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Old 08-28-12, 06:29 AM   #1
chefisaac
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Tents, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, Need Advice Please!

I have decided to dive into touring and will be using my mountain bike that I use for commuting. Its a sweet set up but still need some tweaks but will work on it soon.

*I apologize for all the questions. I know nothing much about touring and tend to do a lot of homework before diving in so I use this forum to learn a lot*.

I have some money to invest in touring and camping gear. I am interested in, for my first tour, a short tour that is not supported. Credit card touring is OK but we have to watch what we spend so there is not a lot of money to spend like a vacation per say. Also not interested in motels, etc at this point because of the cost.

So I wanted to see if I could do a self supported tour.

I would like opinions on tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. It will just be me in the tent but my wife expressed the interest of camping sometime so I am thinking of a four person tent. I am a big guy as well. The important thing for my wife and I when camping is the tent needs to be waterproof. And we need to feel comfratable when sleeping.

Any recomendations on tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping mat?

Or any other advice??
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Old 08-28-12, 07:29 AM   #2
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A 4P tent could make you miserable weight-wise. There are plenty of roomy 3P tents that are pretty light. One example that comes to mind is the Copper Spur UL3 from Big Agnes. A couple of friends of mine just crossed the country sharing one, and neither of them are little. Pricey for sure, but less than 5 lbs. packed. I have a Sierra Designs Beduoin 4P that I use for car camping and supported trips. It weighs something like 13 lbs. I would never carry that on a bike. When the GF and I tour together, I carry a 3P hybrid tent that comes in at around 6.25 lbs. That's enough for me. Solo I use an MSR Hubba Hubba. My friends mentioned above originally bought one, tried it out and brought it straight back. Simply not enough room.

After years of using a skinny ThermaRest Pro Lite 3, I recently bought a Big Agnes Air Core (the insulated version), in part because I am still getting over a broken collar bone with muscle damage and need something more cushy for Cycle Oregon in two weeks. While it's not self-infalting, it only takes about 20 breaths to fully inflate. If my 5' tall GF can do it easily, you can. It's 2.5" thick. At $90 at REI, it's also less expensive than something like the ThermaRest Neo Air, which I hear is also very good.

Choosing a sleeping bag may require lots of testing, especially if you have broad shoulders. When I needed a 20+ bag 10 years ago, I went cheeap and bought an REI-brand bag without really trying it out. I found that it's cramped in the shoulder area. Now I have a North Face Cat's Meow long. Like it a lot. If you don't foresee camping in cold weather, you might want to go with a lighter bag.

In addition to REI (in Marlton) as a source, Campmoor in Paramus carries a large selection of tents and bags that you can try out.
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Old 08-28-12, 07:32 AM   #3
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Your call, but no way would I carry a 4 person tent for just me. I carried a 4 person tent for three of us on the TA and cussed the weight every single day.

I like the Eureka Spitfire 1 a lot. It is a great tent and very inexpensive. Since it sounds like you want or need more space I would advise looking at the Spitfire 2.

On the sleeping bag and mat, I'd need to know your budget and the conditions you want to camp in. Then there is personal preference... That said I love my Thermarest NeoAir and Mountain Hardware Phantom 45. I have used both down to at least 18F and been comfy with one layer of pile and two pairs of socks.
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Old 08-28-12, 07:39 AM   #4
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Now I have a North Face Cat's Meow long. Like it a lot. If you don't foresee camping in cold weather, you might want to go with a lighter bag.
I'd second the recommend of the Cat's Meow if you want or need a 20F bag and want to go synthetic. I like mine but don't use it much because my Phantom weighs a good bit less than half as much, packs in way less than half the volume, and is good for the temperatures I tour in, at least for me. Some folks say they would freeze in the same bag; I put out heat like a furnace.
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Old 08-28-12, 07:43 AM   #5
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What does "short" mean? I'm asking because investing in camping gear probably costs more than a few nights at motels. If you just want to see if you like it, you could either borrow camping gear or stay in motels, and then invest if you decide you are sure you want to continue.

