If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 20 August 2010

Men and tents

Not 'men', as in blokes, but 'men' as in sleeping spaces - 2-man tents, 4-man tents and so on.

Following from my last post -

The Backpacker tent I used for Denmark and Aberystwyth is designated as '2-man'. I know it's a commonplace to say that you should always deduct one from the description to get the real number a tent will hold, but this is ridiculous. If I roll out my sleeping mat and throw in my sleeping bag, you can't see the tent floor. I can end up touching both side walls during the night as I move about, and my feet are pretty much confined to one place by the slope of the sides and end. It's a 2-man tent if, and only if:
  1. You are both midgets, or
  2. You are half-way up K2 in a snowstorm, and getting close, really close, did-you-have-to-have-so-much-garlic close to your companion is the alternative to dying of exposure, or
  3. You are filming Brokeback Mountain, or
  4. You are a 'couple', and sleeping wrapped together like spaghetti is your usual modus dormendi.
And if (4) applies, don't think of any al fresco hanky-panky. There ain't room for any waggling body parts or bedroom athletics. Insinuate yourselves in there feet-first, sleep if you can, and draw lots for who does the toothpaste trick first in the morning. And hope neither of you needs to pee in the middle of the night.

On the other hand, if you are both under 5' 6" and seven stone, give it a go. Be my guest.

But for normal purposes, like going camping with a mate and sharing the weight of a tent between you, a '2-man' it is most certainly not.

Likewise the supposedly '3-man' Vango. It's taller than the Condom, which makes things easier for moving about, and it floor area is much bigger. Note the dimensions:

In theory, that's 210cm lengthways for lying down, and the location of the internal pockets just inside the doorway suggests that this is the way you are intended to align yourself. So how come I, at a magnificent 182cm in my socks, can't actually fit in that way? If I lie that way, my feet are brushing against the tent inner at one end and my head is touching the door panel at the other. Where did that 28cm go? Well, partly it's the way tents are made. The inner cell walls sag a bit (they are suspended on elastic and are not tight) and the groundsheet curves up a bit, and between them they take some of the length away. And partly it's the old fear of allowing anything to touch the tent fabric from the inside - too many nights under proper canvas, where an incautious finger on the tent inner would lead to a steady trickle of rainwater down the inside and eventually into your sleeping bag. It's irrelevant to a modern tent with a waterproof fly and a suspended liner, but old habits die hard. I've taken a tape measure to it, and strictly there is 210cm of floor there if you flatten everything out. But I can't sleep that way. Strangely, the 200cm widthways is spot-on.

So I will be sleeping sideways, if you see what I mean. I've lounged around in there, and there is certainly space for one other person. Maybe not my riding buddy here:

... or my internet friend, known as f/23/SoCal, not sure why ...

... but certainly for anyone I am likely to want to share a tent with. Two people, with sleeping bags, mats, personal effects and a normal-range BMI, yes. Three people - no*.

I wonder if these tents advertised as '8-man' really only hold seven? I need to find out.

I don't know why tent manufacturers play this game. Perhaps it's the same as the way car and bike makers always headline the top speed. It's what the thing will do, at the extremes of its design parameters. Hardly anyone ever gets there, but it's nice to know you could. The same with tents: this is the number of people it is physically possible to cram in. Sane users will make do with less. It's not a problem, as everyone knows the trick and no-one is fooled into thinking that two people really could spend six weeks camping together in a Eurohike Backpacker and not want to kill each other after three days.

It's irrelevant to me anyhow, as it looks like I will be camping alone for the foreseeable future (although Anna did look in and made positive noises - who knows?). But for one large-ish guy, a three-man tent seems to be on the spacious side of the minimum, but not so big as to be embarrassing. I think I could have some very comfy nights in there.

* unless the other two were pocket-sized double-jointed blonde twins with a thing for older guys, then I might reconsider.


  1. Somehow, the idea that I might one day have an internet conversation with a naked Mr SoCal makes me feel just a tiny bit uneasy...

  2. If you remember that anyone you speak to on the internet could be called Bubba and live in his Mom's basement, then it all becomes easier to deal with.

    That teenage lesbian nymphomaniac underwear model with a Harley you were chatting to last night - that was me.

  3. I may actually have to say...


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