Been kayaking in Indiana for 3 yrs now, want to buy a tent and some camping gear for myself but don’t know where to start, particularly in the tent area. Dont want to buy junk the first time, need something large enough for two people, might be using it for now just in campgrounds or alongside a stream, not looking for a tent to carry on my back. Please Help.

check REI. They carry the good stuff. They are online, but most larger cities have an REI store.


“Large enough for two people”

– Last Updated: Sep-05-14 9:33 PM EST –

If you were going to be backpacking, buying a two-person tent would make sense. For use in campgrounds, a four-person tent (or even bigger) for two people is nice. You may already know that, but I thought it was worth mentioning. If by chance you haven't thought about that, try to find descriptions of tents that have little floor-plan diagrams illustrating how all the people sleeping in the tent must be arranged, so they all fit - You'll see.

Since you may be carrying the tent in a boat, you may want to add that aspect to your criteria for deciding what size tent will work best for you. Even in a boat, I don't like to have too much extra weight or volume of gear. People's tolerance for that varies though. Again, your choice.

As to the suggestion to try REI, yeah, that's a good place to start. They have a lot of styles, and though you can still choose the wrong tent, you won't accidentally choose junk, and still you won't break the bank.

lots of good options
There’s no reason in the world to buy a tent from a big box operation (EMS and REI included). The best tents, by FAR, are available from small cottage industry shops. My favorite is tarptent:


I’ve mostly used these backpacking, but they are ideal for kayaking. Light, simple, sturdy, with fantastic backup from the company. My personal favorite is the Double Rainbow. 41 oz and an amazing tent for two.

Some other great companies are Six Moons Designs, Nemo, Mountain Hardware, Black Diamond, Big Sky, and GoLite. There are more. Have a look, you can find remarkably good shelters for very good prices, direct from the makers, with great customer service.

High-quality tents at a moderate price:

For two people car camping: Kelty Trail Ridge 4.

For two people kayak camping: Kelty Trail Ridge 3

The TR 3 is one of the most spacious 3P tents you can buy, while the TR 4 is actually one of the smallest in terms of floor area (which is a good thing for two people), but it has a nice height.

Look for two “brow poles” that stretch out the top of the tent for more headroom. Get rectangular rather than hexagonal because the floor space is much more efficient. Avoid a tent that slants sharply in toward the top because rain enters right onto your sleeping bag when you open the door.

Don’t get a 2P for either use—just too small for two people.

You don’t say how much you are willing to spend. A good two person tent could cost $300+, but there are some decent two person tents available for half that.

Since you are talking campgrounds, but assuming you also want to use it while kayaking, a 3 person tent is probably the better choice. Many 3 person tents provide a good balance between pack-ability and room for two people.

REI is a good place to start for quality tents that don’t cost a lot. Eureka! also makes many tents that provide a good balance between quality and price.

If you have more to spend, look at Marmot, Sierra Designs, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardwear.

It’s difficult to recommend specific tents without knowing what you are looking for in a tent. Some features I like are large vestibules, side doors (rather than a door at the head) and I prefer two doors so you don’t need to crawl over each other when you have to get out in the middle of the night. I also look for things like taped seems and a “tub” floor.

Also do you want room to sit up? Stand? That makes a world of difference. You’ll find few, if any 2 or 3 person tents that give you standing room but among 2-3 person tents there a wide range of headroom. Some you can barely get up on your elbows, while others allow you to at least sit with plenty of head clearance.

Will you be using it mostly in the summer? In that case a tent that is mostly mesh, with a waterproof fly will work. If you want to use it for 3 or 4 seasons then you will want to avoid a full mesh tent.

Kelty is a serviceable mid grade tent maker. I have 2 Gunnisons, a standard and a Pro. Used one for a year, still serviceable with minor repairs.

Handles wind, fly’s a bit short, needs extra ground loops sewn in. Dry, engineered well for ventilation. With mesh walls, dry nights are scenic, rain fly keeps dew and rain out, setup options are engineered functional. Zippers zip not jam.

