A Question About Tents

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A Question About Tents

Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:35 am

How many years can you bring a tent to Burning Man before it succumbs to the elements? I would have thought a good one could last 10 years, but I'm told that 1-3 is more normal. I'm thinking more or less of a two-person tent from a camping company, not top-of-the-line but not bargain-basement either.

Also, if you've bought one in the last year or two, how much did you pay for it?
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Postby VeganChoirGirl » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:20 pm

Mitch, there are already a lot of threads on this subject. If you go to search and look up "tents" in the Q&A, Tips and Tricks forum you should find quite a few.

In my personal experience, little dome tents don't do very well. Wigwams are pretty good as far as nylon tents go. They are more cost friendly (80-100).

However, I use a Kodiak canvas tent. They will last years and years, though they are pricey (400-600)

Hope this helps a bit.
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Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:29 pm

Thanks VCG; your info is useful.

(I don't think there would be many old threads that discuss average tent life and if they're more than a few years old, they'll be talking about older-vintage tents, which isn't what I need to know)
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Postby dragonpilot » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:29 pm

I've got a cheapo Coleman-type 10 X 12 family car camping tent...20 years old...been to the playa 6 times...still functional. But then, taking good care of equipment is often directly proportional to how long it lasts.

Even the most expensive, brand name tent won't last long if not properly care for...but you knew this.
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Postby jkisha » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:32 pm

A strong wind/dust storm, a standard occurrence there, can easily snap one of those flexible poles quite easily your first time out.

I've seen it happen.

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Postby Trishntek » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:35 pm

Plus there are so many variables besides care and maintenance. Our tents do not see direct sunlight while under the shade structure. Much cheaper to replace a $20 tarp or two than the tent. Also wind exposure and resulting wear on stress points have much to do with it. Again,,,,, shelter from wind and sun make a huge difference in the life of a tent.
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Postby Bob » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:20 pm

Google is often easier than the eplaya search engine if you use the appropriate syntax.

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:eplaya.burningman.com+tent+years

Add keywords eg Coleman, Costco, REI, Springbar, Sierra Designs, whatever.

Type of tent depends on your camping style. Any tent can get knocked down, and any tent can be made to survive. Smaller two- or three-man backpacking tents in any quality/price range are better than 'family' style tents wrt protecting them behind windbreaks. Most common fuckup is with the zippers, so a warrantied name brand tent might be better for that.

If you were really serious you'd buy the best expedition tent you could find with a good warranty and not be asking us idiots, but Springbar has gotten good reports here and they look easier than most for draping shade cloth directly over the tent with a few additional supports outboard of the tent footprint.
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Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:24 pm

Bob wrote:If you were really serious you'd buy the best expedition tent you could find with a good warranty and not be asking us idiots, but Springbar has gotten good reports here and they look easier than most for draping shade cloth directly over the tent with a few additional supports outboard of the tent footprint.


Ah, well, my tents are made by Winnebago, or whatever El Monte is renting. I want to know the average life of tents that people really use at Burning Man.
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Postby Bob » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:38 pm

<click>
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Postby FIGJAM » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:39 pm

I built my own damn tent.
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Postby tiredofbeingnice » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:13 pm

are you only using your tent one week a year? I suspect it will last a very long time.

I think I got my tent when I was about 16, camped a lot in all 4 seasons.

Sure it isn't brand new. But you know what!? If it tears you put on a patch... if a poll snaps you fix it or get a new one.

But replacing the whole tent? why?

I would be more worried about a tiny tent flying away and never finding it again than I would worry about it dissinigrating or something.
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Postby phil » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:21 pm

> I want to know the average life of tents that people really use
> at Burning Man.

I'll be surprised to find that there's a consensus on what that life is, on average. People have mentioned the variables: wind, dust, wind, windbreaks, dust storms, wind, sun, alkali playa powder.

Louise and I have been going for 15 years now, and we've had four tents. A smaller 2 or 3 person tent that just wasn't big enough. A Sierra Designs Mondo 5 dome tent that was big enough but not sturdy enough - it used to slap us in the face when dust storms came up at night. A Moss Armadillo tent that was excellent, but after many years of use succumbed to fabric and zipper rot. An REI tent that leaked too much dust. An MSR Wind 4 Expedition Tent which didn't give enough headroom. Our current tent is a Springbar, but it's only been out there twice.

So with two of the tents, we stopped using them not because they failed structurally but because they weren't big enough or sturdy enough.

Moss bought Armadillo and Walrus, but they went out of business about 10 years ago. MSR bought the Moss inventory, but MSR was bought out by Cascade Designs. There are no replacement parts for our Armadillo, but we still keep it as a back up tent for less strenuous camping than BM.

