Tent pitching tips for keeping gear healthy

12:40 p.m. on June 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Hi there,

I recently purchased a (for me) reasonably decent tent (North Face Westwind) and I'd like to keep it doing well. The tent was missing it's instructions and although I got it up ok I could use some advice.

Aside from the usual maintenance tips do any of you have pointers concerning pitching in order tot keep stress to a minimum?

For instance the rain-fly attaches to the poles by means of a velcro loop. Mating the two surface allows for some play. It's also possible to tighten this up by overlapping it sideways but as I was doing that, I figured that might pull one of the seam sides too hard under heavy wind.

Surely there must be some do's an don'ts here. (and maybe some instructions for my tent if someone could find them)

Thanks!

1:29 p.m. on June 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Pitch on level ground...better sleep...minimizes tension on poles and fabric

Pitch on soft duff (leaves/pine needles/grass)...better sleep...better drainage...better insulation...prevents punctures...superior to foot-prints...takes only a minute or two to scoot together with boot.

Zip the doors/vents/etc closed...prevents tears, punctures, and zipper damage.

Minimize exposure to sun...pitch near tree lines or in trees if stormy and you can find flat ground (but look for dead limbs above).

Keep it dry...have a snack and dry things out if the sun pops out while in the field...rig a line to hang tent in garage/car port/spare room.

Take care and watch for snags when pulling tent from stuff-sack...easy to punch/pinch/tear holes in inner-tent particularly.

 

4:13 p.m. on June 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Unless you are putting your back into pulling things taut, your tent will not be affected by a tight pitch.  High winds can damage a tent, regardless how it is pitched.  The good news is few people ever experience such wind.  Many mistaken a 30 mph wind for a 60 mph wind - 30mph will make flags extend and flap vigorously; while 60mph winds make it difficult to maintain balance while standing.  Most tents will do fine in 40 mph winds.  You will have obvious warning of possible damage as most tents distort wildly well below their failure point.  Collapse your tent if encountering high winds before winds get a chance to do damage.

The most common problem is sun aging.  UV rays will degrade most tent fabrics; therefore I usually set a tent only when weather threatens.  Just fine by me as I prefer to cowboy camp, sleeping under the starts.  But if prefer a tent, consider setting it up at dusk, and striking camp in the morning, minimizing exposure to the sun.

Tent odor is the second most common problem, caused by improper storage.  Do not store tents bunched up in the stuff sack or other container.  If the fabric is not allowed to breathe while in storage it may mildew or take on other funky smells.

Ed

2:17 p.m. on July 5, 2017 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

You will have obvious warning of possible damage as most tents distort wildly well below their failure point.  

 That is so true and at times astounding. Last February I had pitched a Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 (my "wife-tent" usually) in a windy gap. Yeah I knew it was windy and exposed but the view was so nice I decided to try it anyway. I fell asleep about 9PM and was awoken at midnight with something pressing hard on my face and head. There was an initial moment of panic until i realized that it was the tent pole slamming into my face. The wind had become so strong that the windward poles bent almost to the ground. I pushed them back up and tried to ignore it but they kept slamming onto me with each gust. I was super tired but had to deal with it after a corner finally lifted a stake out of the ground: time to go before something worse happens to my expensive tent.  

It was a pretty comical scene as I took down the inner tent from the inside to keep the fly from blowing away. At one point I was like a giant ugly starfish all stretched out on top of the mess to keep from losing it. And of course I moved locations no more than 50 feet to another side of the mountain and it was calm as could be. 

But anyway, who could have believed that the tent poles would bend that far down and not break? The interior height of that tent is 43 inches!

1:59 p.m. on July 27, 2017 (EDT)
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I second what Joseph said above. I bought new and used a North Face VE24 for 27 years (1979-2006), until a grizzly bear in Wyoming destroyed it for me. Was no food or anything in the tent to attract him, most likely was used to tents and human gear meaning food.

Keep it clean, wipe down the rain fly and other nylon parts of the fabric with a light vinegar/water mix solution just before you pack it up for storage (let the liquid completely dry first. 

Sun exposure is one of the worst things for the tents. Too long in direct sun can ruin the water repellency.

