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A quick search didn't reveal anything promising, so here goes! My wife and I would like to start doing some touring this year. We also have a few camping/hiking trips in the works. Well, the current 8-man "Taj Mahal" is nice, but it is NOT something I want to pack on the bike and certainly not when hiking. So I'm in the market for a small, but sturdy tent for the two of us and some gear. What do y'all use? And should I be looking for a 2-man tent, 3-man tent, etc? And if there's anything else besides the obvious stuff like sleeping bags, pads, and such that you'd recommend, include that! Thanks in advance for the input!
 

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3 person tents are usually more comfy/roomy for two people. You won't need all-season if just camping in the riding months. Eureka makes some nice affordable tents. I used to camp a lot when I worked for the Forest Circus and Eureka did us right.

Campmor, REI, Cabellas are all good places to look and research. I have bought a lot of stuff from Campmor over the years. Other than what you mentioned, ground tarps specific to your tent model are nice and pack small.
 

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+1 on 3 person / 3 season tent. You want room to get your gear inside with you and the wife. You also want decent stowage around the tent. Mine has mesh bags around the insides and the carry bag hangs from the ceiling for more storage. Mine's a Marmot Citadel. This is a 3 person/4 season. Remember, the real difference between a 3 season and 4 season is the 4 season can handle higher wind/snow loads. If you don't plan on camping in blizzards, go with the 3 season. They are just as warm closed up with fly and have better ventilation on warm nights.

For hiking, look for light weight. This typically means aluminum poles. The best approach is split the tent between you and your wife. If you don't have daypacks or packs yet, get something you can carry the poles in. Some have special slots, but you typically just need to ensure your pack is tall enough for the poles you have. The poles can then stuff in a bag (most tents come with one for the poles). Mine's a bit heavy for packing in (8 pounds IIRC) But Marmot makes some other great tents.

And yes, tent and footprint. You can either buy a tent specific footprint or get a generic footprint slightly larger and cut to fit. One thing to remember, get a tent light. I use my headlamp as a tent light. I hang it from the center of the tent. I keep a small flashlight in one of the mesh pouches for those late night trips to the woods.

Finally, campmor, REI outlet, Sierra Trading Post all usually have good prices on closeout models.

Other items to think about: Stove (MSR), utensils/pots (non-stick, stackable camp set), water purification (I have the MSR ceramic pump). Yes I like MSR equipment.
 

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Ghetto Subscribing. I want to be able to find this when I get ready to do some light camping. Nothing more than 2 nights I doubt, and probably just on some local lakes/camp grounds, but I want as good of a two night experience as possible!

Question: I will never camp outside of texas in summer months, so would one of those tents that require exterior tie downs (trees etc...) be alright? I want to save as much room as possible. Also, what is the advantage of a footprint? I'll be mostly camping on grass lakeside.
 

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Buy good backpacking gear. The weight doesn't matter much on a bike but the packed size does. I've got an REI Chrysalis Lite tent, North Face Cat's Meow bag and a Big Agnes inflatable air mattress. Good stuff, but there's lot's of choices. Just don't buy cheap crap, you'll regret it.
The easiest way to keep bulk down is to give up on cooking. Stove, pots, fuel and food take up a lot of room. Eat before you camp, have breakfast a few miles down the road.

A footprint helps to keep holes from getting poked in your tent floor. Essential.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Great! Thanks for suggestions! I had a feeling that a 3-person tent would be the better choice since we're either going to have bags from the bikes or packs from hiking that will need to be out of the weather along with us. I've heard good things about Eureka, but it's nice to have a few more reputable brands to check out.

We'll definitely have a ground-cloth for the tent, so that is certainly a point worth mentioning. And we just bought a couple mess-kits for the hiking trips, so we're good there (no stove yet, though we have access to one).

Lights: I LOVE head-mounted LED lights so I have several those already. Great battery life, sufficient output for anything other than spotting something in the distance, and hands-free operation! :)

So now that I have good advice to go on for the tent, here's another question (which I could probably Google, but I'm lazy like that) ... we've discussed replacing our sleeping-bags so I've looked some; what is the difference (and which is preferred) between bags with synthetic insulation and those with down? I mean I know what down is and all ... I guess I should ask, what are the pros and cons of each?
 

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another thing you might want to consider if your not all that concerned with comfort is going to an army surplus store and picking up 2 shelter halves......you only have room for 2 people to lay down in but they offer good protection from the weather and are very small and compact. each half comes with 1 set of 3 12" poles and half of the tent along with some steaks.....the poles used to be wood but i think you can get them in aluminum these days. that way you each carry half the tent........but like i said this is really roughing it as far as camping goes....there is no floor to the tent either.
 

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Question: I will never camp outside of texas in summer months, so would one of those tents that require exterior tie downs (trees etc...) be alright? I want to save as much room as possible. Also, what is the advantage of a footprint? I'll be mostly camping on grass lakeside.
I prefer one you stake out. First, you may not always find something to tie to. This is a definite concern in Colorado as many areas are above treeline. Even in Texas, can you always find the ideal spot you need? Second, things like trees tend to move in the wind. I don't like my shelter moving around. With newer designs, you don't need to have guy ropes unless you are expecting really high winds. I usually just stake out the corners on my tent to hold it in place. The inside weight makes it stable. So I only need 6 aluminum stakes for the tent. For more than overnight, I add 4 stakes and guy ropes to properly set up the vestibles.

The footprint on most tents prevents damage to the bottom of the tent. Rocks, pinecones, sticks, etc will abrade the bottom of the tent. The footprint is cheaper to replace than an entire tent. Some backpackers don't use them. It's really personal choice over if you want the risk of ruining your tent's tub to save weight and space.

