Tent options?

Submitted: Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 15:54
ThreadID: 86817 Views:4096 Replies:11 FollowUps:12
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G'day all,

Went for a camp the other day as a test run for the big one. Problem was it took a while to set up and pack up with all the other gear- nearly 3 hours. If we are going to do this every day for 20 or days, SWMBO will get pretty sick of it.

So I'm looking to streamline it all. We have a 3-room dome tent for the 4 of us. The kids are 3.5 and 2 y.o., so wee need to be all in the same place. I'm thinking there has to be something better!

I'm aware of the Oztent and BW Turbo and am considering the Oztrail pole tents, but I'm hoping to keep the budget down and some of the reviews of the latter are mixed bag. Either way, it has to be robust. I'll be towing a 7x4 trailer with all our gear, so space isn't an issue.

As an added complexity, my neighbour is selling an old Windsor camper trailer (strengthened) which is a bit of a bargain and very appealing from a comfort point of view. Just not sure my 3.0L Hilux diesel can tow it 8000km so am baulking...

Your input is greatly appreciated.
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Reply By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:13

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:13
Plenty of exotic options out there in tents - but many people I know have ended up with the straight forward low cost option - simply a single dome tent from woolies etc. Just big enough so you can stand up in it.

These aren't as fast or as strong as Oz /B wolf/ Pyramid type tents - but have the endearing features of relatively light weight , take up less space and have no complications and 15 minutes to put up and take down is realistic.

Having shadecloth for a ground matt - and a bag to put it in wet , also saves time - as does a hand broom to wipe wet bottom of tent when packing it up.

They can be considered almost throw away after your 20 days - part of the price for convenience.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 18:32

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 18:32
Agree 100%. I am a family of four as well and I have tried lots of tents including BW etc, my family think I have a tent fetish? I have a shed full of them.
I favor the little two bow tents out of all of them. They are cheap, light, compact and quick to pack and assemble. I don't even put them in their bag I just stuff it into a sack to save time.
They are a bit of a fair weather tent though so I just carry a poly tarp that I can peg over it on the nights that bad weather is expected.

I don't know what your setup is or your destination but simple and light is the way to go
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Follow Up By: Joshuah - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:46

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:46
Good points. And along with my tyre and battery fetish, I own 3 tents, none of which are right for a family of 4. I like the idea of an easy set-up 4-6 person dome tent though.
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:57

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:57
Problem with the disposable tents is when they fail on day 2 not day 20 meaning another 18 days in a leaky tent with a broken pole or a stuck zip letting the mozzies in. Not quite as critical in the Oz outback but last year in Wonnangatta on Cup weekend out of 15 tents only 2 were still standing Sunday morning after the storm.
For a realistic 15 minute camp setup & a 30 minute packup, a quality touring tent will not only be dry & still standing in the morning but last a lifetime if looked after correctly.
Cheers Craig.................
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:49

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:49
Hi Craig

Sure was a fun weekend last cup day - felt much the same today on site with the wind driven snow flakes and serious fronts coming thru.
I feel for that guy on Buckland spur - my little member picture below was taken where the now closed Top crossing hut - joined that spur.

I'd have to disagree with you on tents here, but we would agree on the fundamentals that those other tents might last a lifetime and survive much worst conditions, but rather than concentrate on the odd extreme event I think one is better off to concentrate on what happens everyday day in and day out and to have a backup for that time that will come when an extreme event does happen.

Last year when the really bad weather hit outside Alice and it was mud slush and things were pushed to the limit with rescues etc etc someone we know was so stuffed that they couldn't bear the conditions long enough to even
put out the TVan they were towing, let alone any tent and rode out the storm uncomfortably in the car.

So back to the every day real life - we ended up giving away our pyramid touring tent simply because it wasn't effective.

