The following tent camping tips are meant primarily for those who are backpacking, although some will apply to a stay in a campground as well. Also, the tips here will be most useful for those who like to travel light when in the wilderness.
- Test it in the Yard
You don’t want to find out that the roof leaks when you are two days away from the nearest road and a freezing rain is falling. Set it up in the yard and inspect it if you haven’t used the tent yet, or if has been stored for a long time. Turn on the hose and test it for leaks.
- Choose Your Campsite Carefully
Camping on rocks or hard dirt with roots projecting upwards is not only uncomfortable, but also wears out the tent bottom fast. Sleeping on the slightest slope will result in you sliding into your camp mate or into a wall of nylon that may be wet with condensation. Find the most level spot you can, look to see that water will not pool there if it rains, and remove rocks and sticks.
- Set it Tight
If the outer rain fly touches the tent roof or walls, condensation can drip through onto you. Be sure that you tighten all the lines when setting up – especially those on the rain fly. This also prevents the material from flapping in the wind so much, so you’ll sleep better.
- Keep it Light
Your shelter is often the heaviest thing you’ll have with you when backpacking. There are several ways to cut the weight if you want to travel lighter. You can give up tent camping in favor of using a tarp or bivy sack, for example. You could also buy a lighter tent. But if you really prefer tent camping, and want to keep it cheap as well, you can still lighten the load using the following tips.
First, leave behind some of the tent stakes. Bring just six, for example, for the corners and end lines, and then use sticks you gather on-site for the less-crucial lines and other stake-out points. You can also tie off the lines to rocks or trees.
Second, you can leave behind the ground cloth. Some backpackers use heavy ground clothes to save the bottom of their tents, but there are two problems with this. The extra weight has to be carried every time you’re out, and if not placed properly, they can catch rain water and let it pool under you. I prefer to go light and just let the bottom of the tent wear out a little faster.
Third, you might find a large nylon tarp that weighs less than your rain fly. If you are in an area that will have trees to tie it too, bring that. You may save a few ounces, and you might even have it extend out far enough in front to provide a “porch” of sorts.
One thing you might forget, bring a match anywhere …