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  • Shopping for a 1-Person Backpacking Tent

    Posted on April 21st, 2017 admin No comments

    When I was younger, I did a bit of bike touring and backpacking with my kids.  I toted a three-person tent for them, and a bivy shelter for myself.  Had thought for years about getting a light-weight 1- or 2-person tent and getting back into it.  But the wife isn’t into that kind of camping (her ideal is to camp in a motel) and I kept putting it off.

    This summer, I have the opportunity to do a bit of touring with Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet, who is organizing a bunch of trips.  This gives me a chance to revisit the light tent idea.    For the first trip, there are four possibilities:

    1. Drive my current 4-person dome tent to the destination and leave it there, bike to the campsite, ride back, then drive back to the camp and retrieve the tent.  A bit of organization and time required, but only cost is for gas.  This is a good tent with full fly and huge vestibule: I can stand up in it, there’s lots of room for gear or a roommate if necessary.  Hey, I can pre-deliver lawn chairs, a table, all the comforts of car camping!
    2. Use my current “emergency” bivouac, which consists of a “survival blanket”  (from Survive Outdoors Longer),  a lightweight nylon tarp for a ground sheet, and bits of rope and parachute cord.  I’ve used this system for years for winter camping where mosquitoes aren’t a problem.  With a bit of mosquito netting, I could  probably make this work (and mossies usually go to bed shortly after I do!).   Total mass including cordage less than 0.8 kg, cost was about $25 total.  These things live in my day pack (in various iterations) and have seen emergency use over the years.

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

    3. Purchase a used tent.  I found a bottom-end 2-person tent by Escort for $10 at the local Second Glance store, the kind with a handkerchief-sized fly that lets the rain in when you open the door and bleeds moisture in through the fabric wherever you touch it.  Since the trip will probably be cancelled for inclement weather, this would do, but I really don’t like that kind of tent on general principles.  Still, price is great.  Mass about 2 kg, surprisingly low.    I also found a rather large and somewhat hefty used  2.5 kg Cabela 1-person tent on for $150.   Tempted by that one, despite its relatively high mass.
    4. Purchase a new tent.   Ah, but what to buy.   Prices range from cheapie Chinese knockoffs for under $100 to high-end ultra-light technical marvels in the $800+ range.

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    I can afford good quality, and I generally try to buy the best gear that I can afford — but can I justify it for a few occasional uses?   I’m not apt go get seriously back into either bike touring or backpacking because I currently have no one to go with, and it worries my wife when I head off on my own (unhappy wife, unhappy life).

    In the end, I narrowed my choices to the entry-level Naturehike Wind-Wing 1 from GearBest in China ($102 delivered, complete with footprint; 1.7 kg) , and the mid-priced Spark 1 from Mountain Equipment Coop ($299 delivered, footprint extra $32, total mass 1.3 kg)

    MEC's Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    MEC’s Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    Naturehike is a Korean company specializing in outdoor merchandise.   Their products are generally well-reviewed and they appear to be reasonably well-made.   Nobody is going to pretend that they’re similar to a Big Agnes or a MSR Carbon Reflex, but for a starter tent it looks like a reasonable choice at an attractive price.

    Mountain Equipment Coop is local, and there’s some merit to spending my money in Canada.   MEC offers a rock-solid guarantee and I was really tempted by the Spark 1 tent.  It’s a bit larger and roomier than the Wind-Wing, is 400 grams lighter, and might be a little more compact when packed (hard to tell from the online images).  But at more than three times the price, it seems a bit high for “I’ll try this to see how I like it”.   If I were younger, or if I had a travelling companion, and knew I were going to be doing a lot of light-weight travel, I’d get the 2-person Spark 2.

    But life is what it is, and for now I’m on my own or going with a group.   Today I put in the order for the NH Wing 1 and paid a little extra for tracked air shipping and delivery insurance, for a total of $102 CAD. Watch for a review soon.


  • Go RVing Canada Hosts 2011 Photo Contest

    Posted on July 30th, 2011 admin No comments

    Camera-toting RVers, here’s your chance to show your stuff! Enter Go RVing Canada’s 2011 Take Your Best RV Shot Photo Contest

    GoRVing Canada is inviting RVers to submit their best RV-related camping photos for a chance to win prizes and bragging rights in four categories:

    • Fun-filled discoveries and activities
    • Family portraits
    • Memorable sunsets
    • Breathtaking nature

    No purchase necessary, no entry fee.  Entry deadline is August 29th, 2011 at 11:59:59 pm ET, with winners announced on September 2nd, 2011 at 2:00 pm ET

    It’s not entirely clear how winners will be chosen.  There is a chance for people to view the gallery and “Like” a photo — but WARNING!  You only have ONE “Like” vote, so view all the photos before picking one.   Oddly enough, when I checked, every photo had 45 “likes”.  Every last one.


    • Grand Prize – $750.00 gift card to Henry’s, Canada’s Digital Camera Centre
    • Category Prizes –$200.00 President’s Choice gift card


    • JPG format only
    • Available to residents of Canada (age 13+) only
    • Henry’s is an eastern outfit, so any winner west of Winnipeg will have to order online.
    • Be sure to read all the rules and regulations
    • Enter by uploading your photos to the contest site
    • The entry form lacks a field to choose the category, so be sure you indicate one in your title or description
    • Photos must be yours, and you give up all rights forever without recompense
    • You have to have written consent from people in your photo

    RV shutterbugs, take your best shot — and good luck.

