cold weather camping

9:50 a.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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I want to do some cold weather camping with a tent.Have the tent and am not expecting snow but what are some helpful hints while winter camping?I'm going to a campground and mostly people with their RV's will be there but the management said if i want to use a tent-go for it!I was in the Army for 21 years and am familiar with the cold weather and camping but need a refresher.Thanks

10:45 a.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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Keep warm keep dry

11:44 a.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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Where and what temps? What kind of sleeping bag and temp rating? Do you have a sleeping pad? If so, how thick?

2:00 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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I have a Army extreme cold weather bag,an air mattress,a sleeping pad.

2:02 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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Be mindful of the forecast, have a good tent, good bag and a pad that insulates well whether it is a closed cell, self inflating or insulated air mattress type.  Stay hydrated because the cold will make you feel like you are not thirsty.  Layer your clothing and always have insulation on your head. 

2:03 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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Your sleeping pad is one item that can be overlooked.  The insulation of the pad is very important.  Some of the pads have a lot of air and not enough insulation.  You can lose a lot of heat through the sleeping pad.

A fleece cap works well through the night.

4:45 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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  • Camping near RVs? Bring ear plugs so you can muffle generator and engine noises when you want to sleep.
  • Keep a pot of soup or chili simering, and snack on it for comfort.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Sleeping on the ground is warmer than up on a cot or in a car.
  • It is easier to keep warm next to a small fire than a large one.
  • Inactivity can make you chilly.  Get up and move around a bit before giving up and retreating to your warm sleeping bag.
  • Wear fresh long johns and socks to bed.  Clothing worn all day will be damp from sweat and make you chilly in bed.
  • Do not close your tent up completely.  Some air circulation keeps condensation down.

Ed

5:03 p.m. on December 22, 2011 (EST)
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Do you have the whole ECWS or MMS bag system? I have only seen those online, but either one should keep you warm from what I read about how they work. A pad is part of the system, according to what I saw.

To me, winter camping means snow, otherwise, you are just out in cold weather. There is a lot of info on snow camping online and in books. For snow, Allen & Mike's Backcountry Ski Book is a really good introduction. Much of the book is about snow camping, not skiing itself. About $10-12 at Amazon.

I looked at your other posts and see you worked at an outdoor store and already have a couple of stoves, so some of what I wrote below before looking at those poste will be redundant, but perhaps worth reading for anyone else in your situation who is starting out with less experience than you, so bear with me on this.

Generally speaking, the essentials are the tent you already have, a warm bag, which you have, a stove of some kind (a simple canister stove is good if the weather is above 20F, otherwise a liquid fuel stove like the ones you have work better).

For clothes, as mentioned already, layers starting with a base layer of synthetic or wool, a mid insulating layer-fleece, down or synthetic and an outer shell, anything from a simple waterproof jacket up to a Goretex or similar shell, plus pants, an insulating hat, like a fleece beanie, gloves (almost any kind of insulated glove or mitt will work, no need to spend a huge amount on those, unless you really want to), warm boots and socks.

It obviously gets dark early in winter, so a good flashlight or headlamp is necessary. I use a headlamp (REI has a big selection) because that frees up my hands for cooking or whatever else I need two hands for.

Other than that, unless you are actually hiking and need navigation tools (map, compass and GPS) you are probably set. For food, you could bring almost anything if car camping. I've carried in frozen steaks backpacking, but usually it's dried food of one kind or another. There are better (or least different)meals out there than MRE's, but I've seen those or the civilian equivalent of them for sale.

Finally, if money is an issue or if you just like getting a deal, don't be shy about shopping at Goodwill or Salvation Army. Depending on where you live, you can sometimes find gently used ski clothes, jackets, wool sweaters and so on at bargain basement prices. Sometimes people have garage sales or sell things on Craigslist or eBay that they have used a few times, then put away when they decided to do something else with their time. For example, I've bought a tent, winter boots, ski boots, down parka, sleeping bag, stoves (several), compass, and GPS on either Craigslist or eBay at great prices. The trick is be patient and know what something is worth (check for original retail price) before buying. Takes some doing, but I found it to be worth it. 

11:08 a.m. on December 26, 2011 (EST)
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-there is a difference between 3 season and 4 season tents.  4 season, the pole configuration and strength of the materials are designed to bear the weight of falling snow and the impact of higher winds.  you don't expect snow; if it might get windy, it helps to have some spare twine to use for guylines if it gets windy.  other than cotton utility cord, anything works.  light accessory cord (1.5 or 2 mm) is inexpensive, 100 feet for under $10.  it lasts a long time, and some brands have reflective strands woven in so you don't trip on the guylines at night (one brand is sterling 'glocord.')

-lots of hats, extra gloves, extra socks

-synthetic or down booties are great for when you are sitting around

-layering - not just wearing multiple layers, but adding or subtractig layers while you hike so you don't overheat and don't get to cold when you stop.    

 

7:17 a.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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Lots of good tips and advice already given. First off I would like to say it's a very smart move to go car camping first when just getting into cold weather camping, so sounds like your thinking right right out of the gate which is good.

Some things that I always do on my cold weather/winter trips.

-Bring a 2 liter pot for melting snow if needed

-bring a dry backup pair of gloves, and a spare balaclava or hat.

-dry long underwear for sleep

-if its really cold down pants are worth their weight in gold IMO, as are down booties.

-use water containers that are durable such as a hard sided nalgene bottle, freezing of water can cause the soft sided collapsible bottles/bladders to develop leaks in my experience.

-fill a nalgene bottle with hot water and put it in your sleeping bag by thigh or feet, will provide heat for a good several hours and will provide you with already melted water for the morning. There is a certain trick to this s read up before trying so that you don't get a leak.

