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#96562 - 05/24/08 07:39 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
pennys Offline


Registered: 12/31/01
Posts: 2842
Loc: Washington
tent repair person chiming in here, over 15 years in the biz...Misc comments on the thread....

The china comment - any product is only as good as the management that oversees production. To use the "made in China" argument as an overall indicator is lame at best.

Quote:
Wenzel uses 'double stitched, lap-feld seams"-- which sounds good anyway. Amazing what they do with automation these days.... Their floor seams are "welded" which does sound a little dubious, although apparently Mountain Hardwear and Sierra Designs use a similar process on certain products.

But more to the point, I've never seen anything like seam failure -- on ANY tent. Just doesn't seem like a reasonable concern.



Everyone uses double stitched lap felled seam, and if you haven't seen seam failure on a low price tent you aren't looking very hard. The thread quality is very poor, and and tends to shred and break.

You can seal a tent just as well with seam grip as factory seam sealing - more depends on the over all quality of the materials and construction.
Low thread count fabric, cheap thread, soft metal on the zipper sliders.... only a few factors that add up to make a big difference in longevity and performance.
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#96563 - 05/24/08 10:27 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I have a knollwood/texsport and had it out in heavy rain - after nikwaxing and seam sealing it, it's main problem is the door design is retarded - if you use a small tarp over the door, it's just fine, but the design of the front of the tent is idiotic and no amount
of seam sealing will keep it from leaking.

I still have it, because other than it's inherit design flaw it's really light - I give it
to guests who need a solo tent, and ensure they put a microtarp over the front entrance.
with a little tarp over the dumb front door it works fine even in a deluge. My advice
if you have one, or get one for almost nothing (I paid $15 for mine from someone who
bought it online and didn't like it <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> just find or sew a small silnylon tarp to attach to the
top hoop and go over the door. Then it works just fine.
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#96564 - 05/24/08 10:38 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
I don't understand certain objections and am slightly suprised at the argumentum ad hominem..

Other than to suggest that it's best to assume minimal good faith in these forums, I don't see how to make a rational, helpful answer to this question of whether I'm a liar about my experience, nor why it's been suggested.

But it's actually not relevant to the point that a well-designed cheap tent can indeed be highly efficient shelter in summer conditions. I think I've made a number of specific, rational arguments to that effect above, and certainly cannot add to them.

Some people say that the assertions of Colin Fletcher and Ray Jardine that plastic sheeting can make an effective shelther in places like alpine settings in Colorado is irrelevant as a demonstration of the idea that high-quality materials aren't essential to serious backpacking equipment. The point seems so obvious to me, that I'm at a complete loss to elaborate.

There's a big emphasis on "stuff" when it comes to backpacking., inescapable overemphasized. Somehow a legacy of 1970s "gormet" cooking craze...buy only the finest cookware...."consumerism".....Yeah you can get slightly damp sometimes for a little while, in a tent when it rains hard, or maybe if there's a lot of dew. Whether one tent or another leaves you 10% more damp or not... dunno......is that a critical matter?. But I currently own five different tarps and tents. NOW THAT'S STUPID.

Actually my peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking -- which last I checked boils down to mainly sleeping and walking. I think some people attempt to manipulate the topic of risk in a condescending manner to gain what they perceive as some obscure status advantage over other people.

Yeah there's risk -- whatever. It's also good to check the brakes on your car and also have a good concept of what auto wrecks are, and how they occur....

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#96565 - 05/24/08 11:42 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Somehow this thread seems to have turned into a "Tent vs. Tarp" argument. I don't believe that was the original intent here.

The biggest problem I've found with tents while backpacking is that once a tent gets wet during a rainstorm, if you can't get it dried out before setting it up and sleeping in it again, you are going to get wet. An expensive tent is not immune to this problem. The design is what makes a difference. Generally speaking, tents that are more mesh than fabric are going to dry out much faster, which could make a difference if you're in a locale where you might only get a short break in rain. Truth be told, in rain a tarp/bivy combo is typically a much dryer set-up than a tent. Having done both in very went conditions for treks of 1-3 weeks in duration, I prefer the tarp option.

