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    What should I look for in a tent?  
    When pitching your tent put the door downwind and let the wind blow in through a screened window. Otherwise you may end up with a tent full of tiny bits of dried grass (as we did in Antelope, CO 13).

Rox Heath

My opinion about what is a good tent may be a little skewed, because over the years, my CO tents have been known as the "Coleman-Hilton". I started out in 1978 with a six person A-frame tent, with which I put my three sons through Scouts - a week-end a month, plus summer camp, plus the occasional family campout.

On my second CO (#5), I retired the old A-frame for a six passenger dome - "big orange". For #4, 5, 6, and 7, I did CO with my two older sons, so the tent was not too big. They used ear plugs to take the edge off my snoring. On 8, 9, and 10, I used the same tent - alone. I had enough room for me, my gear, AND my bike (!). On #11, except for one night, I did home stays, and my eldest son and his bride-to-be used the tent.

Since the late 70's, I have come to prefer a tent in which I can stand up. Tent life is so much easier when you can stand up, rather than wrestle and squirm your duds on and off in a tent which allows you to kneel only. And, frankly, that is my main criterion for tents. Beyond that, a tent with good ventilation, a rain fly - not just for rain, and maybe a peep hole or window is nice.

As you look around that 2 to 3 football field-sized sea of Cycle Oregon tents, you will see every imaginable tent. The overwhelming majority will sleep two - between piles of gear. That is not for me. I need space.

There are a smattering of HUGE tents, and what I call "tent condos" or gaggles of tents arranged in a circle for larger groups. Sometimes I have seen such clusters share a common central awning. Great for socializing.

My best recommendation is that you should shop around a little at places like REI, and GI Joes. Decide what you are willing to spend, sharpen your requirement list, and go for it. Just get the pro's and con's, and you will be happy with your decision.

Also, there is no such thing as a sound proof tent, as you will discover on the first night of CO. Ear plugs are worth their weight in gold.

Curt Coleman

TENTS- If you don't want to buy, you can rent a tent at REI for the week. Big is nice, but you have to fit it in your ONE duffel. If you have a tent rated for at least one person more than will sleep in it, you might fit your gear bags inside. There can be wind and rain, so it should be sturdy and have a good anchoring system, decent fly. Don't forget the ground cloth.

Amy Ream

There has been some real good input here on tents, but I figured I'd throw in my two cents worth (and with some advice from Robbin) -

Get a dome. Pounding tent pegs into rock-hard fields in 90+ heat is not fun. Pulling them out again the next morning in the dark is even less fun. The only time you need to peg dome tents is severe weather (mostly wind) and sometimes your gear is enough to hold them down even then.

Check out the rain fly. Rain in Oregon goes sideways a lot. You want a rainfly that covers the majority of the tent - not one of those that is 2' square - or bring a sizeable lightweight tarp (3 mil clear plastic found in the paint sections of variety stores works well) and lightweight nylon rope or cord for emergencies.

Big domes are really nice. Bob and I share a 6-man Kelty a lot on regular campouts. It is sure comfortable to stand up in. However, it weighs a ton and is huge and won't fit in our duffle bags. It also takes a lot of time and energy to set it up. For CO we use a 4-man dome about 8' square. It is just big enough for 2 adults and 2 giant duffel bags. There are some 6-man domes that would work if you want to look around, but a 4-man tent is about the minimum size for 2.

Your gear (excluding the bikes which we lock together outside) will take about as much room as another person when you get moved in and spread out comfortably.

Most 3-man domes have a footprint of a little less that 7 feet square. The sides also slope in. Full length Thermarests just barely fit lengthwise in this tent. I have a son a little less than 6' tall. He regularly camps by himself in one of these and sleeps diagonally. Even if you are shorter you will still feel less crammed and more comfortable on the diagonal. I have found that 3 eleven year olds do fit comfortably in a 3-man dome tent. :-)

There is no sense going expensive to get a super lightweight tent from somewhere like REI. You are not going to backpack this thing, and it is being thrown out of a big truck onto hard ground and then pelted with other people's gear. Plan on your stuff being tossed around by gorillas and it will survive just fine when your fellow cyclists unload it. <big grin>

When you touch a wet tent it drips from that point (sometimes) or at least transfers water to whatever is against it. This means when it is raining buckets you want to be able to pull your gear away from the edges somewhat.

Make sure the tent is fairly easy to set up because you will be hot and tired. Make sure you try it out at home before you leave, both to learn how to set it up and to make sure it is all there!

Check the seams and zippers for defects and really give it a good looking over at the start.

Enough windows for good cross ventilation are nice. These should have screens (I think most do.)