-there is alot less day light so a good headlamp and extra batteries and or a candle lantern is nice.

-make sure you have plenty of under insulation, IMO it is far more important than your sleeping bag. Usually using a ccf pad and an inflatable together is a good combo down to 0Fish depending on the inflatable used.

-if doing any hiking a traction aid in invaluable in icy conditions, I prefer kahtoola microspikes.

-In winter I always carry an emergency kit on my person. This includes primarily a sure way of making fire. Typical scenario is you some how get soaked and need to start a fire immediately while your shivering uncontrollably and your hands are going numb before you pass out from hyporthermia. I  carry 3 3in pieces of a cut up sparkler and a pack of wetfire, small box strike anywhere matches, blowtorch/windproof style lighter. All carried in a altoids tin in a ziplock. Also have a few dry pieces of tinder and birch bark in the kit as well. This isn't so much a danger when car camping, but in the backcountry it can save your life. If your traveling on a frozen lake etc carrying an ice pick around your neck is a smart idea as well.

-Stuff and pack away your sleeping bag as soon as you wake up, it should be the first thing you do when you get out of bed. This is a good  habit/practice to learn as it will greatly reduce the amount of loft you loose in a down bag over the period of a long trip. This is getting all of that moist air from your body out of the bag before it has a chance to condense inside the bag. As soon as you (the heat source) get out of the bag that air inside the bag will start to condense in a short fashion.

1:02 p.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

Lots of good tips and advice already given. First off I would like to say it's a very smart move to go car camping first when just getting into cold weather camping, so sounds like your thinking right right out of the gate which is good.

Some things that I always do on my cold weather/winter trips.

-Bring a 2 liter pot for melting snow if needed

-bring a dry backup pair of gloves, and a spare balaclava or hat.

-dry long underwear for sleep

-if its really cold down pants are worth their weight in gold IMO, as are down booties.

-use water containers that are durable such as a hard sided nalgene bottle, freezing of water can cause the soft sided collapsible bottles/bladders to develop leaks in my experience.

-fill a nalgene bottle with hot water and put it in your sleeping bag by thigh or feet, will provide heat for a good several hours and will provide you with already melted water for the morning. There is a certain trick to this s read up before trying so that you don't get a leak.

-there is alot less day light so a good headlamp and extra batteries and or a candle lantern is nice.

-make sure you have plenty of under insulation, IMO it is far more important than your sleeping bag. Usually using a ccf pad and an inflatable together is a good combo down to 0Fish depending on the inflatable used.

-if doing any hiking a traction aid in invaluable in icy conditions, I prefer kahtoola microspikes.

-In winter I always carry an emergency kit on my person. This includes primarily a sure way of making fire. Typical scenario is you some how get soaked and need to start a fire immediately while your shivering uncontrollably and your hands are going numb before you pass out from hyporthermia. I  carry 3 3in pieces of a cut up sparkler and a pack of wetfire, small box strike anywhere matches, blowtorch/windproof style lighter. All carried in a altoids tin in a ziplock. Also have a few dry pieces of tinder and birch bark in the kit as well. This isn't so much a danger when car camping, but in the backcountry it can save your life. If your traveling on a frozen lake etc carrying an ice pick around your neck is a smart idea as well.

-Stuff and pack away your sleeping bag as soon as you wake up, it should be the first thing you do when you get out of bed. This is a good  habit/practice to learn as it will greatly reduce the amount of loft you loose in a down bag over the period of a long trip. This is getting all of that moist air from your body out of the bag before it has a chance to condense inside the bag. As soon as you (the heat source) get out of the bag that air inside the bag will start to condense in a short fashion.

 I agree with most of these points---always having two pairs of gloves is like having two pairs of socks---one pair that stays dry always and one pair that can get wet.

I do take exception to your last point.  On long winter trips I must by habit and routine hang out my down bag in the morning while getting camp fixed for shoving off.  The reason is my microfiber bag shell is usually moist due to in-tent condensation and needs an "airing out" with 20 or 30 minutes being sufficient to bring back all the loft.  This procedure works from -10F to 20F, maybe at -30F it would be necessary to do as you suggest.  And there's a possible chance that goretex shells hold in more moisture, I wouldn't know as I've never had a down bag with GTX or eVent, etc.

THE THREE OVERKILLS---My winter trips have improved tremendously since the purchase of these three items:  An overkill down parka (Feathered Friends Icefall), a pair of down pants and a pair of down booties.  Here's my advice---Don't think about this, just go out and save up for these items and get them or their equivalents and upgrade your winter backpacking experience.  Then when the temps dip to 0F you will either be warm in your sleeping bag or warm in your "upright sleeping bag"---the parka and pants and booties.

1:47 p.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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I guess the best way to say it is its a good idea to squeeze out all of the air of your bag as soon as you get up. You don't neccesarily have to pack it away immediately. The main point here is to get all of that warm moist air OUT of the bag. Once you squeeze it good to get all of that air out then certainly you can hang it out etc. I have found that doing this immediately all but eliminates the need to use a VBL in a sleeping bag.

My morning routine is to lay in my hammock while still under my quilts and make my morning coffee, once i drink that down I then get out from under my quilts and immediately squeeze/compress the quilts to get the air out then i leave them on my hammock while I do my other camp chores. Sometimes I do pack them right away also, it just depends on how quick I am trying to get out and moving and if the outside of them has any frost on them.

2:13 p.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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Rambler

How do you make coffee while you are still under your quilts? Not meant to be snarky, just curious.

2:32 p.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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Hahaha! Ahh, the wonderful breakfast from the hammock time!