Where tent QUALITY really comes into play is not so much in RAIN as it is in WIND. Some tents are definitely designed to withstand wind better than others, and were I to do alot of travel in an area with high exposure to wind, that would be my deciding factor on what tent to buy. So far my MSR Twin Peaks (floorless tent) has proven to be very wind-worthy, provides the privacy I like, and keeps me plenty dry in rain. This would not be my choice for every trek in wind, but certainly suits my needs for now.

From my experience, quality/cost does play a factor in staying dry if you are not taking down and carrying your tent wet, but once you start setting up a wet tent, the benefits diminish.

On the other hand, if there is any chance that you might encounter extreme weather situations (i.e. in the Rockies, Sierras etc.), even in the summer, a quality tent will pay off in spades.

In other words, you simply can't make generalizations over the cost of gear versus its function. In some cases the benefits of expensive/quality gear are minimal, and you'll be fine with cheap gear. But once you start pushing the limits of conditions, the benefits of expensive/quality gear becomes much more evident. You need to buy gear based on the conditions you will be dealing with, not based on being cheap.

MNS
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#96566 - 05/24/08 01:45 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Johndavid:

I think the point that you've help make is that you have to know the limitations of your gear, as well as your own limitations.

Beyond that, I think you do have a valid point: cheap gear (and not just tents, but also packs and sleeping bags) can work - to a point. "Back in the day" when it was a choice between new shoes for the kids and really good gear, it was a no-brainer: I outfitted myself with cheap gear, including a Texsport pack, Texsport tent, Coleman sleeping bag, and Sterno stove. It got me out there, and being out there on the cheap, with the attendant shortcomings of such gear, was a whole lot better than NOT being out there. I never ventured off established trails in the "frontcountry" of national forests and parks, I couldn't go out in serious cold (the bag wasn't warm enough), and I couldn't carry enough to stay out for a week (the pack wasn't large enough or sturdy enough to overpack), but that was OK - I was out there.

But I upgraded as soon as I could. The better gear didn't necessarily keep me drier or safer, but it was more comfortable and more convenient to use - i.e., for me, it made things more fun. It also let me do some different things, like stay out for a week, venture into the less-traveled parts of the national parks and forests, or take a weekend trip when it was below freezing.

So, you're right, depending on how you define "summer" and on what your preference is for comfort.


Edited by Glenn (05/25/08 09:20 AM)

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#96567 - 05/24/08 01:54 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
lv2fsh Offline
member

Registered: 04/27/08
Posts: 111
Loc: socal
When I was young, I seldom used a tent unless it was raining. I used plastic tarps for most trail camping. I felt tents were too confining. I took my wife car camping and we slept on the ground with a ground cloth(no pad). She almost never went camping again. (yet she still married me <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />) I then realized if I did not want to camp alone, I needed a tent. I bought a cheapo two man dome tent. She married me and we went on our honeymoon in the Sierra in July. It rained every day! The tent had a few leaks but wasn't too bad. It was however heavy and bulky. When we finally tried a backpacking trip, it was in October and it snowed on us. I had to rig a tarp over the tent and keep knocking off the snow buildup. We survived but had our uncomfortable times. (still one of our greatest memories though) That brought me to a four person, four season tent. That gave us plenty of room for both of us and our dog. The tent weighed about ten pounds but was bullet proof. I still use it for car camping but have went through about three other tents since deciding that it was just too much to haul. After buying and trying these, I don't think I could justify paying for a very expensive tent (over $250.00) without being able to try it first and I don't like returning things unless they are defective and not just because I am not 100% happy. I don't think it's fair to the seller to be stuck with a used tent because I might like something different from the next guy. On a personal note, my current tent is a Cabella's XPG ultra light three season, three person tent. I haven't had heavy rain or snow but have had very heavy wind one night and it blew around but stayed intact with no damage. It also didn't have the condensation problem that I had with the last one. It weighs approx. 5.5 pounds but is roomy and tall enough to sit in. My feeling is take what ever you need to keep having fun doing what you are doing. If spending too much for a tent takes the fun out of it, then don't spend it but if safety and comfort is what keeps it fun and spending the cash doesn't take that away, then do it.

