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#93826 - 04/07/08 07:45 AM waterproof tents - do they exist
cruzenbye Offline
member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Florida
Well, we attempted an overnight test of our equipment this weekend. But since we had bad weather in the forecast we brought along the popup as "plan B".

We headed out of town for a 3 day weekend to a mountain bike park we've been wanting to go to. We were 3 hrs from home. We figured we'd bring our car camping comforts along "just in case" but we brought the backpacks and gear to give it a trial weekend.

In addition to some fun mountain biking, we did some hiking with the packs to get an idea of the weight and endurance factors.

Friday night we camped at a campground - but planned to keep it simple with the gear in the pack.... then the rains started. Our fair weather tent just doesn't cut the mustard. We ended up in the popup for safety reasons (30mph winds, golf ball sized hail and 3+" of rain).

I know that in the years of car camping - I've never found a tent that is water proof enough to not let the water in during a big rain storm.

What do you all do when you are backpacking and get stuck in the rain? How do you keep your gear dry? (more perticularly the sleeping bag, so you can stay warm and get sleep?)

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#93827 - 04/07/08 07:59 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
phat Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I've never had a problem with a properly pitched and maintained decent tent or tarp.

On the other hand I've seen plenty of cheap wal-mart tents that leak. most cheap tents (and actually
most expensive tents too!) leak out of box, unless they are waterproofed and seam sealed. This means, after you buy it, before you go out, set it up, and run seam sealer over all the seams - then spray it down with a good tent waterproofer such as nikwax.

I have a couple of cheapo tents I use for guests that sucked until this treatment was applied to them.
then it isn't bad at all. OTOH, some cheap tents, well, you get what you pay for - the design (i.e. an
exposed door with no beak) is just flawed.

Any tent(tarp) will get you wet if you pitch it in a depression in the ground - or have an opening facing the wind. site selection is also somewhat important.


Edited by phat (04/07/08 01:33 PM)
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#93828 - 04/07/08 10:12 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: phat]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Yeah, phat summed it up pretty good. Cheap tents will leak.

To add on to what he said you also need to take each individual situation you are in into account. For example, back when I used to carry a lot of weight I was in my Sierra Designs Meteor (this is a decent quality "bomb proof" tent) in a monsoon one time and it "leaked". Well, actually it didn't leak. What happened was condensation built up on the underside of the fly, and started dripping down into the tent through the mesh parts of the tent. Unfortunately on this coast you can't get away from this (it's just humid over here).

So site selection and condensation control (like wiping the fly down with a pack towel occasionally) are the best ways to deal with water when it is humid and/or raining.

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#93829 - 04/07/08 04:48 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
OregonMouse Online   content
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Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6799
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
What kind of tent do you have? Where was it leaking?

EDIT: Sorry, I just checked one of your previous posts and found that it's a Hubba Hubba. So it's not the "cheap tent" factor that Phat described. I think Berserker may have the right call here--it's internal condensation (probably being knocked off the fly by the hail, etc.). I know that it's tempting to snug the rain fly right down to the ground and zip up everything tight, but you need some ventilation to prevent condensation. I used to have a double-wall tent (Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight) which had an outward-slanting screen door, so the rainfly had to be zipped completely closed even in a light drizzle. As a result, I had big puddles of condensation on the floor. Needless to say, I no longer have this tent!

I hope some Hubba Hubba owners will chime in here and give you some suggestions. The weather you had sounds typical of Rocky Mountain summer thunderstorms.


Edited by OregonMouse (04/07/08 05:02 PM)
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#93830 - 04/07/08 05:40 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: OregonMouse]
cruzenbye Offline
member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Florida
The weather is typical FL summer weather for rains (we'll get a few inches in an hour). And what we experience in the NC mountains in the summer - where we do most our camping. Its the reason we progressed up from car tent camping to the popup (so we'd have more shelter and AC) but now that we are getting into back packing its time to re-evaluate and find good equipment and how to make things work.

Also, my son will be in JROTC Raiders this summer - so he needs quality gear that will last him thru highschool.

Although - as a correction, we don't have a hubba hubba... not sure where that was from - and we do currently have an el-cheapo. I've been researching what to trade up to - but was fearful on what to get because every time we've ever camped (which is alot) and its rained - it seems that all tents - no matter what - leak.

But silly me hadn't thought of seam sealer or water proofing. (we do that to the popup canvas every few years). so that was a "duh" from me.

