Author Topic: Cheap tent waste of time?  (Read 8648 times)

Ricky

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Cheap tent waste of time?
« on: June 29, 2015, 09:55:55 PM »
Target has an off brand tent for $30 and I was thinking about picking it up for occasional car camping.

What's the catch? I've seen tents that are upwards of $350 for a 2 person.

http://www.target.com/p/embark-2-person-dome-tent-4-6-x7-6-x48-red/-/A-13054998

vagon

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2015, 10:34:19 PM »
Maybe nothing wrong with it. Have a look at the stiching if you have the opportunity.
That tent is quite small which can lead to problems with waterproofing as your belongings touch the sides.

Have you been camping before?

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2015, 10:47:43 PM »
It just depends on the conditions you're going to encounter. If you just need something to keep the bugs out and deflect a little rain when you're camping, you'll probably be fine with anything large enough. On the other hand, if you're say, climbing in -20 to - 40C conditions in Antarctica or up in Alaska on McKinley with feet of snow pouring down on you or getting pounded by 90+ mph winds on Aconcagua, anything short of the best is very literally putting your life in danger.  We used VE-25 and another similar tent model which easily run $500+, but well worth it in extraordinary conditions.

Ricky

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2015, 07:11:51 AM »
I've only camped when younger and a few times in high school. I have never actually owned a tent.

I pretty much only going to be car camping in the 3 seasons. I may do some backpacking eventually, but I doubt very much.

wtjbatman

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 07:14:55 AM »
It just depends on the conditions you're going to encounter. If you just need something to keep the bugs out and deflect a little rain when you're camping, you'll probably be fine with anything large enough. On the other hand, if you're say, climbing in -20 to - 40C conditions in Antarctica or up in Alaska on McKinley with feet of snow pouring down on you or getting pounded by 90+ mph winds on Aconcagua, anything short of the best is very literally putting your life in danger.  We used VE-25 and another similar tent model which easily run $500+, but well worth it in extraordinary conditions.

Considering he said "occasional car camping" in his first sentence, I don't think the OP means he's driving his car to Antarctica.

I could be wrong though.

Candace

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 07:19:03 AM »
I used this tent recently for two nights in the Grand Canyon:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/7-x-7-Dome-Tent-Sleeps-2/42206190

It performed extremely well in a big windy rainstorm one night and a big windy windstorm the next night. It slept both of us, our queen-sized air mattress, and our gear pretty comfortably. We were both impressed by how well it performed in the weather we encountered.

James

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2015, 07:33:56 AM »
Tents are like bikes, it is really hard to give a general opinion on what to get for someone else...

But advice is the same, start with used if that is available in your area. There are some great used tents out there going cheap since people buy an expensive tent and then rarely use it. But finding them is hard, so might not be a great option. Buying new just means buying for your purpose. You don't say how often you camp, what the tent would be set up on, what typical weather conditions will be, how many people in it, how long you want it to last, and what your budget is.

I wouldn't buy a cheap tent myself having used them and regretted it, but that's just me. I would look for something that is an older "tried and true" model. Nothing new and fancy, but not the cheap crap. But maybe you don't know if you will use it or what size to get, and just want to get something to get started. In that case buying something cheap might help you understand what you value in a tent and what you want long term, and then you can buy a good one in a few years. In general buy something bigger than you think you need if new to camping, what seems "just right" is probably too small once it starts to rain or whatever, and the slight increase in size doesn't add a lot to the tent cost.

But I would go borrowed or used if possible, just get something and start camping. Hard to know what you want without experience.


Ricky

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2015, 07:34:37 AM »
I'm noticing the super cheap tents have fiberglass poles and the more expensive ones have aluminum. Anything to be concerned with there or is it simply a weight thing?

Clean Shaven

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2015, 07:37:02 AM »
Fiberglass poles are heavier and break more easily than aluminum.

If you plan on camping more than once, pay a little more. Look at REI outlet online, you can usually get a good quality tent for around $100, and it'll keep the weather out.

nereo

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2015, 07:38:45 AM »
While it's true that you need a serious four-season, >$500 tent in Antarctica or on McKinley, there are differences in tents that even occasional backpackers/car-campers will find relevant.

The $30-75 tents sold at Target and Walmart will do a fine job at keeping the bugs out and shedding some light rain.  They should hold up fine in mild-to-moderate winds.  If you don't anticipate ever pitching your tent in howling winds or being caught in steady rain (or have an 'escape plan' like a motel) you will be just fine. The tent you showed was single-wall, so in any amount of rain (or morning dew) whenever you lean up against the side of the tent you are going to get a bit damp.  That can be annoying for weekend car-campers but it can seriously screw with your trip if you are backcountry and you can't keep your stuff dry.
More expensive, 'name-brand' tends (e.g. Mountain Hardware, Marmot, Bibler, Black-Diamond, etc) are made with better fabrics that are stronger, more water repellant and hold up much better in big downpours or strong winds.  More expensive tents also have better flow-through ventilation (which eliminates/reduces condensation), more guy-out points (critical in very windy & exposed areas) mesh pockets and lighter-but-stronger pole systems.

