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Thread: Tents, Repairs and Such...An Experience with Big Agnes Tents

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    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    Tents, Repairs and Such...An Experience with Big Agnes Tents

    One of the things I learned at New Holstein on my first trip there many moons ago was the importance of a good tent. While having had many years of backpacking I knew the importance of weight, but I almost always pitched the tent in the woods, where the wind doesn't usually cause much stress. Not so in camping at a wide open airport. It seems that each and every year we experience at least one line of thunderstorms with very high winds and driving rain. Several years ago one of you folks convinced me to go from my North Face tent to Big Agnes, and I followed the suggestion, as well as the advice from Wild Bill Rusk (who served as the officiant at our wedding)..."If you want your wife to enjoy camping, get a tent in which she can be comfortable", so I purchased the Taj Mahal, so to speak, from Big Agnes. The Big House 4. We have enjoyed that tent and I found myself swapping out my North Face low profile tent for first a two person tent, then a three person tent, both from Big Agnes. I have appreciated the worksmanship and attention to detail of their product.

    However...

    This summer the Mother of All Thunderstorms hit us at New Holstein and our Big Agnes Big House 4 tent didn't do well. I hunkered down inside the tent when the storm hit but was quite dismayed to find that the tent collapsed to the point that I had water coming in and I had to hold the tent upright for 20 minutes until the wind subsided. The next morning I examined the tent and found that virtually each of the three main tent poles were substantially bent. Thanks to Lou and the team of experts there at New Holstein we were able to straighten out the tubes somewhat by using a slide tube that he had for repairing/straightening the tube.

    I left a message for the folks at Big Agnes that I would like to purchase replacement poles for the tent and was informed that I could not purchase replacement poles, but rather my only option was to send in the damaged poles for repair. As one who appreciates tube and fabric, I am aware that once a tube is bent, regardless of the composition, there exists a certain weakness that can lead to bad outcomes. I have just sent a message to Big Agnes to see if they might be willing to at least offer the option of repair vs replacement. While I understand the desire to fix, rather than replace, things in general, I don't want to find myself in the same New Holstein predicament again.

    I just wanted to give you folks a heads up regarding the Big Agnes policy as you consider options should you need to purchase a tent. This policy is a deal breaker for me, and I would encourage looking at different options.

    Randy
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    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    I can pretty much guarantee they are gonna take your old poles and make you new ones.

    Did you have all the inner attachments fastened when the big wind hit? My Nemo tent has inner clips that I never bothered fastening until I figured out the rigidity they add in the wind.
    Steve Pierce

    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
    Will Rogers
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    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    Steve, I hope you are right. I'll let you all know.

    With regard to your question, no. I'm not sure about you, but I put up that tent once or twice a year (as compared to my 3 person tent, which gets used regularly). When we arrive at NH there are always people there who want to be helpful and the tent goes up quickly. Perhaps too quickly. I suspect that some of the inner fasteners were not attached properly, and it is my bad for not checking this over carefully before attaching the rain fly. Lesson learned. It is kind of like tying my airplane down...I always appreciate the help, but I make darned sure I check the knots to make sure they are secure.

    In this case, I am not thinking there is something wrong with their product. I simply want to fix something that isn't quite right, and want to do so before the next wind hits!

    Randy

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    Ramdy,
    Same happened to us at OHS a few years back. Hast field repairs got us through the week.
    Sent the bent poles in and they returned new ones. Our were so broken up, probably the only choice they had.
    Maybe bend them all over your knee just before you send them..........

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    I have no experience with Big Agnes but had a similar experience with REI. I have an REI Hobitat 4. A gust front rolled through JC a few years back. The tent was well staked down and the fly was even tied to a couple trees. The wind rolled the tent, with all my gear in it, about 20’. The fly was ripped badly but the rest of the tent and poles were not damaged. REI does not sell a replacement fly so the tent is useless.

