Western Traveler


As with backpacks, you have hundreds of choices in this department.  The type of shelter that you select will depend heavily upon the application it’s going to be used for.  For example, the shelter you want to carry on a backpack or in a kayak will vary considerably from the type you’d want for car camping.  I’ll try to discuss each type in enough detail to give you an idea of what to get. 

Prices will vary from under $100 on up.

Let’s start off with the backpacker and kayak crowd.  In each case you’ll want an adequate shelter, but with minimal weight and packing space. 

The bivy sack is the smallest and lightest shelter available.  They are only large enough for one person, usually weigh less than three pounds and are tiny in pack space (or the area they take up in a kayak cargo compartment).  The down side to these shelters is that you have no extra room whatsoever.  It’s like sleeping in a tube.  There’s no room to move around, nor any space for equipment storage.  If you don’t like confined space, DO NOT get a bivy.

The next step up is the ultra-light tent.  These come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Personally, I like a self-standing tent with at least one vestibule (area outside the sleeping chamber for gear storage).  I like to store my pack and other gear in the vestibule.  It makes life much nicer if you wake up in a rainstorm.  Your gear is dry and readily at hand.  One to three people can usually sleep in these with relative comfort.  They usually weigh anywhere from 4 to 7 pounds.

The final level in shelters are tents that are suitable for car camping.  These have virtually no limitation in size or cost.  Having said that, I prefer one of two types; either the self-standing dome tent or the multi-room tents perfect for families.  When I go car camping, I use a 10’ x 10’ dome tent.  It has windows on three sides with the door being on the fourth.  It has a partial rain fly and floor.  My tent is large enough for two army-style cots and other gear stored inside.

Most tents that you’ll find on the market are made of nylon with either aluminum or fiberglass pole frames.  Either one is suitable for most camping conditions.  If you’re going to be out in the wilderness for an extended period of time however I suggest that you invest in an outfitter’s tent.  It’s usually made of some type of heavy cloth covering on an aluminum frame.  Some even have a cooking area under roof with a separate sleeping room.  The “high end” tents even have the capability of an internal stove for heating and cooking.  They’re somewhat expensive, but well worth the money if you can afford it.


Last modified on: March 1st 2012.
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