Q: Let’s start with the companies. Why carry two brands of tents? And while everyone at least knows the North Face name, Big Agnes may be a new one. What can you tell me about Big Agnes?
A: We carry both brands of tents to offer a bit of variety. Big Agnes is a camping guru. Fairly new company, but they make tents, sleeping bags and Helinox chairs—packable camping chairs. Big Agnes is all about having fun outdoors.
Q: Bicycles have changed a lot in the past ten years. So have shoes and clothing. What’s new in tents?
A: A lot has changed. They’ve figured out how to make everything lighter weight, more space efficient. Waterproofing’s come a long way. And most tents nowadays are double walled, which gives you a tent with a mesh top and a fly, so more breathable. It’s cooler inside, so much better for summer camping. If you know it’s not going to rain, you can leave the fly off and stargaze.
Q: What’s the difference between entry-level and top-line tents?
A: The top-line tent is going to be a lot lighter and smaller. Because when you’re hiking, you want a tent to be as light as possible. Lighter tents are made with different materials and cut thinner. Tent makers have found numerous ways to cut weight, even altering the shape.
Most ultra lightweight tents are going to be one or two person. When you get into three-person territory, there aren’t a lot of ultra lightweight models.
Q: You have two tents displayed on the floor. Why these two?
A: We wanted a small one and a big one. Both the one-person and three-person tents here can stand on their own. I’d like to display a particular two-person tent, but it relies on tent stakes to remain upright. And my experience indicates that tent stakes are ineffective with a concrete surface.
Q: Should a solo hiker always buy a one-person tent?
A: If you are only going to own one tent, I’d recommend getting an ultra lightweight two-person tent. A one-person tent limits you to one person. But if you get a two-person tent, it can be almost as light and you’ll have the option to squeeze another person in there. I almost always recommend a two person because it’s more fun to camp with a friend.
Q: Let’s talk about best practices when it comes to caring for a tent.
A: Sure. The first line of protection for a tent is the ground cover underneath it. A ground cloth is a sacrificial layer that protects the tent from sticks, thorns, rocks and dirt.
Then there’s packing technique. You can fold and roll the tent with the poles and stuff it in its carry bag. That’s what I do. But you can also put the poles in the bag first and then stuff the tent in. That eliminates the possibility that you will fold the bag the same way over and over again, which leads to creases and possible failure points.
You can also ditch the carry bag to save weight. Stuff the tent in every crevice of your pack after you’ve stored everything else. The tent keeps everything else from shifting while you’re hiking out. Tie the poles to the outside of the pack.
Q: How do you protect against mold?
A: Keep your tent dry. It’s not just about rain. You get moisture from breathing. In the morning, you’ll have condensation on the sleeping bag and inner tent walls. When you get back home, set up your tent immediately to let it dry. On a multi-day trip, I seal up the tent in direct sunshine in the morning with sleeping bag inside and tent fly in place, and let the moisture cook out. Then I turn the fly over and let the moisture that’s collected there evaporate.
Q: Tell me a big about your camping.
A: Mostly I camp locally. I really like Jubilee College State Park. You can camp anywhere. Just register at the front and hike to wherever you want. I have three tents. One is a standard weight, about five pounds so it’s pretty heavy, but it’s easy to pitch. Just two poles in an X design. Then I have an ultra light that weighs two pounds, five ounces. And finally, I have a big four-person tent, which is good for car camping.