Your North Face should have a lifetime warranty, so take care of it and it will serve you many years!

2:24 p.m. on July 27, 2017 (EDT)
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As others have said, UV exposure contributes to degradation of the fabric. You may also find that over time, the fly may need recoating. Periodically inspect attachment points, such as poles, sleeves, stakes etc. I also use a foot print on all of my tents. There is a lot of debate about whether to put the foot print inside or outside. I'm an advocate of outside. I often camp in places where the ground is rocky and want to cut down on abrasion. As far as a tight pitch, you will not have issues if you don't reef on it too hard. In wind, a taut pitch will keep the tent from flapping. That is important as a flapping tent can wear the fabric quickly.

11:00 a.m. on July 30, 2017 (EDT)
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I like Ed's post. 

Keep them clean and dry them out before storage. 

UV exposure takes a toll.  One of the cheaper fabrics like those found in a tent less than $200 last me around 8 years.  Quality tents last as long as I want to use them. 

Caution with zippers is a great idea.

I never seal any seams and have never used a foot print. But I do clear the area before settiing up the tent. 

I have been in a wind storm strong enough to deform the tent.  The logical thing to do was flatten the tent and remove the poles. It was surprisingly comfortable. 

6:59 p.m. on July 30, 2017 (EDT)
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A good conversation going on here that holds a lot of interest to me as I love tents and have a lot of tents. This thread and the information within is good regarding all gear, but most specific to tents.........as tents usually take the brunt of most the abuse in regards to gear once one gets to where one is going.

1st off, everyone here is correct in regards to UV being the usual culprit in regards what to worry about when it comes to tents...........unless, as happened to Gary a Grizzly bear tears your tent apart.........If you choose your tent site correctly, stake and tie it down properly and have the right tent for the right conditions.............your worst enemy is UV from the sun. What perplexes me is that so many people are willing to carry the extra weight of a foot print, which does help save the floor of the tent, but nobody talks of carrying a tent cover to protect your tent from the most damaging aspect of what can destroy a tent. Kinda odd! What if, and I know this is radical............what if instead of carrying a heavy foot print one makes a footprint of light weight Tyvek and one also makes a day cover for the tent out of light weight Tyvek?

But a close second to UV destroying the tents fly or a single wall tents body, is that people wear thru the floor of the tent. I have my original TNF Oval Intention that lasted almost 30 years before the floor become thread bear from use and the fly became thread bear from UV at the very same time. Fixed the floor and had a new fly made for it.

Another option is buying a tent with a super heavy floor and carrying a tarp like a Kelty Noah's Tarp, along with a tyvek footprint if desired. The Tarp only weighs two pounds and one can use it as a cover and or a tarp. One does not have to carry poles, to actually use it as a tarp, in areas where one can find materials to make poles to use it as a tarp.

For those who do not want to carry extra weight, of a tent cover, one can buy a product called Tent & Gear Solarproof by Nikwax. Sunscreen for you tent and gear. Now, I do not know how well it actually works but so far all of the Nikwax products I've used have performed as promised. So I think it's worth a try and I have a bottle here ready to apply to the next tent I use.

Interestingly enough I don't think that I've ever seen a tent that was pitched too taut. In fact the common mistake that I've seen is that tents are sometime pitched in a manner where the entire.....or part of the tent is pitched so that it is not taut enough. Then what I've seen occur, is the wind blows hard creating pockets like you would see on the sail of a sail boat, instead of shedding the wind..........and that is when the shrieking and screaming starts. Another problem I've seen is that tents that are not pitched taut, as they are designed to be, will start to collect rain and or snow in pockets on the loose material rather than shedding the rain and or snow as they are designed to do. I've seen people wake up in the morning with half their tent crushed around them. That would not have had that happen they set up there tent properly.

Lastly.........if you've done your homework and bought a good tent one can be rest assured of the fact that the tent materials that they use and the way those materials are sewed/bonded together, are done in such a way that you are not going to over stress those materials/seams unless your just flat over doing it go crazy when pitching your tent.

