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2/1/2018 2:19 PM

What are the current best/better options for tipis, tents, and traps? Or just get a used trailer...

Family of 4, kids pre-teen, with 3 rough dogs.  No expedition excursions or expeditions planed.  Durability and easy or set-up/tear down is more important than shaving ounces.   The gear will NOT get pampered!

We do a lot of weekend camping and hunting from the campsite.  With longer outings planned as the kids get bigger.  Mostly in the Northern AZ (+5500als). Not a lot of bugs or rain but it can get windy.   Mostly high desert and mountains.

We have an old Eureka tent 2 person tent that has held up well.  Everyone doesn’t have to sleep in the same shelter.   We could always run two shelter and split up.


Get a Seek Outside 4-6 person size tipi of one design or another?

Get a Hilleberg 4-6 person red label tent of one design or another?

Get a bigger/better tarp and make do?

Look into the more “modular” tipi/tent systems with add-ons?

Get a bigger floorless 6-8 person shelter with stove for base camping and a smaller 1-3 person stoveless tarp or shelter for solo and couple spike camp hunts?

Get a used 18-21’ camper trailer and call it good?  Leave it loaded and ready to go and avoid most of the set-up hassle?

What would be some good solutions or combinations?  Failure points?

Other ideas I may have missed?

What information am I missing?

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
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2/1/2018 3:25 PM

I've got a whole lot of "kind of worked" experiences, but not a single "this is the way to go" recommendation. I'm guessing that, like me, you're interested in the most efficient way to get out there and do some backwoods living with your family.

First thing you have to figure out is if you're going to try to put together the ability to backpack with the whole family. Kam and I managed about two backpacking trips a year when the kids were youngish. It was a huge logistical undertaking with 1-2 days of work on the front end and a full day of work on the back end. But those were good times that we all cherish. Part of why it worked then is that we could all sleep in a single shelter that I carried. And also that there was no such thing as the kids sleeping poorly. They slept well all akilter as long as they weren't cold.

Which brings up what I've found is the biggest linchpin of the whole operation -- as kids get older (and also in colder temps) having them on good sleeping pads is key. A poor nights sleep equals cranky kids which equals an unfun trip. And kids, at least my kids, seemed to be the death of every sleeping pad or system I ever tried within 1-2 trips. In the brief periods of times when the pads weren't leaking, the kids would wind up sleeping off of them anyway. So then I tried an inflatable mattress that covered the entire tent (by which time it was me in my own setup and all 4 ladies in the other tent). There are probably better and worse inflatables but the one I tried (Coleman?) lasted 2 nights. After that, I gave up and went to a trailer for the sole reason that beds were always good and established.

The first trailer was about as old as I was and the lesson there is that if there are any signs of the roof leaking, walk away. That trailer ended up being as much or more work every year than the tent setups. But everybody loved it and we did some fun travel that was mostly enabled by it being a trailer instead of tents. You saw it at the summer gathering 3 or 4 years anyway. I just got a new trailer on end of year clearance (18ft cabin, ~21ft overall?) that I'm hoping is the answer. We've used it once for a quick Friday night trip that was a success.

An interesting side note on the trailer thing -- I'm still not convinced that a "dry trailer" isn't the easiest overall solution. By that I mean beds, cooking area, perhaps a space heater, and a big jug of water secured over a basin for drinking water. That's how we did our single overnighter in our new trailer. Adding indoor plumbing is *super* nice for middle of the night trips to the bathroom. But it adds a whole layer of work and complexity to your setup. If you're camping near an established outhouse (which usually isn't too hard), that's wasted work. If you're not and you're having to go dig a latrine anyway, ease of use swings back in favor of the trailer.

Another aspect of the trailer that I haven't experienced is general travel. Our old trailer didn't have a working shower (or it did and we didn't trust it) so it was only a camping thing and on the one travel trip we did, we swung by a campground and paid $3 a head to shower there after a couple of days. The new one seems very usable and we might end up using it for "nice" travel more often. At the very least, I'm taking the kids up the Alcan as soon as school is out this year and I'm not planning on bothering with campgrounds or truck stop showers. Really nothing but dumping and refilling tanks. Shouldn't need to. We'll see.

Back to tents -- even though I've gotten good use out of large floorless tipis, they require painstaking pitching, and they're hard to secure in sand. And they don't stay warm for anything. Even running a stove, it'll be 90 degrees up at the top but you'll be cold sitting on the ground. If you go the tent route, I'd be considering the Hillebergs, and also the large Cabelas domes and synthetic wall tent styles.