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#93831 - 04/07/08 11:20 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: phat]
billk Offline
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Registered: 08/20/03
Posts: 1196
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Quote:
On the other hand I've seen plenty of cheap wal-mart tents that leak. most cheap tents (and actuallymost expensive tents too!) leak out of box, unless they are waterproofed and seam sealed. This means, after you buy it, before you go out, set it up, and run seam sealer over all the seams - then spray it down with a good tent waterproofer such as nikwax.


Since this is the beginners forum it might be worthwhile to point out that most high-quality tents these days (other than silnylon types) are seam-sealed already, and little if any further sealing is necessary. Likewise, when new, they have a DWR already. The pre-trip setup-and-make-sure is still a good idea, though.

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#93832 - 04/07/08 11:25 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: OregonMouse]
TomD Offline
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Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
OM, I have spent a few nights in a sleeve Flashlight in heavy weather. No vestibule was a readily apparent problem, but once inside, mine was pretty waterproof.

There are many waterproof tents. It is a matter of design and construction. Not sealing up the seams properly will lead to leaks even with a good tent.
There are lots of poorly made tents as well, but a good tent from a reputable maker should be waterproof. A lot of designs may not be, but they are not necessarily designed for heavy weather in the first place, so it is hard to fault them. Kind of like complaining about the lack of room in a two seat convertible.

If I knew I would be out in a lot of rain, I would get a double wall dome or tunnel tent with a big vestibule. Something with a lot of room for me, my gear and if with someone, them and their gear as well.


Edited by TomD (04/08/08 10:35 AM)
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#93833 - 04/08/08 03:41 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: TomD]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
It's already been said, but it's worth repeating since it's a beginner's forum. Quality gear is almost always the best investment. For tents, strongly consider buying a cheap REI tent rather than buying a tent from a walmart/sportmart etc. It's cheaper to buy good gear once, instead of buying okay gear and then replacing it.

Those cheaper tents will probably need seam sealing and re-coating, but the fabric will probably be a looser weave and still not be as waterproof. They work great on nice days, keeping the sun and mosquitos out, but they will just lead to cursing during the first real rain. If you own them for a while, you'll start seeing metal pieces start to rust and elastic stretching out and zippers failing. It's just that they are so big and cheap, it's hard to resist the temptation of buying one -- I know, I've been there.

Just consider, how much would hotel rooms cost a night? Multiply that as often as you need to in order to justify buying a really nice tent! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

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#93834 - 04/08/08 10:14 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: TomD]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
The issue though is that the tent may be waterproof where it does not allow water through the fabric or seams, but condensation will still build up on the inside. No matter what quality of tent or amount of ventilation, this is gonna happen if the conditions are right. I see it all the time. A good example is the "hangout" tarp my buddy and I always carry. We setup a separate tarp to hangout under (cook, sit around, etc.) in the rain (cause we get rained on about 50% of the time). Usually shortly after setting it up (between 2 trees a few feet off the ground) condensation will form on the underside even if we aren't underneath it (i.e. causing the condensation by breathing). You can't get any more waterproof or better ventilated than a good tarp set up like that, and condensation still forms. Unfortunately, that's just how it is.

So like I said, I firmly believe in site selection and "condensation management". A nice little pack towel works really good for keeping the condensation from building up to the point of dripping inside the tent.

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#93835 - 04/08/08 04:34 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: jamieS]
cruzenbye Offline
member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Florida
Thanks all for the replies.

The current tent in question is an el-cheapo model purchased at some bulk discount store for an overnight in Yosemite several years ago. It has also been a great kid tent for my son as he's grown up. It allows us the option when fair weather camping to give the boy his own space.

We've been looking for better equipment - but it has just been an observation of car-camping folks in general that when at a campground and you get a rain storm - 99% of car campers end up with tarps or plastic over their tents and drying out their wet gear after the rains.

So - as I look at what to purchase as our new gear - and having just spent the weekend in some major rains and seeing that not only did our cheapo tent leak - but even the high end tents around the campground also leaked (the folks camping next to us got up and left early because everything was wet.)

So, we'll make a good investment in good equipment as well as seem sealer and waterproofing in order to protect our investment.

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#93836 - 04/08/08 06:47 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Cruzenbye...