I keep my stove on the ground near my hammock, i basically just wake up grab my water bottle put some water in my mug, light up my alchy stove and wait. i use via packets so all i have to do is add hot water. Sometime i'll make oatmeal etc also.

It's actually quite easy because I hang my hammock at chair height, so while I am laying in it it is quite low to the ground, so its easy to reach out and do simple tasks. I keep a water bottle, stove, and alchohol nearby. If its real cold i keep the water and alcohol in the hammock with me to kep warm.

I have also used my msr xgk ex, though it is a littler harder to use compared to a alcohol stove. On either side of my hammock I have about 4 feet to my tarp edge, and about 4-5 feet clearance above the stove. So quite a decent sized area to cook in. To prevent any possible disaster with the xgk I use a windproof lighter to preheat the tube on the stove instead of burning gas to do so. Takes about 20 seconds of keeping the lighter on it typically and It fires right up without needing to use a priming flame as I am sure anyone knows that priming flame can easily become a priming fireball if not careful.

8:09 p.m. on December 27, 2011 (EST)
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Okay.   I was picturing a jetboil sitting on your stomach.

2:38 a.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

I guess the best way to say it is its a good idea to squeeze out all of the air of your bag as soon as you get up. You don't neccesarily have to pack it away immediately. The main point here is to get all of that warm moist air OUT of the bag. Once you squeeze it good to get all of that air out then certainly you can hang it out etc. I have found that doing this immediately all but eliminates the need to use a VBL in a sleeping bag...

I agree with the comments here, combined with Tipi's airing out.  I'll go one further:  On extended trips we unpack our bags on mid trail rest stops, stuffing them into black trash can bags, and let solar heat further dry them.  It doesn't even need to be warm outside, as this works with radiated heat.  Compress the air out of the trash bag a few times during the bake process to get rid of the moist air.

Ed

2:53 a.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

..I have also used my msr xgk ex, though it is a littler harder to use compared to a alcohol stove. On either side of my hammock I have about 4 feet to my tarp edge, and about 4-5 feet clearance above the stove. So quite a decent sized area to cook in. To prevent any possible disaster with the xgk I use a windproof lighter to preheat the tube on the stove instead of burning gas to do so. Takes about 20 seconds of keeping the lighter on it typically and It fires right up without needing to use a priming flame as I am sure anyone knows that priming flame can easily become a priming fireball if not careful.

I would not recomend using a gas stove inside any confinement.  There are other failure modes besides priming mishaps, and in most cases these incidents are suden and ample enough that wall tents aren't big enough to escape conflagration.  Do enough cold camping around people who use stoves in tents and you will come to appreciate this advice.

Ed

2:55 a.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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..

11:17 a.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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Okay.   I was picturing a jetboil sitting on your stomach.

 LMAO!!  Just picturing this had me laughing so very hard!!  I guess you would need to keep the hammock nice and steady!

But this dose sound like a nice little set up Rambler.  Its got me thinking about hammocks a lot more.  At least for solo camping.

Wolfman

1:59 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

I would not recomend using a gas stove inside any confinement.  There are other failure modes besides priming mishaps, and in most cases these incidents are suden and ample enough that wall tents aren't big enough to escape conflagration.  Do enough cold camping around people who use stoves in tents and you will come to appreciate this advice.

Ed

 But, Ed, when you get the fireball in the tent, the tent will disappear within 10 seconds. At least, that's what happened with the 1967 Wilcox expedition on Denali in the 1970s (OK, I shouldn't make jokes about that expedition, which ended up losing 7 of the 12 members. The stove mishap happened when one of the two stoves had run out of fuel, while the whole group of 12 was sitting in one of the 2 Logan tents. They refueled the empty stove while the other stove was running, apparently in fairly close proximity. In "Hall of the Mountain King" (by Howard Snyder), one of the two main books about the expedition, the estimated time of vanishing of the tent, a sleeping bag, and a down parka was 10 seconds. The author said that he leaped for the tent door and by the time he got there, the whole tent had vanished). Joe Wilcox, after whom the expedition was named, tells a slightly different tale in "White Winds".

One advantage of a tarp is plenty of ventilation plus a large area for the escape route. Not sure about bailing from the hammock to flee, though. You could land on the flaming stove.

As I demonstrate in the High Adventure course I teach, modern tent materials are very flammable. I use swatches from retired tents with candles, lighters, and a "minitent" with a small cup of lit white gas inside it. Some tent materials are so flammable (silnylon, for one) that tents made of those materials cannot pass the fire safety rules in several states. As a result, at least one high quality tent brand is not sold in California.

2:03 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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As a suggestion, wait for the coldest night, set-up in the backyard and spend the night in your tent. 

I do this with all new gear I get as far as tents bags, and pads go.

In the summer or warmer seasons I typically wait for the nastiest rain storm and set up my tent in it. This gives me a heads up on leaks, or any other problems I need to address before I go off to the hills on a multi-day trip. 

Its alot easier to bail if what you are using is not up to snuff for the conditions as opposed to being miles away from anyone/anything.

Its also alot safer than shivering your way back to safety on the brink of hypothermia.  

Pete, out of curiosity where do you plan on hiking/camping?

The reason I ask this is (as you probably are aware of already) there is a substantial difference in setting camp above treeline, on a bald, or in the forest itself. 

With these different settings you expose yourself to different situations.

Alot of great points made above. I do the water bottle trick TheRambler is referring too. 

Its a great way to pre-heat your bag. Also, maybe do a few "side straddle hops" to get your body warmed up before you climb in you bag. 

This helps as well. 

Also, what type of stove are you using? I am not sure what type of temps you are going to be subjected too but this has a great deal to do with the performance of different types of stoves, etc as Tom has mentioned above. 

