I’ve had a variety of large and small tents including my 61 Apache Chief Tent Camper, which is more of a tent on wheels than a camper. For regular tents I started off big – big enough to stand up in and plenty of floor space so I could move my sleeping bag to the middle in a good storm to avoid the puddles and lakes that would form in the low ground wherever that was. Placement of the tent, especially big “family” size tents is critical since there is not a level spot in all the woods or campgrounds in Michigan. Preparing for rain is an integral part of camping and this usually involves the tent, a plastic tarp, and a shovel. The tarp is self explanatory. The shovel is used to create a trench around the tent designed to carry the rainwater anywhere that is not under the tent. It never actually works but it gives the camper something else to do that seems important and manlike.
I like big tents but I have never seen one that doesn’t take an engineering degree and three people to set up. And a one-ton press to flatten it sufficiently to put back in the carrying case. They offer pretty good rain protection (with a plastic tarp) and having the big space inside also provides a false sense of security in bear country which is helpful for a good nights sleep.
I misrepresented myself here – I actually started off with a small tent – a pup tent. I think the name came from the fact that small dogs were the intended users. Back a very long time ago, my brothers and I acquired one of these, I don’t know how. It was a basic inverted V of canvas with a center pole running down the middle like a doghouse with no sides. It could fit two small boys or one hound. I am trying to remember if the thing had a floor, but I suspect not. I do remember that setting it up was a four boy operation since someone had to hold the upright at each end while someone else attached the ropes to the stakes and pounded them in. It was the fourth boy’s responsibility to direct the operation and be the General.
I am happy to report small tents have made some strides toward common sense and utility. Two years ago I decided to buy one for quick trips and one-nighters (and also if I wanted to pull my boat instead of the tent camper). I knew what to look for because Feral sold his J C Higgens tent camper to Jake and bought a small tent. It looked easy to set up. I bought a Eureka Tetragon 2, the same brand / different model as Feral. I have used it a half dozen times and now I can set it up before Feral has found my cooler and knocked down half a beer. So that’s really fast.
If you want tent buying advice here is the one important tip to take from this post: Look for a shock-corded external pole system where the tent clips to the poles instead of the poles threading through a closed seam channel. You can see what I mean from the picture. To set up you attach the poles to the corners and hold them together while you clip on the tent – very simple and fast.
The Tetragon 2 is considered a two man tent, and Feral has the four man version. If you divide the number of persons a tent is rated for by two you will get the actual number of people a tent will hold without someone complaining. I love my two man one man tent. It’s too small for anything but sleeping, but it’s comfortable. I lay some carpet samples down on the ground and set the tent up over them. The tent has a lot of screen so airflow is good (minimal condensation) and the rain fly works. No tarp required.