What I Learned from Our Backyard Tent Camping Test Run – part 2

Our TentsIn case your just joining me, here is a review of part 1 of the things I learned from our test run:

Always check the weather forecast.  This one is self-explanatory.  A “surprise” thunderstorm caused us to postpone our test run by one day because I didn’t do a last minute check of the weather.

  • Even tents that are zipped up can leak. I had no idea this could happen, and our son ended up sleeping in a puddle of water.
  • Our tent is too small.  We found this out pretty quickly when we got the air mattresses blown up.  The day after I posted this we bought an 8- person tent, so this problem is hopefully solved.

 Now that you are up to speed, here is part 2.

  • Cheap air mattresses don’t last very long. I remembered Dennis telling me the day after the thunderstorm that he had to top off one of the air mattresses with more air.  I didn’t think much of it until I woke up two hours after going to bed flat on the ground. We never could locate the leak in the mattress, so it is now in the trash. I appreciate the heads up concerning using cots a reader left in the blog comments last week.  We won’t be camping in cold weather for a while, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about hypothermia.  I did go ahead and order cots that should be here this week because we will need some circulating air this summer! (See my last item below.) 
  • Tiny tents are no place for a portable potty!  Did you notice that this one got an exclamation point?  The smaller tent you see in the picture was my more economical choice for what I really wanted which was Bass Pro Shops’ Portable Camp Shower/Toilet Shelter.  Let me just tell you that it never occurred to me that I needed to be able to stand straight up when all was said and done.  You cannot do that in a 2- person tent that is only 4 feet tall in the middle unless you are a small child.  I am definitely not a small child! 
  • If we are going to camp in the South in the summer, we will need a fan in our tent.  I am sure that the humidity from the water that leaked into our tent during the thunderstorm wasn’t helping anything, but I noticed when I checked the weather that the humidity level was at 86%.  That much humidity accompanied by lows in the mid-70s is not uncommon in the South, so we are going to need something to help the air circulate in our tent if we are going to get some sleep.
  • The thing that I was most concerned about was actually the easiest.  For those of you who have been following my blog, you might remember that I was so concerned about cooking while camping, that I saved the planning for that category for last.  During our test run, that was the best thing about the whole experience.  The meal was easy to prepare on our new Coleman grill, and we loved eating outside.

 If we can just get the sleeping situation handled better, I think we will be fine.  We have a bigger tent now, and this week we will have cots to use, so hopefully our next experience will be a much better one.  Pretty soon we will be taking the plunge and heading out into God’s great outdoors.  We hope to see you there!

Leave a Reply


  1. What I see in the pic is typical of first time bargin campers. Poor quality tents that sag, rainflys illequiped to do the job, improperly set and tarps sticking out from under the tent. Start with a quality tent Coleman makes tents with adquate size, proper design, well ventalated with more than adequate rain flys that come with a stay dry guarantee. Do put a tarp under the tent to protect the tent floor from damage, but it needs to fit the exact footprint of the tent with nothing sticking out as this will gather water and act as a pool if you don’t. The writer wants cots, increase the size of your tent again in particular you will need a more vertical wall tent with standing room all around not just the very center. For the cot or for sleeping and the ground, closed cell foam matteress are the best they insulate from the cold ground and never deflate. The writer should also do a bit more research before his next purchase and rei.com for expert advice on camping.

  2. Liz Bard

    When camping, especially if you have children, I would use battery lanterns and battery fans for air circulation. We don’t camp with children, but even at home during storms, I prefer the battery lanterns in case one of us knocks it over or cat knocks it over. My husband and I are over 50 and if we have taken off our glasses, we have diminished depth perception and that is one of the reasons I prefer battery powered lights, etc.

  3. Tom

    Being in a sealed tent in wet weather is rather like sleeping inside a plastic bag. Where is the moisture from your breath to go? It condenses inside the walls of the tent and flows down to the floor. In cold weather, condensation can even result in “snow” inside the tent. Learn to leave the windows open at least a bit for ventilation.

    The image shows inexpensive tents with a half-fly, which IMO are ineffective. For tents like that, cover the whole thing with a large tarp (held away from the tent, like a shed roof). That way you can open the tent windows and get some air circulation. Or do as Chris W suggests and go for tents with better fly coverage or with window awnings.

    I’ll second his advice on closed-cell foam mattresses, as over my 30-odd years of all-weather camping (in tent, lean-to, and open air), I’ve found them to be more comfortable than either air mattresses or cots.

  4. I hope that your 8-person tent is of better quality than the tents on the picture. Remember that all tents can be waterproofed with a silicon spray such as KIWI Camp Dry.

  5. Randy

    You are an excellent writer and I admire your sense of adventure. It is always best to discover problems that will degrade the camping experience before actually having them happen. I like the idea of test runs like you have created.

    While Nancy and I now prefer hard walls and a solid roof on wheels for camping, three of our adult children are tent campers and often accompany us with their gear. All have learned the need for a quality tent that will not leak in the rain or fly away in the wind. If you are not back packing, a Wal-Mart First-Up 10’x10′ metal frame pop-up shelter with both the optional solid sidewalls and screens makes an excellent family tent for cots and tables – even a porta potty if you hang a sheet around an inside corner for privacy..

    Randy (Profesor95)

  6. I like your post. It is a very personal outlook on camping while also educating others through your experiences. I’m learning the same way and btw am on tent # 3 in as many years.