I have spent many a night camping in the rain in NC, and had many people in my group envious of the dry environment I had in my Sierra Designs tents (an old dome tent I lovingly called the "tinker toy tent" - don't know the model), and the meteorlight (which I still have). I think Sierra Designs does make high quality tents for wet conditions, but perhaps not all of the designs are best for wet (and not particluarly light).

MNS
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#93837 - 04/09/08 08:47 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Quote:
even the high end tents around the campground also leaked (the folks camping next to us got up and left early because everything was wet.)


I have to admit that I had this happen to me in my "high-ish" end tent. Basically, after 8 or so years, the waterproof coating had degraded on the tent fly. On our first trip of the season, my wife and I got a little moisture leaking through during a very heavy rain. I don't use that tent too much, but I'm sure if it spent another year without using it and the coating degraded further, I would have been completely soaked during a heavy rain. As it turned out, when I got home I re-waterproofed the fly and floor with TentSure and now it's working great.

Maybe this is a good start-of-camping-season message:

Even high end tents need to be tested before depending on them. Do a backyard test before a camping trip!!! Set it up and take a hose and give it a good soak. Better to find a problem in the backyard than 10 miles from a trailhead.

<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />


Edited by jamieS (04/09/08 08:48 AM)

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#93838 - 04/09/08 08:57 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
In answering the "waterproof" question there are three sources of water to consider: precipitation, condensation, and seepage from underneath. Any decent tent should handle the first easily because it's just not that hard to keep raindrops out. The second two are harder. Condensation, and preventing it, is a whole topic in and of itself involving temperature and moisture differentials and circulation. Seepage is a problem because water runs under the tent during a big rain and the pressure of your body can cause the water to permeate the floor material. Again it's hard to avoid this. Good site selection can help but even that is not foolproof. If you get condensation or seepage it's not necessarily the fault of the tent.

The question may really be "is there a rainproof system of any kind?".

I'll tell you the best solution I've ever found. My daughter and I were out camping on a night with record-breaking rain. It rained hard all night. The ground all around turned to a bog with small ponds in low-lying areas. Creeks and rivers rose above flood stage. Something in excess of 6 inches of rain fell while we were sleeping. But we stayed dry all night. How is this possible? Well it turns out we were trying out our new hammocks (one homemade and one Hennessy). Both had silnylon tarps over them so there was no worry about getting wet from precipitation. In addition tarps allow unimpeded circulation so condensation is almost a non-issue. But even if it does occur it doesn't get you or your bag wet because it runs down the inside of the tarp and falls on the ground. Finally we were not on the ground so seepage was impossible (and believe me it would have been a huge issue that night using any tent or even tarp/bivy).

That sort of made me a hammock convert. They aren't perfect for every situation. In particular in cold weather you get colder if you are suspended in mid-air. But if the question is staying dry then it's hard to beat a hammock and a tarp.

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#93839 - 04/09/08 09:54 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: midnightsun03]
frenchie Offline
member

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 461
Loc: Lyon, France
I have stayed fairly cosy and dry in my homemade Lunar Solo clone tarpent during numerous nights of pouring rain in Ireland, only moping off the condensation from times to times (when the wind woke me up). The lovely irish weather digusted many other campers. Heard them swear and finally put the tents down before the early hours: cheap domes, or pop-up tents, soaked inside out, dripping sleeping bags and gear...

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#93840 - 04/09/08 01:13 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: Heber]
ringtail Offline
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Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Another vote for the hammock. I did a hike with a ground dweller and we wore ponchos at some time all seven days. His gear was damp at the end, mine was dry and crisp. Hammocks have limits, but I use them most of the time and I do have other shelter options.

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#93841 - 04/09/08 05:52 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3983
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Cruzen

This tent doesn't look like a small cabin does it? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />All tents that look like a cabins leak. They are mass produced for car campers. Most don't even have a rain fly, just an umbrella shaped waterproof piece over the top, and none of the seams are sealed.

Get a backpacking tent. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

I 2nd TomD - I like Sierra Designs tents and my flashmagic <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> - a single layer design of the flashlight - is my favorite summer tent. I've spent several rainy nights in it and as long as strong wind isn't coming at the front door <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> the only requirement is an occasional wipe of the ceiling in the low end of the tent. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

You have to consider rain and wind in a storm as you pointed out. If you want a bomber shelter - get a backpack dome tent - dry and windproof and it can be buried under snow. Do not buy it at walmart, joes, or big5. Check out our fine sponsors of this group for a tent costing atleast $150. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
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#93842 - 04/09/08 06:59 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: Heber]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I've never tried a hammock, but I have looked at a lot of pictures of them and read a lot of posts about how great they are.