    Others have probably had similar experiences with other gear manufacturers. It probably doesn’t make economic sense for the manufacture to stock individual components for situations like this. In my case, I’m just stuck with a useless tent. I would second the opinion that if you send in your poles Big Agnes is going to send you new poles. Good company with a good reputation.
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    NEMO Tents, unconditional warranty for life (at least at that time). When the waterproof coating on my rain fly turned into a sticky fly-trap I called to see if I could order a replacement along with new poles for my 9 year old tent since they had been tortured at New Holstein many times and never collapsed or leaked. The answer was, 'nope sorry we don't sell replacement parts but if you'll send them in we'll cover it under warranty provided they don't have tire tracks over them.'

    I was so impressed I bought another smaller one for solo trips.
    Last edited by OLDCROWE; 11-17-2021 at 10:11 AM.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!
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    SteveE's Avatar
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    Randy Bob, When’s the last time Julie stayed in a tent? Instead of a motel. I’m sure Cathy Furlong has thrown tents away. sorry Lou, Randy threw a softball


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    mvivion's Avatar
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    Randy,

    Friends of mine had similar experience with a Big Agnes tent at OSH a few years ago. My REI Base Camp tent stayed up and dry through that.

    For more “rural” camping, I use my old North Face VE-24. That is a true “mountaineering tent”. That tent is thirty five years old, and heavily used. One zipper finally gave up a year back. NF claims their tents are warranted for life. I got in touch, they said send it in. They replaced all zippers, repaired a couple of minor deals I hadn’t noticed, and replaced one pole that apparently was damaged. I received the tent back in two weeks, no charge. Good for another thirty years.

    Your report is the fourth or fifth I’ve heard of Big Agnes tents failing in wind/rain storms.

    MTV
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    aktango58's Avatar
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    My sheep hunting friends always had great things to say about Big A gear. Sorry your experience is not as pleasant as theirs.

    I have a North Face VE-24 or 25, Don't remember exactly which, and don't recall what the difference was. That is my 'go to' winter in the plane survival tent, Great tent, but it is a true low profile high wind dome that you crawl into and out of on your knees, and sit hunched over while inside. When I have needed it, it has been there.

    Years back I stayed in an Arctic Oven. While they were built for colder weather camping, their strength and ability to stay upright in the high winds of the Alaska Peninsula make them great for camping.

    I bought the old standard model soon after, and recently the new single pole 2 man 10x10s. Cots on either side, wood stove, vestibule to keep my shoes, and I can STAND UP. I hang a lantern in the center and it will make the tent warm in about 20 minutes when 10F outside. The old one takes about 70 pounds with two heavy duty cots, wood stove and entry carpet mats to protect the floor. The new single pole is a little over half with all the same gear.

    We were in 50-70 miles sustained in Iliamna one season. After a couple days one pole had a slight warp in it because the upper support line was not secured as well as it should have been, but it never failed, never leaked.

    With windows installed (option) you can vent it and keep it cool.

    Yes, it's weight is above the North Face dome, but man when I am comfortable and my back is not sore after ten days of driving rain, it is worth the weight.

    One rule I have found always true, good equipment only hurts at the time of purchase.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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    I have a Big Agnes tent and have had bent poles. They replaced the bent sections.
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    behindpropellers's Avatar
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    Randy,

    I think your overthinking it. Send in your poles, and I bet they will send you brand new ones back. Come to think of it.....my BA poles are bent.

    Tim
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    They might require the poles to insure you get the right ones. I suspect things like tents (even of the same model) may have had small changes over the years and unless it is has a serial number it is too hard to keep track of.
    DENNY
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    I just got done flying around the Utah BC. My Big Agnes zipper came off in my hand when I tried to open the rainfly with 1/2” of snow on it. I didn’t pull hard at all. Tried surgery, but couldn’t get it back on. I’ve owned the tent for 5 years or so. Big Agnes sent me a prepaid label and repaired it at no cost. I assumed it was made in Colorado, but it’s all made in China. A bit frustrating given the expense, but glad they fixed it even when not under warranty.