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#96568 - 05/24/08 04:23 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: lv2fsh]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Yes...........My primary choice for winter camping currently is MSR Twin Peaks which I've owned for about five years......... This of course, with snow banked around all the edges for warmth and windproofing. Very nice, though I think it's been somewhat radically redesigned recently--- with addition of snow flaps....

MSR TP has a fully coated canopy, in this aspect like a Wenzel, and I've NOT found the frost and condensation build-up unmanagable with MSR TP.

At times of snow and cold, however, in my defunct, cheap, coated puptent with integral coated floor, I found that the moisture would collect on the impermiable floor & of course, not drain, creating difficulties. The Wenzel S has such a floor. The MSR Twin Peaks has no floor.

Perhaps for this reason as much as any, I WOULD NOT WANT WENZEL STARLIGHT in winter. But a Wenzel Starlight has mosquito netting. The MSR TP does not. My earlier point is WS is optimal for summer --- not winter...


I've heard a few people call me a liar, but nobody has told me why dome poles, cheap or costly........... aren't a comparatively serious liability for breakage relative to a rigid pole or poles and prospects for their repair or field replacement..

The Wenzel in question (not any/all Wenzels and NOT my defunct puptent) is 24 inches tall at the rear, and not very tall in front. According to very rational and reasonable theory, a very low-profile tent will be more stable in wind, than a higher profile tent.

I think of WS as really nicely designed one-person, or maybe even 2-person tent, apart from stupid fiberglass A-frame front poles and a few other doubtful but entirely acceptable issues related to materials and construction.

RE MSR Twin Peaks (floorless) though designed good for snow camping It is notably less warm than my TNF Starfire (27 SF, discontinued -- a three-pole Frog dome design) with its double walls, for which I've lost the pole set and may some day decide to replace for about $200.).

This is a considerable drawback, despite TP's 1/3 + greater square footage....which is highly welcome with companion.......I might be untruthful here, so you'll just have to be the judge............I admit I don't have a coherent theory here about coated floors, except that a double-walled tent has less condensation than coated canopy....

.
.............Getting somewhat back to the Wenzel Starlight: Relative exclusively to wind, I tend to think that rigid poles offer superior resistance to domes -- certainly two-pole domes.

I used an SD 2-pole dome quite a lot. (What was it called? It's now discontinued and was stolen at trailhead car break-in in `95 while I was doing Mt Stuart's North Ridge route in Washington. Grade Four route, class 5.7.....This is most difficult of about twenty alpine routes I've done in Washington, mostly in summer and never with cheap pup tent )

(You might say I'm fibbing..but we filed a police report you could maybe check in Leavenworth..... The parking lot was site of an intense forest fire on the following day. Icicle Creek area, first week of August as I slightly recall.)

I was disturbed any number of times by this particular dome's performance in the very typical summer on-shore beach breezes in afternoon/evening in So. New England/E. L.I. Sound. These breezes are 20 mph or more at times.

I recall similar conditions many times using the Wal-Mart puptent, that were somewhat less of a problem, especially when tent was pitched into wind. It blew up like a balloon.

My Sierra Designs Divine Light one-person (disontinued) which I've beaten to near death..has such a low profile, that getting totally flattened by the wind would be only slightly different than being fully and properly pitched. It is very low in profile.......

MSR TP is considerably higher profile than Wenzel, has a fully coated canopy, in this aspect like a Wenzel, and I've NOT found the frost and condensation build-up unmanagable with MSR TP.

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#96569 - 05/24/08 11:57 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
jasonlivy Offline
member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 654
Loc: Colorado
Quote:
There's a big emphasis on "stuff" when it comes to backpacking., inescapable overemphasized. Somehow a legacy of 1970s "gormet" cooking craze...buy only the finest cookware...."consumerism".....Yeah you can get slightly damp sometimes for a little while, in a tent when it rains hard, or maybe if there's a lot of dew. Whether one tent or another leaves you 10% more damp or not... dunno......is that a critical matter?. But I currently own five different tarps and tents. NOW THAT'S STUPID.
Outdoor adventure is a very personal matter. For some, it is about new innovation in backpacking equipment and a large part of them going into the wilderness is about using the latest, greatest gear. For others, gear is a distraction when venturing out. Both groups can be condescending to the other. Both feel they are right. The truth is that neither are right nor wrong.

