Camping Tips – Part 3

The Big Agnes Tent

As the weather warms up, many families seek an outdoor escape. Camping brings families together and creates those special memories.  What a satisfying evening: sitting around a dancing fire, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories.  Most can bear “roughing it” for a couple of days, but good planning makes for a pleasant stay.  For this article, I’d like to share a few tips on selecting a tent, setting one up and maintaining it.

Tent Selection

  • What kind of camping are you planning to do?  A tent for backpacking will be different than a tent for car camping.
  • For backpacking, your tent needs to be lighter and more compact.
  • When car camping, don’t worry about the weight or compactness.  What matters is having plenty of inside space for your family and extra room to store gear and duffle bags.  Just because the manufacturer says the tent will sleep 4 doesn’t mean it’s so.
  • I highly recommend going to a camping store where tents are fully set up. I can’t emphasize this enough—make sure your spouse is happy with your nylon abode.
  • A 3 season tent suits the southeast well.  In more extreme conditions, go with a 4 season tent.
  • Lofts and storage pockets provide handy compartments for storing small items.  Gear loops are great for hanging flashlights.
  • Buy a durable and breathable tent.  Most tents come with a rainfly which helps protect you from weather.  Built-in vents minimize condensation from forming inside.
  • Preferably, it comes with sealed seams, but if not, you can seal them yourself.
  • A porch or vestibule creates a place to store gear you don’t want in your sleeping area—shoes, boots, camping gear.
  • Freestanding tents set up fast since they don’t require stakes.  They are also easy to move around.  Just don’t let them become a kite.
  • Make sure you get a tarp or ground cloth to go with your tent.  This helps protect the floor from the harsh, abrasive ground.

Setting Up

  • Always practice setting up your tent at home before you arrive at the campsite.  Trust me, this prevents much embarrassment.
  • Don’t place your tent under trees with dead limbs.  We call these limbs “widow makers.”
  • Find a level patch of ground and clear away debris that could puncture your nylon floor.  Put the ground cloth down first and then place the tent over it.  Make sure the ground cloth doesn’t stick out beyond the tent walls.  This should prevent rain from getting between the cloth and the tent floor.
  • Make sure the fly and tent are staked down well.  Don’t forget to take a hammer to drive your stakes.
  • It’s okay to be on slightly sloping ground, but not too much slope.  No one likes to slide while they sleep.
  • Look out for yellow jacket nests and ant piles.
  • Keep your tent well away from traffic areas and fire rings.
  • Don’t store food inside.  This will attract animals.
  • Most tents come with tubular staves which snap together with bungee cords.  Please be careful not to break these cords.  These staves support your tent.
  • Duct tape is invaluable for tent repairs.  And a hundred other uses!
  • Keep your doors closed.  This may be a constant reminder to the kids, but you don’t want unwanted spiders or ants crawling inside.
  • Before settling into your sleeping bag, position a water bottle, sandals and flashlight nearby.


  • I like to sweep my tent out before packing for the trip home.
  • When you arrive home, set the tent up so it completely dries out.  This will prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Store your tent in a dry place, and not in extreme heat like an attic.  Heat can break down the chemicals in the fabric.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful.  Please take a minute and share your own experiences with tent camping.

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