Apart from that - yeah, 4 person tent is too big, if you are going to do most of your touring alone but a little with the wife, you will probably want a 2 person tent for yourself alone and a 2 or 3 person tent for the both of you. Weight matters. if the wife-camping part is just car camping, you could get a separate 4-person cheap tent for that, and a nice/light 2 person tent for your bike touring. do not carry a 4 person tent with you for many days on tour because of a few nights you may or may not need that tent in the future. Penny-wise and (literally) pound-foolish.

REI-Outlet is a good source of camping gear. And see what your friends would be willing to loan you. I loan my touring and camping and bike gear pretty regularly to local friends, and have borrowed stuff too.
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Old 08-28-12, 07:53 AM   #6
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What does "short" mean? I'm asking because investing in camping gear probably costs more than a few nights at motels. If you just want to see if you like it, you could either borrow camping gear or stay in motels, and then invest if you decide you are sure you want to continue.

Apart from that - yeah, 4 person tent is too big, if you are going to do most of your touring alone but a little with the wife, you will probably want a 2 person tent for yourself alone and a 2 or 3 person tent for the both of you. Weight matters. if the wife-camping part is just car camping, you could get a separate 4-person cheap tent for that, and a nice/light 2 person tent for your bike touring. do not carry a 4 person tent with you for many days on tour because of a few nights you may or may not need that tent in the future. Penny-wise and (literally) pound-foolish.

REI-Outlet is a good source of camping gear. And see what your friends would be willing to loan you. I loan my touring and camping and bike gear pretty regularly to local friends, and have borrowed stuff too.
Here is a tent that is not too heavy, and should work for two.http://www.rei.com/product/827801/re...e-t3-plus-tent
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Old 08-28-12, 08:01 AM   #7
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The Spitfire 2 mentioned above is huge for a two person tent, it's inexpensive, and I believe the weight is pretty good too. It's only disadvantage that I know of is that it's not free standing. It might be helpful to go online to get the tent specs. Measure out the length and width on your bed and then lie in that space with your wife to get a rough idea of what it will be like.


I have a NeoAir Trekker sleeping pad. It's similar to the NeoAir but I believe it's a a little more durable and it's not as noisy. It's pretty comfortable once I figured out the right amount of inflation that worked for me. The thermarest compressible pillows are very comfortable. I find them much more comfortable than an air pillow but some people do fine with those.

Regarding sleeping bags. If you are big or the slightest bit claustrophobic make sure you check the specs to make sure it's going to be big enough (e.g., shoulder girth). I think I may be going with a semi-rectangular bag for this reason. Good luck with it all. You can learn a ton on these forums. Check out Crazyguyonabike too...
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Old 08-28-12, 08:02 AM   #8
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Here is a tent that is not too heavy, and should work for two.http://www.rei.com/product/827801/re...e-t3-plus-tent
A nice tent and maybe what he is looking for... I wish we had had one on the TA for the three of us. That said it is bigger and heavier than I would choose for solo use and also it is a bit pricey compared to some options. For example, the Spitfire 2 can be found for about $130 and I think it would be roomy enough. Personal preference though.
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Old 08-28-12, 08:13 AM   #9
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I agree with the skip the 4 person tent advice. I've thought about one, but looking at the weight dissuaded me. Be sure to get a bag that rated at 20 degrees or lower (I speak from bitter experience). We just purchased two Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleep pads. They are much more comfortable than our old Therm-a-rest pads, weigh about 19 ounces, and roll up to a size slightly larger than a water bottle.
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Old 08-28-12, 08:27 AM   #10
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Lots of people in this part of the world cycletour with massive tents. I would have thought they'd be really big, heavy, bulky, etc. but they seem to travel with them all right. I suspect that if 2 people are touring together, one person carries half the tent and the other person carries the other half.


