As the humble editor of Trailspace lo these many years, I've had the privilege to read every single user review — yes, all 18,358,742,645,781 — submitted by our many loyal members. Reading that many reviews gives one a unique gear perspective and answers to pressing gear questions.
Questions like: How many men buy kilts and admit to it on a public forum by writing a review? (Answer: 1) What is the most popular day to buy a family camping tent? (Answer: the day before a rainy Memorial Day Weekend) Is it possible to sever one's thumb setting up a tent? (Kind of; we'll get to that later.) And, naturally, what is the best outdoor brand?
The widely coveted Trailspace Outdoor Brand of the Millennium award is painstakingly crafted from the back of a cereal box and meticulously adorned using Sharpie markers.
Well, I'm so glad you asked that last question! I've had some time to think about it, soak up the vast array of gear observations and experiences, and today I am finally ready to anoint the first annual, Trailspace outdoor brand of the millennium. [drum roll, please]
The honor goes to…. none other than Ozark Trail, that ubiquitous brand of big tents sold exclusively at America's biggest of the big boxes and pitched permanently in front yards across America. I'm giving them two thumbs up, and so should you, if you still have both thumbs.
Not only have I read all 7,523,997 OT reviews, I've had the honor to correspond every single day of the past decade, often repeatedly, with many very passionate owners of OT products. And, oh boy, are they both passionate and persistent, a combination that can be rather exciting in some circumstances (though not so much in this one).
Still, you have to admire their persistence. In addition to writing reviews, OT users find me by e-mail, phone, snail mail, and passenger pigeon, and let me into their lives. They tell me all the intimate details of their OT experience, believing -- all reports to the contrary -- that I must be responsible for the exciting adventures that befall them when their tents collapsed on top of them and their children, or when they opened the package to find no poles, or when the air mattress deflated on their honeymoon, or when the tent zippers jammed and they spent an entire weekend locked inside eating trail mix crumbs and playing Go Fish with a deck of 49 cards (you can't buy that kind of family bonding!).
Sadly, I can't take credit for these thrilling episodes of self-discovery. All I can offer people is a sincere "gee-whiz, sorry." But I also like to tell them, "Hey, adversity binds people together. It's a gift! Do you know what some crazy, self-described survivalists would willingly pay to sleep in a piece of snuggly, collapsed nylon atop a cool, calming bed of lapping water? You're sitting on a gold mine here! Call up the Discovery Channel and get yourself your own show!"
And it's not just the colorful language that binds us together. I feel like I really know OT users intimately. No other brand has produced customers willing to send me (a complete stranger!) close-up pictures of a partially severed finger that resulted from a weekend tent set-up mishap. (Finding that in your inbox on a Monday morning will wake you up better than cowboy coffee!) Nor have other brands given me an exciting role in law enforcement, such as when a private investigator asked me to identify boot footprints for a murder investigation. (It was almost like being on “Law and Order”!)
Yes, other outdoor brands may have tents with poles or air mattresses with air, but no one else has inspired the passion of outdoor enthusiasts like Ozark Trail! I'd give them one thumb and a bloody stump up any day of the year, but especially today!