Please give me tent advice (issues with 2 tents--do I need a different one?)

9:19 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Hello! I'm a beginner when it comes to winter (in NorthCal) and rain camping. Only camped during summer before.

I'm camping alone (need 4-6 pers. tent for comfort though), and my tent must be easily set up by one person. So I went ahead and bought Mountain Hardwear 4 pers. tent for this--it's over 6 feet at the top. I like how spacious it is (though vestibules seem to be too small). The issue is that when I did a test set up--in SF Bay area on top of a hill, dry December day--but rained 2 days before that--on a grassy area, but DID put heavy duty tarp under--in 4 hours tent rain fly filled with condensation in the inside....tent was empty--I was not in it at all. Also, rain fly and doors were open for ventilation. Why is there condensation?--does it sound like something is wrong with that tent and not the right model for winter conditions??

I have also smaller Eureka tent using which in rain storm resulted in me sleeping in wet sleeping bag (luckily synthetic) and tons of water everywhere. 

Now I'm thinking if I should return Mountain Hardwear Corners and get Cabela 4-season Alaskan Guide tent instead (pricing is similar and height is similar, with Corners being much easier to set up though)

What do you think? Any advice for me? 

This is for base camp type of tents, not backpacking ones--for prolonged stay in car campground.

9:49 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Condensation on the inside of the rain fly is not unusual in high humidity conditions. So long as it was not on the inside of the tent, then there is no problem. What happened here is that the rain you had over the 2 days previous was evaporating up from the ground and -- guess what -- condensing on the inside of the fly. As far as I am concerned, your rain fly was operating as designed.

Don't go buy the Cabela's tent. If you want to spend that kind of money on a tent, do some poking around on the Reviews portion of this site. You might find something roomy enough and better made. Cabela's stuff, and this is entirely IMHO, is kind of like getting a Hummer when a Forester would have done the job. Expensive and heavy.

For car camping/base camping purposes, I use the 4 man version of the Eureka Timberline. This is for solo camping, like you describe. I cannot stand fully upright in it, which may be a drawback to you. I can stand up with my head bowed, and pull on my pants, and that is good enough. On a cold winter's night, I have a lot less volume to heat up, and remember that I am the heat source. This is a definite plus, as my Scout troop goes camping all winter long. In the summer, having the version with doors fore and aft, I have about as much ventilation as I could want in a tent. A little battery-operated fan helps also when the heat and humidity go up (I live in coastal NC, so we get plenty of both.)

Give your tent another try when the ground is not so wet. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

11:15 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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I was wondering about water evaporating from the ground, but still--since there was a heavy trap covering (underneath) entire permeter of the tent I don't get how water ended up under the rain fly (it wasn't that wide open): condensation happens on colder surfaces--right?--so how rain fly could be much colder than surrounding air since no person was inside and there was some sun (to warm the rain fly up)! Hence, I'm wondering if there was some wrong dynamics involving the fly/tent....

As to pricing...the Alaskan Guide by Cabela I was thinking about runs $350 which is about the same as I paid for this Mountain Hardwear Corners tent($320)...from the price standpoint it makes no difference. I didn't go with cheaper Coleman as I seen plenty of bad reviews involving water leaks, etc and Alaskan Guide Cabela seemed to have great reviews, and would never try Eureka again, I was in pools of water in smaller tent and water everywhere. When I looked on Cabela's description though it didn't get any idea how Alaskan Guide provides good ventilation, I was wondering this about since there's only one vestibule.

I understand your advice about trying it over dry ground--the problem is that I need a tent for camping over perpetually wet ground (and for long time periods), as it tends to be in Coastal North Cal in winter... The redwood forests here tend to be foggy and wet, with never drying ground, and even in open spaces, unless you go to the desert, ground tends to stay wet for a long time, with storms coming one after another often and fogs.

I have no problem with using catalytic tent heater running off propane to warm up here and there--this requires large tent for safety--and main thing tent has to be large to avoid losing sanity during 3-day storms, etc...

6:55 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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To dumb it down a bit It's cooler outside than inside the tent, sun hits tent and heats inside of tent, high moisture content inside of the tent due to recent rains(in the air), moisture condenses on inside of rain fly.

Just the nature of the beast really. Higher humidity(moisture in the air) mixed with "cooler" temps will result in condensation. How the condensation impacts the tent occupants is largely based on tent design.

I also agree that it sounds like tent operated per design and that there is more than likely nothing wrong with the tent.

Now with your other tent was the water condensation or actual rain water coming in? Tent site selection is important to make are water isn't going to flow through your site in a storm. A ground cloth/cover of some sort helps to protect bottom of tent but make sure it is smaller than the tents footprint or you will cause water to pool under the tent. There are several ways for water to enter a tent. Through a hole somewhere(even little tiny ones), through condensation, or through pressure. if you have water pooling under or flowing under your tent the pressure of you laying on the floor can with some fabrics cause water to penetrate through.