That said, this is the tent Rowan and I are travelling with, and have used since we bought it in France in 2007:
http://www.decathlon.co.uk/t3-ultral...d_6541067.html

It is reasonably roomy ... I wouldn't want to put 3 people in it, but the two of us have a reasonable amount of room. And it has stood up to a lot of wild weather. Take the other night for example ..... !!!
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Old 08-28-12, 08:44 AM   #11
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Regarding sleeping bags. If you are big or the slightest bit claustrophobic make sure you check the specs to make sure it's going to be big enough (e.g., shoulder girth). I think I may be going with a semi-rectangular bag for this reason. Good luck with it all. You can learn a ton on these forums. Check out Crazyguyonabike too...
The other option is a duvet arrangement. I would never have thought of this as a good option until we stated using our Exped mats, and taking the advice of some posters here.

Now I leave my light down bag unzipped and use it as a duvet, although I still use a silk liner. I tried sleeping with the bag zipped up the night before last, and... I was too restricted to be comfortable to the point I was starting to get sore hips.

Last edited by Rowan; 08-28-12 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 08-28-12, 08:46 AM   #12
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Wow, thank you everyone for your help.

Is REI a good place to shop as far as knowledable people go? What are the typical return policy if you do not like the tent after one use? Will they show you how to put the tent up in the store?
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Old 08-28-12, 08:49 AM   #13
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What are some things to stay away from when buying a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad (red flags if you will)?

And what do you do with your bike when you are sleeping at night? Say you are camping at a camp grounds. Do you carry locks with you and such? Did you have paranoa the first time you left the bike outside while camping?
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Old 08-28-12, 09:02 AM   #14
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Wow, thank you everyone for your help.

Is REI a good place to shop as far as knowledable people go? What are the typical return policy if you do not like the tent after one use? Will they show you how to put the tent up in the store?
Most REI salespeople are quite knowledgeable. REI return policy is the best. They have 100% satisfaction guarantee. They take anything back that you're not happy with. If you are spending a good bit there it's a good idea to become a "member" ($25 for lifetime).
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Old 08-28-12, 09:02 AM   #15
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thoughts on free standing tents versus non free standing tents
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Old 08-28-12, 09:04 AM   #16
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The other option is a duvet arrangement. I would never have thought of this as a good option until we stated using our Exped mats, and taking the advice of some posters here.

Now I leave my light down bag unzipped and use it as a duvet, although I still use a silk liner. I tried sleeping with the bag zipped up the night before last, and... I was too restricted to be comfortable to the point I was starting to get sore hips.

Further to Rowan's comments about the Exped mats ...

When I first started cycletouring, I didn't use any sort of mat at all. That was on a tour of Wales in late summer 2003. I froze!! And I ended up using my cycling partner's goretex jacket as a bit of a mat. I'm glad that tour wasn't any longer than 6 days.

Then I graduated to a small bit of blue foam mat that covered me from shoulders to hips, with an emergency foil bivy spread out under it. I toured for 3 months in Australia with that, and thank goodness my cycling partner and I spent nights in hostels about every 4th or 5th night. It was much better than nothing at all, and the emergency bivy helped protect me from the cold, but I never did have a really comfortable night's sleep.

One of the first things I did when I finished that tour was to purchase a 3/4 Thermarest mattress ... and that was much better than the bit of blue foam. I did several tours with that Thermarest mattress, and I'd recommend going with at least something like that. But I still used the foil emergency bivy under it for warmth. And I still struggled with sore hips and back after sleeping on it several nights in a row. I came up with a system using my panniers and several inflatable pillows on Rowan's and my tour in France in 2007, where we spent about 20 nights in a row in the tent, to try to make things a bit more comfortable.

I was planning to use that Thermarest mattress on this tour we're on now, but then Rowan suggested the Exped mats and that's what we decided to get. I have to say, they are indeed warmer and more comfortable than the Thermarest. I think they have been a very good choice ... I haven't had to use an emergency bivy underneath, nor have I had to rig up a pillow system to make mine more comfortable.