One other thing that I'm surprised about is that if you really love that tent you bought and are worried about parts, the fly, poles, etc...............then buy another tent either to have a spare so that when the tent your using breaks, you use it for a parts tent, or, just go to your gear room and get another tent that you know and love and use your old on as the parts tent. For instance Webby in his/her post stated that he/she just bought a North Face Westwind. As that is a really old tent by tent standards, you can get another for really cheap. In fact I just bought Westwind 2 of off Seattle Criagslist in used but mint condition for $75. Now I don't know if Webby's Westwind is the original two pole, brown label tent, or the newer 2 or 3, but if one looks hard enough then one will find what one wants, generally for really cheap. There are also apps that, if one has a smartphone they will tell you when something that your looking for is on Ebay or Craigslist.

Webby, If your still concerned about how to set up your tent properly 1) Have a person who knows tents come over to your house and set it up in the backyard or a park together. 2) Go to a good sporting goods store and have a person there help you set up your tent. 3) Make sure that you go camping, backpacking or what ever it is your going to do with a person is familiar with your activity and the gear that goes along with it.

Have fun with that Westwind. If it's the later 2 or 3 then it's apparently one hell of a tent.

Oh, and as Gary said, clean your tent after ever single use. This means when you get home. Set up your tent, take a shower...........then clean the entire tent with a very mild soap, Ivory or Woolite works for me, in warm water and a large soft, long bristle, brush. Rinse and make sure you get all the soap off. One would be so very surprised at how much body oil and other "stuff" gets on the inside and outside of a tent when you've been sleeping and living in it and not being able to take a shower for how every long your trip has been. I even do this after car camping where there are showers available. Make sure the tent is completely dry before storing and try to store in a large open container or at least loosely. If the tent is new it is especially important to store so that it can breath, mesh laundry bags are perfect and super cheap.

7:31 p.m. on July 30, 2017 (EDT)
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"Tyvek weight

Weight: 1.9 oz. per linear foot. Tyvek available by the foot! Make a footprint for your tent, ground cloth for your tarp or sleeping bag or an under hammock matt for your gear. This Dupont product is super tough and light and water proof."

7:49 p.m. on July 30, 2017 (EDT)
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That is so true and at times astounding. Last February I had pitched a Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 (my "wife-tent" usually) in a windy gap. Yeah I knew it was windy and exposed but the view was so nice I decided to try it anyway. I fell asleep about 9PM and was awoken at midnight with something pressing hard on my face and head. There was an initial moment of panic until i realized that it was the tent pole slamming into my face. The wind had become so strong that the windward poles bent almost to the ground. I pushed them back up and tried to ignore it but they kept slamming onto me with each gust. I was super tired but had to deal with it after a corner finally lifted a stake out of the ground: time to go before something worse happens to my expensive tent.

Paman: Did you notice any bending of the poles after your windy tent incident. Are the poles still straight when not in use, any cracks at the connections?

7:58 p.m. on July 30, 2017 (EDT)
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As others have said, UV exposure contributes to degradation of the fabric. You may also find that over time, the fly may need recoating. Periodically inspect attachment points, such as poles, sleeves, stakes etc. I also use a foot print on all of my tents. There is a lot of debate about whether to put the foot print inside or outside. I'm an advocate of outside. I often camp in places where the ground is rocky and want to cut down on abrasion. As far as a tight pitch, you will not have issues if you don't reef on it too hard. In wind, a taut pitch will keep the tent from flapping. That is important as a flapping tent can wear the fabric quickly.

 

Erich, I've always thought the "debate about whether to put the foot print inside or outside.", to be kind of odd. If you really care about the floor of your tent, why would you not use your footprint on the outside of your tent to protect the outside of the floor and cut a piece of Tyvek .............or cut a piece of material out of an old tent floor to use on the inside our your tent to protect the inside of the floor?

But if you going to do just one I would suspect that it would depend on conditions. If I were pitching on soft grass I would use the footprint on the inside of my tent. But if I was pitching on sharp gravel or slate or rough material/ground then I would use the footprint on the outside of the tent. But why have to make that choice in this day and age with the light materials that are available at a cheap cost to us all and you can have protection inside and outside your tent?

