Resisting quick-tent temptation

It seemed like a perfect solution. A cabin style tent that I could actually stand up in with plenty of room for two travelers. The best part? Only 15-minute setup from start to finish. I picked it up at my local Canadian Tire store on the clearance rack as it had been discontinued (should have been a good clue). But the online reviews were positive and the price was right. Seemed like a good solution for us until we are rigged up with rooftop tents.

After a trial run setup, Kevin was seemingly in love…

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Our first night camping on the way to Overland Expo West was at Antelope Island by Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a beautiful spot and the camp setup went flawlessly. We felt like old pros…

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That night, however, the wind got up. It really got up. The tent’s telescopic poles groaned in the wind. Unbeknownst to us they were actually cracking and bending. Then at 2 AM there was a ominous SNAP… We fumbled around in the dark as the tent began to settle on top of our heads, with the wind still howling and swirling around us. In the dark we discovered there would be no repairing our home away from home.

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The central hub responsible for the quick setup that makes these tents so tempting, snapped in half. After 20 minutes of futility, we tossed some weight on the remains of the tent to keep it from going airborne in the night, and spent the rest of the night trying to get some sleep in the trucks. After a couple hours of restless sleep, we got up to survey the damage… It was a sad sight.

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Kevin wasn’t hugging the tent anymore…

I’d be lying if I said this didn’t really put a damper on the start of our trip to Overland Expo (maybe a foreshadow of things to come at Snoverland Expo…) But we soldiered on, and after sadly packing up the wreckage, we headed into Salt Lake City to find a replacement. We purchase two tried-and-true two-pole style Coleman dome tents at the local Walmart. We went with two in case another one failed. They were quite affordable at $80, so picking up a spare seemed like a good idea.

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They definitely aren’t top of the line, but guess what… They survived the rest of our trip. While many tents collapsed in the night when the snow hit at the expo, our budget tent hung in there. Our only complaint was the fly only went halfway to the ground so there was a small amount of seepage on the lower parts of the walls when the rain and snow blew in sideways. But overall we stayed dry and sheltered, which was no small feat given Mother Nature’s assault that weekend.

Waking up to snow in Arizona wasn't what we'd planned for.
Waking up to snow in Arizona wasn’t what we’d planned for.

So our lesson? Perceived convenience isn’t always worth it. Some things are tried and true for a reason. I’ve looked at other tents of the quick setup variety, and they all depend on that central hub for their structural integrity. If it fails, the whole tent fails. There’s no patching it together. Some look much stronger than the one we had, but in my opinion, they’re not worth the risk, especially on an extended trip. We were just lucky to be able to replace ours quickly and continue on.

~Matt

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