Your family camping tent will be your house and home. The tent you choose will probably be the most important piece of gear you buy. A good tent, taken care of properly, will last a lifetime.
A good tent will let you sleep soundly at night without needing to worry about rain, wind, bugs or other creatures of the night. Select the best tent you can afford, set it up properly, take care of it, and then just enjoy your trip.
Here are some tips to help you get off to a good start.
- Set up a new tent at home before your trip. This lets you check its condition, and learn how to set it up without the pressure of darkness or rain at camp.
- The seams on all nylon tents must be sealed before using a new tent, and periodically thereafter. Seam sealer is sold in applicator bottles, which you rub along the inside of all waterproof seams.
- Avoid setting up camp next to stagnant water, which is home to biting insects.
- Don't set up the tent on a sandbar or in a dry wash. The water will probably rise if it rains. Dry washes can flash flood due to a rain storm many miles away.
- Don't set up the tent in a low spot or depression. Rainwater will collect under the tent and soak through into your sleeping bag.
- During bug season, you might want to take a gazebo. This is essentially a rain tarp with mosquito netting on all sides, to provide shelter from bugs, rain and the sun.
- Put a plastic tarp on the ground under the tent. It should match the "footprint" of the tent so that it doesn’t gather rainwater. This groundsheet protects the floor of your tent from stones, sticks, and general wear and tear.
- You can get special stake-driving mallets, or use a plain old household hammer, to pound tents stakes into the ground. Don't use your axe for driving stakes. This can damage the axe head, and possible cause it to fly off.
- Get the sturdiest aluminum tent stakes possible. Most campgrounds build sites with gravel, and this hard ground will bend or break most lightweight and plastic stakes.
- The rainfly is a special tarp that is spread over the top of the tent to make it waterproof. Most tents come with a matching rainfly included. The rainfly should allow the tent windows to remain open for ventilation while protecting the seams from potential leaks.
- Use a stake puller to help pull tent stakes out of the ground, or just loop a short rope under the stake’s hook and pull on the rope to pull up on the stake.
- Keep a whiskbroom in the tent for sweeping out dirt and leaves. Use an old towel or small piece of carpet as a door mat for wiping off feet before entering the tent.