2:11 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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Bill S said:

Some tent materials are so flammable (silnylon, for one) that tents made of those materials cannot pass the fire safety rules in several states. As a result, at least one high quality tent brand is not sold in California.

Bill, I was under the impression that the laws in regards to fire resistance when it came to tents was a nation wide thing.

Then again, each state/county/municipality has their own fire codes.

Hmmmm, this is interesting.

I heard that alot of the Euro companies cannot plant their feet in the US market due to the fact that they cannot meet code for the states.

Its all making sense now.   

3:18 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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I fully understand using a stove inside a shelter is dangerous, however IMO it's not nearly as dangerous in a tarp because there is no floor material to catch and spread the inferno if one were to take place. If one were to accidentally tip a stove over in my case it would just be onto the snow. In a tent however it's tipping over onto more fuel(tent floor). Doesn't make it safe either way, but just my opinion. If the fuel bottle leaks thats a different issue that could be avoided by a simple preuse check of the seal.

I didn't want to hijack the thread, was just answering a question how i commonly cooked from my hammock with mainly an alcohol stove.

6:14 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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Bill S said "They refueled the empty stove while the other stove was running, apparently in fairly close proximity."

This is human error pure and simple.  It would be akin to looking down into my fuel bottle with a lit Bic lighter to see how much white gas I have left.  There are many many examples of "pilot error" in mountaineering stories that I sometimes wonder if many of them aren't rank newbs. 

The last two books I took out on a trip to read were---"K2, Triumph and Tragedy", by Jim Curran, 1987, and "No Way Down:  Life andDeath On K2" by Graham Bowley, 2010. 

In Bowley's book, a giant balcony serac collapsed and kept climbers all strung out below the summit w/o ropes.  But here's the thing---and something not even a newbie would do---many climbers incredibly had no extra food, oxygen, sleeping bags or tents!!  And yet they decide (or must) bivouac on the side of the mountain.

So, using mountaineers as examples of the pitfalls of cooking inside a tent might not be the best choice since apparently many of them take calculated risks and make newb mistakes just to fulfill some overly-ambitious quest.

7:06 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

..using mountaineers as examples of the pitfalls of cooking inside a tent might not be the best choice since apparently many of them take calculated risks and make newb mistakes just to fulfill some overly-ambitious quest.

But that is exactly the point; using a stove in a tent IS a (mis) calculated, unecessary risk.  Even Ken explains he justifies his practice on the basis of comparative risk, yet his very rationalization demonstrates the error of such assumptions (see below).  Mountaineers are no more addlebrained than other campers.  If you want to cast dispersions on mountaineers the correct one in this case is the hubris of assuming hundreds of trips makes one an expert, thus somehow immune to tent fires.  And do note these are exactly the alibis of everyone who practices this stunt under anything less than the most dire of circumstances. 

One thing is apparent talking to those who involuntarily occupied flaming tents or those who bore witness; the tent floor was not principle in the spreading of the fire, that the two primary modes of progression don’t even need a tent floor as a fuel source.  The two tents I saw burn both had most of the floor intact afterward, while barely any fabric remained of the tent walls.  (Remember heat rises, so the tent floor itself is about the last item to burn.)  A common mode for a tent fires to spread is via a fireball from suspended fumes or pooled fuel.  The fire ball rises to the ceiling and the intense heat immediately ignites all fabric articles it contacts.  This happens horribly fast, you will singe a lot of hair at minimum if caught in such an event.  The fireball can be pretty big too, the sound I heard from such a fireball was simular to the whomping sound of beating a hung rug with a broom.  The other primary ignition sequence is a lower intensity fire starts - for example an out of control stove priming – which manages to ignite cloth gear or a tent wall.  In this case you do have a few seconds before this flashes over to involve the whole tent, but it too is still too quick to say you have sufficient time to unzip the tent door and get everyone out without someone getting hurt.

Ed

11:21 p.m. on December 28, 2011 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Mountaineers are no more addlebrained than other campers. 

Ed

 While I tend to agree, the example Bill S gave is partly one of being addled, otherwise who in their right mind would refill a stove near an open flame?  Or climb up to 28,000 feet without a sleeping bag and pad?

The whole act of backpacking is a series of calculated risks---falling, tree snags collapsing, lightning bolts, bad water, hypothermia and frostbite, high water crossings, avalanche, etc.  While using a stove in a tent vestibule may be crazy, it's not more nuts than the usual risky incidents of living outdoors, and yet it's given tremendous negatory coverage whilst the main causes of backpacking deaths are left unsung, for the most part.  In fact, has any US backpacker ever died from a tent fire?

I believe falling is the number one killer of hikers and outdoorsmen, or maybe it's drowning, and yet we all take the calculated risk of hiking on two legs which could tumble us down to the ground from whatever perch we find.  So, should we call walking a mis-calculated unnecessary risk since several people do it and die every year?  Hypothermia can kick one's butt yet do we shelve our winter trips?

Cooking in a tent vestibule is just another calculated risk along with all the others. 

12:30 a.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

..Cooking in a tent vestibule is just another calculated risk along with all the others. 

Better stated: it is a mis-calculated risk. 

People usually have a good idea how sure footed they are.  Most climbers avoid bowling alleys and otherwise attempt to reduce exposure to objective risk.  But most people generally have only a marginal awareness of the foibles of stoves behaving badly, or how stove fires behave.  One detail left off Bill's description of the Willcox tent fire is one of climbers had the habit of tossing the team's stoves about, and that this is thought to have contributed to the accident. 

