I am comfortable thinking of a tent as my home, and my sisters are as well. When I moved out for good (as opposed to being a student and maintaining a ‘permanent address’ at my parent’s house) one of my first purchases was a tent. I consulted with my father and ended up with a four man Timberline. Once I got the tent he said to me, “Now that you have a tent of your own you will never be homeless.” I believed him.
I camped with my own family too. We didn’t do quite as much camping and we didn’t have the huge set up. My husbands were never as interested as my father was. I did camp with diaper service diapers and an infant, but slowed down after I had the second. Karina was mobile and I quickly discovered running after a toddler at a campground isn’t fun.
The Timberline became a large Eureka dome tent. The first one I got was a showroom model of a limited edition design. I loved that tent. It was roomy and airy. We even held a handfasting in it! (Gay marriage wasn’t legal yet.) It was probably 25 people all told and it was a rainy day. There was ultimately more room in the tent than under the tarp so we went with the cozy, but dry option.
My second Eureka tent was specifically picked for Orion. I still had Karina but she was old enough, and savvy enough to dodge family camping. It didn’t hurt that my second husband refused to camp at all. This tent was a little smaller than the first and additionally split into a tent section and a porch section. It gave me a dry place to park Orion’s wheelchair and just enough room for the two of us to be comfortable or the three of us to be cramped. Karina’s other ploy was to lay claim to the old Timberline for herself. The girl has always had an independent streak!
It’s been years since I’ve been able to set up that Eureka tent by myself. Camping was restricted to group events where I would have help. Last summer the tent got put away wet, and I had to wait for help to dry it out. By the time we finally got it up the old tent had time to start deteriorating from the damp. It was a windy day on top of it. Karina and I managed to get it almost up, but the wind caught the tent. The poles broke, the tent ripped. It was a goner.
Last week I broke down and finally bought a new tent a Kelty. This is a new and innovative design and it hasn’t had a lot of field testing. It’s a large tent that can, in theory, be put up by one person. There are actually two Kelty tents with the same footprint. The Mach 6 is the one I really wanted. Two rooms on either side of an enclosed porch. That’s this year’s new design model. No one has it in their stores and it costs $100 plus more than the already expensive Sonic 8. The Sonic 8 is the same tent, without the separators. It’s one BIG room.
I can live with that. I’ll just use it like it’s got two rooms and a porch. I can’t put it up by myself, I don’t have the stamina to pump that much. However, Orion is entirely capable of being coached through the use of a pump and loves having some responsibility for setting up camp. It’s Orion who is the camping enthusiast these days. It’s his desire to go that motivated me to replace the tent I’d lost. If he would do the haul and carry (which he really can’t) we’d be camping all summer.
The funny thing is that once I got a tent my stress level dropped instantly. I didn’t realize that I’ve been living all year with a low-level stress because I didn’t have that “second home”. I guess I really do need a tent in my life. I hope to get much use out of this one.
I tell people I grew up in tents. We were a family that liked to travel, but had limited means. Most of our family trips involved cars and camping. But that’s not the whole of it. We would camp when we visited my Mom’s old roommate in Duluth. We would camp when we visited my mother’s side of the family in Wisconsin. We would camp on the weekends in the park reserve an hour (back then it was closer to an hour and a half) away from the house.
I’m guessing we started camping as soon as the three of us girls were all out of diapers. Mostly because I can imagine my mother putting her foot down about diapers in the camp. These are the days before disposables. I do remember camping with the playpen. When unruly toddlers got out of line or Mom really needed her attention on getting a meal together the playpen was the solution.
My Dad had a four man umbrella tent from his army days. (He served in the Korean War.) We used that for the five of us until we acquired a canvas 12×12 wall tent, immediately dubbed the “big tent”. I remember the army tent, because it wasn’t “decommissioned”.
If we planned to pack out early or were only staying one night on those family vacations we were all squeezed into it again. The army tent was much faster to take down and was often last in/first out in the packing scheme. At 12 or probably 13 it became “my” tent. I was old enough, and responsible enough, not to have to stay in the same “room” as the rest of the family.
In those days campsites weren’t quite as restrictive as they often are now. People called us the ‘Besnett traveling circus’ because we would put up so much canvas. We had the big tent, the army tent, a tarp, a screen tent and later “The Tent” (a custom design, hand-built affair and handy for ice fishing or summer camping). Occasionally there was a second tarp and eventually a backpacking tent for the third sister.
By the time I was in Junior High we were pros. We started the season with Memorial Day and camped weekends in September until it snowed. We all went to summer school, back then you could take recreational classes. As soon as school was out the tents were pitched at the local park reserve and we girls were left at camp while Mom and Dad commuted to work.
In August the allergy season is at its peak. We would go home long enough to wash everything and repack and then head up into the “allergy free zone” in Canada. That’s where I was, listening to BBC radio, when Nixon resigned. We’d get back in time for labor day weekend camping closer to home and then weekends again once school started.
Camping on the road often meant Dad was scheduled to be out of town for a business convention. Rather than fly and hotel it, he convinced work to pay for gas and camping fees and brought us all along. I remember camping in New Orleans in November and being sad the pool wasn’t opened. It was almost 70 degrees and we Minnesota girls wanted to swim!