WARNING: this gets long.

I have two theories on stuff for Burning Man: One is to buy cheap crap and replace it as it gets worn out. Two is to buy very good stuff that lasts a long time. I apply number two to tents, as I find it very aggravating to have a tent fail. It's even more aggravating to have it fail about four in the morning in a dust storm and then have it start raining (2000). So we buy very good tents that we expect to have last through the entire event. Then we bring them home, hand wash them, and lubricate the zippers. The sun and the playa powder are very destructive to fabrics, and the playa powder really jams zippers.

Other people go with number one and buy cheap tents, finding they last for years. I have no explanation for this; I have photos of many tents that not only suffered broken poles but consequent puncture of the tent by the broken end. Shrug - there's no accounting for luck at Burning Man.

I understand the interest in finding out this information, but my experience is that there is no substitute for your own experience. You'll need to go out there and see what works for you in terms of a tent. I'm unwilling to have a 3-person tent because I have flexibility problems. I really need full standing headroom, and the Mondo 5 dome tent gave it, and the Springbar gives it. I'm unwilling to have a less sturdy tent - the Mondo 5 is a five-person dome, but it had only three poles, and that wasn't enough at BM.

My suggestion for you is to buy two different cheap tents. Use one and see how it works for you. If it lasts all week, great. Next year, use the other tent and see if it works better. But have both tents there in case one fails. If they don't work, buy a third different cheap one or pay more for a better one and see how that fits your needs. Among the variables are what you really need for camping at Burning Man, and my needs are certain to be different from yours.

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Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:31 pm

phil wrote:> I'll be surprised to find that there's a consensus on what that life is, on average. People have mentioned the variables: wind, dust, wind, windbreaks, dust storms, wind, sun, alkali playa powder.[/i]


Actually, what I'm seeing here (and a similar thread on Tribe) IS a consensus.

I'll wait for more numbers to come int, but as of right now, I'd say the average Burner is going to spend in the area of $40 a year on tents.

The question is, do you buy a $40 tent and have it self-descruct after one year, a $120 tent that's good for 3 years, a $300 tent that's good for nearly 10 years, or a $600 tent that's good roughly forever.
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Postby Bob » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:57 pm

I'm guessing the OP is researching an article rather than trying to make sense in the real world.
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Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:06 pm

Bob wrote:I'm guessing the OP is researching an article rather than trying to make sense in the real world.


Those things are mutually exclusive?
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Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:29 pm

I burn one year at a time.
Each year and each tent is an experiment.
Please to visit PAGE TWO.
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Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:11 pm

Mitch wrote:... and if they're more than a few years old, they'll be talking about older-vintage tents, which isn't what I need to know)

I don't think this statement is particularly true. I suspect that unless a tent making company has had a huge change in philosophy or policy that if they made 3 year tents five years ago, that they make 3 year tents now. Now, the 20 year tents are arguably much more likely to have made changes, but that's not going to show up in 5 year old threads much less than in current ones.

Actually, this is a bit intuitive, and I'm trying to reason it out...
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Postby Trishntek » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:07 pm

I think also you have to consider what size you are seeking. We use a Rhino 12'X20' portable garage for our common area which is built to endure. It does not have a floor where we use the 2'x2' interlocking floor mats, it is bulky to store and haul (about 300#) and takes two people about an hour to assemble. But it should last several years. But it also cost about $800.

We will be trying out a Gigatent 12'x18' for our personal dwelling with the camp kitchen in the vestibule. The reviews are great and it is quite spacious. It also weighs about 50# when all packaged up. We have used it here at home for an extra room in the back yard when we have guests (youngest daughter and other 20somethings). Cost about $250.
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Postby moonrise » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:18 pm

$40 special here, LOL

$3 can of household silicone spray worked great on the zippers.

I see many beater $400 tow-a-long trailers for sale, everyone is selling them cheap now, due to the recession.

I'll stick with the $40 special for now (are you researching an article? hmmm) :?
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Postby Savannah » Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:33 pm

Maybe, moonrise! Mitch's profile says he's a journalist, and he's quick to tell us that he doesn't use a tent at the Burn, so . . . maybe.

Doubtless this information is useful to someone besides Mitch, but I note that the use of bold, underlining, & tone may have rubbed Bob the wrong way.

I've noted that ePlayans tend to bristle at this sort of thing, because they would rather be helping fellow campers than supplying demographic information for an article or term paper.

So far the only ways around that seem to be 1) be very polite and direct 2) be very circumspect about one's intentions 3) observe only, rather than ask.
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Postby CapSmashy » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:16 pm

A high end canvas tent, like a Springbar, Kodiak, Panther Primitive styles, military surplus GP tents, etc will last for your foreseeable lifetime provided you take care of it them.