I have seen firsthand campers using plastic MSR fuel pumps with striped threads where the pump engages the fuel bottle.  What if I didn’t catch that user error and the stove was then put to use in our tent?  You either personally inspect every stove before use, else accept risk commensurate to the ignorance level of others in your group.  Since most don’t want to come off as control freaks we tend to live with this risk.

I experienced several butane canisters that leaked when uncoupled from a stove.  What if that happened in a tent, with the jet of fuel finding an ignition source, such as a candle?  In at least one of these instances there was no reason for me to suspect any problem beforehand; the canister was fresh, and the stove used only a few times.  Unanticipated and unmanageable  objective risk. 

I have no idea how many failure modes there are, nor the frequency they occur.  Therefore I would be taking a miscalculated risk operating my stove in a confined space.  Heck I camp with one individual who is so clumsy I do not allow candles or fluids in my tent, as he invariably spills both at every opportunity.  He has managed to foul at least one canister stove, repeatedly spilling pot contents down the burner orifice.  Therefore I insist on doing all cooking on our trips.  I cannot imagine a stove under his management in a tent.  I may not know the actuarial odds of stove mishaps, but I know the formula in its abstract:
Monkeys + serious business = Monkey Business

In any case waltzing off into the backcountry can be considered a game of risk management, with mountaineers pressing the margins.  They willingly own that, although many are in denial as to how great the various risks are.  But most people do not contemplate operating a stove in a tent with the mindset they are engaging in a dangerous activity with tangible, serious, objective risks.  More likely they think it is similar to driving on the freeway.  Yea, driving on the freeway 80mph with threadbare tires.   But only a fool would do that, right? 

Ed

2:28 p.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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Looks like my basic points were missed. The point is do NOT use stoves or any open flame anywhere near flammable materials. The synthetic materials from which tents, sleeping bags, tarps, hammocks, clothing are made are flammable, some extremely flammable.

Tipi, most of the population believes that backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor activity participants are nothing short of all-out insane to go out in the outdoors any time of year, especially winter. Stop the random canonical "man in the street" and tell him any of your trip reports (with your excellent photos), and 9 times out of 10, the response you get will be that you are completely bonkers. So we are all addled here anyway. The Wilcox case is one of the more spectacular, but not completely isolated.

Even though the instruction sheet with all stoves and with all tents says very explicitly "do not use the stove in a tent", and the general advice is to keep flames (including candles) a minimum of 20 feet from any fabric, we all run the stove wearing our synthetic shirts, long johns, jackets, and pants, getting within inches of the flames. The stove instructions include "do not use indoors", meaning in the kitchen of your house. Anyone who has camped in harsh conditions (heavy rain, blizzards, high winds) has had the temptation to go ahead and use the stove inside the tent or at least the vestibule. It is done on expeditions all the time. Some tents are even sold as "cook tents".

Things do happen. As Ed points out, compressed gas canisters do sometimes leak. Sometimes the screw-on stove tops do not seal completely. Sometimes the flexible hoses develop cracks, notably in serious cold weather. You don't always notice these leaks. Sometimes we all get impatient and hurry things, which means getting careless. Yeah, the advice is "be careful". But we all get distracted, in a rush, take shortcuts because it is raining or snowing, we get fatigued after a long day of hiking/climbing/skiing, we "get away" with something, then mentally relax our guard because "it worked before" ...

Over the years, I have had my share of connections that leaked, including a brand new stove. And I have witnessed some spectacular stove failures in the hands of very experienced hikers and climbers (including a couple involving professional guides).

To reiterate and emphasize - Modern synthetic materials used for outdoor activities are flammable. Be very very careful when there are any flames around. And remember to check and re-check each other.

By the way, the published safety information for airline travel says to wear natural fiber clothing (wool, cotton, linen, silk), and NOT to wear synthetics. The reason is that, if there is a crash and a resulting fire, the natural fibers may smolder but not actually burn, where the synthetics will burn and melt, thus clinging to your skin and resulting in much more severe burns.

5:29 p.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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A bit off topic, but relevant. A few years ago at UCLA, a lab tech was transferring a volatile chemical (some kind of lithium compound) from one container to another. The syringe she was using broke, exposing the compound to air causing a fireball. Instead of a lab coat, she had on a synthetic sweater that caught fire and severly burned her. She died from the burns. Just recently criminal charges against UCLA and her supervisor were filed which brought the story back into the media.

The point is, had she been wearing a cotton lab coat (or better yet. something like Nomex), she probably would have survived. There is a reason those wintertrekking campers in Canada use cotton tents, wool pants and shirts, cotton anoraks and leather gloves-they use in-tent stoves and have a fire going outside in subzero weather.

Even if they take big down parkas (which some do), they don't wear them around fires or their stoves to avoid ruining them or getting burned or they wear their anoraks over them.

I would bet many of us have cut a piece of parachute cord or nylon rope and singed the end to keep it from unravelling. Imagine that melting against your skin. Yikes.

 

6:01 p.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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Tom D said:

The point is, had she been wearing a cotton lab coat (or better yet. something like Nomex), she probably would have survived. There is a reason those wintertrekking campers in Canada use cotton tents, wool pants and shirts, cotton anoraks and leather gloves-they use in-tent stoves and have a fire going outside in subzero weather.

Even if they take big down parkas (which some do), they don't wear them around fires or their stoves to avoid ruining them or getting burned or they wear their anoraks over them.