12:23 p.m. on July 31, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman, the argument for putting the footprint inside the tent comes from tents with leaky floors. This happens when the tent doesn't have a bath tub floor, or the seams leak. I have always been an advocate of putting the footprint outside. Often, I have had to pitch in difficult locations with rocks underneath.
DSC08462.jpg

12:40 p.m. on July 31, 2017 (EDT)
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Always remember to look up before you pitch a tent. Snags and falling branches can ruin your night and your tent.  I like to set them up in young trees close together. 

I have slept close to rivers lots of times. On rivers with upstream dams, there can be releases of water during the night especially in hot weather.  I have been awakened by rising water and a wet sleeping bag more than once. 

3:54 p.m. on July 31, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman, the argument for putting the footprint inside the tent comes from tents with leaky floors. This happens when the tent doesn't have a bath tub floor, or the seams leak. I have always been an advocate of putting the footprint outside. Often, I have had to pitch in difficult locations with rocks underneath.
DSC08462.jpg

 

Right. I understand part of what your talking about. My experience first is that if one has a tent that leaks at the seams or anywhere thru the floor, a footprint on the outside in no way helps the tent not leak as footprint is most often is slightly smaller than the tent floor leaving the seams exposed. Even if the foot print extends out past the floor it in no way creates a watertight barrier so that a leaky seams does not leak. As well, when one uses a foot print outside the tent water can and will get in between the tent floor and the foot print there by not only not protecting the seams, but also not a leaky floor. A footprint in no way helps keep water out of a tent and that is not it's intended purpose.

Further more I would put forth that a leaky tent is a worthless tent at worst and at best, and a leaky tent is a tent that is being used in the wrong conditions. A tent that leaks is fine in the Utah desert, but absolutely worthless where it might rain and or where the ground is even moist.

Again, footprints are designed to keep a tent floor from wearing out, not keeping water/moisture out and is usually placed on the outside of the tent unless one is pitching on soft grass or level area that is not covered in sharp rocks, and or other sharp debris that cannot be removed from under the tent floor, at which point there is then a reasonable argument for using the footprint on the inside of the tent. I used my TNF Ring OI for 30 years without a footprint before the floor gave out. Now that there is Tyvek there is no reason not to have a outside and an inside footprint.

By the way, I've seen that picture a time or two during my time on Trailspace, and I still think that is maybe the very best/coolest place to have been able to pitched a tent. I love that picture.

10:08 p.m. on July 31, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman, thank you for appreciating this tent pitch. Although I have pitched in difficult places before, this was the most extreme. Sorry if folks see it too much. It was a situation I had never encountered before or since. It was on the Finlay River in BC, the ultimate source of the Arctic Mackenzie River. Two of my companions found places where they could. Two others went way downstream to pitch their tent. My boat companion used some flat rocks placed behind a high water drift log, to build a platform and throw is tent over his bag. Someone joked that the flat rock was the only flat place around. I looked and took the challenge. I was there for two days as we portaged the gear and boats. It was a  great campsite, except that my Thermorest had developed a leak days before. I had to pump it up twice each night. I'll add that I am indebted to Nemo for making such a great little one person tent.

11:59 a.m. on August 1, 2017 (EDT)
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I'll add that while footprints protect the tent floor, the adherents who believe that the footprint should go inside have a different and not necessarily incorrect philosophy. We should remember that traditionally, tents rarely had floors, but relied on sod cloths and a tarp floor. As well, though we are used to bath tub floors in most modern tents, many tents in the past with sewn in floors, did not have bath tub floors. In these tents, the floors weren't necessarily designed to be water proof.

4:41 p.m. on August 1, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman,

just saw your comment. Actually one pole was bent after that incident. Pretty sure Big Agnes will replace it but I can't do without it yet. Being my "wife-tent" we have several more trips planned before winter. She has no desire to camp in freezing temps so when that gets here I'll send it off.

Erich,

Also love that photo!

4:23 a.m. on August 2, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman,

just saw your comment. Actually one pole was bent after that incident. Pretty sure Big Agnes will replace it but I can't do without it yet. Being my "wife-tent" we have several more trips planned before winter. She has no desire to camp in freezing temps so when that gets here I'll send it off.

Erich,

Also love that photo!