    Since then, I’ve learned about the zipper repair kits that come apart into halves with a screw. Just need to make sure you carry the proper size.
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    sjohnson's Avatar
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    My BA tent was flattened in a thunderstorm, bent poles and all. I straightened them and have had no trouble. I learned to use the external guy lines when the wind will be blowing. The tent is tall enough to stand in, and doesn't have enough internal strength to deal with high winds.
    There are three simple rules for making consistently smooth landings. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.
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    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    I've always liked canvas tents for these applications. Heavy, but they seem to hold up.

    I looked around to see what is available now and ran across this--a 65 pound wall tent with stove provisions:

    https://www.davistent.com/product/go-tent/

  16. #16
    mvivion's Avatar
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    If you want a bomb proof tent, look no further than Alaska Tent And Tarp, now a division of Airframes Alaska. Their expedition tents were originally developed by Tent and Tarp, in conjunction with Roger Siglin and others. Siglin used these tents on many winter expeditions via snow machine all over the north coast of North America, and in some of the toughest wind and weather you could imagine.

    MTV
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    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, Mike. Here is the one I want:

    https://www.airframesalaska.com/glam...nts-s/2529.htm
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveE View Post
    Randy Bob, When’s the last time Julie stayed in a tent? Instead of a motel. I’m sure Cathy Furlong has thrown tents away. sorry Lou, Randy threw a softball


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Pardon me, but I believe the only spousal unit in this equation who hasn't been to NH and slept in a tent would be is Linda Eaton.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

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    behindpropellers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OLDCROWE View Post
    Pardon me, but I believe the only spousal unit in this equation who hasn't been to NH and slept in a tent would be is Linda Eaton.
    Oh Cathy has slept in a tent... Lou will tell you this story with his tail in between his legs.....
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  20. #20
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    The worst storm we have ever had at New Holstein blew over just about every tent on the field. Cajun Joe was dry and comfortable in his Cabela’s Alaska Guide Model tent. I purchased one after that storm, and it has withstood everything. It is absolutely bombproof. An awesome tent that will not blow down.


    Something to consider
    Very Blessed. "It's not an obsession, it's a passion"
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    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Speaking of tents, where's the famous Eaton and Eddie Doyle tent picture?

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by behindpropellers View Post
    Oh Cathy has slept in a tent... Lou will tell you this story with his tail in between his legs.....
    Oh I remember that one...
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

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    aktango58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    Speaking of tents, where's the famous Eaton and Eddie Doyle tent picture?

    Glenn
    Which is probably why Linda won't sleep in a tent on the Supercub outings...

    The Arctic Oven is an Alaska Tent and Tarp tent. The Glamping tent is cool, but my the 10x10 oven will fit in the pod, all but the stove. The new single pole leaves lots of room to spare.

    How about we have a Supercub.org Tent Testing night here on the way to the Airman's show next spring? I can set both ovens up, you guys bring your tents. We can set a Keg of beer in the unfinished hangar and discuss the value of each in depth, then head to Palmer for the show with our new knowledge.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post
    How about we have a Supercub.org Tent Testing night here on the way to the Airman's show next spring? I can set both ovens up, you guys bring your tents. We can set a Keg of beer in the unfinished hangar and discuss the value of each in depth, then head to Palmer for the show with our new knowledge.
    Dang. I'd really like to participate, but it is a long shot.

    FWIW, I do own a tent. It's a circa-1970 Sears and Roebuck "2-man" pup tent, all canvas, two collapsible poles and lots of tabs for guy-strings. It has held up well in all kinds of conditions. I keep it well waxed and dry. But, I had one mishap in the woods of Northwest Montana when it collapsed on me during a quiet night. A packrat had eaten through the rope on the end. I know because I crawled out and lay in wait with a flashlight. He came back for seconds after a few minutes.

  25. #25

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    I have two original pop tents - mint green - made by Thermos. 2 person and a 4 person one in the original green canvas bags. Red fiberglass poles. As a kid I wasn't heavy or strong enough to pull the big silver tab and "pop" them but they sure are cool.