Its true you could put it up in 1 minute using just a centre pole if everything was right just like the ads say but what you deal with constantly is that they are twice as heavy , twice as bulky , generally harder to pack up
and near impossible to get back into the bag they came in. And this is every day - it just wears ordinary people out - and we won't talk about when they get wet.
They also don't have the little alcove like a dome has to keep things mostly out of the weather.

The strain of putting up the sliding pole when sand gets into it or the wind is up is ok if you are strong and healthy but I have seen others do back injuries as well on them.

I watched our other mates with their Black Wolf tents they use once a year as well, somehow its never quite like in the brochures , and when finally packed up this type takes 3 times the room of a dome.

So its true, once every 100 camps or so we have had our cheapies damaged, but ultimately your backup plan should be retreat to the car, as while I have seen the good ones survive - mostly the beds still end up floating in water anyway and the people are drowned rats after the packup.

And at the end of the day your can pick up another $29.95 cheapie 3 man dome to cover you just about anywhere.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:58

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:58
On longer trips I carry a spare cheap tent in case of a major failure, they weigh less than 5 kg and are smaller than a sleeping bag so are no problem to carry
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Follow Up By: Crackles - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 21:27

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 21:27
Yes we were at Merijig today, top of 5. Saw the choppers heading to the search area then return shortly after due to zero visability on the hill. If the poor bloke doesn't have a fire going it's not looking good for him going into night 3 with more snow forecast down to 500m. Can only hope for the best.
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Reply By: Member - Gary J (NSW) - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:32

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:32
Joshua, before we bought our camper, we (wife andI) did the Cape in an Oztrail Tourer 9 Plus tent. Cost about $350 from memory, including a side pole kit. it was fast to erect and pull down. We spent 20+ days in it and it worked for us.
We bought a brand new Coleman Northstar before the Tourer 9, and left it at home. It is still brand new, in itsoriginal bag and never used.
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Reply By: chisel - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:39

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 16:39
Anaconda occasionally (eg. every 3 months) have 25% off all blackwolf tents. We bought a 300 lite plus there for around the $650 mark although I suppose they are more expensive these days. Heaps of room. We did a 7 week trip to cape york with the kids at the same age as yours (3.5 and 2) and the tent was fine going up and down every day or every 2nd day. Could probably have survived without the 'plus' version but the space is nice sometimes.

We found the packing up in the morning to be the main issue - but we also had to get everything into the car or on the roof. A trailer really should help. Bedding is an issue we've never really resolved - takes too long to roll up self-inflaters and sleeping bags etc especially with 2 little helpers jumping around in the tent.
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Reply By: SDG - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:10

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:10
What other things are you unpacking and setting up? Have a look at what your using. Only bring out of the trailer what you need that night. Most likely if it did not get used during your test run, it won't get used for your whole trip. Be strict in your needs. For example, my sister-in-law, insisted that the portable cot be taken to Fraser Island for the baby. It got used once in the two weeks there. The rest of the time it was just a space filler.

As for the camper, which Windsor? What weight? Are you just worried about your engine because of the size, or is it just worn. I towed a soft floor camper with a 2.8 Diesel Patrol for about 15 000 kms a couple of years back, with all the gear for myself and two kids, with no problems.
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Reply By: Joshuah - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:38

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:38
Thanks for the input so far. I have found a deal on a BW 300 Lite, which I'll consider further (<$600).

The stuff we packed was pretty much all used. Admittedly there were a few pans which didn't, but as mentioned bedding takes time too. If I stick with the box trailer, I'm considering building a slide-out 'kitchen' with storage, ridding me of a few plastic tubs. The kids 'helping' does slow things a little, but that's part of it.

Yeah I realised I should have mentioned camper weights after posting! Sorry about that. The camper weighs about 1100kg GVM. It's 25 years old and needs a weeks work. The canvas is all new. My dual cab Lux is 98 vintage, 185k no turbo and rated to 1400kg tow, braked. I don't mind going slow, but I don't want to upset others on the road by doing 80 everywhere, especially crossing the country. And yes, there's also the element of stressing the drivetrain. I also have to traverse 600km of dirt to get out of town... (minor detail!)

