Smokies trip, several things

10:46 a.m. on December 13, 2007 (EST)


I am planning a 3 day trip to the Smokeys with my 9 year old and 7 year old. It has been about 9 years since I last did any backcountry camping. I have a number of question and would be grateful for any advice I can get.

1. I need a new tent. I need a tent that will sleep 3. I am looking at the eureka Timberline 4. Is this tent too big/heavy for backcountry? Is there a better option?

2. In the past I used to always carry a tarp to put under my tent so that the floor didn't get wet if it rained and didn't get punctures. Is this necessary with the Timberline 4?

3. I have never camped in an area where there were black bears so i alway kept my food in my pack. My understanding is that I will need to hoist my food up on a tree limb to keep it off the ground. Is there a special way of doing this? is there a kit you can buy? Is there a certain weight of rope that is preferred, etc....

4. This might be a really dumb question but if the bears are so sensitive to food/smell, is it ok to cook on a stove in the backcountry?

5. I have an MSR water purifier(ceramic filter i think) that is about 14 years old and hasn't been used in 9 years. Can I still use it safely?

6. Any suggestions on a nice 3 day 2 night loop in the smokeys?

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated,

Thanks, Chris

11:22 a.m. on December 13, 2007 (EST)
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171 forum posts

The Timberline 4 is not too big. It is pretty heavy, but if you divide it between the three of you it could work OK.

My experience with kids leads me to predict that you may end up carrying a considerable amount of their gear along with your own. Thus, instead of a three day loop, you may want to consider a shorter hike, say 2-4 miles, to a backcountry campsite you could use as a base camp. The second day, you could day camp and return to base. On the third day, you pack up and hike out.

The tarp under the tent is not likely to protect you from rain, unless you're setting up the tent on already wet ground. In fact, many hikers advise that you place the tarp inside the tent.

If you're going to eat, you might as well cook; the bears will smell it either way. I have not been to the Smokies in 30 years, but in Michigan I generally place all my food and cookware in a plastic bag, then in a nylon stuff sack, and tie it up in a tree, hopefully 15 feet up and five or six feet out from the trunk. Or I just use the bear poles that you sometimes see in state and federal forests and parks. You can buy the "bearproof" containers; search the past posts for spirited discussions on that subject.

I'd check with MSR, but would certainly consider replacing the ceramic filter.

5:55 p.m. on December 13, 2007 (EST)

Rexim thanks so much for the info. I called and talked to a park ranger today and she was very helpful. She is going to put a packet of info in the mail to me as well. She said all of the campsites have cables and pulleys for hoisting your pack up.

So, is there another 3 season 3 man tent that you would recommend?

9:53 p.m. on December 13, 2007 (EST)
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Not really. I like the Timberline, but I'm partial to A-frame style tents. It's OK for three persons, but I'm not sure 4 would be comfortable.

Others wouldn't be caught dead carrying the Timberline, particularly the Timberline 4, because of the weight or for other design/style reasons.

Check the reviews and previous posts on the subject of tents.

11:42 p.m. on December 13, 2007 (EST)
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1,902 forum posts

Chris, there are a lot of tents to look at. Try looking online at REI, EMS, Campmor, and similar sites.

A lot depends on your budget. If you are really going to do a fair amount of camping, a decent tent is a good investment. Eureka's are fine, from what I read about them, but there are a lot of others that fit your needs. The North Face, Sierra Designs, Mountain Hardware, Marmot all make tents. Lighter weight designs from Big Agnes, Tarptent and a few others are also worth considering.

I've only owned a couple of tents so can't really recommend any one in particular. So much depends on how you'll be using it, how often and under what conditions that your choices may just come down to price and whether you like what it looks like.

My only real advice is stay away from tents sold by big box discount stores-they tend to be poorly made,heavy and bad designs. They might be fine for the occasional car camping trip, but should not be relied on for backpacking. I've read too many stories here about them coming apart in the rain, etc. to consider any of them.

Bears-no firsthand experience, but the general rule is do not cook in your tent, and that goes not just because of bears, but to avoid possible fires,and CO2 poisoning. In bear country out West, some parks demand the use of bear canisters. I have one.

2:13 p.m. on December 14, 2007 (EST)

Hey thanks. Yea I have browsed a little in the tent review section. It just seems like the choices are overwhelming.

As far as what I am looking for: I would like room enough for two adults, or one adult and two kids. It will be used primarily for backcountry trips so weight is an issue but I also want durability. Yea, i know the best of both worlds ;-) I am willing to spend $$$ if it means superior quality and lifespan.

I went by a local outdoor fitter today and the guy I talked to there suggested a Black Diamond 3 man that they had. It was $349 I believe. It was almost entirely made of mesh. It seems to me like it would not take much abuse.

9:54 a.m. on December 15, 2007 (EST)

Ok, after about 3 hours of researching online last night I ordered the REI Half Dome 2 HC. Not quite as much space as I had hoped for but it seemed to be the best bang for the buck.

9:34 a.m. on December 21, 2007 (EST)
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11 forum posts

there are bear wires to hang your food at just about all the backcountry campsites in the Smokies. if anything gets to your food it will most likely be field mice. I backpack at least once a year in the Smokies and this has been my expierence. Rexim is correct in keeping the milage down with the kids, there are a lot of loop hikes in the park and some may be difficult for the kids to go more than 3 miles in a day it depends on the elevation gains. the park does have a brochure on popular loop hikes that cover 1 to 3 nights out, i would recommend taking a look at it. When do you plan on going? in the winter there are only 2 campgouds for car/rv camping that are open (Cades Cove/Oconaluftee)most backcountry camp sites are open check this website for closings WWW.NPS.GOV/GRSM/ Also be careful there are a few camp sites that have low or no water right now but that is at high elevations. Good Luck!

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