Tent & Tarp Information
Choosing the right gear for your needs will make sure
you stay warm and dry.
Tarps: Simple, lightweight and cheap! Tarps are lightweight and versatile. If pitched with the lower edge toward a storm, they can keep you very dry. Fold the tarp in a half triangle shape, or lay another tarp beneath your sleeping pad to keep moisture from your sleeping bag. Tarps don't keep out night insects, but mosquitoes go to bed shortly after dark. While camping with a tarp in the mountains is okay, I wouldn't use a tarp in the desert. I don't like to share my bag with most of the things that crawl around out there.
What do you want your tent for? Tents are now made for about any purpose, number of people, cost, and weight that you can imagine. Decide how many people will sleep in the tent, what you'll use it for, and how much you can afford. Then shop around. You want a tent that will keep you dry in a driving rain or an unexpected snow storm. Look for a "bathtub floor" that covers the bottom and wraps up from the ground several inches. A good rain fly should go nearly to the ground.
Seal the seams yourself Plan on sealing the seams yourself and spraying the tent with a silicone water repellant each year and more than a day before you use it. This can make a leaking tent weathertight.
Want it lighter and stronger Other options, such as aluminum poles, extra windows, storage pockets and vestibules are up to you. A two person backpack tent should be under about eight pounds. Good ones are five to seven pounds. Aluminum poles will bear a heavier snow load than fiberglass poles. They cost more, but they weigh considerably less.
Car camping? If you are car camping, don't worry about the size or weight of the tent. Get something that is tall enough to allow you to put on your clothes on a cold morning without hitting your head on the ceiling, and a design that will withstand a strong wind.
A stitch in time saves nine. Always peg down the tent to maintain its shape and give it strength. Peg down the guy lines if you suspect wind during the night or while you are away from your tent. (It does have guy lines, doesn't it?) Even with gear inside they can blow away like a tumbleweed! I once chased one down that was heading for a dip in the Colorado River while its owner was fishing.