Many of the cheaper domes have a floor made out of the same plastic as those blue tarps you see everywhere (although tent floors are often grey). This is nice durable, easy-to-clean stuff. After it has been folded fairly often it develops pin size holes at the junctions of its fibers. The solution to this is to take a hunk of 3-mil plastic (sold in rolls 10' wide at paint stores) and cut off a hunk that is just a couple of inches narrower than the width of your tent. If you want you can leave it 10' long in one direction and have a front porch. Just remember that when it rains any plastic that hangs out beyond the edges of the tent will funnel water under it and create a lake in your tent. I keep a look-out for rain and tuck my porch under at the last minute. This plastic is also nice for those times when you camp in a cow pasture. Always fold it up so that the ground-side is inside and throw it away the last morning of CO.

Seam sealing is a good idea.

Rox Heath

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And, with the tent thread still going on, I would add to the very good suggestions I have seen.

I have a dome tent with "front" and "back" door/windows. When I saw the storm gathering, I re-oriented the tent so the doors were in line with the wind. Fortunately, the wind did not shift. Then I opened the doors so that the windward side was open about one third and the leeward side was open the full amount. I left the screens up, and let the wind go through the tent. Keeping the windward side mostly closed also allowed the rain fly to do its work, so nothing in the tent got wet. This way, there was less tendency for the tent to blow over (than if it had been broadside to the wind.)

Another aspect of tenting in strong winds is to pitch your tent with every surface drum tight, and the tent pegged down and lashed to other pegs as tightly as you can make it. While it is true that a dome will stand up without pegs and lines, the last thing you want in a storm is for the wind to get under the tent. The dome is very well suited to high winds, but it must be tight, and lashed down for it to work as designed.

If you have an "A-frame" tent without front AND back ventilation, your best bet is to set it up broadside to the wind. The rationale here is to allow the wind to blow over the top. Again, the tent MUST be tight and well tied down.

No matter what kind of tent you have, do your best to insure that the wind cannot get under the tent. The best way to avoid that is to pitch it tight, and haul down on the lines.

There were a large number of tents blown down that night. I can only guess that they were loosely pitched and oriented to the wind in such a way as to turn the tent into a nice sail.

These lessons were learned in my 13 years of Scouting with three boys, and then relearned on Sunday morning after CO 9 in Lakeview, when a surprise rip-snorter squall came up and nearly rolled the unpegged tent with me, my bike, and my gear in it. It was about 5AM, so I just piled (crammed) everything into my two door coupe and started the drive back to the Portland area. EVERYTHING was wet.

Which leads me to the final point: When tenting for multiple nights, I do everything possible to keep my sleeping bag dry. There is nothing worse on a campout than a wet sleeping bag. They are very difficult to dry out, especially if the next day is not sunny or is also wet. Protect it every way you can. Remember, when camping, PLASTIC IS YOUR FRIEND: large garbage bags with twist ties are the best, but many other items will work. Just think ahead about where water can seep in, and figure a way to keep it out.

Curt Coleman

Since you mentioned CO IX and the Lakeview mess - did you happen to see the flying dome tent in Silver Lake?

I had done the optional century that day (my first year (can you say S*L*O*W?)) got in about 4:30-ish and was in the process of setting up my "Bivvy" style tent when I heard some yelling. When I looked toward the commotion there was a dust devil wind that had picked up one of those "three amputee, er ah, person" tents and had it spinning around in the air about 30 feet off the ground. Probably only lasted about 30 seconds but what a sight :-)

The Bivvy style tent is awesome in the wind and rain, difficult to change clothes in, and gives you no option about where you place your head inside. I mention that because at times our campsites get real "intimate" and if you are a late arrival you might find yourself shoe-horned into a spot where the door has to end up on the downhill side of a slope. I bought an REI half dome when I got back. I like the vestibule on the rainfly, lets you keep the big bag and the dirty laundry OUTSIDE, yet dry. (I need the proper fresh air mixture when I snore)

Don "Look up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a North Face?" Bolton

No, but I saw one flying the night before in Paisley - over by the fence and tree line at the back end of the long field. I saw some guy do a flying leap and catch it. Better him than me. I nailed my dome down fast when I saw that.

And, my snoring is a life-threatening event. Ear-plugs have been added to the life support kit for those within 100 feet of my tent walls..

Curt Coleman

After a consult of my trip notes, it was in Paisley that I saw this apparition and not Silver Lake. Silver Lake was where we were shoe-horned in so tight it was almost two-story.

We were in someone’s yard that hadn't been home for awhile, he was quite astounded at the sight when he arrived, someone offered him a beer, and he ended up swapping stories with the group the rest of the evening.

