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Re: [SCA Newcomers] camping

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  • Iustinos Tekton called Justin
    ... Good morning, Elinor! As one who s been camping mundanely since age 11, and SCAdianly since about 1990, here are a few suggestions. Others on this list
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 22, 2005
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      On Tuesday 22 February 2005 06:47, elinorstrangewayes wrote:
      >
      > I am new to camping as well. Question to you all, what tent do I
      > buy? Should I biy a cheap K-mart one or should I buy a
      > more 'better' one like coleman which states 'never get wet again'.
      > I want to get one that I can stand up in and I most likely will be
      > going to evens alone. I will also be getting a blow-up bed since
      > my trunk can only hold 2 dead bodies. I was thinking of a 10X12 bed.

      Good morning, Elinor!

      As one who's been camping mundanely since age 11, and SCAdianly since about
      1990, here are a few suggestions. Others on this list also have lots of
      experience, so weigh all our opinions together then decide what's best for
      your particular needs. (In other words, someone will probably disagree with
      what I tell you, and that's okay! {GRIN})

      1. There is a big difference in quality of tents. What's fine for a backyard
      "campout" of the kids, with Mom and Dad only 30 feet away if a storm
      breaks out, is not fine for climbing Mount Ranier in a blizzard. There is
      a huge continuum of quality between the $39.95 "family campout" special
      at Wally World and the $2500 "Edmund Hilary Signature Edition" that is
      custom made for your Everest trip. ;-) You get what you pay for.

      2. That being said, you need to figure out what kind of camping you're going
      to be doing: What is the local climate, how many days will you use the tent
      per trip and per year, and how long do you want it to last. To wit,
      a. Tents differ in their quality of water resistancy, both above *and*
      below. If you're going to camp in rainy weather, you not only care
      about water dripping on your head from above, but also groundwater
      soaking or running in from below. The seams are almost always the
      leak point in the roof, whereas the floor depends a lot on how it's
      designed. Tents also differ for insulation and/or cooling properties.
      For hot climates, it's really important to have more than one screened
      ventilation port on the tent, because you need air to flow *through*
      by convection, by wind, or both. One opening won't circulate the
      air.
      b. How long will your trips be? If you are only planning to camp for
      a single Saturday night each trip, you may be able to cut some corners.
      Why? Because you can look at the weather forecast, and if it says,
      "This weekend we're going to make Noah look like an amateur," you just
      decide to day-trip the event and not camp, if you're not geared up for
      it. And on a one-day trip, even if you're caught by a surprise storm,
      the worst case is that you are really soaked and miserable and don't
      sleep --- for *one* night. It's nasty, but survivable. If you're going
      to a long event like Estrella or Pennsic, you *will* get at least one
      bad storm almost every single year, often more than one, and the long-
      range forecasts aren't good enough to dodge the bad days. You don't want
      to be wet and miserable for night after night.
      c. How many nights will you camp per year? One of the places where cheap
      vs. good quality shows itself is in the durability of the tent. Tents
      are meant as an occasional-use shelter and they have finite lifespans.
      A good tent will last for years of fairly serious camping, while a
      cheap one will last for years of two-weekends-per-season use but will
      fall apart and/or start leaking after a while. Ironically, in my own
      experience the cheap tents often make claims like "quality construction
      for years of family fun!", whereas the top-quality tent I just bought
      came with a big warning in the instructions that "this tent is intended
      for intermittent use and requires periodic inspection and maintenance
      to ensure good performance" (or something like that). I guess the better
      tent manufacturers, who cater to serious campers, aren't afraid of
      scaring off people with a warning that realistically assesses what a
      tent is and is not. ;-)

      3. Will you use your tent outside the SCA, and if so, how? In the SCA, you are
      rarely going to backpack more than 100 meters from your "dragon" (car). ;-)
      And SCA gear is usually bigger, heavier, and more awkwardly shaped than
      modern clothing and camping gear. Ergo, if your tent will be used for SCA
      trips only -- and perhaps drive-to-campsite family trips -- then you don't
      care about weight or size. Get something roomy, comfortable, and (as someone
      else has pointed out) tall enough to stand up in while putting on garb. If
      you want to use your tent for mundane camping, you may need to factor in
      weight and packing bulk. Or you may want to think about getting two tents.

      4. Will you be replacing this tent in a year or two with a period shelter for
      the SCA? Camping in modern tents is fine at 99% of the SCA events, but
      period shelters are more fun and more comfortable to live in, especially
      for the longer events. Canvas breathes better in hot weather and insulates
      better in cold, and I can tell you from experience that a *good* canvas
      pavilion can stand up in amazingly bad weather, if properly erected. My
      wife and I have had our tent stay up in 50+ MPH winds, hailstorms, etc.
      (It's a Panther, and I can't say enough good things about their quality.)
      But canvas tents take a lot longer to put up and take down, and they are
      heavy, require more maintenance, and are bulky to transport and store.
      Like so many other aspects of life, TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing
      As A Free Lunch! [Thank you, Robert Heinlein!]

      Anyway, the point is, if you plan to upgrade to a period shelter in a
      relatively short timeframe, then either buy a cheaper modern tent for the
      interim, and save yourself some money, or buy a good modern tent but
      steer yourself toward one that is really optimized for how you might use
      it mundanely after you switch to a period tent for SCA use.