Am I right to baulk?
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Follow Up By: Joshuah - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:43

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 19:43
Oh and Windsor Sunwagon, which has been strengthened.
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Reply By: Chris J1 - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:35

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:35
Hi Joshuah,

We have done the tent thing when our kids were babies and time to pack up and unpack is always an issue.

We had a two room taj Mahal is was huge and great 20 mins and up but unpacking everything the cot, beds etc took the time. We like to travel in comfort. I think a slide out kitchen will save heaps of time. We never had that so everything had to be set up.
If you do the tent the shade cloth is a must to protect your tent floor and if you get it larger you can have a mat area in the front for shoes and brushing feet helps keeping the tent clean. Also we survived torrential rain at Jourama Falls because we had a great tent make sure you know what water saturation it can cope with other wise you may find yourself check in to a motel to dry out or else you will spend more time putting up tarps.

However we stepped up to the jayco wind up camper trailer and this made life much easier especially in bad weather.

In saying that we are about to start a big work/travel holiday for the next few years and are upgrading to a full van. But I too am looking at the BW lite range for our extreme off road trips as we will leave the caravan in storage while we hit the rough terrain.

I try to do heaps of research and as I have only touched the surface on this subject can't say 100% if this is the way we will go. But I am a paranoid parent and our kids now 7 and 5 will be in the tent with us and the black wolf is looking good for the money and strength.

Also if the bag they provide is a tight fit leave it at home and invest in a larger carry bag saves lots of stress.

Good luck hope some of this has helped
AnswerID: 456732

Follow Up By: Joshuah - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:57

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011 at 20:57
Thanks CJ. It's just come down to a question of balance! Finding that sweet spot is tricky, especially when the spot keeps moving.
I like the idea of the BW too, and I have soft spot for the Canvas pole tents. Coleman do an 'Instant tent' in the US, (not available here) which looks great.

It's a refining process, though I know that I need to address a few gaps in the current set-up. I have shade cloth, never used it on the ground though. No door mat needed...
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Follow Up By: 3 Boys and a Lady - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 23:29

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 23:29
Just to throw a whole new thought we also considered getting one of those roof tent set ups quick and easy our only peoblem was the tinny. But in saying that have seen quite a few people with modified trailers with them on.

Haven't looked at coleman in us and I can't help with the towing of a camper trailer but they are really good.

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Reply By: Member - Mary-Teresa R- Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:29

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:29
Hi Joshuah,

We're a family of 6 and have an Oztrail canvas cabin tent. We pack a 6x4 trailer with the tent, sleeping bags, mats, bags, gas cooker, camp chairs, foldable table, food tub and equipment tub (the fridge goes in the car). The first time we unpacked/packed up it took ages, but after several road trips of between 7 and 14 days, we have managed to pack it all up in 45 minutes in strong winds. I think it's all a matter of practice, although we still do get sick of it on the long trips. We're touring to Broome from Perth and back in July (20 days) and will probably burn the whole kit when we get home, we'll be so sick of it. Every now and then we stay somewhere for 2 nights, just to give ourselves a break.

When the kids were littler and we only had 2, we squashed into a 4-man, one room dome tent (very warm and snug) and the bags went under the 'vestibule' bit of the fly.

We went for the canvas tent because we needed more space and were sick of fiddling about with the fly on the dome tent - it always seemed to take up the most amount of time and caused the most trouble. There was much scouring of ebay....

Good luck.

AnswerID: 456760

Follow Up By: Joshuah - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 11:23

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 11:23
Thanks Mary-Teresa. I can understand the burning it thing, but I don't want it to get to that point for anyone in the family. If it's not fun, no one will want to do it. We'll suck up our fair share of chores, but it shouldn't be a drag on the adventure, which is exactly what I am trying to iron out. As you say, practice will no doubt ease the burden of it all!