 

 The Wintertrekking website is very nice and reminds me once again of my 21 years of Tipi life.  As they say, there is hot camping and cold camping, and a canvas/tarp tipi is hot camping at its finest.  I'll share some fotogs of Hot Camping---


merle-and-the-smallernew-stove.jpg

I found this Atlanta Stove Works stove at a Foscoe NC flea market for $70---now it would be a steal.  At around 140 lbs I had to hump it up a mile trail with a gain of about a thousand feet but once in the lodge it saved my butt on hundreds of winter nights.  It was my second stove and replaced a real piece of crap with big leaks and all else.


woodstove-in-lodge.jpg

I finally got it up to the lodge (it took three days) and POW!  We have ignition!  My daily woodpile is inside by the stove, the candles light the night (along with a later Aladdin kerosene lamp), and the stovepipe shoots out thru the extra wide door.  Check out the little piece of cornbread atop the stove.  The tipi door is upper right---green canvas and hung wool and a field jacket liner for insulation.


Wood-Smoke-and-the-Tipi.jpg

Hot camping at its best.  This lodge took the brunt of Hurricane Hugo in '89, the cold snap of '87, the Blizzard of '93, the ice storms of '98 and '99, and the windstorms of 2001--- along with many 70mph gusts.  40 poles inside, 20 of them locust.  The dead leaf berm is held up by chicken wire and insulates from the cold and wind.  I used woodpiles as fences and wind buffers.


Tipi-Ridge-in-the-Wind.jpg

The back side of the lodge shows the stovepipe coming out of the door and held up by a Tee pipe junction, allowing the creosote to drain into the ground.

ANYWAY---Sorry for the misdirection.  My last decade of living out has been Cold Camping---the joys of backwoods roaming w/o the luxury of a woodstove.  It's alot more difficult, in all ways.

GOOSE DOWN MUST REPLACE THE WOODSTOVE---For cold camping, a good tent becomes the tipi (my Keron), a fabulous down sleeping bag becomes the woodstove, along with overkill down clothing.




6:43 p.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks Tipi for the photos. Anyone interested in hot tenting should check out the wintertrekking site, lots of good info for deep winter camping in a traditional style (no UL stuff with those guys).

7:39 p.m. on December 29, 2011 (EST)
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Oh I don't know about that Tom D, TiGoat has titanium stoves starting at only  2lbs, 8.5oz.  

1:39 a.m. on December 30, 2011 (EST)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Oh I don't know about that Tom D, TiGoat has titanium stoves starting at only  2lbs, 8.5oz.  

 You don't spend much time on the UL sites do you? :)

A true UL camper thinks any stove made out of anything other than a soda can is too heavy.

btw, those TG stoves are pretty neat. I saw a video on YouTube about how to put one together-the round one.

2:24 a.m. on December 30, 2011 (EST)
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Bill S said:

Tipi, most of the population believes that backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor activity participants are nothing short of all-out insane to go out in the outdoors any time of year, especially winter. Stop the random canonical "man in the street" and tell him any of your trip reports (with your excellent photos), and 9 times out of 10, the response you get will be that you are completely bonkers. 

Nah, we are the sane ones...

I have to agree with this notion. I cannot for the life of me persuade my friends to ever give it a try with me. 

Mind you I ask them around late spring early summer.

Even a 6 mile in, 6 mile out over-nighter is out of the question. I even offer to hump the load(which isn't much) and they can tote the daypack with the little stuff.

No dice. 

Maybe if I ask them to join me in January they may take me up on the offer.

3:12 a.m. on December 30, 2011 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

..I have to agree with this notion. I cannot for the life of me persuade my friends to ever give it a try with me...

 You're using the wrong bait. 

Show them some pictures of you posing with some trophy bass you allegedly caught on a prior trip, with some of nature's finest backcountry girls loitering in the background, nearby.  Photoshop this lure if you must, its for their own good.

Ed

12:12 p.m. on December 30, 2011 (EST)
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8:30 p.m. on December 30, 2011 (EST)
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Vertex 6.5 3 man tent with carbon fiber pole, 3lbs 7oz Total weight

12" cylinder stove weight 1lbs 10oz total weight with 7' Ti pipe.

5lbs 1oz for a 3 man tent and stove? That's UL. Especially if you can carry a lighter sleeping bag.

1:24 p.m. on December 31, 2011 (EST)
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Nice photos Tipi! Being in the Army,I've spent many cold nights in a tent-The tent heaters do keep the tents warm but when that goes out all you have is your sleeping bag to keep warm!Will keep all this advice when i go!

2:13 p.m. on December 31, 2011 (EST)
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There are die-hard aficionados of Kifaru-style camping whereby a human being lugs out around a ten pound shelter kit after you include the tent and the liner and the stakes and the single pole and the stove and stove pipe and ground cloth.  This is still pretty darn light.  There are several problems with this---one being the expense.  If you thought Hillebergs are high . . . . . .

I'm not saying the Kifaru/Titanium Goat tipis are like the old Chouinard Pyramids or Megamids, but sometimes I like to have a floor to keep out ground water, spindrift and bugs. I like the looks of these tipis of course, and they could be used as single poled tarps w/o the woodstove with a good reduction in weight. But I know exactly what would happen with one of these in a gully washer-deluge---I'd be up all night checking on the "lake effect" and whether my stuff needs to be moved.

I need to try a Kifaru out with the liner but w/o the woodstove---just to see if I'm missing anything.  The liner would make it a double walled shelter and keep the pounding rainwater inside "mist" away.  The problem with a single pole tipi is the dang center pole, and if the tipi is too small (like the Chouinard Pyramid) you end up sleeping not in the center of the circle but off to the side enough to keep the foot of your bag against the wet wall.  Not good. Although of course the pole can be off center by about 10 inches though this would not help in wind strength.

5:51 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

..The problem with a single pole tipi is the dang center pole, and if the tipi is too small (like the Chouinard Pyramid) you end up sleeping not in the center of the circle but off to the side enough to keep the foot of your bag against the wet wall.  Not good. Although of course the pole can be off center by about 10 inches though this would not help in wind strength.

