Archive for April, 2012

Tent Revival

Saturday, 14th April 2012; 2:46 pm - Location:

I have replaced my lost/stolen tent. To briefly recap for those who missed last year’s thrilling adventures: at the far end of last year’s big ride, I discovered my tent was missing. It had either fallen off the scooter, or been taken off the scooter, some time during the ride from Ann Arbor to Lake Erie, and I was forced to sleep at a Motel 6 and ride straight home the next day. 🙁

The thing is, I really liked that tent. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to perfect for my needs as one could reasonably expect without custom-making something. It was light (3lbs), it was easy to set up, it provided good rain protection, it packed up small… and did I mention that it was light? Great for scooter camping and perfect for backpacking. Although it was starting to show a little bit of wear here and there (and some bloodstains from mosquitoes I swatted too late), it was still perfectly serviceable.

Fortunately it was fairly easy to replace: I bought a new one just like it.

Well, not exactly like it. The exact same model isn’t still available a decade later, but Sierra Designs still makes something very similar, a direct descendent of my old tent. It’s called the Light Year 1. The use of the phrase “light year” makes me cringe a little, because it has nothing to do with interstellar distances, but I accept it as a play on words. It is, after all, a very light tent. But not a year-round tent. It’s officially a 3-season tent, and is clearly not designed for winter use. The "1" refers to its sleeping capacity: 1 person. Just barely.

The most obvious change is the color: the olive rain fly and floor are now mostly a dull steel blue. And the white roof… is black netting. The most unpleasant surprise I had after buying the previous tent was the discovery that it offered less protection from the outside air than I expected. The tents I’d used in years gone by had been designed to hold in warm air. But this tent had multiple netting panels that (if not for the rain fly) left you exposed to the open air. That first cold night in it was… unexpected. But it wouldn’t come as a surprise in this tent, which makes it quite clear that it’s not going to keep you warm, because aside from the floor and a bit around the sides, it’s all netting. If you want any privacy (like in a state park campground), you need to use the rain fly. Nice if you’re camping some place hot and dry, I suppose. But I rarely camp in those places. Not a problem, though. I’ve long since learned the lesson that it’s your sleeping bag that keeps you warm, not the tent. And I’m OK with the darker color scheme: it’s less conspicuous, and hopefully not too dark inside.

They also changed the way the tent is held up. The old model was simple: two collapsible aluminum poles that fit into four grommets, and the tent had hooks that attached to those poles to hold it up. Then several stakes held the rest of the points in place. Most of those simple hooks and grommets have been replaced by plastic devices that connect to each other, and a ball-and-socket holder for the poles. They’re probably sturdy enough, but if they fail they’ll be useless… unlike the old systems, which could be replaced or repaired with a little improvisation and stitching. The simple stakes have also been replaced with a new brand-name engineered design which I hope offers some improvement besides just looking cooler.

I haven’t set it up properly yet. (I’m a little self-conscious about setting up a tent in the front yard.) But I’ve put all the pieces together in the living room, without the stakes necessary for it to stand up. So at least I know the parts are all here, and they fit. According to online reviews of this new tent, it’s a little taller inside than the old one, which will be welcome if true. I trust that it’s as well-constructed as the old one. And I’m sure that after a few times putting it up and packing it away I’ll get over the differences in design.

By the way, I picked it up at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus for $170. Since I already knew what I wanted, I could’ve saved a little money buying it online, but it’s so important to have actual brick-and-mortar stores with knowledgeable staff for camping equipment like this, and locally-owned ones are the best kind.