It started as a calm four-day camping trip. Our campsite sat on a cliff overlooking the river and the town below. The day slid into a beautiful sunset that gave way to dancing clouds which slowly rolled in from the north. As the night strolled in, an occasional bolt of lightning caressed the skyline in the distance. After snapping a few shots of the storm brewing in the distance, we climbed in to what looked like a calm night of sleep.
Mother nature’s six a.m. alarm went off as the rain fly on our tent was being ravaged by the impending storm. I awoke to her top bouncing wildly in the steady wind, as one strap broke free the rain slipped in under the edge of the window. While I sat half awake in my warm sleeping bag I could hear the impending wind as it ramped up on its way to our tent. As I peered cautiously through the center door, I could see the deep gray had encompassed our tent. I woke up my wife, and we bolted away from our friend.
We watched from our van as the beginning of the end had come for our friend of over twenty years. We saw one side of her top flap wildly as we watched the rain overtake her. My wife and I made a hasty retreat as we drove away to the nearest bathroom amidst the impending storm. We barely beat the storm as we bolted from the car to the bathroom on the back side of the hill.
Over the years I have had a number of tents in all shapes and sizes. I have had the unenviable task of sleeping in two man shelters, Uncle Sam specials with no bottom, just you and your chosen buddy trying to stay dry in a storm, and three room monsters that came complete with a screen tent on the front. While each has their advantages and disadvantages, I have learned a few things that I have come to appreciate in tents.
One is headroom. I have come to enjoy the ability to stand up when putting my pants on. There is just something about being able to stretch inside the tent without needing to crouch or slide my way out of it that I have come to love in the wee hours of the night. A second lesson that I have learned is that the shape of the tent matters both for stability and for ease of set up. I prefer square and rectangular tents to other shapes. Square and rectangular tents seem to take the weather better and have less issues with water finding its way in. I also find that they are much easier to set up and not feel like you are getting shoveled into a corner to make room for other family members. The hexagon and octagon tents that I have owned both grow smaller as you get closer to the center and can be challenging with more people or small children and the plethora of stuff they can require. The third thing that we look for is a full length rain fly. We have learned that if mother nature has something to grab a hold of, then she will try to pop the top off the tent and cause severe discomfort for all those inside. Exposed windows also have a way finding leaks.
Our upgrade from our old friend is a six man Kelty dome tent with a full rain fly. So far, we love this tent and it came with some unexpected features. We can comfortably fit three people in this tent and more if needed. For us that is two full-size cots and a full-size air mattress. After losing the battle with air mattresses on past camping trips, we upgraded to comfy cots for the wife and myself. With a center height of 6 feet and 5 inches we can also rig up a fan from the ceiling and keep the air flow moving. The rain fly also has a built in vestibule that is very nice for keeping shoes dry outside of the tent. After our first thunder storm on Madeline Island on Lake Superior, we stayed completely dry and watched the winds blow over us as a huge lightning shower raged through the campground. After the 45 minutes of heavy wind and rain we were dry and comfy in our new Kelty tent.
I invite you to share your best insights and stories with me. Be sure to stay dry and enjoy the journey. And as always, “shoot the world with light.” See pictures from some of our other adventures at Paulpaschkephotography.com.