I have seen the BD Pyramid held up with two poles, each coming from opposite sides (or corners) of the tent.  Use cord to lash ends together at the apex.  This eliminates the center pole nuisance.  Add another set of poles perpendicular to the first set, if you like, for a bomber (but unnecessary) reinforcement.

Ed

5:16 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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I would bring my Amex and check into the nearest Hyatt...

5:19 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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Here is a pretty nice tipi set-up I found on a search. Pretty pricey though. 

http://wyominglostandfound.com/dyneema.html

7:32 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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I don't know if this will work for winter camping, probably not, but anyway here is a solution I came up with a few years ago.

I spent three months in a BD Megamid, well except for a few hours each week when I was picked up by boat to go get supplies.

This was a 4 sided, single pole, floorless, 4 person shelter. What many people call a tipi style shelter.

It came with a pole, but I set it up at first without the pole by suspending the top of the shelter from a tree limb using some cord attached to the loop on the top of the tent. This eliminated the center pole....in theory.

All was well until it got stormy for the first time about the fourth day and the tree limb started whipping around yanking the Megamid around with it and pulling stakes out of the sandy beach on which I was camped. This was yet another lesson for me in the difference between theory & practice.

So after that debacle I used the pole, the pole worked well structurally, but the pole was always in the way it seemed but I could live with it. In fact I lived with it for a couple weeks along with short fits of aggravation.

After giving the matter a lot of thought, which I had plenty of time to do, I purchased some 1/2" elastic cord and discarded the static cord I had tied to the tree limb before. I moved the shelter to a spot between two parallel tree limbs that were about 10 feet apart and about 11 or 12 feet high.

Using the elastic cord I tied a large X to the tree limbs above the Megamid and dropped a looped line down from the X center to the tie out loop on top of the shelter.

This worked quite well and I think could be done with cord much smaller and lighter than the 1/2" elastic I used, but my shelter was never under a snow load.

7:34 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Here is a pretty nice tipi set-up I found on a search. Pretty pricey though. 

http://wyominglostandfound.com/dyneema.html

 That looks cool Rick, you know if the shelter is big enough the center pole becomes less of a problem don't you think?

8:13 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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trouthunter said:

you know if the shelter is big enough the center pole becomes less of a problem don't you think?

 One would think because of the increase in floor area. The tipi shelters I posted are made in the USA. 

The ones in the link are made from Dyneema. I'm pretty sure they make less expensive ones as well.

I would consider one myself but I am pretty much covered on the 4 season front. May consider one for next season. I am also looking at bigger Hilles as well.

I have had enough of the tent search for awhile. :)

10:29 p.m. on January 2, 2012 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Here is a pretty nice tipi set-up I found on a search. Pretty pricey though. 

http://wyominglostandfound.com/dyneema.html

As someone who spent too  many zero days waiting out storms (at least that is my excuse for my disposition) the two concerns I have are:

  • The dark fabric colors make for a dreary habitat
  • Dark fabric may cuase that structure to be oven like on sunny days with the surrounding snow radiating and all.

Ed

2:00 p.m. on January 25, 2012 (EST)
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trouthunter said:

Rick-Pittsburgh said:

 That looks cool Rick, you know if the shelter is big enough the center pole becomes less of a problem don't you think?

 

I think it does. I have a 9' x 9' pyramid by Oware, and even with the monopole in the middle, it feels quite spacious. There's actually enough room for two people to spread out and leave gear in between them, yet still not be up against the walls. Guying out the sides would enhance the interior volume even more, in addition to improving the tarp's wind stability.

 

I had been wondering whether or not anyone was making tarps and/or tents out of Dyneema... and now I know that the answer is "yes" -- but it's still spectacularly expensive :)

 

6:54 p.m. on January 25, 2012 (EST)
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Tamerlin said:

I had been wondering whether or not anyone was making tarps and/or tents out of Dyneema... and now I know that the answer is "yes" -- but it's still spectacularly expensive :)

 Yeah, Dyneema anything is gonna hit your pocket for a chunk of change as you know on that McHale pack ya reviewed.

BTW, nice review Tamerlin. 

12:55 p.m. on January 26, 2012 (EST)
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I'd love to go back to using a tipi tent as the Tipi shelter configuration is so dang pretty.  And of course I miss the whole tipi circle and the woodstove heated tipi life in general.  My Hillebergs have become my new Tipis and my Exped downmat and overkill down gear have become my woodstove, a questionable trade off. 

I spent a year living in a Chouinard Pyramid with the center pole and it had many drawbacks:

**  No floor, so be prepared for spindrift, ground water pooling/sheeting (will happen in a deluge), and the worst---high winds whipping under the perimeter edge wanting to pull the thing up like an umbrella.  I spent several winter nights awake and holding down the leading edge from inside.  Not good.  Whether this happens in the Kifarus and Titanium Goats is something to consider.  They seem better cut and sewn to fit tighter to the ground though.

12:32 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Tamerlin said:

I had been wondering whether or not anyone was making tarps and/or tents out of Dyneema... and now I know that the answer is "yes" -- but it's still spectacularly expensive :)

 Yeah, Dyneema anything is gonna hit your pocket for a chunk of change as you know on that McHale pack ya reviewed.

BTW, nice review Tamerlin. 

Yep, I have some first-hand experience with that cost... sigh.

Except for that, it seems like it would be a better choice for shelters than Cuben or silnylon... but with the amount of fabric you need to make a shelter, that cost will be tough to absorb.