I led a field course for biology students in Baja, Mexico and we'd pitch camp right on the beach.  The students who brought cheap-o tents (despite all our warnings) saw their tents shredded within days with the steady 25-30 knot winds. 

spokey doke

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2015, 08:09:20 AM »
While it's true that you need a serious four-season, >$500 tent in Antarctica or on McKinley, there are differences in tents that even occasional backpackers/car-campers will find relevant.

The $30-75 tents sold at Target and Walmart will do a fine job at keeping the bugs out and shedding some light rain.  They should hold up fine in mild-to-moderate winds.  If you don't anticipate ever pitching your tent in howling winds or being caught in steady rain (or have an 'escape plan' like a motel) you will be just fine. The tent you showed was single-wall, so in any amount of rain (or morning dew) whenever you lean up against the side of the tent you are going to get a bit damp.  That can be annoying for weekend car-campers but it can seriously screw with your trip if you are backcountry and you can't keep your stuff dry.
More expensive, 'name-brand' tends (e.g. Mountain Hardware, Marmot, Bibler, Black-Diamond, etc) are made with better fabrics that are stronger, more water repellant and hold up much better in big downpours or strong winds.  More expensive tents also have better flow-through ventilation (which eliminates/reduces condensation), more guy-out points (critical in very windy & exposed areas) mesh pockets and lighter-but-stronger pole systems.

I led a field course for biology students in Baja, Mexico and we'd pitch camp right on the beach.  The students who brought cheap-o tents (despite all our warnings) saw their tents shredded within days with the steady 25-30 knot winds.

Yep, this is pretty sound info. - a scenario to consider is the long rainy night in which you wake up to find out your tent leaks and your sleeping back is soaked.  It may not happen even with a cheap tent that has been well seam sealed, but it might.

We picked up a larger tent for car camping, and I pretty much stuck with REI brand tents, like their Camp Dome series, which go on sale fairly often.  Even then it will be more money, but might not break the bank (under $100 for the 2 person model).

Ricky

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2015, 08:13:43 AM »
Yeah I just ran across the REI one for $100. It has 2 doors and aluminum poles. Plus, REI would swap it out if anything ever went wrong. I'm gonna go that route I think!

Melody

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2015, 08:48:36 AM »
I had a $30 Wal-Mart tent in the US and it was great, seriously sad I couldn't fit it in my luggage coming home. Used it roughtly every fortnight for six months and has no issues including in light snow. My $18 Aussie tent is pretty mediocre but keeps the sun off etc. Basically it's a tent for 6 months of the year. But even it has gone fine, and I most recently took it on a plane to camp in another state. For car camping when it's not rainy pretty much any tent will do, although look at the construction there are good cheap and bad cheap, but even bad cheap will likely be ok. Fwiw $18 tent had lasted 5 years going on 2 or so short trips a year. So while a quality tent would likely last me a lifetime, at less than $2 a night it makes a strong argument for itself :-)

Melody

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2015, 08:51:42 AM »
If you have a station wagon just sleep in it. I never owned a tent until I moved to the US as I always had a wagon and used to camp pretty often. Without the wagon camping is a lot less appealing. 

nereo

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2015, 09:22:59 AM »
If you have a station wagon just sleep in it. I never owned a tent until I moved to the US as I always had a wagon and used to camp pretty often. Without the wagon camping is a lot less appealing.
this works fine only if you want to 'camp' in a parking lot or beside the road.  I used to do the same thing in the back of a pick-up with a camper shell and it worked wonderfully - but it's a completely different beast from actual tent camping.
EDIT: Personally I don't agree that camping is a lot less appealing when sleeping in an actual tent.  For me, being away from roads, people and surrounded by wilderness is a big part of the appeal.  But to each their own.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2015, 09:24:37 AM by nereo »

nprguy

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2015, 10:02:51 AM »

The $30-75 tents sold at Target and Walmart will do a fine job at keeping the bugs out and shedding some light rain.  They should hold up fine in mild-to-moderate winds.  If you don't anticipate ever pitching your tent in howling winds or being caught in steady rain (or have an 'escape plan' like a motel) you will be just fine. The tent you showed was single-wall, so in any amount of rain (or morning dew) whenever you lean up against the side of the tent you are going to get a bit damp.  That can be annoying for weekend car-campers but it can seriously screw with your trip if you are backcountry and you can't keep your stuff dry.
More expensive, 'name-brand' tends (e.g. Mountain Hardware, Marmot, Bibler, Black-Diamond, etc) are made with better fabrics that are stronger, more water repellant and hold up much better in big downpours or strong winds.  More expensive tents also have better flow-through ventilation (which eliminates/reduces condensation), more guy-out points (critical in very windy & exposed areas) mesh pockets and lighter-but-stronger pole systems.
 