Hope that helps some.

6:57 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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I'm just to the north of you in Oregon. And I have yet to meet the tent that can keep dry in this weather. Wet on the inside, outside, or both is common. Keep a shamwow with you. And slip your bag into a bivy.

12:11 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Mike is right.  Listen to people from wet country about this kind of stuff.  Some condensation is normal under prolonged wet conditions no matter what kind of tent you have.

3:56 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Well, I'm on a whole other ocean, but here are some tips and observations from a fog-and-drizzle camper. Best to adapt, because condensation happens. It's like rain inside out. So part of the tent's job is to collect it, shed it, and not drip it on you. The shape and angles of the tent fly are worth considering from the inside. It's also good to have vents in the fly, not just at the doors.

Even a small candle lantern encourages rising air to vent, the three candle model better yet (and you can warm soup on top!). Keeping insulation layers and sleeping bags compressed in sacks when not in use prevents dampness. I own nothing made of down. Try to pitch solid and keep your tent still, so drips don't drop (they should be running harmlessly along the inside of the fly down to the ground). The shamwow-ish towels are ideal.

MEC in Canada has good, inexpensive tents, sometimes they run a bit heavy for backpacking, but great car-camping tents. The 'Tarn' models, while not stand-up height, are well suited to wet/windy/humid places.

4:13 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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good advice. if it's wet everywhere, it's going to be wet in the tent. thats just the nature of the beast. hope you don't have a down bag!

9:19 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Wanted to add, while we're on the topic, that a waterproof footprint might not be the best in such a climate. I found that wherever there was an air pocket beneath the tent floor, there would be condensation there too. And a waterproof footprint meant it wasn't going anywhere. Then I'd be putting pressure on that trapped water from inside the tent. So I made a footprint from weed block fabric, which is tough enough to protect from punctures and scrapes, but lets water pass through. (If you searched this site for  'footprint' you might find the thread where I figured this out.) Given a waterproof tent floor and care in choosing a site, I didn't really need an extra waterproof layer underneath. It's working so far! Stuff is super light, too.

6:06 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess, that is an awesome idea. I never thought about using weed block fabric as a footprint. I will have to test that out.

8:00 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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The weedblock fabric works well on snow too. The kind I found at home depot is a coarse weave so it doesnt slide around on the snow. I carry a piece to sit on, it put it down then a roll up sled and I dont slide at all.

10:46 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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Catz:

One concern you mentioned is going crazy while tent bound in a rain.  I found ANY tent is too confining, so I try to limit tent use to changing clothes and sleeping.  Bring one of those blue tarps and erect an overhead rain fly.  Hanging out under such a tarp is more enjoyable than staring at tent walls.

Ed

11:22 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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Catz, I too am looking for a better tent. I've got a tread on gear selection if you want to look.

2:19 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

Islandess, that is an awesome idea. I never thought about using weed block fabric as a footprint. I will have to test that out.

I recommend it highly! Other advantages: the fabric doesn't seem to absorb or wick water, so if you do get runoff under the tent, it'll just keep running and won't puddle or spread from that spot. It also dries very quickly. And as mentioned above, the stuff doesn't want to move once you put it down (disappointing sledding, hotdogman!). So grommets for staking are optional, at least on any surface I've put it on. I've camped for days and days without it shifting or wrinkling at all.

5:35 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess said:

 The shape and angles of the tent fly are worth considering from the inside.

 +1

 

For example my Big Agnes Fly Creek II has a pole hub located above my face and/or chest while lying in the tent. This hub serves as a condensation collector in sustained rains and directs the drips to my face.

 

Good advise to consider such things.

1:44 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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Please indulge me while I add one more thought about the footprint. Using the fabric doesn't mean the waterproof custom one gets left behind! I put it inside the tent.

First, it's backup in case I have the bad luck to spring a leak (not yet, knock wood). Second, it prevents abrasion and wear on the tent floor. My first-ever tent had a floor like nylon cheesecloth by the time I junked it. It was an old Eureka dome, so I turned it on its side to spray waterproofing on the floor. And was blinded by the sun shining right through it. End of tent.

6:51 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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One more thing, since I haven't seen it mentioned yet. If you use a groundcloth, it should not extend beyond the edges of the tent. It should be  a trifle smaller. If I read the original post correctly, it sounds like the ground cloth extended out farther. The first time it rains, rain will get caught on top of the exposed groundcloth and puddle between the cloth and the tent. This is not good.

10:54 p.m. on January 23, 2013 (EST)
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yes

12:28 p.m. on January 24, 2013 (EST)
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A tarp can save the day in wet weather. 

July 30, 2014
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