BTW, thanks. :)

12:38 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

**  No floor, so be prepared for spindrift, ground water pooling/sheeting (will happen in a deluge), and the worst---high winds whipping under the perimeter edge wanting to pull the thing up like an umbrella.  I spent several winter nights awake and holding down the leading edge from inside.  Not good.  Whether this happens in the Kifarus and Titanium Goats is something to consider.  They seem better cut and sewn to fit tighter to the ground though.

Some tipis have snow flaps, which should help quite a bit with spindrift. Some pyramids do as well, including the MSR Twin Sisters, and its bigger brother the... Twin Brothers. The Sierra Designs Mountain Guide tarp is basically an Origami made from heavier-duty fabric and with snow flaps. 

From what I've read, if you're camping in snow with a solid tipi or pyramid, even if it doesn't have snow flaps, you can pile snow up along the bottom to keep the draft and spindrift out, but if there isn't snow, that doesn't work. The snow flaps are good for both situations, and they also add to the structure's stability if you pile snow or some rocks on them. 

12:43 p.m. on January 28, 2012 (EST)
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I have been looking at this kind of tent, mainly the Shangri-La 3 package, but I have not found many revues or anyplace I can actually go see one.

Do any of you have an opinion on this tent system and or this type of tent.  It's a lot smaller then most of the pyramid or hex pyramid tent that I have seen, but it's light so that great for me.  This would mostly be used as a one or two person tent, with an occasional use as a 3 person tent (me and my kids).  Any help or suggestions would be great.  

By the was it's on sale/clearance for 1/2 price from Go-Light.

Wolfman

2:15 p.m. on January 28, 2012 (EST)
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Make sure you lie level

4:43 p.m. on January 29, 2012 (EST)
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Wolfman said:

I have been looking at this kind of tent, mainly the Shangri-La 3 package, but I have not found many revues or anyplace I can actually go see one.

Do any of you have an opinion on this tent system and or this type of tent.  It's a lot smaller then most of the pyramid or hex pyramid tent that I have seen, but it's light so that great for me.  This would mostly be used as a one or two person tent, with an occasional use as a 3 person tent (me and my kids).  Any help or suggestions would be great.  

By the was it's on sale/clearance for 1/2 price from Go-Light.

Wolfman

 

From what I've seen so far, the people who use pyramid and tipi shelters recommend them highly, in general. I found a couple of video reviews of a Sierra Designs Origami and of the Golite Shangri-La hexagonal tarps, and they were pretty positive. 

The consensus so far as I can tell is that when they're properly guyed out, the tipi style shelters are very stable, and the steeper sided versions handle snow well. 

The floor less part can be an upside as well as a downside. A lot of people like the fact that without a floor, you don't have to worry about getting dirt on the floor when you walk in with muddy boots. Others like to have a floor.

Some tipi-style shelters allow you to have it both ways, either by adding a separate floor, or by adding an inner "nest" shelter.

Either way, tipi (I'm including pyramids in that, since they're the same style) tents have a high space to weight ratio, and good stability in adverse conditions. 

I don't find that the pole gets in my way much. It seemed like it would the first time I used one, but once you get used to it, it's like a coffee table in a living room; you just get used to maneuvering around it.

Though I don't have any experience directly with the GoLite version, their 3-person version is probably a good choice if you'll be sharing with two kids, but if you wanted to share with 3 kids, you might want to move up to one of the larger Shangri-La models. GoLite gear is from what I've seen well-made, and the few reviews I've seen of the Shangri-La hexagonal shelters have been positive.

10:03 p.m. on January 29, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks Tamerlin That is also what I discovered.  I think I am going to go a head and pull the trigger.  I looks well maid and the company has a like time warranty.  Besides I really want a bigger tent for my hike on the coast this winter.

Wolfman

12:48 p.m. on January 31, 2012 (EST)
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Let us know how it goes :)

I'm becoming increasingly partial to tipi-style shelters, because once you get used to the middle pole, they're quite enjoyable. They're also very easy to pitch, though the more sides they have, the easier it is to hose the pitch. I've used a Trailstar a few times, which is basically a relatively short pentagonal pyramid, and it takes a bit more tweaking to get the pitch right the first couple of times. After you get the hang of it, it's cake.

Since the GoLite version is hexagonal, it will probably take a little practice to get the geometry right, whereas with a rectangular 'mid, you just stake out one corner and pull each successive corner tight when you're staking them, and then you're set. The upside though is that with six sides, it'll be easier to get wind-shedding pitch than with a rectangular 'mid.

11:32 a.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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When I was doing my search for reviews on the tent I ran into this video on setting it up.  I think he's got it down to a science!  Or at least Geometry. :)

Set up Video

Not sure it this worked or not, but the link is there also.

12:51 p.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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Wow.  That tent looks like it was setup for the brochure photos.

11:08 a.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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It seemed at first like he was doing it the hard way, until he pulled out the actual tent. :)

10:16 a.m. on February 3, 2012 (EST)
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Yea that was my first impression, What the heck is he doing?? Then, Wham tent up and done!

I think I may try this with a small section of rope or two, I plan on using my hiking poles and not the pole that comes with the tent.  But two pieces of rope/twine would work just as easy, maybe easier.

Wolfman

10:58 p.m. on February 5, 2012 (EST)
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Yeah, if you mark two pieces of rope using knots or something, all you'd have to do is pick a center point and stake one end, then extend it out, place one peg. Latch the 2nd rope onto the first peg, and place another stake where they intersect, and that takes care of your first 3 pegging points. Repeat for the remaining points, and your stakes are all set and ready to go. All you'd have to do in order to prepare it is actually pitch the tarp once the standard way, finagle it until you're satisfied, and then measure out two lengths of rope/twine, one for the radius and one for the distance between two pegging points.

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