As someone with over 13 years in camping gear sales/customer service, I agree with the above advice 100%.  Nereo is obviously experienced and hit all the important points -budget tents are all about expectations, if you don't mind leaving (or canceling) when the weather report calls for steady rain or gusty conditions then a 30 dollar tent with seam sealer applied could be a great tent for one or two nights a year.  Just remember you will likely never be able to find a replacement fly or pole for this type of tent, in my experience some of the cheapest tents use fiberglass poles so thin that you cannot repair them at all (unlike a eureka or even a coleman). You might want to consider what type of sleeping pad you are planning on using.  If using a traditional air mattress remember that a twin is about 40" wide so only one will fit and a taller one (12-20") might not fit very well with the slope of the walls on a tent this small.   

If you want a tent that will probably last for years consider the Eureka Tetragon 2.  It has a better design with much more ventilation, thicker waterproofing, comes sealed with taped seams from the factory and the fiberglass poles are as thick and durable as they come for this size tent (with industry standard body poles that are repairable with a simple kit).  It is a little shorter so might not be great if you are much over 6 foot and not as nice as an aluminum poled backpacking tent from one of the companies nereo recommends, but is a nice entry level tent from a company that in my experience stands behind their products.

Whatever tent you get remember to do the seam sealing if the body is not factory taped and use a ground cloth cut or folded slightly smaller then the tent floor to help protect the bottom of your tent without pooling water under it.  Above all, get out and have some amazing adventures this summer.

hyla

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2015, 10:15:44 AM »
Generally, the main difference between cheap tents and expensive tents is weight and weatherproofness. 

Cheap tents like the one you linked should work fine for car camping, and weather that is rainy or buggy without being an all out storm (in which case you maybe wouldn't be going camping anyway).  Take a look at the tent to see if it feels durable and the seams look ok, but cheap tents can sometimes actually be quite sturdy because they are made with thick (i.e. heavy) fabrics. 

More expensive tents tend to be lighter weight, which is very important for backpacking, but not a big deal if you are carrying the tent 30 feet from your car to a campsite.  Some expensive tents are also designed to withstand more severe weather conditions - sideways rain, high winds, heavy snow loading etc. 

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2015, 11:33:06 AM »
I've had the same Coleman Sundome tent for 4 seasons of camping now. It has held up so well, rain or shine that last year I saw it during the Holidays on Amazon's "lightning deals" and purchased the same exact one for $38 and free shipping to have as a back up when this one finally bites the dust.

We use it 3-4 times a year for 2-4 days at a time upstate NY and in PA with absolutely no issues.

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2015, 11:37:47 AM »
Looks like the OP has the answer, but for the sake of discussion, a small tarp added to the top of a low end or well used tent can add significantly to its rain resistance, if needed in a pinch.  Solid anchoring is a must, though.   

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2015, 02:51:23 PM »
Posting to subscribe, as a Scoutmaster looking for potential replacement tents...

FWIW, we have Alps Taurus 4-men tents, and they've been great for the past two years of nearly-monthly campouts.  The only complaints I have are that ventilation is a bit lacking and the vinyl windows in the fly cracked after being improperly stored.

Bearded Man

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2015, 02:57:33 PM »
I've used the same cheap $30 tent for 7-8 years now and it is still going strong. I have two other tents but don't use them since this one is still going strong. Use it maybe 3-4 times a year.

Ricky

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #21 on: June 30, 2015, 04:14:03 PM »
If you have a station wagon just sleep in it. I never owned a tent until I moved to the US as I always had a wagon and used to camp pretty often. Without the wagon camping is a lot less appealing.
this works fine only if you want to 'camp' in a parking lot or beside the road.  I used to do the same thing in the back of a pick-up with a camper shell and it worked wonderfully - but it's a completely different beast from actual tent camping.
EDIT: Personally I don't agree that camping is a lot less appealing when sleeping in an actual tent.  For me, being away from roads, people and surrounded by wilderness is a big part of the appeal.  But to each their own.
I believe the OP was talking about staying in regular campgrounds that have designated individual sites for tent campers and not just some pull out a long side the road or a Walmart parking lot. Also don't think he was taking about backpacking at all. Just plain old car camping in a place like a state or national park.  In which case sleeping in your vehicle like I often do in my truck with a shell is very doable, comfortable, quiet, often very beautiful and private. However, on long car camping trips I do like to set up a big cabin tent as it's much more roomy compared to my truck and I can leave everything set up when I go off in my vehicle for the day.