The above applies to tents with built-in waterproof liners on the bottom. If you don't have a liner in the bottom, the footprint serves to waterproof the bottom and is probably necessary in Texas:)

Your other options for solo is a small tent - one or two person tents are small and light - or you can rough it with a bivvy sack. A bivvy sack is a water proof bag for you and your sleeping bag. This is the lightest way to go and many cyclist use this approach to save weight and space.
 

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So now that I have good advice to go on for the tent, here's another question (which I could probably Google, but I'm lazy like that) ... we've discussed replacing our sleeping-bags so I've looked some; what is the difference (and which is preferred) between bags with synthetic insulation and those with down? I mean I know what down is and all ... I guess I should ask, what are the pros and cons of each?
The real question is what conditions are the bags for? You need to pick a bag based upon expected use. Do you need a -25 degree F bag or a 0 degree bag? The expected temperatures you camp in will then drive your bag choices. Most bags for cold temps are mummy bags. If you get a mummy, do you want a breath tube? Are you going to zip together? etc.

The synthetics are machine washable and dry quicker. Down is lighter, better compression, and expensive.

Down is best overall choice unless your are in damp conditions. Synthetics work best in these conditions as they work when wet and dry quicker.
 

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Generally:
Down is warmer, lighter, and packs smaller. But it's more expensive, and you can't get it wet or damp (it won't dry very well and you lose all insulation when it's damp).

Synthetics are cheaper and you can get them wet. But not as warm, heavier, and doesn't pack as small.

The difference in pack size isn't THAT significant, but weight is sometimes noticable. i have a nice synthetic marmot (forget which model) that is rated to 15 degrees that i use and i like it a lot.

main thing is to buy a compression sack. the stuff sacks that come with it might be good for car camping, but if you're tight on space a compression sack will cut the stuff sack size down by 30%-50%.
 

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On the bike, you definitely want down for its smaller size. I've had real good luck with North Face bags off the discount rack. If you get cheap Coleman stuff, the fabric is bulky and adds to the packed size. I use a compression sack, line it with a self-inflating mattress, stuff the sleeping bag inside, then compress. (Think sushi rolls.) It works great.
Get the warmest temperature rating you think you can handle. The light weight of a 45 degree bag sure beats hauling a big -15 winter bag around. If it gets real cold, just add clothing.
Get matched bags with a 'left' and 'right' zip so you can zip them together as a couple. Shared body heat makes a BIG difference. They also make strap kits to tie your mattresses together, if you use them.
 

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There are a lot out good companies out there for bags, depends on weather and how much room you have to pack. North Face makes really great bags that last forever. As stated Cat's Meow is a good bag for most situations and they pack down reasonably small. With all things camping you pretty much get what you pay for. Compression bags help but don't leave your bag packed in them when you are storing.

Tent light/headlamp is a great tip.
 

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I've got a more generic question...I've never purchased a tent but I'm also wanting to get into some camping with friends. What are the major brands tent makers to check out. Are there any well recommended sites or forums to start looking doing a little research?
 

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i have a eureka alpenlite xt. packs small and is very light. 4 season (i camp in the winter). sets up in about 2 minutes with one person. fits 2 while not being too snug. the fly creates a very useful vestibule for gear and whatnot. not cheap but not a bank breaker either. i camp a lot so i will not get cheap crap. having an unexpected rain storm and a sh!tty tent will turn a person off to camping for life.



campmor has high quality gear at low prices, (past year's closeouts)
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Category___250__
 

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www.rei.com and www.backcountry.com are good places to browse and look at descriptions and ratings. They might not be the cheapest, but a good place to start browsing to find out what you want.

There are a bunch of reputable brands that make quality tents. it's more on your to figure out what you're going to be using your tent for most of the time. car camping, vs backpacking, vs MC camping. weather, length of trip, etc.

when in doubt i'd suggest a 2 person, 3-season tent. some people above have suggested 3 person tents, but if you have no idea what you'll be using the tent for having a lighter 2 person tent will allow you to do some backpacking if that ever comes up. 4-seasons get a little expensive, are harder to set up and i bet 90% of people that buy 4 season tents never camp in the dead of winter.

Hope that points you in the right direction.

Just a list of brands that i personally like:
REI (great value for what you get)
Mountain Hardware
Sierra Designs
Marmot

I hear with a North Face tent you pay a bit for the brand.

and STAY AWAY FROM COLEMAN ;D
 

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I've got a cheapo 7'x9' dome ozark trail tent from walmart, paid $15 about 10 years ago, I've used it about a half a dozen weekends every year, it's still like new. it packs to a 26" long x 5" diameter roll. (frame is 24" long shock corded fiberglas sections) sure it hangs out a bit when packed but not so much that it is a problem, I also have a 26" wide thermarest self inflating mattress that packs to the exact same size
 

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If anybody has any really specific questions, give me a call. I manage a site, www.summithut.com and I worked as a guide for 5 years. We are a specialty, locally owned backpacking store in Tucson, AZ. I'm always happy to lend some fancy gear advice to anybody with the time to hear about it. We are also happy to order anything we don't already carry!

Richard
 

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As far as camping mats goes, I recommend the Big Agnes, or something like it. They pack ridiculously small, and are some of the most comfortable I have used.

Also, just a suggestion, but if you are going anywhere where there are trees, a hammock takes up almost no room (about the size of a grape-fruit). You could throw a couple of those in a tank bag, include a couple big agnes mats, and get a couple small sleeping bags and you would be set.

I know cooking takes up a lot of room on the bike, but that is the fun of camping (at least for me). You can get stoves that are small and work well, they fold up and store in the only pot you bring. I think it is worth the extra weight/space.
 
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