I'm one who believes the emphasis should be placed on safety. If you can safely go to wherever it is you go and take only plastic sheeting no one should have a problem with that. Having said that, safety is only part of the picture. A well designed tent will give you peace of mind, comfort, and a haven incase things do go south. I can't tell you how many times I have grinned from ear to ear while lounging in my expensive but well made Hubba Hubba while the wind is howling and the rain is pouring just outside of it's nylon walls.

Your statement stating your "peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking" strikes me as someone who simply lacks experience in a truly rugged, raw backcountry desination and supports my earlier point. You are basing your arguments on the fact the going into the backcountry doesn't have risks because, perhaps, I assume you've never had an experience that would cause you to think it's dangerous. My own experience SCREAMS otherwise. It only takes once...

I don't really care that you don't like people expressing the fact that venturing into the wilderness is risky. That's your opinion. My opinion is to say otherwise is irresponsible. I can give you several destinations that would quickly change your mind. It's true we express our opinions based on our realities. My reality and your reality obviously are different. However, I'm never comfortable not talking about safety. My philosophy is that you should "hope for the best, but plan for the worst". You will never go wrong. Therefore, the gear you take should be well made, reliable, well designed, dependable, capable, and durable. This is near impossible to find at the "$20-for-a-tent" level.

However, if you never go to a rugged, raw backcountry destination and only wait for exceptional weather, you would be wasting your money on a $300 tent.
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#96570 - 05/25/08 12:11 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: jasonlivy]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Quote:
Your statement stating your "peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking" strikes me as someone who simply lacks experience in a truly rugged, raw backcountry desination and supports my earlier point. You are basing your arguments on the fact the going into the backcountry doesn't have risks because, perhaps, I assume you've never had an experience that would cause you to think it's dangerous. My own experience SCREAMS otherwise. It only takes once...
I'm with Jason on this... there most certainly are risks to backpacking and hiking, and risks to the people on the mountain rescue teams who come get you. To imply that there is no risk in this sport is flat out irresponsible. The risks diminish significantly with experience; a lack of experience and expensive gear won't necessarily save you, but a lack of experience and low-quality and inappropriate gear could be the trigger in a sequence of events that could lead to injury, disability or death due to exposure or dehydration. People who assume that there are no risks in hiking and backpacking will inevitably come up against something for which they were unprepared.

MNS
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#96571 - 05/25/08 05:26 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: jasonlivy]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Jason, you said it well. Hiking, backpacking and mountaineering are not risk-free activities. There is always some objective danger to contend with be it weather or terrain. "Hope for the best but plan for the worst" is the only safe way to play it.

Quote:
For some, it is about new innovation in backpacking equipment and a large part of them going into the wilderness is about using the latest, greatest gear. For others, gear is a distraction when venturing out


I tend to fall into the latter category; I hate fussing with gear and will go for years using basically the same kit. But, the gear I take has been tested for durability and reliability as well as light weight. Cheap gear has just as high a fuss factor as the super ultra light gear with the added issues of low quality materials and construction. Savings are largely illusory if you are having to sit out a severe summer storm. Testing a cheap tent on a clear, starry night is not really a test. For years, I used a WW-II surplus poncho as shelter. I got pretty good at staying dry but not on exposed alpine ridges. When reasonably light, double wall tents came along, I gladly bought one and never used the poncho again.

The main point here, I guess, is that you don't get equipment reports from the folks who die of hypothermia because of equipment failure.
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May I walk in beauty.

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#96572 - 05/25/08 11:21 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: phat]
kat Offline
member

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 63
Quote:
I have a knollwood/texsport and had it out in heavy rain - after nikwaxing and seam sealing it, it's main problem is the door design is retarded - if you use a small tarp over the door, it's just fine, but the design of the front of the tent is idiotic and no amount of seam sealing will keep it from leaking.


Absolutely correct phat. Guide Gear did come out with a version of the Knollwood with a rain flap over the zipper, but they somehow managed to bulk the weight up to almost 4lbs with heavier material.

So I pondered how this tent would do in silnylon, with zipper rain flap - here it is. Tent 24oz (with guyline attached) plus Fibraplex CF poles 4.8 oz.

OK end of my thread drift, I promise <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


Ancient Lakes, WA 4/07

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