A typical car camping site in a NorCal state park campground

Yep, that's exactly what I meant. Mainly want the tent so I have the option of cheap accommodation from time to time when I'm traveling. Have any recommendations on cabin tents?

Bob W

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #22 on: June 30, 2015, 04:39:24 PM »
Craigslist

Melody

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #23 on: June 30, 2015, 04:57:31 PM »
If you have a station wagon just sleep in it. I never owned a tent until I moved to the US as I always had a wagon and used to camp pretty often. Without the wagon camping is a lot less appealing.
this works fine only if you want to 'camp' in a parking lot or beside the road.  I used to do the same thing in the back of a pick-up with a camper shell and it worked wonderfully - but it's a completely different beast from actual tent camping.
EDIT: Personally I don't agree that camping is a lot less appealing when sleeping in an actual tent.  For me, being away from roads, people and surrounded by wilderness is a big part of the appeal.  But to each their own.
I live in Australia so this is camping in national parks, state forest etc in the little campgrounds they have there. As long as it's not a long weekend there will be very few people (if any) there. I also go rogaining (navigational sport) where camping is generally on private property like farms. Also to doofs etc (like a rave in a forest). Most of these things are quite wilderness like. A far cry from a pull in bay or a walmart parking lot.and actually the last pull in bay (aka rest area) I slept in was down by a river, super pretty etc, and far enough off the road I couldn't see it/hear it. Even at the raves, you walk for 5 minutes and see no one but kangaroos and Emus :-) if you are taking a car there is generally no issue with sleeping in it and it still feels like camping. The only time a tent would be preferable is if I were to hike somewhere unreachable by car in which case you need hiking pack and all the gear.

human

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #24 on: June 30, 2015, 10:44:33 PM »
The tent linked in the first post seems to have a pretty dinky rainfly, not sure how it would do in any kind of wet weather.

samburger

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #25 on: July 01, 2015, 09:30:13 PM »
Craigslist

I bought the cheapest tent at Walmart (last-minute purchase) a couple years ago and it's fine. I throw a tarp up to keep the rain off when need be.

Next tent will be from Craigslist, though. No need to get a cheap crappy tent when you get a cheap nice tent.

Fon

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2019, 06:09:35 AM »
Hi guys. Sorry for bumping this ancient thread... Looks like I trying to resurrect dinosaurs. Just my 2 cents.

I've had that specific $30 tent before I upgraded to a $300 3 person tent from REI.

My belief is if buying the $30 tent will get you outside sooner, buy it! I've spent a handful of nights in it with a buddy, and it definitely gets the job done. One time we decided to set up on an exposed hill, and it just so happened that a surprise storm happened that night. The fly held up decently, but it was not guyed down and eventually came flying up, but that's partially due to the stake bending and the tent corner coming loose. Had we known how to set up a tent properly, and taken the proper precautions, we would have been fine.

Although as it's not a full fly (the fly doesn't reach the ground) you are likely to get wet if there's heavy rain and/or windy rain. Also, there was a lot of condensation, but not too bad. Plus the one door on the side is a bit annoying but do-able. Plus, as the fly doesn't reach the ground, there are no vestibules, which can be a problem. Also, the poles are fiberglass, so on the night of the bad storm I told you about one of the poles shattered, and fiberglass splinters in your fingers can be pretty painful. A bit of duct-tape fixed the pole, although it's not a tent that can handle harsh conditions at all.

All-in-all, I think the $200 tent is definitely worth it, as the added comfort and security really makes a trip better in my opinion. But there's no harm in trying it out, as, after all, it's only $30.

Boofinator

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2019, 07:27:49 AM »
My belief is if buying the $30 tent will get you outside sooner, buy it!

Couldn't agree more. When you're first learning a hobby, the important consideration is to become immersed, and the Mustachian way to do so is to not spend a great deal of money on something that may or may not be of long-lasting use and interest. Within time, you will either move on or increase your interest in the hobby; if it's the latter, that's when you have both the knowledge and the proven ability to fully utilize the expensive piece of equipment you're lusting after.

JLee

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2019, 07:33:20 AM »
Malamoo's 3 second tents have been half price for a while now - I suspect they're phasing them out. They're a little spendy, but if you hate poles as much as I do you'll appreciate their setup!

https://www.oztent.us/products/tent-range/malamoorange

https://youtu.be/nvcAxtOTDEg?t=21

thedollarface

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Re: Cheap tent waste of time?
« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2019, 01:11:17 AM »
I was gonna buy a cheap tent but all of the movies that have a camping scene just flashed back and thought of buying a little more sturdy. I'm an outdoor person so I really do invest in some tools. What I do is I set up a tent on the back of my truck. Mine looks like the photo. Also, bought it here just in case you are all wondering: https://www.ramsareus.com/sku/82213286.html