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  1. #1

    Default Buying a new tent...

    Hey all,

    For a couple years I've been using my parents' sweet 6-person L.L. Bean Big Pine tent, but I think the time has come for me to get my own. I'm looking for a 4-person tent, and it'd be mainly used on road trips, so weight does not matter much. I'd like to spend less than $100, but also want something that won't tear or break right away. I don't know a whole lot about the different brands of tents, so I was hoping someone could make a recommendation or impart some sage advice.

  2. Default

    My own choice is high quality -- I have an REI product that cost me about $250. Not cheap. Mine is the one they call "Hobitat," and it's construction is outstanding.

    But - you can easily find a serviceable tent at the "big box" stores -- Sears, Wal-Mart, etc, or a Surplus store, and on sale often for less than $100. I used a Coleman 8X10 cabin tent (about $90) for over thirty years and three kids (prices really haven't changed much). The cotton fabric finally got rotten and tore out at the corners where it was "stressed."

    Check out the simple tents that use a flexible two-pole system. Buy a spare pole if it doesn't come with one -- usually you have to do this by mail after you purchase the tent. Other than that, unless you purchase one for $19.95, most of what you find in these stores will be fine and will serve. Wenzel, Coleman, Swiss Army, or others, etc. Bob

  3. #3


    Thanks for the tips! One more question: would you recommend buying the footprint specially made for the tent, or just getting a big tarp? I've heard that footprints are more durable and put less wear on your tent, but I've never myself seen evidence of this. What do you think?

  4. Default I've done both

    I always used a plastic or canvas tarp -- no problem as you can fold them under at the edges to fit as needed. I have one of the custom footprints with this new one -- very slick -- attaches to the tent itself -- but cost me $50. If I were on a budget, I'd save the money and use a plastic tarp.

    I also carry a small rug to protect the floor inside and I do not EVER go into the tent (ANY tent!) with shoes on.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Creepy crawlies

    Quote Originally Posted by brunch View Post
    would you recommend buying the footprint specially made for the tent, or just getting a big tarp?
    I use both -- in the desert southwest, it is not uncommon to have stinger-equipped creepy crawlies cruising along the ground and I find it helpful to block them.

    Not, that you need this level of compactness -- but here is a review of a tent that is compact enough to fit on a motorcycle.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts


    Quote Originally Posted by brunch View Post
    For a couple years I've been using my parents' sweet 6-person L.L. Bean Big Pine tent
    We have had an L.L. Bean tent for 11 years now - it is a great tent and has been through some strong weather: high winds and snowfall (in July!) in Montana, heavy rains when camping locally, various trips around. One important criterion when buying it was that I had to be able to stand up in it (at least in the middle) without too much ducking - I'm fairly tall - and it fit the bill nicely.

    It doesn't leak, either. One of the nice things is where they put the seams on the tent - they are not a ground level, but up quite a ways. The seams were always a bone of contention on some of the tents we have had in the past. This tent has been well worth the money (the only problem being a broken zipper), and I sure don't miss the old canvas tent with big aluminum poles and the moldy smell that I used to use when I was a kid.

    We use a regular plastic tarp underneath, folded over, and have not found any problems in the environments where we camp.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arizona Bob View Post
    I also carry a small rug to protect the floor inside and I do not EVER go into the tent (ANY tent!) with shoes on.
    This has been one of the reasons our tent has held up so well.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Why am I always the contrary one?

    OK, some years ago we splurged on an expensive REI tent. We spent almost $300 on it in the 1980's. Even with careful care, it was toast after about 7 years. The tent fabric tore and several of the tent-poles broke even though we had always been careful with them. I was quite bummed so, when I went to buy my next tent, I bought a $35 tent at Sears by Hillary. I have had it for 7 years now and I have abused the heck out of it because it was so inexpensive that I haven't worried about taking care of it. It's still in almost brand-new shape!

    And we've actually used the cheap tent a lot more than we used the REI tent because, at that time, we did most of our camping in our truck camper and then in a trailer. We don't own those anymore and are now strictly tent-campers.