Depends a lot on how large small or friendly you are looking for a 2p or 3p space. Check the weights vs the deniers/coatings.

REI may allow a tent set up in the store for a crawl in ? Campmor in Jersey usually beats REI in price unless you are an REI member shopping during winter post Xmass, There, look for weekly bargains as REI shifts stock around.

Eureka Timberline 4
One of the most popular tents of all time is the Eureka Timberline. It is efficiently designed, stormproof, reliable, and affordable.

If you will be mostly car or canoe camping with two people, get the four man version rather than the two man

Related gear -
A good tarp is extremely useful when camping. It gives you the ability to remain outside under a well pitched tarp in the rain for socializing and cooking etc. You can even keep a fire going if you learn how to safely cover most of the fire with a well pitched tarp. In some ways a tarp is even more important than a tent in my opinion. If you are car camping a rectangular plastic tarp of the sort you can buy at home depot etc. is a good cheap way to start out. But if you are tripping you will likely graduate to a high quality nylon tarp - Cooke Custom Sewing makes EXCELLENT tarps. They are worth every penny if you end up tripping out of your boat down the road.

get a 3 or 4 person
If you’re not worried about backpacking it. 2 person means just enough space for two people to sleep.

I like the suggestion for a good lightweight tarp also.

If you want a bargain, shop used or the outlets such as Campmor or Sierra Trading Post.

cool tents
Thanks for those links, Just-a-Guy. There are some really great looking tents from those makers. I especially like the pack dimensions on the tarptents - long and narrow for efficient packing under a deck. Very versatile configurations, too.

I would add for the OP that tents with no-floor external vestibules are desirable for kayak camping since having a place to stash wet gear outside of your living space is a real plus. It also provides a sheltered cooking area for rainy conditions. Also bear in mind what areas you plan to use it in. If you are apt to be camping on rocky coastlines, concentrate your choices on freestanding styles.

I’ve owned a dozen tents over 40 plus years of camping and of all the brands I 've had to date I’ve been most satisfied with Marmot for the combination of reasonable price, utility of design, ease of set-up, quality of construction, light weight and superior protection in wind and rain. I’ve had tents from North Face, Sierra Designs, Jensen, Coleman, Eureka, Cannondale, REI, Jansport, and Trailwise and all had their qualities, but the Marmot ticks every box and has also proven to be the most durable.

We have camped and paddled from FL to western Canada and have found our REI half dome tent for two weathering rainstorms and high winds, leaving us dry. Although it is a 3 seasons tent, it has kept us warm (with 20 degree sleeping bags and Exped 7 insulated air mattress) in sub zero temperatures. You wouldn’t be kayaking when the river ices up anyway, would you? The half dome weights 5 lbs 2 oz, the footprint 9 oz, the mattress pad 1 lb 13 oz. If you want a longer or wider 2 person tent, add 10 oz for the tent, 7 oz for the mattress. They all fit, with sleeping bag, easily into our hatches with cooking gear, water (the greatest taker up of space and weight),food and clothes & personal items. We carry about 44 lbs of gear each in the hatches, again with water taking up most of the weight.

Use your tent soon after purchasing – you have 1 year to return the item if it proves not to be what you had hoped. The unlimited return policy no longer is followed by REI. If you are a member, you get 10% in credit at the end of the year (usually end of March) off regular priced items. Go to the store, if you can to try out the various tents, or contact customer service for advice if you’re ordering on-line – there may be other items which are better than the items I have suggested. We bought ours 4 years ago and it has worn very well over many trips.

Since I find crouching and cooking uncomfortable, we have a 1 lb Piragis 10 x 10 tarp (with loops around the edges for greater versatility of use). It served us well in a thunderstorm on Voyageurs last summer – we would have been cramped in our tents for the duration of the storm. It allowed us to view the storm while dry and watch the progression of the storm from our the high bluff camp site. Bring extra light weight rope – trees don’t often grow in convenient positions.

