Archive for the ‘Tents & Tent Camping’ Category

Preparing A Tent For Storage

No matter what, when you get home from a tent camping trip, you should open up and tent and let it dry out. ESP Boss & I suffered the dynamic duo of tent destroyers on our kayaking trip: camping on sand AND rain.

When we got home it was still kind of rainy so we decided to set the tent up in my garage and dry it out and clean it up.

Why Dry It Out:

Moisture on the tent, even just from dew or condensation from breathing, will cause mildew. Gross! And mildew not only smells and looks bad, it will eventually eat through the tent material.

Why Clean It Out:

Sand is a very abrasive. Just think of sand paper! So you don’t want it rubbing or even poking into the sides causing small tears in the fabric.

Both will keep your tent in tip-top camping condition for years to come.

Steps:

  1. Fully set up your tent in a well ventilated area that is not going to receive dew or rain.
  2. With no shoes on, inspect the floor of the tent for tears or holes.

    No shoes in a tent

    Use a folded towel to cushion your knees.

  3. With a small, hand-held broom, sweep from the corners of the tent to the door.

    sweeping

    Do you SEE all that sand!?

  4. Use a dustpan (or a vacuum hose attachment!) to remove any dirt.
  5. Tip the tent on its side (if you can) and gently wash the tent bottom with a soft rag and plain water.

    tent bottom

    Um, don't mind all the stuff in my garage!

  6. Examine the walls & ceiling of the tent for tears or holes.

    check walls

    Running a hand along the fabric can help you find tears and holes.

  7. Check the zippers of the tent (doors and windows!) for bent or missing teeth.
  8. Allow the tent to dry completely before packing it away.
  9. As you tear down the tent and pack it away, examine the tent poles for stress or breakage.

Perform the same steps with the rain fly and ground cloth!

You’ll want to do this after EVERY trip, not just at the end of the season!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do to put your tent back into order after a trip?

Ground Cloths

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.
Backpacking Tent

You can't SEE the ground cloth, but trust me: It's there!

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!
Ground Cloth Car Camping Tent

See my shoes in the corner? There's plenty of room for me to take them off outside so I don't bring extra dirt into 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?

Camp Setup Order of Priorities

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.

Camp Composite

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?

Water Ditches

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!

water ditches tent

This tent CLEARLY has an uphill side!

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?

Light Up The Night

I’m sure many of you have seen our EatStayPlay.com big white truck on the website. This truck is what we take when we go camping, since it is big enough to pull our trailer.

Actually, ESP Boss got a NEW truck for his 42nd wedding anniversary. It’s an even BIGGER white truck since The Queen Mother got a new trailer about a year ago. The first big white truck (Toyota Tundra) just doesn’t have enough oomph to pull the trailer!

Even though the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family goes camping in an RV, I’ve still found a use for magnetic tent lights.

These lights have a powerful magnet in them. The light goes on the inside of the tent and a metal plate goes on the outside of the tent, then the magnet holds the light in place.

But, when you put them in the bed of the truck, under the rail and near the tailgate, they light up the bed of the truck perfectly. This way, when you’re rooting around in the bed of the truck after dark (with or without a camper shell) you can see what you’re doing, and you don’t have to hold a flashlight in your mouth!

The light in the picture is made by Coleman. Here’s a link so you can buy the light. If you bring the metal plate with you when you go tent camping, the light can do double duty in your truck and in the tent as a safelight source.

ESP Boss’ pickup has a sprayed-in bed liner and the magnet has no problem holding the light tight. It never moves no matter if we go on the roughest of roads. However, the lights tend to get fine dirt in them so we always carry extra batteries.

My truck has a plastic bed liner and the magnets aren’t powerful to attach to the truck’s bed THROUGH the liner. But, as you can see from the bottom, you can just put in a couple of short screws to hold the light in place!

Since these lights are battery powered, be sure to check out my article The Power Of Batteries for more helpful camping tips.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to light up the bed of a pickup?
  • Have you found any must-have camping tools that do great double duty?
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