Thursday, June 26, 2008

A good tent is a good friend

There are camping or backpacking trips where your tent is like your best roommate on a bad week. When you are trapped for a full day in a tent due to bad weather you want to make sure you have a well designed tent, or great roommate. So what makes a great tent on a bad week? Like all good roommates, your tent knows when to give you space. A well designed tent has lots of headroom and a spacious vestibule for gear storage. This will make your bad day seem a bit brighter.

I had a roommate once who was great at weathering my occasional rainstorms. My tent should do the same. A bad day can get worse if; when you open your door the rain gets in on your sleeping bag; or when your temper heats the tent and you get enough condensation to soak your last pair of dry socks. My best tent breathes well. It regulates the interior temperature without a lot of effort on my part and this reduces the amount of moisture build up. Most importantly though, it just does not leak, even during the heaviest rains.

A seamless relationship between you and your roommate depends on how well you blend together. Again, a good tent needs well blended seams to be effective. Stitching is crucial in providing a durable, waterproof tent. Even better, would be no seams but then where would you put your poles? Strong stitching around your pole loops is important and light weight poles make that wet tent a bit more bearable when lugging it back to the trail head.

A good roommate knows when to cover for you just like a good tent has a tarp that provides that extra cover when you need it. I like a tent that has a full tarp with a large vestibule. The tarp should also have a large door for easy entry and exit this will also allow the tent to be aired out on warmer days. If you can tie your tarp out from the tent frame it will allow it to breathe better as well. I’m sure you have wished you could tie up a roommate once or twice on a bad day.

Now, I know your tent isn’t a roommate but rather a room. Trust me though, on a cold, rainy, day you will get more intimate with your tent than you wish. Like I said about boots, you need to know what your needs are when tenting. If you are a car camper, I would go with a larger, heavier tent. If you are a backpacker, then you need to strongly consider weight and may want to sacrifice space to minimize the weight you have to carry from campsite to campsite.

A tent also needs maintenance in order to keep you happy and live a long life, again a lot like a good roommate. It is important to dry your tent out and clean off the floor and tent walls after every trip. This will prevent build up of damaging fungus on the tent materials so that the tent can more readily withstand the next stretch of bad weather. It would be terrible if a pole snapped in a wind storm and ripped your tarp and let the rain in on your sleeping bag.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Rainy Day Blues??

As much as people often gripe about the rain, deep down we all have a deep appreciation of it. Most people now don't live in a metal roofed house, at least not here. Metal roofs are making a come back though and everyone will tell you they love the sound of rain on a tin roof. Me, I love the rain on my tent. It is a calming sound that often lulls me to sleep while I read the latest trail guide or bird id book. I don't even mind having to wander out of my tent to pee in the rain. I love the feel of cool drops on a dry thin t-shirt. The cold drops seem to touch my inner body and sooth the aches I developed through my long hike, and it seems to happen in slow motion. The smell of the rain on the ferns permeates everything around me and makes its way into my stuffy tent even. This scent of renewal even overpowers the smell of my sweaty socks which I have hanging in my gear loft and makes my tent more bearable. I battle to break camp and carry on my way as I just want to sit in this scene of serenity and literally soak it all in.

I finally pack up and start my day off in the constant drip of the woods. Each step takes on the rythym of the rain and before long I am singing in my head..."I'm singing in the rain, oh I'm singing in the rain..." On a day where most people are griping about the weather I am out here living it up and enjoying it. Rainy days like this prove to me that backpacking, and outdoor adventure takes a special mind set, and am I ever glad I'm crazy.
My picture this week was taken after a rainy day along the Fundy Footpath. When the sky cleared just before sundown it revealed a double rainbow extending straight up off the Bay. It was a surreal moment when the earth seemed right and all those worries of work, economics, and environmental struggle just faded away.