For car-camping (or just in case a grand child wants to tag along), we find the heavier, bulkier 4 person tent more comfortable for changing and storing gear in tent. We don’t take that tent for paddling camping.

I’m also a fan of the timberlines,

– Last Updated: Sep-06-14 1:14 PM EST –

may not be the lightest tent out there, especially if you go with the outfitters version- which is totally heavy duty- but is a great canoe camping/basecamp tent, personally I prefer it over the dome tents. Whatever route you go, I like freestanding, tub floors with minimal seems,shock corded poles, big fly, multiple heavy duty zippers on the doors, no see um netting,- most of this stuff is standard on any quality tent. Be sure to check out the zippers. A vestibule is nice for your boots or pack, food if your not in big critter country. I like clips better than sleeves, and I always take a few stakes for wind- ahh heck, what am I talking about..... I gave up tentin' when i bought my camper van. Who am I to give advice.

Adding to that:
I love Timberlines too. I have a two-person and a four-person model. Setup couldn’t be simpler, and the slightly greater volume of a dome tent, which there may not be much need for, depending on your use and preference, comes with a weight penalty. The Timberline also has lots more door/window area in comparison with inside volume than most three-season tents.

On the no-see-um netting, I have to agree with Cliff Jacobson that it’s a huge negative if you camp in places where the main problems are mosquitoes and black flies. No-see-um netting is quite poor for ventilation when compared to standard mosquito netting. You may not actually have a choice of netting for a particular model, but if comparing many tents with many features, you might want standard netting if that’s all you really need, and if you can get it.

Last time I said that I got chewed out by one of our Florida p-netters, but I don’t camp in Florida, and of all the places I have camped, I’ve never been bothered by no-see-ums. I wish tent makers would offer both types of netting.

Also a fan
I am also a fan of the Timberline. It is not a sexy looking tent but a reliable design. Simple and quick to set up. I prefer the aluminum poles. Easy to get replacement parts if needed, but so far nothing has broke. I do have some concerns about the zipper – it is a bit too easy to catch on the fabric, especially at 6am when you wake up really needing to answers nature’s call. Where you lose height on the sides of the tent I like that I have more in the middle (about 5’) so I can kneel or crouch when getting dressed.

It is not really a backpacker tent but a good compromise if you car camp and kayak/canoe camp. I added the vestibule, so the tent feels like about 10 lbs of total weight.

A few years ago I found a great deal on my Timberline 4 through the Eureka Outlet store online (I think it was $120). It was graded at their lowest quality but after years of using it I am still not sure why it was so marked down. The only blemish I found was what appeared to be an small ink stain. Maybe it was used as display model but looked unused to me.

My rule of thumb is divide the total number they claim they sleep by two and round down. A four person tent means you are probably sleeping in the spoon position and not moving with four people. Two adults in a 4 person tent is snug but doable.

mesh ?

a Eureka has mesh walls as: http://goo.gl/JtJUmg ?

photos usually show Eureka with fly on not mesh wall.

Reply to Timberline Post?
If so, it’s not relevant. I don’t know what model tent that is, but it’s sure no Timberline.

Eureka Mountain Pass 3

– Last Updated: Sep-07-14 6:51 AM EST –

I have a Eureka Mountain Pass 3XTE. It’s a nice paddling tent for two people – side doors and two huge vestibules will give you plenty of room. Vestibules can be rolled out of the way when you don't need them, which is most of the time. I bought it for myself thinking if a two-man tent is good, a three-man tent would be better. It's actually bigger than I need. If you are car camping, though, I'd get a big family tent.

I also have an old Eureka Expedition, which is basically an older version of the Timberline 2. Great tent for one, but a little tight for two.

Whatever you buy, get yourself and extra rain fly – makes a huge difference in the rain.


That sure looks like a picture of a Timberline SQ 4XT.


Ah’s cood git a hold o’ one o’ deeez classic Eureka Drawtights agin’…