I'll leave you with a little vignette - on my way into a wilderness area this fall, I passed a young 4 person family on their way out. They had two burros and nobody was carrying any more than a daypack. Seemed like heaven. After a couple hours, I followed them back down the trail. When I got to the bottom, they were still dicking around trying to get their stock loaded up and their gear packed away for the trip home. Mom was trying to keep the two young kids in good spirits while dad worked on the rest of it. Not such an inviting picture at that point, but must have been an epic trip for those kids nonetheless.

I'm sure I've got a lot more, but that's it for now.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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2/2/2018 11:31 AM
Evan, thank you for the detailed reply! (The clipboard is at hand)

The 18-21' trailer seems to be a good balance between living space and maneuverability for ~4 people? Would you ever think of going a bigger or smaller? Any other trailer suggestions?

I think most of our outings would be similar to your "dry trailer" recommendation. A lot of Friday night to Sunday afternoon trips within 100 miles from home. My plan would be to leave it semi-prepped year in and year out. Only needing to load food and water then up the mountain. Besides keeping mice out is this feasible or wise?

Besides the out of production Utopia what are some good 1-2 person caveman simple shelter systems that you would recommend? How much of an improvement are the smaller 1-3 person Seek Outside shelters over a silnylon square tarp?

That is a neat story about the burros. Wiley Carol once said "If you like frustration...you are gonna love lion hunting." I think that pretty much sums up pack animals too. For most people they are just turning money into fertilizer.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
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2/2/2018 11:49 AM

I often felt like the burro when went out as a family!  It certainly makes a difference with teenaged sons.  We switched to a tent trailer for a number of years (it pulled behind our mini van) and all enjoyed sleeping off the ground.  If storage space is an issue, a tent trailer has a small footprint when collapsed down.  

I still enjoy getting out and sleeping under a tarp but I find a pyramid shelter to be much nicer during bad weather. (I use a Black Diamond Megalight.)  My wife does not enjoy either so we also have a Big Agnes tent.  I don't know the model but it sleeps four adults, has head room and stands up to the sorts of strong winds we get on the prairies.  I'd never consider taking it backpacking but it's great for car camping.

This summer I convinced my family to come backpacking with me.  My sons slept in the Megalight and my wife and I slept in an old GoLite Shangri-La 5.  Both had mesh inserts to deal with the mosquitos.  I really enjoyed NOT sharing a tent with four people and it was nice to be able to split the weight of the shelters between the four of us.  It worked for a couple of nights but my wife didn't enjoy the "chastity pole" in the center of the tent.  If you want to keep your wife happy you might want to consider a full sized tent with the poles outside of the sleeping area.

A tarp outside for lounging under, whether you're tenting or in a trailer, can be an excellent thing.

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2/2/2018 12:44 PM

Yep, semi-prepped all the time. Load the food box, day packs, and overnight bags (spare clothes, pajamas, toiletries) and go. On the food box, I used to try to keep the trailer stocked but it ended up being a waste of time and food. I'd end up duplicating when I packed or stuff would go bad or what have you. All I have in the new trailer is coffee and a couple of Sam's club sized boxes of granola bars. Essentially emergency rations. Reminds me I need to add hot chocolate. Bunch of paper plates and bowls and cups to make life easy. Then you find a plastic tub that fits somewhere conveniently in the trailer. Load that up in your kitchen at home and carry it out. When you come home, reverse the process. Each person grabs their own day pack and overnight bag and then one person has to grab the food box and that's pretty much the extent of it.

For this trailer, I was considering larger but realized that I was making all of these plans for the little HPG utility trailer (6' toyota truck bed trailer with tradesman cargo topper on it) for "quick camping". That was the wakeup call that I needed the travel trailer to be as small as possible while still having permanent sleeping spots for everybody - no fold down dinette conversion needed. The convertible space thing ends up being a PITA in the real world. Plus if everybody has their space, people are happier. I thought I wanted double axle because of how smoothly they pull but ended up with single axle and am glad I did. It backs and turns very easily. Feels more sprightly. Kept the stock 28" tire size, but the axle is flipped for clearance.