When staked properly, conditions at Burning Man are really not an issue for these types of tents as they are over engineered and worth the price you pay upfront for them.
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Postby StevenGoodman » Fri Feb 18, 2011 6:18 pm

Mitch wrote:
phil wrote:> I'll be surprised to find that there's a consensus on what that life is, on average. People have mentioned the variables: wind, dust, wind, windbreaks, dust storms, wind, sun, alkali playa powder.[/i]


Actually, what I'm seeing here (and a similar thread on Tribe) IS a consensus.

I'll wait for more numbers to come int, but as of right now, I'd say the average Burner is going to spend in the area of $40 a year on tents.

The question is, do you buy a $40 tent and have it self-descruct after one year, a $120 tent that's good for 3 years, a $300 tent that's good for nearly 10 years, or a $600 tent that's good roughly forever.


$600 is a little bit high, you can get a Springbar or Kodiak for about $450 - $550.

The Springbar and Kodiak designs are "classics", very similar to what they were 20 years ago, with improvements.

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Postby Mitch » Fri Feb 18, 2011 7:48 pm

Savannah wrote:Maybe, moonrise!
I've noted that ePlayans tend to bristle at this sort of thing, because they would rather be helping fellow campers than supplying demographic information for an article or term paper.


I AM a fellow camper.


I was thinking the Kodiaks (if I were buying a tent, that's what I'd want) by the time you pay tax and shipping and such would probably end up being around $600 for a big one.
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Postby Savannah » Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:04 pm

I know. Your registration date is also in your profile. :lol:

(What I said of ePlayans being cross about helping others on assignment remains true, however, especially when they haven't seen a lot of you.)
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Postby gyre » Sat Feb 19, 2011 12:30 am

I think it's funny that anyone thinks $600 is expensive for a real tent.

And what is the issue with small domes?
I had one for many years, three poles, was rated for over 100 mph.
It would take much more.
It wasn't cheap.
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Postby Bob » Sat Feb 19, 2011 4:09 am

Savannah wrote:Maybe, moonrise! Mitch's profile says he's a journalist, and he's quick to tell us that he doesn't use a tent at the Burn, so . . . maybe. Doubtless this information is useful to someone besides Mitch, but I note that the use of bold, underlining, & tone may have rubbed Bob the wrong way. I've noted that ePlayans tend to bristle at this sort of thing, because they would rather be helping fellow campers than supplying demographic information for an article or term paper. So far the only ways around that seem to be 1) be very polite and direct 2) be very circumspect about one's intentions 3) observe only, rather than ask.


In the context of the eplaya and the internets in general, I don't mind playing Twenty Questions with journalists, junior college students, stoners or drunks, so long as it leads somewhere and provides object lessons for the majority of our Dear Readers.

What pisses me off is when anyone who *should* be intelligent enough to frame an intelligent question refuses to do so, rejects any suggestion that broader thinking is in order, and apparently refuses using a search engine to sample opinions already expressed in the archives.

That said, I've never spent more than ten or twenty bucks on a tent, because I like to troll the fleas, thrifts and yard sales, but I admire people who like to spend good money on well-made things, or who like to make well-made things with good money spent.
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Postby CapSmashy » Sat Feb 19, 2011 5:37 am

Mitch wrote:I was thinking the Kodiaks (if I were buying a tent, that's what I'd want) by the time you pay tax and shipping and such would probably end up being around $600 for a big one.


If you watch the specials on the Cabelas website, you can get them shipped free or for very little throughout the year. As in like right now through March 01 they have free shipping on any orders over $150.
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Postby Mitch » Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:05 am

CapSmashy wrote:If you watch the specials on the Cabelas website, you can get them shipped free or for very little throughout the year. As in like right now through March 01 they have free shipping on any orders over $150.


But there's probably tax on top of that?
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Postby AntiM » Sat Feb 19, 2011 8:24 am

We had an REI two person, which we used for Harley camping in Japan. Not Cheap. It did well enough at Burning Man, small enough for a bed only, and in a carport, sheltered from the wind. we did have to fiddle with covering the mesh vents and the zipper is getting sticky. 20 years or so, needs the seams resealed is all.

We now have an umbrella tent we picked up through Campmor catalog, no vents. Two years so far... again, in a carport, sheltered from the wind, on a carpet pad. We don't even stake it down.

We prefer the small tents as a sleeping area only, our dressing room, living room and kitchen are in the carport.
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Postby Mitch » Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am

Savannah wrote:I know. Your registration date is also in your profile. :lol:

(What I said of ePlayans being cross about helping others on assignment remains true, however, especially when they haven't seen a lot of you.)


They're welcome to read my newspaper.
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