    Here's a contrast in how we cared for each of these tents:
    * The REI tent was never put away wet. If we had to roll it up wet, we'd take it out of the bag and hang it in the garage until it was dry before putting it back in its bag. The Hillary has been put away soaking wet and not a bit of mold, mildew, or other degradation has occurred.
    * With the REI tent, we were quite careful about using it. We never went inside with shoes on. I always swept it out carefully, etc. We've gone in-and-out with shoes on with the Hillary tent, been far less careful about sweeping it out and have even rolled it up with leaves and other debris inside if we've been in a hurry. No problems.
    * I invested in the footprint ground cover for the REI tent and used it religiously. I suppose it helped. It sure didn't hurt. But I have rarely used any kind of ground cover at all with the Hillary tent. I usually just plop it on the ground. It has never torn or had any problems without using extra ground protection. The only time I've bothered with additional ground cover is if I'm forced to place the tent on a particularly rocky area so I do it more to protect myself from the sharp rocks than the tent from being damaged.

    My REI and Hillary tents have virtually the same features. Both have interior storage pockets, a nice raincover, stay dry inside even in lots of rain (and living on the coast of Washington state, we do have done our share of camping in the rain!), set-up/take-down quickly, don't require ground stakes unless you want to use them because of intense winds, have good ventilation/door systems, and are virtually the same size. They pack down to roughly equal size as well (backpacking size). The Hillary tent weighs about 1# more. This might be a factor on a long backpacking trip but wouldn't matter a bit if you're car camping.

    From now on, if this Hillary ever needs replacement, I'll either go for the inexpensive Hillary brand or some other cheaper option. I see no advantage to paying more for an expensive tent.

    Caveat: If you're going to be doing mountaineering, winter camping, or camping where intense wind sheers might be an issue, then a more expensive tent might be a worthy investment.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Perfect!

    Quote Originally Posted by Judy View Post
    From now on, if this Hillary ever needs replacement, I'll either go for the inexpensive Hillary brand or some other cheaper option. I see no advantage to paying more for an expensive tent.
    Exactly the intel I had hoped for! Myself, I have always favored lightweight backpacking tents and have treated them like the were life-saving tools, (which for me has been the case on two trips) -- But I also used Nylon-tarp-like-things for summer camping set up like giant triangles and been very content. One of my REI tents has developed the most peculiar and gross "bad cheese" smell and no amount of airing it out has reduced the impact. Even during the severe wind tunnel effect last year at RaceTrack Playa (in which it almost took flight with two people and pile of gear inside) did little to reduce the "oh-my-goodness-this-smells-bad" effect....


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Cheapo Too

    I too am a big fan of the cheap tent. Right now, I'm using a very large (6 person) Coleman tent that I picked up at Gander Mountain on clearance for $50. Its really basic, a big recangle with 2 long poles, but after 2 seasons of use and abuse, its still in good condition. I'd never use if for hiking or backpacking, but since I never set up too far from the car, it works perfectly fine.

    The only problem with the cheap tents I've found is that they case that they come with is almost always too small to be used more than about once. The Coleman bag started ripping down the seam quickly after we got it. However, that problem has been solved by just using a large duffel bag to transport the tent.

  10. Default Tents!!

    I've got.. *ahem* 4 different tents here. One of them is an original Jansport Dome tent from somewhere around 1980 that was one of the first model dome tents sold. Just retired it as after 25 years one of the fiberglas poles shredded. I fixed it with a repair sleeve, but its now on the inactive stack.

    The two that I have that are most used now are from a company called ALPS Mountaineering -- one's a backpacking tent, and the other is a 4 person dome type tent.

    I looked through probably a dozen different brands of tents a year or so ago in doing a search for new tents for a local Scout Troop I support. If you're looking for a longer term durable tent, look for the weight of the floor material, the size and quality of the zippers, and the size of the tent poles. And shop around -- sometimes you can get really great deals on closeouts, end of inventory deals, and sometimes lightly used rental equipment -- up to 90% discounts(!!).

    We ended up buying a dozen tents from ALPS. Turns out ALPS makes a bunch of tents for Scout Troops and professional camping outfitters - and they offer a substantial discout for Scouting organizations.

    The tents we got had upsized tent poles (thicker material) for durability, a thicker (heavier weight) floor, and large zippers. These tents get heavily used by 11-16 year olds on a regular basis including desert, mountains, rain, snow and hot sun. After 2 years we haven't had any problems except for the rain fly that some scouts used as a "drag bag" to haul firewood across the desert and rippped on some rocks *sigh*. $15 dollar replacement item. However, these are pretty heavy weight tents (about 10+ lbs per tent) which is a bit heavy for backpacking. And they're not cheap if you're buying one at a time for individual use. But sometimes you can get them substantially discounted through places like REI Outlet or on their sales page.

    We use nylon tarps under the tents instead of cut-to-fit foot prints. A little extra around the edges helps keep a bit more of the mud out.

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