Tent Camping, My Favorite Type of Vacation
Manufacturers rate their tents based on the number of people their design should sleep comfortably. As a rule of thumb a tent that is seven feet wide by seven feet long is commonly rated as a three person tent. This gives everyone a space seven feet long by twenty-eight inches wide to sleep. These measurements are generally acceptable for your "average" size person but cramped quarters for a larger person. Make sure that however many will be sleeping in the tent will be able to comfortably do so. I camp by myself and use a tent that is seven feet by seven feet, because I also use the tent for storage of my equipment and clothing.
Once you have the size chosen you'll need to decide on a style, whether a typical pup-tent will work or if you need something with enough headroom to sit or stand up in. Some tents are easily set up by one person and others take two or more people to set up, so keep that in mind. Dome tents, which are probably the most common type of tent today, are easily set up by two people and by one person with a little more difficulty. If you're looking for a very easy to set up tent, look at the pop up or self erecting tents. These tents usually have some hoops of spring steel built into the structure that allows you to pull the tent out of its carrying case, release the tension on the springs and seconds later you have a fully usable tent. The downside of this style of tent is to get it properly folded back up so it fits in its case.
The tent pictured above is my tent while I had it set up on Black Lake in the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin. The tent measures seven feet square at the base and tall enough for me to kneel, making it easy enough to change clothes inside. I always make sure I use all stakes and tie downs when setting the tent up to make sure if it gets windy the tent isn't going anywhere. It has survived several thunderstorms with heavy wind and rain and hasn't been damaged nor has it leaked. I purchased it on sale for around $20 and I have received my money's worth out of it many times over.
Manufacturers rate sleeping bags by the minimum temperature they will still be comfortable, usually shown on the tag or product label, as well as posted in online advertisements. To me there's nothing worse than sleeping in a sleeping bag rated at 60°f and wake up shivering to find six inches of fresh snow on the ground. Make sure you use a bag rating is within the temperature range you'll be camping in. A warmer bag can always be unzipped or opened to allow cooling in warmer temperatures.
In addition to a sleeping bag, for extra comfort instead of sleeping directly on the ground you might want to consider a pad, mattress or cot. I've always slept directly on the ground myself until a few years ago when I decided to try one of the camping pads I had seen in a big box store's sporting goods department. Being only about a half-inch thick pad, constructed of some sort of stiff foam I really didn't have much faith in it, but for the price it was worth the try. I was very surprised on the added comfort the pad gave me even though it is so thin. I could place it over small twigs and stones even roots and still sleep comfortably. The next step up from the pads are the air mattresses and then cots. Air mattresses offer the most comfort, but they are also very bulky, need some sort of pump to inflate and the bigger ones are heavy. If you camp on a modern site with electricity and your own parking space the added comfort might be worth having one, but not if your site is a walk-in site of any distance. Cots are pretty nice as well, with the big downfall again being the extra weight especially again if your site is not easily accessible by your vehicle.
Tent camping offers you the widest choice of campsites, from the primitive to full utilities. A primitive site has no improvements meaning no water, no electricity, sometimes no pad to set your tent up on, it's just a plain ordinary piece of property. Personally I prefer the primitive site, at the very edge of the campground, treed and on the water if available. The trees will shade you from the sun, keeping the tent cooler during the day. Being away from other campers gives you more privacy and cuts down on noise, especially late at night allowing for better sleeping conditions.
Tent sites are commonly available in private campgrounds, county parks, state and national forests and parks. Prices for a primitive campsite, the lowest priced sites available, can run from free in some of the state and national forests to $40 or more per night in private campground with all the modern conveniences. For me tent camping is not only the best way to camp, it's the only way to truly enjoy everything nature has to offer.
Credit: SJ Saladino
Sunset from the campsite
A Few Words To New Tent Campers
If you've never tent camped before, I'd recommend a few rules to follow if you decide to camp in areas where there are potentially dangerous animals like bears and cougars, as well as areas with raccoons.
- Never store your food inside your tent
- Never eat in your tent
- Never leave food lying around, near your tent
- If you spill food on yourself while eating, do not bring those clothes in the tent
- Immediately clean up your cookware and utensils do not leave them lying around
In these areas I always keep my food stored in the locked trunk of my vehicle if it's within walking distance. I rarely cook in my camping area, I prefer not to leave scraps of food that may have dropped into the fire or on the ground while cooking or grease, the smell could attract these animals. If you're camped in a campground always dispose of your trash in the proper receptacles before nightfall. If you are at a walk-in site you don't want to walk through the dark woods to a receptacle carrying a garbage bag full of greasy aluminum foil or paper plates.