I did strongly consider building out a cargo trailer and putting a wood stove in it. Around hunting season, you see a surprising number of cargo trailers on their way through town that have stove jacks sticking out of them and a window or two. At the end of the day, I just didn't have enough time for the project and even cargo trailers aren't free.

As far as your tent Q -- floorless completely enclosed beats out a tarp by a fair margin in storm proofness and livability. The smaller seekoutside shelters are in this category and pretty nice. However, Chris has a good point about the chastity pole. Tent design has changed a fair amount since the last time I used a "real" tent and there is a relatively new design that I think might be very usable - dual side entry with a vestibule over each side. An example is the REI half dome 2+. I haven't used one, but what I imagine it gives you is the ability to "walk" into a sheltered area you can take your boots off in and stow some gear in and cook in, but then your bedding area is fully floored and enclosed. And each person has their own entry and vestibule to do what they want with. I took some kids on a backpacking trip where a couple of the kids shared a half dome. Watching them work with it, it sure seemed like a livable arrangement. Heavier than single wall floorless, but not horrible.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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2/3/2018 8:26 PM
I have tried a pretty wide variety of family camping attempts, mainly to make it more palatable to my wife. I started with pretty high end Eureka cabin style tent (back when there were high end Eurekas) complete with a Zodiac tent heater and shower. On the ground was not her thing so we moved on to a pop up camper. We moved on to a Hi-Lo, another pop up, a 30' "lightweight" trailer with all the fixings, an R-Pod and now -- with the kids almost gone -- a truck camper. I will echo Evan's suggestion that nothing does it all. What I learned from tent camping with the family is that it is just a lot of work on both the front and the back end. That went for backpacking or tent camping. For me, family camping entails some sort of camper.

The biggest problem with campers can be finding a spot if they are either big or don't have enough clearance. Our 30 footer was super comfortable, but we found ourselves limited to campgrounds. Boondocking was a pain. Even Forest Service campgrounds were a challenge. The R-Pod was much better in that regard, but still a challenge due to clearance. Using all those different styles, I believe that a reasonably sized pop up with a flipped axle and larger tires is the best bang for the buck, go anywhere family camping rig. Like Evan, I recommend skipping as many interior fixtures as possible, but do highly recommend a furnace. Because there are no cabinets at head level, they greatly reduce the claustrophobic feel of most campers, especially when you drop all the curtains/windows and are pretty much in a mobile screen house. Additionally, they allow you to live strategically. Throw gear on the beds during the day and it's out of your way. At night, just move it to the dinette area. However, the features that make them great in the backcountry make them not so ideal for stopovers in the KOA.

Nothing will do it all, but if I were given my choice I'd find the most off road oriented pop up I could, keep it stocked with everything but food and clothes, and hit most any trail with minimal fuss. Taking it most places I would want to go and being able to set up it once we get there only sweeten the deal.

So, why do I now have a truck camper? She wants a boat...
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2/5/2018 6:23 AM
At this point, I can convert the back of my jeep into sleeping mode in less than 5 minutes, and it is pretty dang comfortable. I do this at home first thing, and that means that my campsite is set-up for the weekend. The reality is that while I like to get out, at lot of the time I am just looking to relax and enjoy nature. I am not looking to add work to my week. The other thing is I prefer going out Friday night, so I can get back late Saturday and have Sunday to do chores around the house, or even stay out two nights depending on where I am headed. That means it is not unusual to get somewhere after dark, and while it is not a big deal to set up camp after dark, it is much nicer to just relax because camp is set. The other thing is I am less concerned about weather since I won't have to worry about drying a wet tent on the back end, or even really about my camp location (low spots, little runoff chanels, etc...), wherever I park my jeep is home. I might even had crawled in back for a nap mid afternoon on Saturday at time or two. The result is that I am more likely to get out for an overnight trip then I would be otherwise. If my life was less busy, and the work week not as long things might be different, but really the point of getting out is to get out, and sleeping in my Jeep allows me to do that more often.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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2/5/2018 6:45 AM
Much more interesting thread than I had personally anticipated...enjoy hearing everyone's comments on the work involved in getting out. For me, the back end is often the deterrent. It is a pain in the ass to get home the afternoon before work and have a ton of stuff to set up to dry out, or clean mud off of, etc.
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2/5/2018 8:06 AM
It's a lot easier to get out as an individual. Particularly if you're good about leaving everything but your food bag packed. On the back end, it helps a lot if you have a garage. Lots of times, all I get done on the day I get home is to pull the wet stuff out and leave it on the floor of the garage. Then on some later day I'll get stuff cleaned or dried properly and repack my pack for the next time. I do try to leave my food bag ready to go but I seem to end up going through that before a trip regardless.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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2/5/2018 12:25 PM
The ability to leave a trailer pre-staged sounds like a really good option! The load up, tear-down, drying, and repacking of tents and tarps every outing does get old. We could always basecamp out of the trailer and spike camp or bivouac out from there as needed.