Having spent time in a tent in heavy rain and light snow showers, I just can't see myself cooped up in a hammock all day or night. I like being able to set out my gear, get out some nibbles and a book and enjoy being warm and dry with plenty of room to sit up, change clothes and not worry about getting wet.
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#93843 - 04/09/08 07:24 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: Jimshaw]
cruzenbye Offline
member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Florida
it was a little 2 man dome tent with rain fly. The leakage was more from the seams near the bottom of the tent (not protected by rain fly.)

It was a cheap tent (coleman I think) purchased for an overnight in Yosemite about 6 yrs ago. We decided to keep it for my son to use as his own space when we are camping.

I don't really care about this tent - and I wouldn't consider it a backpack tent. You all have provided me with enough confidence now to know I can go spend some money on a higher quality tent and keep up with waterproofing maintenance and it will stay dry on rainy nights.

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#93844 - 04/09/08 07:26 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: Heber]
cruzenbye Offline
member

Registered: 02/20/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Florida
I love hammocks. As a kid, when we camped my brother and I would sleep in hammocks when we could.

But here's my stupid question of the day... what do you do if you camp in a spot where there aren't trees to tied a hammock to? (I'm thinking grand canyon trip.)

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#93845 - 04/09/08 07:31 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
phat Offline
Moderator

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

Then you don't tie the hammock to a tree. Sometimes there are other options, but usually if there are no suitable trees, your choice is to hike on until there are, or bivy on the ground.
I've done it, rigging my tarp up between my trekking poles, and even tying up my hammock ends to it, and just using the hammock as a bivy on the ground with my pad in it, and the bugnet on it to keep the critters off me.

Remember, a hammocker is basically just a tarper who has evolved to live off the ground - when carrying trekking poles we can easily regress to a ground dwelling form....

(OTOH, hammock snootery aside, if I know I'm exclusively camping above the treeline, I'll takt a light tent or tarp rather than the hammock)
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#93846 - 04/09/08 11:25 PM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6799
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I apologize, cruzenbye! There are several threads going right now from people who are making trial runs with their gear (good for all of you!) and I grabbed the wrong prior post. It's (obviously!) someone else who has the Hubba Hubba.

I have used the one of the little Coleman tents made for backpacking and it worked fine even in a cloudburst (I encountered several with it when camping in the south of France). My oldest son (owner of the tent) used it on an extremely rainy weekend in the Canadian Rockies with no problems. It has full fly coverage over the entire tent. I don't know if this is the type of tent you have, and from checking the Coleman site I don't think it is made any more. It was about $100 at a discount store in 2001. I'd consider something a little better, though. Most backpacking tents (silnylon ones excepted) come already seam-sealed from the factory. Silnylon tents and tarps need to be seam-sealed by hand as there is no way to make mechanically-applied tape stick to the seam as there is with the heavier tent coatings. Even tents which are factory seam-sealed should be tested, though, because you may have to fill in gaps in the sealing.

The above posters have already thoroughly covered the ways to keep your tent dry.
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#93847 - 04/10/08 08:55 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: TomD]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Quote:
I've never tried a hammock, but I have looked at a lot of pictures of them and read a lot of posts about how great they are.

Having spent time in a tent in heavy rain and light snow showers, I just can't see myself cooped up in a hammock all day or night. I like being able to set out my gear, get out some nibbles and a book and enjoy being warm and dry with plenty of room to sit up, change clothes and not worry about getting wet.


I thought that way too until I tried it. I've found that as far as that goes a hammock is even nicer than a tent. The reason is that the tarp protects not only the hammock but the space under the hammock.

Picture my homemade setup: an 8x10 tarp pitched about shoulder height in an A-frame configuration. The homemade hammock is tied to the same trees and without my weight it hangs only 18 inches or so below the peak of the tarp (with me inside it hangs lower such that when I sit up in the hammock my head just misses the tarp). So when I get out of the hammock I'm still under the tarp. The space under there is protected from rain and is about as large as a tent or a tarp pitched with trekking poles. The difference is that my sleeping bag is not in the way because it's up in the "attic", so to speak. So all that space is really mine to move around in. I can't stand up but I can't do that in a tent either or under a tarp pitched to trekking poles. I keep my pack under there (inside a garbage bag for extra protection) so I can get out and go through my gear and find what I need while still being dry.