      5. In my opinion, the single most overlooked factor by new campers when buying
      a tent is setup/teardown. Will you often arrive at events on Friday night,
      after dark, and possibly end up setting up your tent in the dark, in the
      rain, with a 30 MPH wind gusting to 40 MPH? Better go for something that
      has a simple design you can figure out without having to read a 10-page
      manual each time. Will you travel with a family, partner, or household,
      or is there a good chance you'll be setting this tent up alone? The big
      "family camping" tents often are extremely difficult to set up with just
      one person. The dome tents with fiberglass rods are trivially simple to
      set up, even alone. Mine goes up in about 15 minutes solo, and that's if
      I'm not bothering to hurry much. They make tents now that you literally
      pull out of their bag and shake, then toss on the ground, and the thing
      self-erects by tension in the fiberglass. No kidding. I haven't camped
      one of these, so I can't speak of their quality or lack thereof, but
      they exist. By the way, I recommend fiberglass rods rather than aluminum,
      if you have a choice. Once the aluminum bends, it is never the same again
      even if you try to straighten it. The fiberglass will eventually fatigue
      and break -- all materials do, when bent enough times -- but you can
      order replacements for the major tent brands.

      6. For tent shape and layout, think about more than just sleeping space.
      Let's say you're going to camp for 2-3 nights at a stretch, and you are
      a fairly outdoorsy person who doesn't mind a little rain. You'll at some
      point get your shoes muddy. Where will those live? Want them next to your
      sleeping bag? Are you a fighter? If so, where is your stinky gambeson
      going to be after you fought for 6 hours on a hot summer day? Where will
      your steel armor (stinky, but vulnerable to rust) go if it happens to
      rain that night and you can't leave it outside? An armor bin (plastic
      is fine, because you'll keep it out of sight) is great, but will there
      be room in your tent for it? Do you have children? If so, do you and
      your partner want some privacy? Two tents side-by-side may not be a bad
      idea -- it gives Mom and Dad some privacy, and lets the kids feel really
      independent and grown-up for a night or two, without *really* having them
      be out of supervisory range of the parents.

      7. Forget about trying to find a tent that won't blow down in a storm. ANY
      tent will blow down (or away!) if the storm is bad enough. Get used to
      it. What you should care about is, "Will my tent survive that storm
      so that I can put it back up afterwards and make it through the rest of
      the event?" I've been at events where people needed to intentionally
      drop tents to protect them from high winds. (Read point #5 again, then
      imagine yourself re-erecting your tent after you intentionally dropped
      it at 3:45 a.m. to keep it from being torn to bits in a windstorm. You
      have stood under a dining fly, are soaked with blown rain, and you now
      get to re-erect your tent by flashlight. Still want that nifty "family
      ranch tent" that has 39 poles in 3 sections each and takes 5 people
      an hour to figure out how to assemble? Ironically, canvas tents often
      have one or two center poles that can be quickly and easily removed
      to drop the tent "mostly but not all the way", protecting it from
      the worst of the storm. Our 12x18 pavilion can have its center poles
      dropped by 2 people in 5 minutes, and re-raised in about the same time.)

      8. Check the shape of the roofline carefully, for sag points. Nylon or
      canvas roofs are *not* rigid like the roof on your house. They will
      stretch and sag a bit in use, no matter how taught and precise they
      look while sitting on the showroom floor at the camping store. So...
      will your roof develop a puddle of water when it gets wet? A steeper
      sloping roof, or a dome, is less likely to sag and drip than one with
      a flatter roof. Steeper sloping tents also dump snow better, if you
      are (like me) one of those sickos who thinks winter camping can be
      fun. Nota bene: If you are inside a tent and there is a puddle on the
      roof, push it up gently with a pole or other blunt object to drain the
      water. *DO NOT* touch it with your hands or clothing -- the skin oil
      will break the surface tension of the water, and you will have a leak
      point.

      These are the thoughts that emerged from my brain before my first coffee
      really had time to kick in...I'm sure others will have some great advice to
      add.

      Not to get too commercial, but I recommend Campmor (http://www.campmor.com/)
      as a good place to order tents off the Internet, if that's a direction you
      are comfortable going. Or you can talk with them on the phone; their people
      know their stuff, in my experience. Get their catalog, narrow down your
      choices by price and features, then call them to talk about the final
      decision. (Disclaimer: There are other reputable and equally good camping
      gear stores online -- this just happens to be the one that I use, and I have
      had good experience with them personally. I'm not meaning to imply that the
      other vendors are less capable.)

      Speaking of camping, and rainy weather, and such, here are some proverbs
      for SCA campers that I share for their humor value, though each has a
      basis in fact:

      * "If you want all the comforts of home, STAY THERE!"
      -- The Autocrat's First Rule of Pennsic

      * "You need two things when camping: good food, and good sleep. If you
      have those, everything else can be endured."
      -- Old Boy Scout proverb (I was one, mumbledy-mumble years ago...)

      * "Keep your feet comfy and your head comfy. The rest of the body will
      follow."
      -- Another old Boy Scout rule of thumb, surprisingly accurate in my
      personal experience

      * "This is Pennsylvania. The laws are different here."
      -- The Autocrat's Second Rule of Pennsic. Totally unrelated to the
      topic, but it seemed so sad to break up the set. ;-)

      * "On any camping trip of more than 5 days duration, the probability
      of at least one bad storm is 100%. Deal with it."
      -- Me, based on 14 years of Pennsic and mumbledy-mumble years of
      modern camping.

      Warm regards,

      Justin

      --
      ()xxxx[]::::::::::::::::::> <::::::::::::::::::[]xxxx()
      Maistor Iustinos Tekton called Justin (Scott Courtney)
      Gules, on a bezant a fleam sable and on a chief dovetailed Or two
      keys fesswise reversed sable.

      Marche of Alderford (Canton, Ohio) http://4th.com/sca/justin/
      justin@... PGP Public Key at http://4th.com/keys/justin.pubkey
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