New Tent: Camping with Dogs
On the Boston to Ushuaia trip, we used the REI Quarter Dome T3 tent. Conventional motorcycle camping wisdom is that you need a tent at least one person bigger in order to fit you and your gear, so we went with a 3-person tent.
It was just about perfect for us and our gear, and it held up decently in the weather we encountered on that trip. However, I declined to camp in Patagonia, in part because I wasn’t sure how well the tent would hold up in the crazy wind there.
Since returning from South America, we’ve camped a few times in the US, and discovered that in hot weather – like the weather we encountered at the BMW MOA Rally last year – this tent just does not have adequate ventilation with the fly on. With the fly off, the tent is completely mesh – so it’s fine on ventilation but offers zero privacy.
We quickly determined, though, that this tent was utterly inadequate for camping with the dogs.
On the one car camping trip we did with the dogs last summer, the tent was barely wide enough for us and the dogs. The dogs were squished between us or on the edge of the tent. And we didn’t even have our motorcycle gear! There was no way, from a space standpoint, that a 3-person tent would work for two motorcyclists and two dogs. Not to mention that the condensation and heat that the dogs generate requires some serious ventilation.
We began looking into 4-person tents. We prefer 3-season tents, because as motorcyclists, if you’re camping in the snow, you’re doing it wrong. We survived in our REI 3-season tent down to around 30 degrees, although it was uncomfortable. Much below that and it’s time for us to ride somewhere warmer. This is unfortunate, because there are some great 4-season, 4-person expedition tents that are heavy-duty for cold-weather use – but completely lack the ventilation we require for warm-weather travel. And traveling with dogs.
Most of the other 4 person tents are made for car camping.
We have some pretty specific requirements, and this Marmot is one of the few tents that filled them. First, Kay is absolutely sold on having a vestibule. We do use the vestibule a lot when camping, for things like boots and occasionally to bring in a pannier we’ll need to access, so there is value in a vestibule. This particular tent has a roomy (single) vestibule, and it even has a footprint for the vestibule floor. Bonus.
We wanted something that offered some mesh for ventilation, but wasn’t completely mesh under the fly. The Marmot seemed like a good blend. Plenty of mesh in the middle and top of the tent, but no mesh in the bottom – giving us a little bit of privacy if we decide to camp with the fly off.
We also think that having the mesh further up the tent will help prevent wind and cold air from blowing directly into the tent with the fly on. The guy we talked with at REI said this is one of the few 4-person tents with a fly that comes all the way down to the ground, and he agreed that it was the best compromise we were likely to find between something that had some mesh for ventilation, but could also function in lower temperatures.
The floor is a heavier weight denier than most other tents in this size range, which we think will be helpful in protecting the tent floor from dog claws. We also got the footprint for it.
And we believe it should have adequate space for us, the dogs *and* our gear if we lay things out well.
(And for the record, we did go to an REI store and set the thing up in the store to check out its construction, evaluate its size and decide whether it was right for us. Big kudos to REI for making it possible for us to do this!)
On the downside, it’s a bit taller than I’d like – it’s almost tall enough for us to stand up inside, which I fear means it may not perform as well in tough weather. But it seems to have a good guyline system, and the fly can attach to the tent poles underneath, giving it additional structure and rigidity.
Is it the best tent overall for motorcycle travel? Probably not. It’s taller and bigger than most motorcyclists will need. And it does NOT pack small – that bad boy makes a big (and heavy) bundle. If we weren’t on a Ural, I don’t really know quite how we’d carry it.
But given our unique circumstances of motorcycle travel and camping with two dogs, I think it’s probably the right tent for us.
Looking forward to a chance to test it in the next month or two so we can review it properly!