Friday, September 08, 2006

Setting up a tent, badda-boom, badda-bing. Or not.

Jeff Thomas, editor of The Gazette, camps more than just about any of us here in the newsroom. And he usually leads a troop of Boy Scouts at the same time. He sends the following:

Do I suffer from tent ineptitude? Or are the camping gods toying with me?

For more than two camping seasons I'd been having the darnedest time getting the last of the poles into the final corner grommet of my MSR Ventana, a two-person, 4 lb. 14 oz. tent.

I could get one pole -- either one -- connected just fine. But that second pole, I pulled and pulled and stretched and bent it so hard it nearly buckled as I bowed it -- really bowed it -- to get the end into the requisite hole. I was putting the silver pole into the correct sleeve, and the black pole into the correct sleeve. I actually read, then followed, the setup instructions -- a tough moment for any guy, and the reason why I know there is no particular sequence of assembly required.

I made triple-dog sure there were no kinks in the sleeves or unused slack somewhere. Still, it was always a muscle-quivering, teeth-clenching death match to close that last inch of gap between the pole tip and the grommet.

This week I took the tent back to REI to get the poles shortened. Just a half-inch or so off each, I said.

A friendly voice from REI called me a couple hours later: Uh, you sure you want to shorten these poles? They fit perfectly.

I went in. He showed me. Sure enough, he put the tent up in a flash.

Gimme that, I said. I took the tent down, then set it up myself, badda-boom, badda-bing. No sweat.

What gives? Am I tent challenged? Or is this one of those "joys of camping" I've heard so much about?

Anyone else have tent ineptitude? Phantom stoves? A headlamp that only goes out when you need it?

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