Honestly, I thought we were going to freeze to death the first time we slept in our new tent.
It was early April when our nephew called us to say that they were going to camp on the long weekend because the forecast was calling for daytime temperatures of 17 degree Celsius. They invited us to join them.
We had purchased our new tent in the fall so, we were just itching to try it out. The ice had just gone out but who could say no to getting an early start on the camping season?
Eureka Mountain Meadows
20 years ago we bought a Eureka Mountain Meadows tent from Europe Bound in their old Front Street location in downtown Toronto.
We loved that tent but it was time for it to retire. I have mentioned in previous posts that we get attached to our gear but there does come a time to let things go. OK – for us “letting go” really means putting the item in the attic because can you ever really throw out your old camping gear?
Eureka Mountain Pass
We did a lot of research and ended up ordering a Mountain Pass 2 XTE from www.campmor.com. I know, I know, it is important to buy locally, but we knew what we wanted and the exact same model in Canada (the Eureka El Capitan) didn’t have the vents in the fly for some reason.
So off we went on our April trip, two canoes, four adults, a 7 year old girl, a senior dog and of course our brand new tent.
As soon as we arrived at the site we quickly got down to the business of setting up the tent. It was so easy to put up. It was early in the day but we were already looking forward to the evening when we would get to try it out.
We had made the decision to purchase a two person tent (our old Mountain Meadows was a three person tent). We thought with the two vestibules in the new tent we could manage with a smaller sleeping area. A smaller footprint opens up more tent site options. It did seem small but we knew it was just because we were used to more space. We knew we would get use to it soon enough.
Camping in April
Once we got the tent set up we got on with enjoying the sunshine. Camping in April was really a unique experience. Without the leaves, bugs and birds it was eerily silent. Being on the water and not being able to swim was hard, but those first warm days of spring always feel so special. We spent a lot of time sitting on the warm rocks just soaking up the sunshine.
Of course the days are shorter in April so the sun went down shortly after dinner. That is when we felt the cold setting in. It was one of those nights that you sit at the fire fully aware of the difference between your cold back and warm and toasty front. Finally, it was cold enough we decided it was time to head to bed. We crawled into our down sleeping bags and curled up to enjoy the first night in our new tent.
That is when the shivering started. I thought I would warm up shortly but I continued to shiver and shiver and shiver. So what was up with this new tent? It would have been much warmer in our old tent even though it was much bigger! It was -12 C. but this was a three season tent so it should have been just fine. I slept a bit but woke up to shiver some more. This was crazy. In the morning I was so glad to see the sun…but wait, why was it so bright in the tent? Weird!
I unzipped the tent door and realized that when I had crawled in the night before I had left the vestibule wide open. As I mentioned, our old tent only had one vestibule so I had 20 years of experience crawling in the tent through a door only. My goodness – we had spent the entire night exposed to the elements – with no way of keeping the heat in. I have yet to live this down!
Our paddling partners spent a warm night in their tent with three people and a dog generating heat that was held into their tent by a simple zipper.
The second night I zipped the vestibule door closed and we were warm and toasty. It was a good lesson. We were very lucky it didn’t rain or we would have been on our way home early.
The next night we were warm and toasty. We woke, well rested. We crawled out of the tent to discover that the Easter Bunny had actually found us way back in the woods.
The New Puppy
We used – and loved – our Mountain Pass 2 for only one season when we realized we had to give it up. That fall we got a puppy – it wasn’t a planned thing – sometimes puppies just happen.
There was no room in our new two person tent for us and the puppy who would soon weight 40 pounds. So we gifted this two person tent to a family member and ordered the exact same tent but just a bit bigger. The Mountain Pass 3 XTE was plenty big enough for two people and a dog.
We practiced in the backyard before taking him on his first camping trip to Bon Echo Provincial Park on the May long weekend the following year. It took him a while to get the hang of sleeping in a tent but now he is a pro.
We camp with several people who have a MEC Wanderer 4. This is a nice large tent that lets you stand up to get dressed! A nice feature if you wake up groggy.
This is a great tent for families – we have seen first hand that there is room for two adults, two kids and a dog.
We also camp with someone with a MEC Lightfield 2 person tent. You definitely don’t get dressed standing up – actually you can’t even get dressed lying down in this tent. From my perspective it is really just a 1 person tent – apparently I like having a lot of personal space.
The owner of the Lightfield loves this tent because it is light as a feather, packs up so small and it fits into the tiniest area at a campsite, giving him lots of choices.
However, he does admit on long trips and rainy days he would like to have a bit more room. On small, busy campsites, getting changed in the tent would also be a nice option.
Eureka El Capitan
We have friends who bought a tent – I forget the name of it – but that is OK because they only used it on one trip before giving it to someone in their family. They discovered they really didn’t like the tent at all! It didn’t work for them on many levels. This new tent was a summer tent and the inside was all mesh leaving them feeling very exposed and cold. They also missed many of the features of their old tent (like us they had a Eureka Mountain Meadows).
They ended up buying a new Eureka El Capitan (the Canadian version of our Mountain Pass XTE) which they love to this day.
It is worth spending some time to do a bit of research before buying. Talking to other people about what they love about their tents can also help.
Weight: Know how much weight you are prepared to portage vs. the comfort at the campsite. A large tent is nice at a campsite but it does mean you have heavier backpacks on those portages.
Tip: We often split the poles and the tent between two packs so one person isn’t carrying all the tent weight.
Footprint: A small tent with a tiny footprint gives you lots of tent site options and a longer, narrow tent seems to fit better in small campsites. However most sites will have plenty of flat tent sites big enough for at least one larger tent.
Seasons: We are not drawn to winter camping AT ALL!!!! We chose the Yurt option in the winter so we have the luxury of having wood heat and a bed. But we do like the option of spring and fall camping so our tent is a three season tent. If everyone remembers to zip up their vestibule, our tent is pretty warm to -12 C. Note: We haven’t tried camping in colder temperatures.
Vestibules: I love having two vestibules and of course two doors for getting into the tent – especially in the rain. Although we managed just fine for years with one, I wouldn’t go back now. I enjoy having my own space where I can be messy – of course the stuff in the other vestibule is all neat and orderly. It is also nice to be able to access your stuff from inside the tent without crawling over anyone – especially a “sleeping anyone”.
Features: We love the pockets, ceiling shelf and vents in our tent. We love the round doors and the light. We love the “bathtub” type bottom, which keeps us dry in big storms.
We also love the 3 person tent – which is a perfect size for two people and a dog who likes to spread out.
Ground Sheet: You may have noticed that the ground sheet we use is actually a tarp. It is heavier to carry but it is very durable. We have a friend who says “use tyvek for a ground sheet/footprint – it weighs nothing and costs zip”.
To prepare, put the tarp on the ground, set up the tent, use a marker to mark out the footprint, including the vestibules. Remove the tent and cut on the inside of the marker. Write “UP” on one side of the tarp and you are good to go. We wrap the tent poles in the groundsheet for added protection.
Tents are so personal! Once you find one you love, you will tell everyone about it; you will keep it until it starts to fall apart and then – like us you will store it in the attic for years.