Tent camping brings out the kid in everyone. There's something special about climbing into that cozy fabric house and snuggling down for a good night's sleep. And with the remarkable tents made today, you can easily find one that perfectly suits your needs.
Of course, as fun as tent camping is, it isn't without its drawbacks. Let's face it – sleeping on the ground can be downright uncomfortable. For backpackers who need to keep an eye on the weight and volume of their gear, this may be unavoidable. But if you're car camping, there's no need to suffer! Why be uncomfortable when you could bring all the comforts of home along with you?
This year, pack your own, full-sized pillow. Invest in a durable air mattress or use several layers of padding (this will help keep you warm, too). If you tend to get chilly in your sleeping bag, bring along some extra blankets or a comforter. Do everything you can to give yourself a good night's rest, so you can concentrate on enjoying your camping trip.
If your tent is a new one, be sure to practice putting it up, taking it down, and stowing it before you leave home. You never know when you'll wind up having to put your tent up in the dark or in foul weather, and nothing is worse than raising a tent for the first time when you're under added stress.
If you've ever woken up in a soaked, soggy tent, then you know how important it is to become familiar with your tent's rain fly. Many rain flies come with their own poles because it's critical that the fly not touch the tent itself – that's the secret to keeping your tent dry. It may also be important that you stake your fly or use strings tied to nearby trees to keep the fabric away from that of your tent. Even if you don't expect rain, your fly is still important for keeping dew off the tent and, therefore, for keeping you nice and dry.
Remember to never store food in your tent – especially in bear country! – and never allow an open flame near a tent. Instead, invest in some battery-powered headlamps or lanterns. Many tents have little pouches sewn into the inside of the tent fabric – this is a smart place to keep your flashlight or headlamp for easy access.
Using a drop cloth or tarp underneath your tent is smart, since it will extend the life of your tent. And if you want to go tent camping with your medium-sized or larger dog, consider a tent with an outer vestibule for your dog to sleep in. Individual tents for dogs are also available in a range of sizes.
During your trip, do your best to keep your tent dry and well-aired. If the nights are damp, but the days are sunny, consider detaching your fly during the day and draping it over a bush or picnic table to dry out in the sun. Giving your tent a good shaking-out every few days will help keep it clean.
If you're going to be camping in a buggy area with mosquitoes and flies, make sure to keep your tent zipped closed during the day. There's nothing more annoying than having a fly buzzing around your tent at night or a cloud of mosquitoes dive-bombing your ears as you try to sleep. Also, if you know you're going to be in a buggy area, you might consider using a tall, roomy tent, the kind that you could stand in comfortably. If you're happy spending time in your tent, you can use it as a pleasant retreat in the event of bad weather or a bug infestation. Some tents come equipped with side flaps that you can roll up and cover with mosquito netting, creating a bug-free, airy space for card games and reading.
Be sure to choose a tent that gives you plenty of space for both sleepers and their gear. It's always best to remove your shoes or boots as your enter the tent – store them outside in the outer vestibule or under a waterproof section of the tent. Just remember to shake out your shoes before you put them on!
Tents are really quite amazing. What other living space can fold up to be the size of a small suitcase? Tents are portable homes that you can carry on your back, in your car, or in your RV as an instant "spare room.” By just following these few steps, you can keep your tent clean, dry, snug, and cozy, making it a fabulous place to rest and dream.