  • Buckskin Mountain State Park

    Posted on June 17th, 2011 admin No comments

    I can’t believe that here it is June and we’re still sorting out photos and details of our winter trip!  Okay, some things got in the way…

    Dawn relaxing by the cabana at Buckskin Mountain State Park

    On our way back from California to Canada last March, we stopped at Buckskin Mountain StatePark on recommendation of both friends at home and people we met while traveling.

    Except for lounging on the beach during the warmest part of the day, we didn’t take part in any of the water activities.

    To clarify, the missus lounged while I went hiking !  To me, the hiking was the best part of that stop.  In one afternoon, I covered the short but steep Lightning Bolt Trail, took the guided nature walk called the Buckskin Trail, explored a series of abandoned mines, and wandered some unmarked quad trails that headed off into the desert.

    A view of the Colorado River from a trail on Buckskin Mountain

    It was only about four miles, but there were lots of stops to read about and examine desert plants, and it took time to poke into old mine shafts, and just wander about to see what’s over yonder knoll.

    I’m a fairly strong hiker and did it all in one go, but some seniors (senior to me!) I met along the way were doing one trail per day and taking their time.  We agreed that it was a pleasant hike.

    I’d have liked to visit Interruption Point too (only another mile round trip) but it was getting close to suppertime and I knew Dawn would worry if I were gone any longer.

    Ah well, it’s good to save something for the next visit!

  • Fulltime Families Winner

    Posted on May 16th, 2011 admin No comments
    Fulltime Families is a web site and magazine for a niche RV market of families on the road.

    Kimberly and Chris and their four “kidlets” are living the dream of full-time RVing.  They established their site to help link other travel families for support, education, socializing, and problem-solving.FTF Logo The site continues to grow in response to recognized needs particular to families living in the RV.

    I’ve subscribed to Kimberly’s excellent magazine from the beginning, and it’s always a good read even if our family isn’t full-time.

    It was a nice surprise to receive this email from Kimberly:  “Congratulations to Tom Gray, who found the “Happy Camper” hidden in our April Issue.  He won a Rand McNally Boredom Busters Gift Pack!”

    Thanks, lass.  I look forward to receiving it, and to future issues of FtF Magazine.
  • Full Time Families – Online Magazine for RVers

    Posted on January 7th, 2011 admin No comments

    The new Full Time Families magazine is aimed especially at full-time RVers but is of interest to any in the RVing community.

    If you travel by motor home, trailer, caravan, or camper, please subscribe. It’s free, and the monthly eMagazine is well-done, full of recipes, family activities, events, and more.

    And if you’d be so kind as to include my name (Thomas Alan Gray) in the comments section of the subscription form, I have a chance to win a nice prize: a one-year membership in the Harvest Hosts program. This program invites RVers to stay overnight free at working vineyards and farms in the US (at present) and Canada (scheduled for 2011) .

    Thank you in advance to anyone who helps me out!


    Update August 1, 2011

    The magazine is no longer free.  A subscription membership is $15 USD.

  • Banff Bans Booze – Long Weekends Liquor-Free in Park Campgrounds

    Posted on November 29th, 2010 admin No comments

    You‘ve picked a lovely site adjacent to the river. You’ve had a wonderful day playing in the water and hiking along the shore followed by a great meal cooked over the campfire. You’ve just tucked the kids into bed and are relaxing beside the fire, chatting quietly and planning tomorrow’s activities. A rig pulls in down the road…


    Far too many times, drunken idiots have spoiled a camping weekend. Loud, obnoxious, and inconsiderate party animals do not belong in family campgrounds. What do you do about them?

    I approach them quietly and politely point out that we’re in the next campsite and that my wife and/or the kids are tired and need to sleep. If that doesn’t work, I go to the campground supervisor/host/manager. If that doesn’t work, I call the local police.

    • A few, but only a very few, do respond to a polite request to tone it down.
    • Most just tell me to f*** off and carry on.
    • Appeals to the campground management are generally not helpful for the same reason; the a**holes ignore the campground host or manager, or are quiet only until the manager is out of earshot.
    • Occasionally, the RCMP have kindly responded by evicting the offenders (Usually at 02:00 after two previous warnings. Why do they bother with the warnings? It just wastes time.)
    • If nothing else works, as on two occasions, we’ve packed up and moved and demanded our money back because the campground operators  are not enforcing their own regulations.

    That’s why I was pleased to see an item in the Banff Crag and Canyon reporting that the Banff National Park would continue its trial liquor control for long-weekends, to help ensure family-friendly camping.

    As I see it, the problem is not liquor. It’s the behaviour of the drinkers. I enjoy a glass of wine with meals and the occasional beer or highball, and you’re welcome to indulge too. As long as you are courteous and respectful of others, tipple on.

    Unfortunately, the noisy obnoxious drunkards don’t give a hoot about anybody but themselves. If the best solution is to ban the booze, I’ll gladly forego a drink or two for a good night’s sleep and keeping the grandkids safe and comfortable.

    This rant was originally published at, Nov 29, 2010

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