Archive for October, 2010
When ESP Boss was doing research for our new back-packing tent, he read a lot of online reviews. On of the things that the reviewers said that made a huge impact on him was to buy the matching footprint (or ground cloth) for our tent.
And boy was I ever glad he did!
Now, when you’re buying a tent, you want to get a tent that has a waterproof floor. But even WITH a waterproof floor, you should use a ground cloth beneath your tent. (You should always use a ground cloth beneath the tent, no matter when or where you go camping!)
The ground cloth serves two purposes: it protects the floor of your tent from getting torn by rocks and debris below the tent, and the second purpose is to keep moisture from seeping up from the ground into your tent.
Ground Cloth Tips
If you DON’T have a waterproof tent floor:
- Get a ground cloth that is the same size or a few inches smaller than your tent floor. That way, rain water won’t get between the two layers as easily.
- Purchase a ground cloth that’s made for your tent’s size. If you can’t cut one to size from an old tarp.
- It the ground cloth is too large, fold the edges UNDER to make it smaller. You want to fold the edges under or else rain will puddle under the tent floor.
The ground cloth for our backpacking tent is exactly the same size as the tent. Both the tent floor and the ground cloth are waterproof.
If you DO have a waterproof tent floor:
- Consider using a tarp that extends out in front of the tent door a few feet. That makes it a perfect “porch” for your tent where you can take off your shoes.
- Use a ground cloth that will allow water to pass through it. That way, the water won’t puddle under the tent!
But, for my car-camping tent, I personally prefer a larger, non-waterproof ground cloth. I like it because it traps the cushions the tent floor from pokey things, it allows water to run through and away, and because I have about three feet of ground cloth extending out from the main zippered door.
Readers Weigh In:
- What’s your take on ground cloths? Do you like them the same size as the tent or larger than the tent?
- Have you ever been camping without a ground cloth and wished you had one?
Remember how last week I said that we weren’t expecting rain for our Black Canyon kayaking trip until Monday afternoon? Yeah, well the rain showed up early!
But, thankfully, ESP Boss is a super-duper camp-setter-upper. And, he doesn’t listen to his daughter when she’s saying (over and over)
“Pops! I’m SOOOOO hungry. You never feed me!”
When we finally found a reasonable beach, the very first thing we did was to set up the tent. As you can see, the beach was far from level and that was the ONLY spot that we felt was far enough away from the river AND was big enough to pitch the tent.
Our tent is a back-packing tent and the rain fly is optional; you don’t have to put it on the tent to keep the bugs out. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t really WANT to put it on, but the clouds kept building and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.
Did I mention ESP Boss is an EXTRA super-duper camp-setter-upper?
By the time the tent was fully set up WITH the rain fly secured, and loaded with all our stuff, it was drizzling. By the time we were done with dinner. It was raining. By the time the dishes were put away and the kayaks unloaded it was POURING.
I don’t have any photos of the storm but let’s just say the rain was coming down in sheets. We developed a waterfall on the west side of camp and the gully we were camped next to started running.
We sat out as long as we could with a rain poncho over our knees and wearing our rain gear. But watching the rain when the rain is also dripping off your nose just isn’t as much fun as watching it through a window!
But us? We were able to crawl into a warm, dry tent!
Moral of the story?
Set up the tent FIRST! Load it with your sleeping stuff, even if you don’t roll out the sleeping bags. Then have dinner.
Readers Weigh In:
- Do you have any tips for setting up camp?
- What do you always do first?
In looking at the weather forecast for next weekend, it looks like we MIGHT catch some rain on Monday, towards the end of the kayaking trip. The weather isn’t enough to make us cancel the trip, but there are some precautions that we’ll be taking to make sure rain doesn’t ruin the trip!
We’ll be taking a small shovel along for, ahem, waste removal purposes. But, it will do double duty if we feel we need to dig a water ditch. Digging a small ditch for the water to run away from the tent is a good idea, but heed this story!
My good friend Resa told me this story about the first camping trip she and her husband, John, took just after they were married. They knew that they should dig around their tent so moisture (in this case, a light drizzle) would run away from the tent. So, they dug around their tent and then left for a day of hiking and fishing. When they returned, they realized that they had made a moat around their tent and had flooded the bottom of the tent!
Moral of the story: if you’re pitching your tent on a slope and are going to alter the way water will flow, make sure that you start UPHILL and dig channels to send the water DOWNHILL and away from the tent. DO NOT create a ditch around the tent! If you’ll be pitching your tent on level ground, note that it isn’t usually 100% level. Use that as the “uphill” for your ditch. When you leave the area, you need to fill in your ditches! Not only do you want to leave a neat tent pad (in a campground) for other campers, but it’s also of the Leave No Trace principles.
Readers Weigh In:
- What are your tips for camping in less than sunny weather?
- Do you have any funny (or not so funny) stories to share about camping in the rain?
I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.
(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)
Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!
The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.
And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!
- Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
- Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
- Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
- YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
- Take it home and then practice it again.
- Use EatStayPlay.com to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
- Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
- While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
- Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
- Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.
Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.
Readers Weigh In:
- What do you do before buying an RV?
- Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?