 

Nice, I love companies that stand behind there products. I have many many tents that after years of use have bent, now pre bent poles, that in no way affect the real world use of the tent.........but these are old school tents. The best examples are my Marmot Taku's, though another example are my TNF ring and sleeve Oval Intentions. Both are tents that can take one hell of a pounding. All the Taku's that have straight poles are a pain in the arrs to set up. Every time I set those tents up it feels like I'm going to break a pole, but I never have. All of the Taku's that pre-bent poles from use just fit better and preform just as well as their counter parts with straight poles, but are so much easier to set up, in mind, body, sprit............and in actually of just setting them up. The later Taku's came with factory pre-bent poles. Much more worrisome are cracked connections between the poles in my opinion. But being a new school tent with less tension on the poles and much thinner tent fabric I would just get the pole replaced. I entirely understand your wife's desire to not sleep in a tent out in the wilds of the world in freezing temps, even though I have more than enough gear.

12:00 p.m. on August 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Once while backpacking in the Catskills of NY state, a VE 25 was sent up on the local bedrock. I don't recall if we used an outside ground sheet or not. Early in the morning we were hanging around the campsite and an all day rain began. We piled into the tent with a couple of nearly loaded external frame packs. In order to make room, one of the packs was pushed over to the side. The weighted pack with metal frame against the interior coated floor on hard rock all combined to put some nasty scraps in the coating and a few tiny punctures in the fabric. Lesson learned!

2:04 p.m. on August 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Tents... love them:

Gets me out of the worst of the elements.

Warm under direct sun, even when outside temps are burr cold.

Modest cover for romantic interludes in popular venues. 

Creates that sense of "camp".

Safe, ice breaker topic when camping with new company.

----------------------------

Tents... hate them:

Claustrophobic made worse by extended confinement with foul smelling, outgassing tent mates.

Pain the back to get dressed in.

Pain in the back to haul.

Hot as the devil in warm weather.

Wears out quicker than any of my other gear.

Often takes on funky smells.

Often returned in degraded condition when loaned out.

Where is that missing tent pole!

-----------------------------

Cowboy camping:  Better than tents, except when bad weather visits.

Ed

 

 

Ed

5:02 p.m. on August 2, 2017 (EDT)
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Tents... love them:

Gets me out of the worst of the elements.

Warm under direct sun, even when outside temps are burr cold.

Modest cover for romantic interludes in popular venues. 

Creates that sense of "camp".

Safe, ice breaker topic when camping with new company.

----------------------------

Tents... hate them:

Claustrophobic made worse by extended confinement with foul smelling, outgassing tent mates.

Pain the back to get dressed in.

Pain in the back to haul.

Hot as the devil in warm weather.

Wears out quicker than any of my other gear.

Often takes on funky smells.

Often returned in degraded condition when loaned out.

Where is that missing tent pole!

-----------------------------

Cowboy camping:  Better than tents, except when bad weather visits.

Ed

 

 

Ed

 

More than any gear I think, other than footwear maybe, I do think that tents are so very much a personal decision. They do wear out quicker than most other gear most of the time, especially because of the super light weight materials used in this day and age on many tents. As far as loaning a tent out..............there is no a chance in hell that I will loan even one of my good tents out to anyone......what so ever no matter the circumstances. I do have about 6 tents that are in ok condition and waterproof at the same time that I keep for just that purpose, but there will never ever be the question of "oh, and where is that poll when it's returned." Rather the question is where is the money to replace that pole as I'm ordering a new one from tent technology. Or, not why is there a hole in my tent but rather, I'm sending this tent in to be repaired, or your buying a new tent or fly to replace said tent. All, people who borrow anything, camping/backpacking gear, chainsaws, tools, etc. I have understand that what ever you borrow comes back as it went out or you fix it or by a new one, always at your cost and expense of time. But I would never, ever send out a mint tent. That's just a recipe for disaster. Especially when I can send them to REI or some other place to rent a tent if they don't like my conditions...............

As far as cowboy camping it's wonderful to sleep out under the stars and I do so when it's good weather even if I have a tent...though I usually set up the tent anyway, just in case.......but another huge factor for me is bugs and blood sucking critters. I've had to many times set up a tent just to get out of the massive swarms of skeeters. Not much worse that being attacked by blood suckers all night long and I'm just not willing to slather poison all over my body just to keep the critters away. Further more a number of the repellents will melt tent and other materials that are used in the camping/backpacking industry.