Don "unexpected things just happen" Bolton

I've used a 3-man dome tent for two COs. No, I can't stand in it, and no, I can't put the bike in, too; but it is roomy enough to get all the gear in out of the weather. I use one tarp for a ground cloth (big enough to make the "porch" someone else mentioned). For CO X, I carried a second tarp to go _over_ the dome in case of wild weather. Sure got my money's worth at Paulina! What a light show and dust settler! A zip lock bag is good for keeping you saddle dry.


Unless you intend at some point to seriously backpack with this tent, and weight will be a concern... buy a 3 man tent for the 2 of you for Cycle Oregon. It could save your relationship.

Dana C. Ham

For 7 nights of camping, it might not be too indulgent to invest in a bigger tent that will hold two people & their gear comfortably. Even if we don't get DAYS of rain - and this is such a funny year, we might - a gully washer like the thunderstorm a couple years ago can drench everything unprotected in a couple minutes. You won't be sleeping well if you're having to deal with mosquitoes and/or wet gear half the night, and that's a long time to be dragging around tired, even without the riding, so think "comfort zone" in your camping accommodations. We've bought a lot of close-out equipment from these guys:

-including a great, reasonably priced, 9 lb. tent with lots of nice features that we've been using 4 or 5 years. You wouldn't carry it on your bike, but then, you don't have to. We've always been able to manage the 65 lb. luggage limit.

Craig or Jeanne Gostnell

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I find a larger tent to be well worth it. After all, you don't have to CARRY your tent on your bike, so if it weighs 5 pounds extra, that's no big deal. By the end of the week, some people would just about kill for a roomy tent, with space to sit up in. I used our 20 year old, 2 person backpacking tent last year on CO, and really regretted it. I went to REI and bought a dome tent, and used it on a tour earlier this summer. It was a vast improvement as far as I was concerned.

Debi Toews

FWIW, I used a 3-man dome tent on CO 9 & 10. I have enough room for baggage and "stretching" (but not for bowling). A second body would make it "intimate" but still do-able.


I think a larger tent is a good idea. I did my first C.O. with a small one-person tent, but since then, I've taken bigger tents that I can pull all my gear into with me at night, and I've found it to be much more comfortable. Cycle Oregon can feel crowded at times, and having a spacious tent to sleep in is nice. As someone mentioned earlier, you don't have to carry the tent around with you, except back and forth to the semi-trucks, so the extra bulk and weight isn't something you have to deal with all that much. You can get by with the smaller tent, but you'll likely be happier with a bigger tent (e.g., a 4-person tent for two people). I'm surprised your stuff got so wet in the vestibule. My vestibules usually keep things very dry for me.

Mark Vanderford

If it rains, and you have to spend time in your tent, the extra space make keep you sane. Bikes are outside your tent. A small piece of plastic and some clothes pins to cover it and keep the dew off your saddle has proven very handy.

Dana C. Ham

Do we HAVE to use a tent? Or can we sleep in the open?

Chris & MaryAnn

Most people use their tents but there are a small number of people that choose not to. The choice is yours.

Happy Camping.
Ron Howden

I can see it now... the tent police coming around and forcing you to use a tent... ;-)

Seriously, it's YOUR vacation. I would definitely bring a tent because eastern Oregon has been known to have rain and/or wind and/or temperatures in the teens at night and you might want to use it some nights.

Bob just wandered by and said that he thought your biggest risk would be getting stepped on in the middle of the night (probably by someone trying to find the porta-potties without waking up.)

Rox Heath

A friend of mine used his tent only one or two nights last year. The rest of the nights he slept out under the stars. He must have had a warm bag, because he was tentless in Ukiah (which, as the veterans here know, was 16 degrees in the morning) and he said he slept soundly!

ON the other hand... I can't remember where it was (I think it was Joseph), but when we packed up in the morning, EVERYTHING we had was covered in earwigs. They had worked their way inside all the tent sleeves, our shoes, etc. A very good time to be INSIDE a tent. :-)

Susan Otcenas

HELP! I need recommendations regarding tents for CO and beyond.

So, the questions are: "What tent are you taking to CO?" AND "If you had to buy one all over again, would you buy the same one?" Why or why not...

I know this question may be subjective, but I need your vast knowledge and base of experience to make a wise choice.

Many thanks,
Richard "it's not easy being me" Rodriguez

I have a 4 person Kelty Vortex. Full coverage, rainfly, two vestibules.

Room for the bike and me while all the smelly dirty clothes stay outside in the vestibules. Kelty makes a 2 person version of this. The tent's base stakes requiring no "guy wire" supporting in heavy winds.

We camp in hayfields save for the occasional manicured school lawn. Ground is lumpy at best. "Bivvy" style tents allow for one orientation inside them, difficult to move around and find comfortable sleeping lie. A two person dome allows differing orientations and gives you options as to avoiding that root you didn't see on set up.

Tent city is PACKED! You end up being shoehorned in and stuck setting up your tents doorway orientation, etc. in the latter hours.

