Tents

11:42 a.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
(Guest)

I'm in the process of gearing up for backpacking with the family. We've never done an overnight hike, so this will all be new to us. We have three packs each around 3700 cu. inches in size. My question is, would it be better to buy one 4-man tent, or two 2-man tents?

Thanks

11:46 a.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
(Guest)

I should add that the typical hike will involve 3 persons and a lab.

12:33 p.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
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Interesting question. I can see plusses on both sides.

From a weight perspective, the four-person wins hands-down. A four-person tent generally weighs only 70-80% as much as two two-person tents of the same design, and the weight can be split pretty evenly among three people -- one gets the fly, one the poles,and one the tent body. (If you have a fourth companion, give them the kitchen).

The four-person will also cost a little less. You can either save a few bucks, or use the savings to buy a higher-quality tent.

That said, having two 2-person tents would give you some more flexibility. A four-person tent will require more space to pitch, which may be a problem in heavily forested areas, where you could pitch two smaller tents a little ways apart. That said, most tent platforms and established campsites on popular trails (e.g. the AT) should have enough space for the bigger tent.

Do you forsee ever wanting to go out solo or just as a couple? Having two 2-person tents gives you some flexibility and saves you from carrying extra weight on those trips. On the flip side, "family" trips might not be so much fun for the odd man out in your three-person, two-tent scenario.

As usual, no clear-cut answer. But if I was starting up from scratch in your position, I'd probably go for the 4-person.

-Dave

2:03 p.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
(Guest)

Dave,

Thanks. I'm leaning toward one tent now.

Shane

5:46 p.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
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2-, 3-, or 4-person

I agree with Dave, except for one point that we learned as our son grew up. When he was a baby, we continued using a 2-person tent we already had. When he got big enough, I wanted a 3-person expedition tent anyway, so we used that one. But when he hit approximately 10 years, he started wanting his very own tent, so we were back to a 2-person for Ma and Pa, plus a very tight 2-person for him. I recall the same thing for me when I passed through that age, only in that case, my sister stayed in my parents' tent when we took tents (mostly, we slept under the stars, with no tents).

By the way, I notice that very few people sleep under the stars anymore, no matter how low the probability of precip is. And the hammock discussion has focussed heavily on tarps and other rain shelters. Ok, I can see that for Ed and the others in the rainy South, Cascades, and New England. But last month during a spell of rainless days in the Rockies, then again in the Sierra, almost everyone was using tents. You don't know what you are missing if you never sleep under the stars.

5:57 p.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
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Re: 2-, 3-, or 4-person

But I'm always under stars Bill... (;->) I like a tent because I feel safer in bear and lion country. I feel I can hide somewhere that they can't see me. I have slept "under the stars" twice in the last 12 years - once on a climbing trip to yosemite where we litteraly through the bags on the ground by the truck and slept there. The other time I was nearly stepped on by a cow.
Jim S

10:14 a.m. on September 1, 2004 (EDT)
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Re: 2-, 3-, or 4-person

We're still at the lets-get-him-sleeping-though-the-night phase, so I haven't really considered the go-it-alone pre-teen issue. Seems like a long time away, although I'm sure it will be here sooner than I think...

Sleeping under the stars is a viable option for maybe a month here in Maine. Actually, it's prime time right now -- the black flies and most of the mosquitos are long gone, and the horseflies that are left don't stay out at night.

It's been quite a while since I've gone tentless, though. The last time may have been my college orientation trip. On our first night of three on the AT we were supposed to stay in a shelter a quarter-mile down a spur trail. It was getting dark when we got to the spur trail, and we went down it about a mile without any seeing sign of the shelter. We eventually came to a small clearing and decided to make camp there. (It turns out the shelter had been decomissioned and torn down several years earlier.) It was a great night to sleep under the stars, but we were awakened shortly after dawn by the unexpected rumble of a battered pickup truck. Turns out we were on the edge of an old clear cut, and the weathered old guy in the truck was there to pick blueberries -- though primarily he was making short work of a six-pack of PBR. So sleeping under the stars was pretty much my introduction to Maine wilderness and Maine culture, and I've left only briefly since.

12:02 p.m. on September 1, 2004 (EDT)
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Re: 2-, 3-, or 4-person

Yeah, I remember that you took a tent on our Crown Valley/Duck Lake hike a few years back. As you will recall,I took a bivy sack and slept under the stars - no problems. With some of the videos I've seen recently on bear and lion safety, I'm not sure a tent is any safeguard. Apparently bears in some areas have learned that people keep food in their tents and will just rip through the tent wall. Some people (kids especially) will have some candy with them. There was an incident reported in the news this summer of a kid getting seriously injured when a bear came through the tent wall trying to get candy the kid had with him.

The lion or bear might not be able to see you, but remember that most animals have a pretty keen sense of smell (not that they need it to find humans after a day or so on the trail).

I will agree that one thing we used to talk a lot about when I was growing up in Arizona was using a tent to keep rettlesnakes, scorpions, and such venomous beasties from seeking a warm place to curl up. Legend was that if you put a horsehair rope around your sleeping bag, it would keep the rattlesnakes away - the horsehair would tickle their bellies as they tried to crawl over it (seemed logical when I was 10 or 11 years old, but then so did jackalopes and sidehill gougers).

Hammocks are no protection, if you recall my experience with a deer I posted here a while back - seems I hung the hammock right across a favorite deer trail and so got awakened during the night when a buck went under me.

11:36 p.m. on September 1, 2004 (EDT)
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Yo Bill

Yeah I thought the deer story was pretty funny - must have had that hammock pretty high... (;->) Did it hurt a lot?

[The lion or bear might not be able to see you, but remember that most animals have a pretty keen sense of smell]

I have no problem with bears and lions knowing of my presence. Generally, when I'm not with you, I bang on pots and pans about sunset in case anything didn't know that a human was in the area. Then after hiking and drinkng lots of gator aid, I go out about 50 meters and mark my territory on the largest trees and the trees by obvious animal trails in the area, just to advertise my presence and make it know that I expect respect.

Within my own brief experiences with the phantom cats, and giant wild black bears, I felt that there was some respect and hesitation about the tent by the lion and some respect from marking my territory from a 500 pound bear.

The time that the lion challenged Indred and I through the tent door was remarkable becasue the animal circled the tent while growling. Then snarled a short loud challenge from about 15 feet away as it prepared to pounce on us. We had the tent door facing into the full moon and it was wide open so the lion saw our heads. I yelled "HEY" really loud at it but it snarled louder, "Hey man I'm not impressed by that". But When a full grown male human being came rapidy out of an unzipped bag yelling and screaming it put the fear of God into the lion and it was funny watching back peddling and all arms and elbows for a second as it jumped and ran. It was quite beautiful running away across a bare granite dome in the full moonlight.

So thats why I use a tent when I know I'm camped in lion country. I don't think lions much pay attention to "marking your territory" like maybe a bear does? A lion has too much atitude for respecting anything that its not frightened of.

[I will agree that one thing we used to talk a lot about when I was growing up in Arizona was using a tent to keep rettlesnakes, scorpions, and such venomous beasties from seeking a warm place to curl up.]

Yep - I tent is a nice thing in a desert - one with a floor and good full length zippers... and maybe a machete... woke up one morning with a bunch of Javelina droppings right outside the tent door. I always wonder about tarp users and where the camp - not in the desert I hope.

Jim S

July 22, 2014
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