of trudging to the next, possibly soaked, campsite.So I purchased an inexpensive bugnet and continued to research other bugnets and bivy. I found a few good bivy but they were expensive; starting for $175 for cuben fiber. I also found a nice mosquito net (500hpi) for $57. The plan was to add the bivy or bugnet, re-purpose the tarp and sleep on the ground. The problem was that when I tried to setup my diamond shaped rainfly as a ground shelter I realized how exposed I was going to be. I have a second rainfly with 2 large catcuts on each side; between the 5' width and the cuts florida’s sideways rain is going to get me.I have a daughter who reacts poorly to mosquitoes so the bugnet is not going to go to waste, it was just wrong for me.Doing some exhaustive research I bought a 24oz 1 person tent; and I have no idea if I’m wrongI have watched a number of people talk about their gear. I’ve also watched people talk about bushcraft and ultralight hiking; and the message is essentially the same. Carry the least amount you need to be safe and make sue that a thing you want to carry can perform more than one function. So in the end I found myself comparing the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and the Six Moon Designs Luna Solo and Solo LE. The BA is about 1 pound heavier than the Solo. The Solo LE is 6oz heavier then the Solo (different floor). The Solo uses trekking poles for it’s structure and while that adds $30 to my cost of the tent… I do not count the cost, size or weight as part of the sleeping system since I would need them anyway. The Solo has an adequate vestibule as well as a ‘+’ in storage which could be for the pack or a child. Since this is a short tent, about 48" tall I can sit up… Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.Honorable mentionAs I was struggling with the bivy and bugnet I was also thinking about the SMD (six moon designs) tarp tents. These are tarps that resemble tents. They look like the Solo tent in some cases but are absent of a floor or bugnet or support a bugnet accessory. So depending on the conditions you could pick the components you want. There were many options here including a convertible poncho tent that would work with the bugnet accessory. And in the case of the poncho we have some dual duty.Ultimately the poncho was cool. It might be useful as a backup to my main shelter and maybe even more useful with the hammock as part of the ALT-sleep system. But as a primary, the poncho shelter,  and the other tarptents lacked security from certain bugs and snakes that might crawl or slither into my tent. When money is no object different choices can be made.