I prefer the two pole dome (less to mess with in set-up and tear-down). Remember this will go up and down frequently on the tour. 4 season tents are nice, but require extra poles and set up effort...

FULL COVERAGE RAINFLY! Last year on CO [CO 12] it was dry the whole trip. This was the first time of four where this was true for me (on ten we had a genuine toad strangler storm). Vestibule for leaving gear (dirty clothes bag) outside, but still "inside".

I strongly recommend the Vortex as it is quick up and down, stable without additional staking, has a factory made groundcloth available. I have used the REI Half Dome in the past - also a good tent but requires additional security in high winds.

Look for simplicity in set-up and tear-down, weather protection, and stability without extra set-up effort. The easier the better.

Don "unless you have hired lackeys" Bolton

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Richard, last year Carl and I had a really big tent with poles. Although it’s great to have the space, it limits where you can camp and it’s harder to put up.

I say get a dome tent. We bought a new dome this year just for CO. They are lighter and easier to put up. Just don't forget some plastic to put down under your tent (thank you Rox!)!

Wendi Thornton

My approach is to go to Costco & get the cheap "X" variety - fully clipped is much nicer than the sleeved variety if you can find them.

They're Cheap!
They go up quickly & easily. (Simpler is always better after a 100 mile day).
They're small enough to shoehorn onto the real grass, if there is any.
They usually have a built in groundcloth.
You won’t be bummed if it gets messed up.
You can shake the dust out of them on Friday (and listen for the ooohs & ahhhs).
Nobody asks how well you like it & where you bought it & how much you paid.
Drunk cyclists won’t trip over your tent stakes.
Cleaning or repairing? Uhm - no.
If someone asks where your tent is, one response is: "I'm in the Green Kelty over there - you can't miss it".
Good Gas Mileage.
People who don't have them think they all look the same.
Cheese Whiz parties don't make you nervous.
You'll never forget which pole goes where.
There's only one zipper between you & the Blue Meenies...

Ken Cregger

This is my first CO, so this is not CO specific information, but all of this information has been earned (and learned) the hard way:

Free standing is great: Think sandy soil.
Low profile: Think wind.
Full rain fly: Rain in Oregon?
Vestibule to keep your stuff dry: More rain.
Clips to attach to poles, not sleeves: When it's dark, it's sometimes hard to find the right sleeves.

Hope this helps. Looking forward to meeting all of you!
Mark Ramsby

I'm taking a Sierra Designs Meteor light... I'd buy one again... and try renting a tent to try one out... beats buying and NOT liking it...

Merry Maloney

I have a 4 year old NORTH FACE. An older design Lunalite which has been surpassed by improved designs. (Double side entry for starters.) However, it's pretty hard to beat the North Face quality and warranty. If just about anything goes wrong they'll repair or replace. They have mine right now repairing the torn door, few questions asked, just send it in.

Steve Heim

A couple of other hints -

More room is better than less. A single person on a full size Thermarest is a good 6' long. Tents that say they are 7' are often around 6 1/2' or less inside. This means that your Thermarest is pushing against the walls of the tent. The solution is to get a 3 man dome tent (about 7' square) and sleep diagonally. If there are two of you then get a 4 or 5 man dome.

Remember that when it rains tents often leak where ever something touches them. This means that in rainy weather you want to be able to pull everything away from the sides of the tent. You also want room for your giant duffel bag or frame pack and whatever bike bags you are using and your helmet and so on (unless you are going to leave all of that out in the rain). It will take up almost as much room as another person.

As far as crowding problems... the Team Bag Balm site can be very crowded. However, CO has switched to using bigger areas for the tent city and I know last year [CO12] that at least 7 of the 8 nights there was plenty of expansion room elsewhere. The other night I was tired and never got around to exploring!

Make sure you bring along a piece of plastic to put under your brand new tent unless you like pitching it on top of cow pies... CO tries to prevent this, but we are in a rural area... Mooo!

Clips to the top are nice, but a short sleeve at the top is not that big of a deal if the rest of the tent fits your needs. All of our tents have sleeves at the top and clips on the sides.

Get some GOOD tent stakes. You will definitely need to stake your tent occasionally. We use twisted wire stakes with ours. Some tents come with really crummy plastic stakes that break if you try to use them. (Not all plastic stakes are bad. Test yours out in your back yard ahead of time.)

Which brings me to the last crucial hint - pitch your tent ahead of time so you know what you are doing and that it is all there!

Happy camping!
Rox Heath

PS Last time I was at Costco they no longer had the nice 3 person dome tents and there was something about the 4 person I didn't like, also. Some of the rain flies are a little skimpy. [Note – this was summer, 2000. Later years may differ.]

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
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