There's no floor in this space so it's not like a tent in that way. I guess the way to think about it is that it's like having a tent with a vestibule that is 10 feet long and 4 feet high.

Now what I've said really only applies if it's just heavy precipitation with no wind. If there is wind then you are safe in the hammock because you are up close to the tarp but when you get out you are exposed to windblown rain. So it's not as protected as an enormous vestibule.

I'm far from being a hammock expert. But having enough protected space just hasn't been an issue for me.

Okay, here is one difference that occurs to me that is a downside to the hammock compared to the tent while hunkering down in a downpour. In a 2-person tent you can play cards or whatever. A hammock is a one-person shelter. My daughter and I pitch ours close together so we can talk but we can't see each other. That would ruin the "togetherness" if we really had to hide from storm that lasted all day.

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#93848 - 04/10/08 09:05 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: cruzenbye]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Yeah I hear you. I grew up in New Mexico and trees were few and far between. A hammock isn't the perfect thing in the Southwest desert. There you really want a bomb-proof tent because rain is uncommon but when it comes it can come in buckets and the soil doesn't absorb the water so little rivers will start running through your camp and the very dirt you are camped on will wash out from under you (ah the memories!).

But this gets into an issue that new hikers often don't grasp. There is no answer to the question "What is the best ______" (fill in the blank with the name of any piece of gear. The answer will depend on location and season as well as personal preference. Just like you would use different clothing for the desert vs eastern woodlands and winter vs summer your other gear (at least some of it) will vary as well.

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#93849 - 04/12/08 07:48 AM Re: waterproof tents - do they exist [Re: TomD]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Quote:

Having spent time in a tent in heavy rain and light snow showers, I just can't see myself cooped up in a hammock all day or night. I like being able to set out my gear, get out some nibbles and a book and enjoy being warm and dry with plenty of room to sit up, change clothes and not worry about getting wet.


Cooped up is how I feel in a tent. With my 10x12 caternary tarp and hammock, I can stand up, change, sit down, lay down, prop up one corner of the tarp and cook, close the ends to keep out the wind or the boy scouts, and dangle my stuff from the hammock rope under the ends of the tarp or lay it out right underneath me. I can pitch the tarp on the longer side or the shorter side to make it taller so I can stand and make it a tent, or give more coverage if it rains. I can suspend my stuff in a gear hammock next to the bottom entry of my Hennessy. I can shove aside the bugnet and lounge in the open air. I'm claustrophobic with gimp knee and one night in the hennessy converted me - I didn't stumble and fall on my face taking a whizz at 3 am because I'm barely awake and can't get my legs under me; I just poke my legs out and shove the hammock off. My boots sit on the ground under the slit. I can dry my socks under the tarp, hook up the headlamp and read, sleep flat and wake up with hips that don't ache. I had my hammock pitched over a flat spot because it was the first time, but now that I am more confident of the knots I could pitch this over rocks, shrubs, or on a hill. I used a combination of stakes, rocks and trees to tie out tarp and hammock. I would have had a hard time with the tent because you stake down a tent, and the ground was such that my MSR groundhogs were coming loose.

I can't do but a few of those things in the dome tent I have, and it's a 2 person. I can't cook (actually just boil water) under it, can't stand up, can't really get comfortable without carrying a second pad - my hip is the pressure point - can't sit comfortably and read without a back rest, and in the morning when it's cold the getup-and-go seems frozen stiff and not wanting to crawl out of the tent. I could easily see myself in the hammock in a light rain, with the tarp pitched open on one side and staked down on the other against the wind with just enough coverage to keep off the wet, using the hammock for a chair/lounger and reading. Closing the tarp if it started to pour would be a matter of moving a couple of stakes on each end. In my tent with the fly on, I would feel trapped - no windows, small space, and no way to get some hot tea.

I don't meant to sound like an advertisement or something, but you can chalk this documentary up to enthusiasm that follows skepticism. I didn't know if I would like the hammock; I thought it would be like sleeping in a narrow tube. I wasn't prepared for how well I took to it or how flexible I could be in where to put it. If I can get longer straps for the bigger trees here, it will be no big deal and I will make the tenters jealous as they are pitching in the duff and discovering Yet Another Pointy Rock.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

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