As far as sleeping bags go. I've used very small, light sleeping bags in the past, but this time, I bought a down one from MEC which I really like. I use a sarong as a sheet over me, and then I kind of wrap the sleeping bag loosely around me, sort of like a folded duvet. In fact, on one very hot night recently, I slept on top of the sleeping bag with just the sarong over me. I think I've slept with the bag zipped up once or twice on this tour so far, on particularly cold nights, but I don't like feeling restricted.

Last edited by Machka; 08-28-12 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 08-28-12, 09:19 AM   #17
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What will make my first tour interesting is that I have no clue what I am doing! lol The only thing I know I can do is pedal and have a good time! he he he

Plus a curve ball is my CPAP so I will need to do homework on sites that I can use an extension cord for the CPAP.
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Old 08-28-12, 09:22 AM   #18
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Most REI salespeople are quite knowledgeable. REI return policy is the best. They have 100% satisfaction guarantee. They take anything back that you're not happy with. If you are spending a good bit there it's a good idea to become a "member" ($25 for lifetime).
If you become a member, do they give you a percentage off when you buy at the counter?
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Old 08-28-12, 09:42 AM   #19
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If you become a member, do they give you a percentage off when you buy at the counter?
No but you get a dividend at the end of the year.

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thoughts on free standing tents versus non free standing tents
It comes down to weigh balanced against some added convenience. The pluses are:
  • easy to flip over to let the bottom dry
  • nice if you camp on a concrete surface like a picnic pavillion
  • easy to pick up and move

The only real minus is weight. I have gone to non-freestanding for that reason though, and have found it worth the weight reduction for me.
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Old 08-28-12, 10:04 AM   #20
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I only just finished a West Coast tour, and used the MSR Hubba Hubba and NeoAir Trekker. Chuffed to bits with both, especially the tent: it's lightweight, airy and idiot proof in setting up. My sleeping bag was a Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 that more than did the job. Both tent and sleeping bag fit into a 13L waterproof bag I kept on top of my rack.
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Old 08-28-12, 10:17 AM   #21
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Being a big guy changes the way you look at gear. Often times weight has to take a backseat to fit. I have looked at many light items, but find they are mostly built for small or average size people. I also like to be comfortable. I am 6'5" and 285lbs with very wide shoulders. Given my size and parameters of fit, comfort and weight, right now I am using an REI Quarter Dome t2 plus tent (fairly light and great length) an Exped DreamWalker 450 sleeping bag (35 degree and very spacious, also super versatile) and an Exped downmat UL7 XL for warmth and comfort. The whole setup is about 8 lbs and fits in a pannier.
I was patient and bought each item at about 1/2 price, so it didn't hurt the wallet quite as bad as it seems.
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Old 08-28-12, 10:51 AM   #22
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I should ask, what are "footprints" used for? And is it recommended to have one?
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Old 08-28-12, 10:54 AM   #23
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I should ask, what are "footprints" used for? And is it recommended to have one?
Ground Cloth for extra protection.


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Old 08-28-12, 10:56 AM   #24
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Being a big guy changes the way you look at gear. Often times weight has to take a backseat to fit. I have looked at many light items, but find they are mostly built for small or average size people. I also like to be comfortable. I am 6'5" and 285lbs with very wide shoulders. Given my size and parameters of fit, comfort and weight, right now I am using an REI Quarter Dome t2 plus tent (fairly light and great length) an Exped DreamWalker 450 sleeping bag (35 degree and very spacious, also super versatile) and an Exped downmat UL7 XL for warmth and comfort. The whole setup is about 8 lbs and fits in a pannier.
I was patient and bought each item at about 1/2 price, so it didn't hurt the wallet quite as bad as it seems.
Did you have any issue with your tent being tall? I am about your height and am curious about this. If you had to, would you buy all the stuff again?
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Old 08-28-12, 10:58 AM   #25
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What do you all do with your bike in the evening? Drape a tarp over it? Do you lock it up? Anything you do to prevent it from being stolen while camping?
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