    I don't use them anymore but every once in a while I set one up and always get people stopping by to share memories.

    I have several tents. I owe my life to a Northface VE-24 I bought in 1985 when I was a senior in high school. At 17,200 feet (high camp) on McKinley I spent 6 days in it when I was 19. The storm wasn't historic in strength but it still tried to kill everyone of us. Black Dimond, Northface, Early Winters were all making good tents then. I chose the VE-24 since all the real mountaineers seemed to swear by them.

    Nowdays I huff around a 10x10 arctic oven and cots. The VE-24 comes out once a year and gets setup, but I haven't slept in it in ages. Comfort is my mission now.

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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    StalledOut,

    PTSD warning: I and another employee spent the summers of 1965-6 in one of those Thermos pop tents. SE Alaska where it rains more than not. The takeaway was w/o a rain fly (we were issued none) they leak - lots. I had an air mattress but my partner didn't so he slept on logs and brush in the water. We had to move it every other day or the ground below formed a lake.

    If you send me one I'll burn it in effigy.

    Gary
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    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post
    StalledOut,

    PTSD warning: I and another employee spent the summers of 1965-6 in one of those Thermos pop tents. SE Alaska where it rains more than not. The takeaway was w/o a rain fly (we were issued none) they leak - lots. I had an air mattress but my partner didn't so he slept on logs and brush in the water. We had to move it every other day or the ground below formed a lake.

    If you send me one I'll burn it in effigy.

    Gary
    Dang, Gary, you just triggered long repressed memories of my first camping expedition in Alaska. “We’ve got you set up to conduct an operation on Unimak Isaland. Here’s all the gear you’ll need, the Goose is waiting to take you out there.”

    Gorgeous spring weather the day I arrived, then all Aleutian Hell broke loose. Crappy Gerry pup tent blew down, so I used it for a bevy for three days. Stove didn’t work, partially due to the 60 mph winds and snow alternating with freezing rain. Cold, reconstituted freeze dried food and lake water to drink.

    If I learned anything, I NEVER use gear I haven’t personally tested out.

    Camping brings back such fond memories……

    MTV
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  28. #28
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    I soon learned that tents were to be avoided and slept in the Cessna Hotel whenever possible. Latest seems to be the single pole TeePee tent with titanium wood stove and pipe. Not sure about winds with them but they work in winter. Nothing beats the Arctic Oven style from what little I care to know.

    Gary
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    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    I should quit reading this thread. A few days ago I didn't think I needed a tent. Now I'm comparing Arctic Oven tent styles and am ready to plan some winter camping. It looks like luxury compared to what I'm used to.
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  30. #30
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Winter camping in an Arctic Oven - is really not. From what I've seen and have been told it's a rational way to enjoy the moment w/o being (in today's verbage) "uncomfortable." Have a cot to elevate above the ground. Light like LED's to view. And a nice companion stove for baking biscuits: https://hottentcamping.com/6-best-co...s-for-camping/

    Gary
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  31. #31
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Here are some imaginative camping ideas. Watch some of these you-tube video's: https://campingwithsteve.com
    N1PA
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    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    I checked out the Arctic Oven tents…wow, they are pricey! They look great though, and if I did winter camping it would be a different thing to consider.

    I packaged up the tent poles for my Big House 4 and sent them off to Big Agnes yesterday. I look forward to reporting how this goes.

    In the meantime, subscribing to the concept that a person cannot own too many tents, I’m looking at the North Face VE-25 as a tent to carry in the cub for winter. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Randy
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  33. #33
    WindOnHisNose's Avatar
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    While on the subject of tents, I would like to read about any off season things you folks do to keep your tents ready for the next year’s adventures.

    Bill Tracy told me that he waterproofs his rain fly and tent floor every year. I started doing this last year.

    Any other thoughts?