Besides flipping the axle are there any other mods or suggestions? Large tires?
I would assume a hitch mounted bike rack could be added to the rear of the trailer?
For weekend trips do most just use coolers and ice or the installed refrigerator?
Are the sun awnings worth the hassle?

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
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2/5/2018 1:00 PM
Last trailer was flipped axle and 31" tires. TOO tall! Made it kind of unstable and subject to wind loads. I didn't want to go down that route again. On this new trailer, axle is flipped and I switched the tires out for heavy duty 8 ply (trailer tires are so much less expensive than vehicle tires) but kept the same 28" stock tire height. Even so, had to use a 4" raise on the hitch to get it level for pulling. It pulled plenty well down the desert double track I took it down including where the road crosses a dry wash. It also felt good on state highway.

Probably lots of little things you would do to make a trailer work better for you. But most of it is trailer specific and you'll figure it out as you go.

Yes on hitch mount bike carrier. The parts are sitting on my work bench to do just that to the new trailer. Get the hitch kit meant to go around the standard 4" bumper instead of drilling through. Didn't know this before, but the waste hose stores inside of the bumper.

Propane refrigerators work great. We always use that even if we're running the trailer dry.

Dunno on sun / rain awnings. The new trailer has one but we haven't put it to use yet. It's easy to roll and unroll. I was told it's only good up to about 7mph wind load. That makes it kind of hard to imagine when I would feel safe deploying it for any length of time. You wouldn't want to leave it that way overnight or when heading out for a hike.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
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2/5/2018 6:58 PM
The lack of garage is definitely a big inconvenience in my life. Anyway, thanks all for the great discussion.
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2/9/2018 4:22 PM
I have found awnings to be a real boon in the mountains rain of any length. Do most of my cooking outside and it keeps one from getting trapped. Equally handy for shade. Really missed it when our Rpod didn't have one.

Most bumpers on campers are not meant to hold more weight than the spare tire. Be sure yours can handle it before strapping on a bike rack and a few bikes. Just look at how yours is constructed and attached and you'll probably get an idea of suitability pretty quickly. The only heavy duty bumpers I've seen were on fifth wheelers and large bumper pull.
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2/10/2018 8:47 AM

Evan and CCH, that is good information on the awnings. I assumed they would be quite handy if the setup and durabilty was there. I had not thought about wind speed but it makes sense.

I am sure if we get a trailer I can have someone fab up a bombproof 2" hitch that the 1upUSA bike rack can mount on.

Has anyone consistently used the enclosed shower in a travel trailer? Do they hold up? Is it worth the hassle most times?

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
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2/10/2018 2:48 PM
Also, not all awnings are equal. Different designs have varying ease of set up and wind resistance. Had a powered one that held up to wind really well and if it got too brisk, a push of the button retracted it. The simple ones that only have front poles resting on the ground have been less wind worthy and obviously more of a pain to deal with. On a small trailer, I would look into a Foxwing type set up.

The shower is a real selling point for my wife. The biggest problem is that showers fill up your gray water tank really quickly. We only use biodegradable soap in the camper, but even then you may not be able to empty until you hit a dump station. An outside shower can be a good option.

