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Bikers at the Gates of Dawn
By Jan Nikolajsen - (contact)

Camping gear and other material concerns, part one: The Tent

Friday July 17, 2009

Now we have a page on CGOAB titled 'camping gear', but..how do one make this dry topic interesting and read worthy? Will other tourers learn anything from reading our equipment lists, or more to the point, will anyone read them at all? In an attempt to garner your interest for the following I will try to be overly opinionated and elitist!!

We have not spent a great deal of time thinking about the camping gear. The bikes and their components, being sort of paramount to this type of outing, have lately absorbed all the attention, available finances and tweaking power. Also we pretty much already have everything needed in the camping department from backpacking and other pursuits. This is good. We know that the stuff works for us, and how it works and how to fix it if it stops working.

The equipment choices are the best available for our situation, our particular usage and came to us through a lot of trial and error. This stuff is probably not what you would consider the ideal, but that's fine. Personally I doubt there's better gear out there.

Tent. In the last 20 years (read: hundreds of night in campgrounds and backcountry) I have used 2 tents. Before that there were other ones, but they all fell short in some way or another. Mostly they just fell apart. But then I discovered two tent makers that both create excellent, but uniquely different shelters. Stephenson's and Hilleberg. I'll let you do the research on the former since we're not bringing my 2R on this trip.

The one that will go along is a Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT. '3' for three people, 'GT' for super-extendo vestibule. This very roomy, yet reasonably light tent is amazingly well constructed. It is stable in high winds and absolutely waterproof, top to bottom. So, these are off course criteria that all tents should meet. Let's assume they do, even though most don't, and look into the other strong selling points for Hilleberg:

It is not free standing but rather a tunnel design. Why is this good, if not essential? Less poles, and shorter ones too for the same or greater interior volume meaning less weight. Tunnel tents also score high points when it comes to ease of setting up, especially under adverse wind conditions where you can thread all the poles flat on the ground with everybody holding down the flapping cloth and then at the right moment quickly stretch it out and be done. 'Freestanding' is a convenience concept, implying that you don't need to drive stakes in the ground. But only absolute novices will pitch any tent un-anchored.

Further aiding in the ever important fast set-up time is Hilleberg's (or any other of the 'serious' Scandinavian tents) feature of always having the inner tent and fly attached together, semi-permanently. When you're pitching a Hilleberg you're pitching one tent. Done deal. None of this dome stuff where, after inserting and tensioning miles of poles in confusing patterns, you still have to unfold, perfectly orient and attach a rain fly on top of the tent. But if someone really want to lie there all night worrying about sudden weather changes, well, for them it is also quite easy to pitch the Hilleberg without this rain fly.

The generous vestibule on the Nallo GT series is accomplished with very little extra weight, again due to the superior tunnel design. In bad weather one can cook in here without steaming up the sleeping compartment. It's a great place to store piles of gear, even bikes (with some difficulty, admittedly). In prolonged rain one person can sit in the vestibule, making it just bearable for 3 humans to be cooped up in a small space.

As mentioned these tents are made for the rigors that nature throw at us at regular intervals. We have used it in some really hard storms with no problems. The style we likely are going to adopt on the upcoming bike tour will not involve a lot of campgrounds, and certainly very few hotels (for both options the financial burden is an effective limitation), but rather night after night of 'au sauvage' camping. Having a super dependable, well camouflaged shelter in the kit is what we want. One can certainly argue that it's a bit more than the average credit card tourer would need.

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Hilleberg Nallo 3 GT, early summer 2005

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Same trip as the top image. Trying to dry out after fleeing the high country in a big downpour.


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"Bikers at the Gates of Dawn" Copyright © 2009-2014 By Jan Nikolajsen - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on July 17, 2009 22:59 PDT, last updated on August 31, 2009 22:10 PDT
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