There have been some great tips and ideas mentioned above ranging from $19.95 to $800 tents, to my wind-up camper dilemma. And your validation of a the pole tent is great too. But yep, gas bottles, stove, table, chairs... It all adds up.

And with that, the old camper is sounding more appealing. Any thoughts on my possible towing dilemmas?

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Reply By: rainbowprof - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:56

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:56
When we travel with our 4 primary aged kids, we use a 6 or 7 x 4 trailer with a tradesman top, modified a little to become a 'camper trailer'. Fits a gas bottle on the outsde and carries a couple of bicycles on a rack we welded on too.. The tradesman top means we just basically throw in whatever we need and just close the top, no tying it down. Saves a lot of hassle and time. Towed it with a 4 x 4 Tarago 2.2l for quite a few years. And cheap 2 and 3 man tents. But we usually sleep outdoors in simple swags -ie canvas with a mattress and sleeping bag and blankets. Tarps for inclement weather, inside squashed in the car for radical weather or diabolical mosquitos, or the 3 man tents (great against sandflies). BUT I just bought an oztent RV1 1/2 price off ebay recently and interested to see how that changes our camping style. Might try to set it up on top of the trailer as a 'roof top ' tent so I can leave a mattress and blankets set up in it. Camping's always fun. Caravan and camper trailers are great and convenient, just a bit more disconnected from the great outdoors- a bit more suburban- but I've travelled with a few in my day. Tougher on fuel too.
A weatherproof tradesman top on the trailer is great!

Just some past experiences.

AnswerID: 456762

Follow Up By: rainbowprof - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:57

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 10:57
addendum to above-
In my opinion your 3 litre diesel will amply tow most things, bit slow uphill- but what's the rush...
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Reply By: Grizzle - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 17:20

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 17:20
If the camper trailer is in good nick buy it!!! Especially if you're towing a trailer anyway. If the boss ain't happy, no one is happy!!

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Reply By: stoney123 - Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 18:27

Wednesday, Jun 08, 2011 at 18:27
i can recommend the canvas type tents that have a single pole and extender poles to make the back bigger. Bash in 4 or 5 pegs one pole, and the one i had, had a huge window at back end which could also zip up from inside.

I also take a tarp 18x12 so i can sit outside by a small fire in rain. Its fun watching the domers all zipped up when it rains.
AnswerID: 456806

Reply By: oz doc - Thursday, Jun 09, 2011 at 09:07

Thursday, Jun 09, 2011 at 09:07
Josh, maybe some streamlining of the way your setting up camp can reduce some of the problem. Do you really have to unpack stuff from the trailer when setting up? For instance can you leave your food tubs in the trailer and access from there, using the tailgate of the trailer as your cooking station and prep table? Can you leave the clothes bags in the trailer and just get the clothes out as needed?That leaves tents(beds) and chairs as the main items to remove and replace.Same with the fridge- leave it in the ute and access from there. Might mean you have to rethink your packing but may be a way to cut down the unpack/packup time. Ain't camping fun! Cheers, doc.
AnswerID: 456858

Follow Up By: Joshuah - Friday, Jun 10, 2011 at 20:18

Friday, Jun 10, 2011 at 20:18
Thanks a lot all. After chasing our tails for 3 days, we decided not to buy the Camper. I have a total gut-full thinking about it, making tables, weighting scales, decision matrices! If we lived anywhere else, we would have, but being so limited by where we live, it was not worth it.

I have started making a slide out kitchen for the trailer and have taken some the hints and tips on board. I'll streamline as much as I can, use the same tent for the trip there and if it's all too much, we'll re-assess before our return trip. I have a 3-way chescold, so it will have to some out of the ute to go onto gas. The concept of using heat to cool is amazing, really!

The Local mechanic also said the 3.0L 5L Hilux diesel would have no trouble towing the 1000 or so kg, so that was nice to know.

Thanks all, it's been a great help, again.

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