Welding on a receiver hitch is the best way to go for bike carry, but also watch how you distribute weight overall. Has a big effect on how the trailer rides.
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2/12/2018 6:01 PM
scothill wrote:
At this point, I can convert the back of my jeep into sleeping mode in less than 5 minutes, and it is pretty dang comfortable. I do this at home first thing, and that means that my campsite is set-up for the weekend. 
Scot, what do you do to convert the Jeep?  I have a Cherokee and thought about sleeping in it but didn't think it was big enough or flat enough with the seat folded down. 
New Post
2/13/2018 10:20 AM
I have messed with several setups, but find that the simplest so far works the best. If I fold the seats down, slide the passenger seat all the way forward, and tilt it forward it is a bit over 6 feet. During the day I have the seat back a few notches and not tilted, because I usually hang my kit bag on the front of the seat for easy access. What all that means is that I sleep down one side of the back, and have the other side for gear. The first thing I tried was making a platform with a hinge so it could fold up. In part I had the idea that I could use straps to the rack and have kind of a lounge chair at times, and a bed at others. I never could quit get the angle right to make the lounge part work. The other thing the platform was supposed to accomplish is to bridge the gap created when the seat is folded down, and to provide support at my head, because with the passenger seat fully forward the rear headrest angles down. It seemed to work fine for those uses, but storing and dealing with a big wood platform was kind of a pain. I also found that sleeping without the gap covered was no big deal on a sleeping pad. I have a trash can that fits in the rear drink holders. I have to pull it when I fold the seats, and I have found that if I put it under the head rest it works to provide enough support. Based on all that I ditched the platform, which makes switching back and forth super quick and easy.

When I built the platform I bought a memory foam mattress topper folded it and then contoured it to the side of the jeep. I am primarily a side or stomach sleeper, and even though I got the firm topper my hip still sunk enough to contact the jeep floor, which was not comfortable, so I ended up using a thermarest camprest (big, thick, and wide), underneath the foam. Again I found dealing with both especially the big exposed foam roll was a pain. I started just using the camprest. Then for my birthday, Evan got me a thermarest, that is a camprest with a memory foam ontop sewn into a joint cover. That is now my goto jeep mattress, and for car camping period. At this point once I have the seats adjusted I throw in the mattress, a sleeping bag, and pillow and done.

For gear I have also paired down as space is an issue. My cook box which has drinks and a couple of cans of stuff in, fits into a plastic ammo can, and has everything I need to make a trail meal. I got a small duffle from Cabelas that is just big enough for a couple of days of clothes, toiletries, insulative layers, etc... During the summer I use the smallest yeti hard side cooler for all my food and drinks. During the winter, no cold drinks, I just use a small dry box or rubber made depending on length of trip. Finally, I throw in a camp chair.

All of that gives me a pretty comfortable and compact setup for one person. The mattress stays aired up most of the time, and the cook box is always ready to go. All I really have to do is change the seats, throw in the mattress/sleeping bag/pillow, cook box, food box, chair, and clothes duffle and I am good to go. A lot of the time I hit the deli at the grocery store on the way out of town for sandwhiches and stuff so I don't even really have to cook. Usually just hot water in the am, is all I do.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
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2/13/2018 10:31 AM
BobM wrote:
Scot, what do you do to convert the Jeep?  I have a Cherokee and thought about sleeping in it but didn't think it was big enough or flat enough with the seat folded down. 


I have an XJ Cherokee and this is my method -- the rear seat comes out with a single bolt. Takes about 2 minutes to remove it and leave it in the garage. Then the front passenger seat gets pushed all the way forward and a rubbermaid tub of just the right height and size gets put in the passenger side rear seat footwell. This gives me a surface long and wide enough to admit a full length sleeping pad. I use an inflatable pad with 2" of memory foam on top and cover the whole thing with a fitted sheet. Usually use a straight up quilt, although in colder temps I'll use a sleeping bag open as a quilt. Obviously, this is a solo travel only thing. You have to step up in size to something larger to pull this trick for two people. Before I got into the business of removing the rear seat, I would sleep diagonally which sort of worked but not well. I also cut a cheap closed cell foam pad to put in the rear window when I'm going to sleep in back. Blocks light, but also helps me sleep easier without the nagging feeling that I might wake up to somebody standing at my head looking at me through the rear window.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
2/13/2018 10:47 AM

A couple of my tipis: 

Nemo "Apollo" - replaced the aluminum pole with a carbon, and now the whole setup (tent, pole & 6 stakes) weighs 1.7lbs:

Seek Outside '6-Person' tipi w/their medium woodstove: 

I also recently picked up a pretty cool, single pole tarp/tent from Six Moon Designs - the "Deschutes Plus." No pics of it in use yet, but hoping to change that soon...

New Post
2/13/2018 4:46 PM

The deschutes is a great shelter!, works well with UL bug or UL solid bivys bivys like the borah or the sea to summit nano bug net. (staked with long golf tees). The bug net on the plus is good in cooler weather. but I find bringing a nano net allows you to roll both doors up for view/vent.

Adding a pullout to the back wall also helps out. along with swapping the stock cordage for lawson glowire or equiv.

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