    Randy

  34. #34
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    True cold winter camping (sometimes becomes survival) requires heat in some form soon after landing. Everything including ourselves starts to cool off quickly. At some point our energy output becomes less than necessary to maintain peripheral circulation, so the body tends to shut that off or at least reduce it to maintain core temp. Building a shelter of local materials or tent set up should be done early not late in that sequence. That means having an external source of heat going right now like a small wood stove or generator and electric heater can be critical to maintain body warmth while preparing camp, especially if it's stormy. Any tent that requires lengthy setup moves can be a challenge especially if alone in the wilderness. A simple small canvas wall tent or center pole tipi sets up quick then add the wood stove or other source of heat to warm it up. If it's dark have a headlamp.

    Gary
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  35. #35
    TVATIVAK71's Avatar
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    Was considering buying another tent to compliment my north face sleeping tent. My copilot wouldn’t shut up about these “Kifaru tipi” floorless tents and the third day of listening to his raves I gave up and bought one. Had a bit of sticker shock and buyers remorse till I used it and that feeling went away quickly. They come not seam sealed so be prepared to dilute some clear silicone with acetone to brush on the stitches. It’s our lounge tent. Can stand up in it to change clothes, lots of space and made a tyvek floor that comes with on some trips. Don’t have the wood stove yet but will in the near future. I was not only impressed with the outrageous high price but how small it is stuffed and it took an honest 30-40kts with ease. Two aluminum rods and guy ropes…that’s it. Good customer service as well.

    Not sure the whole floorless thing would be comfortable in a spider,scorpion and snake setting. They seem fine around Bears…..
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  36. #36

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    You guys crack me up. The irony in this thread is so thick and prevalent I can't help myself. Anytime a $1,000 airplane part is destroyed because it was used or abused well beyond its design capability we shrug and replace it. The Same should be done with tents, old or new. I've replaced several sets of poles through the years either through the manufacturer or via an outfit like tentpoles.com. all with satisfactory results. Some I've paid for, some I haven't.

    Then there's the weight deal, spend $1,000's to save a plane pound only to dump a 20# tent in baggage, I know I know that's why we save weigh in the plane but really? And we want a big comfy tent we can stand up in, or use a cot in but we want it light and that it'll stand up to hurricane force winds, as my mom used to say : pick one.

    If you're looking at a VE25 for a 4 season tent (not a VE24 it doesn't have a vestibule) be sure to include a Eureka K2XT in your research. I have well over 150 nights in a VE25 canoeing in the NWT's. It served me well but I wore it out. I replaced it with the K2XT. The k2 is 11.125# while the VE25 is 9.5#, (either are light compared to the 20#arctic ovens)but its several hundred dollars cheaper and Eureka warranty and customer service is great. I wore out a Eureka mushroom as well and Eureka rebuilt it a couple.
    times for me, once they had the audacity to charge me postage, all the other fixers were free.

    I've now had the K2XT on a few river trips and to the high camps on Aconcagua, it will hold up to wind.

    There I feel better now
    Staying alive in an airplane has a lot more to do with mastering ourselves than mastering the aircraft.
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  37. #37
    cubdrvr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WindOnHisNose View Post
    While on the subject of tents, I would like to read about any off season things you folks do to keep your tents ready for the next year’s adventures.

    Bill Tracy told me that he waterproofs his rain fly and tent floor every year. I started doing this last year.

    Any other thoughts?

    Randy
    Bibler I-tent (now called Black Diamond I-tent) is a great one person and gear tent ( 2 if you want to be cramped ). This really is a bombproof tent......easy to set up, no rain fly, and withstands any weather I've been in but I've not used it in the winter. It's been used extensively on camping trips in the US, caribou hunt in AK, and mountain climbing in Mexico........never an issue and completely waterproof. Every couple years I give it a light waterproof spray coat and use a seam sealer. Use a ground cover. I can't say enough good about this tent.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    "Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar"

  38. #38
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    P.S. I now use a blow up air mattress ( creature comforts ya know) that has the exact footprint of the tent.
    "Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar"
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