Gear – The Tent

The single most important piece of gear for survival on a hike is a tent. On a long hike like the CDT though, I won’t be spending much time in the tent, and I’ll be asleep most of that. I don’t need a palace, just somewhere to lay my head for a bit. The most common types of tents are “domes”, they’re free-standing, and wind/snow/rain tends to roll off them no matter how they’re setup. Unfortunately, a decent solo tent weighs ~3lbs. That doesn’t seem like much, but in the context of a 15lb pack, it’s an awful lot. A lot of lightweight hikers get by with just a tarp, but I really like having the bugs kept away from me, so the tarp-tents from Henry Shires are ideal. They combine a tarp with some netting that goes down to the ground. I get the weight-savings of a tarp and enough tent-like qualities to keep me happy, all in a 1.5lb package.

The price I pay for this lightweight selection is that my tarp-tent flaps in the wind, doesn’t keep the rain out perfectly, and isn’t very private. Fortunately, those disadvantages are pretty minor if you are far from civilization and the world is your campsite. I have enough experience to choose sites that are out of the wind, or under a tree to block out the worst of the rain. Since my tarp-tent doesn’t really have any poles, it gets propped up with my hiking pole, and then relies on stakes in the ground to hold it’s shape. If I screw up the stake placement, chances are good the whole thing falls on my head in the middle of the night. Whoops.

Here is a video to help you visualize how this all looks:

I’ve added a link on the right to what will become the gear locker. As I go over each piece of gear, I’ll add the ability to highlight it in the locker and find out more details.

The specific tarp-tent I have is called a Contrail, tons of details there.

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4 Responses to Gear – The Tent

  1. What no sleeping pill?

  2. Jared says:

    Is the surface you pitch it on an issue? Silnylon isn’t exactly the toughest groundsheet. Are there areas of the PCT or CDT where there are no comfortable surfaces?

  3. Ryley says:

    Jared – surprisingly, no. I’ve found silnylon to be plenty tough, and no need to add a groundsheet at all. I usually put a minute or two of effort into smoothing out the campsite, but that’s it. On the PCT, I may have just gotten lucky, but I never had cactus spines poking through my floor or anything like that.

    As for lack of comfortable surfaces, yes absolutely 🙂 I slept at the base of a switchback one time. Cliff on one side, huge drop off on the other… but I was too tired to keep climbing! I think in general though, you just keep hiking til you find somewhere decent…

  4. Giles says:

    My backpacking partner of the early 70’s, Evelyn, and I were hiking up and over the flank of Mt. Septimus toward Margaret Lake here on Vancouver Island one summer. It was farther than we estimated and there was no trail(we had good topo maps and had expected to be bushwhacking most of the trip). It got dark quickly and we were tired. We decided to sleep as much as we could without setting up camp and move on at first light(it was in July and not raining). We woke up surrounded by devil’s club! I think there are still imprints of the rocks I was sleeping on/around/over on parts of my back. But in retrospect we made the right decision. Easy call. The next night we slept Really well after eating our only fresh food of the trip: fiddlehead ferns picked by the side of Margaret Lake and sauteed in oil. We took 10 days overall to go from Great Central Lake to Buttle Lake. I thought WE traveled light, but your tent thing in the video… now THAT’s light.

    On On


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