Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Camping is an experience.

Camping with children is an adventure.

And camping with children with lousy gear?  That's just crazy.

We tent camp.  It's been an evolution of sorts but for all the years we have done it in tents.  As our family size and needs changed, so did our choice of tents.

Cabela's Alaskan Guide Tent system was our very first tent purchase.  We looked far and wide for a way to get 2 adults and 7 children into tents without having to be strung out over many campsites.  

Our first camping trip.
September 2003

Now, it looks like only the 8-man dome is available but, when we ordered, we got the 8-man (on the left) and the 6-man (on the right) as well as the joining vestibule.  We called them our "Turtle Tents" because they looked like two huge sea turtles standing head to head.

The Man & I and the infant at the time took the 6-man tent and the rest of the children took the larger tent.  As you can see, they are quite tall in the center.  Jason could nearly stand in them. Talking between the tents was just like talking through a hollow core door.  We even got a lantern with a remote so I could turn on the light in the kids' tent without having to get up myself.

The drawback of this system was footprint and weight.

Seven of our eight children on that first camping trip.

At a standard size campsite, we were so close to the fire ring that we couldn't safely use it during our stay.

This variety of tent is also very heavy.  All the poles are aluminum and, thought that's a light material, there's just a LOT of material and gear to get these buggers up off the ground.  We got tired of lugging them in and out of campsites and the time it took to get them really going.

It was a good set for us for that season of our lives, but eventually we needed more smaller tents for ground space and weight reasons.

The Kelty Villa tents were our next try.  (For some reason, I can't find any photos of us using these tents.  Must have been a dry spell in my photo-taking-mom years.  I've had several of those actually.)

We got the 4-man and the 6-man version of these tents and they were really a sweet deal!  Light weight and fairly simple to put up, these semi-dome style tents were really handy.  The rain fly was complete (covers the whole tent) which is a must in the way we camp.  We'll be there in the driving rain if it looks like it will clear up in a day or two.

These were pretty easy to put up for adults that understand simple leverage concepts.  Well made like nearly all Kelty brand things we've ever purchased.

But, unfortunately for the Keltys, we also ordered the Eureka Assault Outfitter 4 tent at the same time.  

Lake Itasca
This 4-man tent is mostly dome style in my opinion.  Not quite a true domed tent, it uses only 3 poles and 9 stakes to be up and ready for most weather. Add the storm tie-downs and you have a real three-season tent.  The ventilation is quite good.  Construction quality is great.  AND (the best part for us now) it can be put up by three children under the age of eleven.

This summer we have been camping with six of them:

One for Dad & Mom
Two for Girls
Three for Boys

Editor's note:  Since we've purchased our Eureka Assault tents, we have also entered the adventure called "Ultralight Backpacking".  Here we discovered Ray Jardine and the Ray-Way Tarp kit.  Now THAT's a light weight, simple tenting system right there.  And we really like it.  But that's another blog post.