Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Preparing for upcoming trips. Tents, beaches and sand...

The heat of Texas summer is almost upon us, and that means no overnight camping anywhere near the coast. It's just too humid. However with the impending fall, will come great camping weather along the coast, and in particular, a 4x4 trip along Padre Island National Seashore along the southern Texas coast just a teensy weensy bit north of Mexico... To prepare for this trip, all of the typical preparations need to be made, and considering it is a beach trip, some special preparations should be made.

Tents. Some of the worst camping disasters I have experienced, came in the form of thinking any tent will work for a beach trip. WRONG! Beaches, well actually ANY environment with wind, and that much sand provide special challenges for campers, at least those that do not enjoy having sand blown in their ears and up their nose all night long... Also there are really no solid surfaces to stake a tent out to, so a fully self supporting tent is a MUST.

I have found through trial and error, a small, but not too small two pole dome tent, such as the Coleman Sundome 4. The floor space is somewhat limited with just 9x7 and those sloped walls, but with the lowish overall profile, this tent serves well for this purpose as the constant breeze blows right over, HOWEVER some, accessorizing is in order...

Double wall tents by their nature are designed to allow air to flow under the rain fly, and in through the mesh walls to allow breathing, however in sandy / windy environments, that constant breeze blowing through is carrying LOTS of sand, and once it slows down inside your tent, it unloads the sand, all over you! You need to rig up a "filter" of sorts. I have seen campers use everything from, well cut up and duct taped panty hose to cover the screens, to the more elegant method I prefer. Old flannel sheets and clothes pins. If you will be camping a lot in sandy / windy environments, you will need to make some semi permanent changes to the tent to make this work, but it is well worth it!

Start off with a roll of hook and loop tape (the most common brand is Velcro), 1/2" wide is fine, and a sizeable tube of tent adhesive. I have had good luck with McNett Seam Grip. Cut to size stips to fit the tent fabric right under the mesh, and around the pole loops, so that you have hook and loop tape, preferrably the soft part, making a big triangle around the mesh. Measure, and cut out the old flannel bed sheet to cover the triangle, and the hook and loop tape on the tent body. Stitch up the material and sew the other side of the hook and loop tape on so that you have a filter of sorts to cover up your mesh in the tent body.

Plastic grocery sacks can be filled with sand, tied off to your stake out points, and buried in the sand, allowing for a nice secure purchase and a stable tent...

Lastly, depending on how you got to your camping spot, but if there is a way that you can rig up a wind break such that your tent is pitched leeward, you may have sand raining on your tent all night, but it sure beats having it blown through your tent!

Now you have no excuse not to get out to the great beaches, and deserts that are out there, so get out there, and find your own road less traveled.

-- Outdoor Dave