9:30 p.m. on August 4, 2017 (EDT)
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Webby. 

Every time I buy a tent and the tent does not come with any, and or all the paperwork, I ask the individual to keep my name and number just in the off chance they run across any paperwork/instructions they might find later on regarding that tent/gear.  Well this time it paid off.  The guy I bought my TNF Westwind from was cleaning out his files and in the very last file, the very last thing he found was a envelope was all of the paper work that came with his Westwind.  Let me know if you want Photo copies of this stuff.  It includes pitching and site selection instructions.  Just for General information this tent was bought in 10/92 for $377 at Campmoor with the vestibule and ground sheet included.  Not sure if the vestibule is part of the fly or separate as I've not had a chance to set it up yet.  Anyway message me with your address and I'll send you photo copies or I can possibly just take picts of everything and get it to you that way.

2:54 p.m. on August 8, 2017 (EDT)
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Webby - You may already know this but at least perhaps to keep in mind. Nylon fabric stretches in cool or wet weather and contracts with heat and sun exposure. You may fine tune the pitch for the current conditions, but maintaining the proper tautness of  both the rain fly and under-canopy is generally a work in progress. For example, the coolness of the evening is coming on and you notice the tent is beginning to sag. At the same time you begin to hear thunder, see storm clouds in the distance and the wind is picking up. During the storm, the tent can function best in shedding the wind and maintaining separation between fly and body when it is reasonably taut. So, you go around and tension all the guy lines.  The following morning it is still cool and very wet but clearing. Without a thought, you set out on the planned hike and return to camp about mid-afternoon. It has been a glorious sunny day with temps in the mid 80's. Then you discover that your tent is tight as a drum, perhaps contracted to the maximum placing a huge strain on the fabric and stitching. Obviously in the life of a tent, similar situations are a regular occurrence and other than being in camp all day and adjusting the tension as needed, this will happen to one degree or another and contributes to the gradual degradation of your tent. None the less, it has always been alarming to me and I have tried to reduce this to the extent possible. Many years ago I returned to camp and found the tent super taut..........and discovered an 8" slit in the rain fly. Probably resulting from a combination of ultraviolet weakening of the fabric and then the extreme tensioning due the day's heat and sun. From that time on, I have tried to anticipate and make adjustments accordingly for being away from camp. As in the above scenario, releasing the guy line tautness that made a good pitch for the evening storm in anticipation of clearing, the fabric drying and exposure to the sun while away for the day. Decidedly not a perfect process that one can always be in control of.

8:06 p.m. on August 8, 2017 (EDT)
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apeman said:

whomeworry said:

As far as cowboy camping it's wonderful to sleep out under the stars.. (but a) ..huge factor for me is bugs and blood sucking critters...

I also hate the skeeters and wearing Deet to bed.  My kit includes a sleep net that goes over my sleeping bag, and is held over my head by mini dome tent poles.  I lightened the netting by replacing the OEM poles with ones of my own design, cutting the weight in half.  I can use this netting out under the stars or inside my pyramid tarp tent.  The ground cloth, bug net and the pyramid tarp comprise a modular shelter system that is highly adaptable and extremely light. 

Ed

9:29 a.m. on August 9, 2017 (EDT)
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Ed's comment about DEET brings another thought. Even small amounts of DEET will weaken nylon. Sunscreen can also do the same, though not as severely.

2:35 p.m. on August 9, 2017 (EDT)
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Erich said:

Ed's comment about DEET brings another thought. Even small amounts of DEET will weaken nylon. Sunscreen can also do the same, though not as severely.

I as well mention that above.  Not only can some DEET products weaken nylon, I've seen it actually melt it into mush.  That has always been a very important consideration to me to the point that I hardly ever carry any kind of repellent of the type that is slathered on the body.  Rather, I bring clothing that covers my body and a bug/hat head net.  Taking great care to not let bugs into the tent when getting in and out of the tent.

1:09 p.m. on August 20, 2017 (EDT)
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I always like Ed's comments best. 

September 25, 2017
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