In the middle of May, I had to leave my parent’s home in Pasadena, CA and head north to the Oregon Outback.  This was the beginning of the scariest, weirdest portion of my life thus far and I owe my completely unlikely survival to Trump.

Not the guy on TV.  Trump, the tent.

See, I planned to live full-time in a tent for about a month while preparing for my next step in my journey to a travel life.  I shopped for weeks, obsessively investigating and researching tent after tent, looking for something big enough to feel like a home, sturdy enough to handle “high-winds”(that was all the weather I was warned about), and dog-safeness.  I had my selections down to a final three when a tent popped up on the Walmart website that caught my eye.

“Bushnell Shield Series 12 Person 3 Room Instant Cabin Tent”…I chose it on a gut feeling that I still don’t understand and that gut feeling saved my ass.

I set it up once on my parent’s lawn, just to ensure that I could….It was huge (18′ x 11′), but I managed to set it up solo (I’m 5’4 and at the time quite overweight) in under ten minutes without looking at the directions (as tradition dictated).  Then it was loaded on my dad’s pickup with all of my worldly possessions and I set out on my insane journey.

When I arrived in the High desert of the Oregon Outback I began to suspect that conditions would be a little harder than I expected.

We cleared the sage and miscellaneous scrub from the spot for my tent first (pain in the ass). Then we managed to stake it out, just the first six stakes and no guy lines before we had to run for my friend’s trailer, grab our dogs and get inside so that the huge sandstorm wouldn’t flatten us.

During the storm, I stared in horror out the window at the wind and sand obscured my new home. When the storm ended I stared in confusion at my still upright tent.  It was leaning a little towards the back wall, full of sand (the windows and door were all left open when we ran for it), but it was upright.  The sandstorm was quickly followed by a thunderstorm with plenty of rain, that fell on my as of yet unprotected tent, but it handled that as well.  The next day I swept it out, put up the rain fly and staked that down (easy to put up alone but there are a LOT of guy lines and stakes involved) then added four additional guy lined to the center structure after seeing how the wind had caught the back wall and pushed it slightly off center.

IMG_6030

Thusly I filled and arranged my new home.  Less than a week later my friend left town and I stayed in her nearby trailer so I could watch her dogs…I woke up after a temperate day and night to find the world inexplicably blanketed in snow. My attention turned immediately to my tent in the distance under a pile of white.  I shoved my feet in my flip-flops that had been just fine the day before and ran!

I flippety-flopped through piles of snow and slush to my tent and got inside just in time to catch the roof on one side as it started to fold in from the weight on the ceiling. I pushed it back up and spent a few moments punching the rain fly through the mesh ceiling to knock loose the snow until it slid down the sides of the tent (strangely fun to do) then I stood staring at my tent in wonder because inside it was completely dry apart from the wet footprints I’d tracked in.

I put on my boots to warm my feet and left to bring the five resident huskies out into the snow because Husky Snow Joy is one of life’s greatest things. IMG_5603

After the snow, the rain fly was a bit stretched out which added a new dimension of flappiness to life in constant high-velocity desert winds.  After spending a day being driven insane by the flapping I announced to my friend that I was naming my tent, Trump because it was a flappy windbag with orange trim that was keeping relevant longer than expected.  My friend then named her trailer, Hillary, because it should have been doing better than Trump but was apparently full of leaks and vermin. (I am not politically inclined.  They all horrify me equally)

Trump then proceeded to survive 100+ degree temperatures without roasting us alive as the rain fly has “Heat Shield Technology” that actually works. The only time the heat was bad was in the morning when the sun hit the tent wall rather than the rain fly.  I battled this by hanging sheets against the wall to provide better shade from the heat of the sun.

IMG_5970The next battle Trump survived was versus a hail storm. This was a partial loss due to a decision of mine.  It had been a lovely breezy day not two minutes before and my dogs had been playing in the dog yard outside.  I’d had all my windows open to take advantage of the air when the clouds became suddenly dark and threatening.  I was in my friends trailer checking on her dogs inside while she was across town when the thunder and lightning started.  I went to the door and looked out to see my dogs staring as a bolt of lightning hit the scrub just outside of the dog yard.  I looked at the sky and realized I had enough time to save my tent or my dogs.

I got my dogs inside the trailer just seconds before massive hail stones started to slam down.  The ground was covered in seconds and the sound of it hitting the trailer was like being inside a tin can of gravel being shaken.  It was fast and horrifying and I had little faith in the trailer’s survival, let alone the life of my tent.

When the hail lightened I ran back to my tent (again in flip-flops) and found that the inside of the tent was completely soaked.  I had time to zip up all the windows and grab my fortunately covered electronics, poncho, and boots then run back as the hail started again. The rest of the night was spent watching chain lightning and listening to the sky exploding.  In the morning the tent had dried as if nothing had happened.

No leaks, no condensation….nothing.  Just a happy tent.IMG_6007

There followed many thunderstorms, dust devils, fly-hunting dogs with no concept of tent walls, coyotes, bunnies that chew through guy lines, 20 degree nights, and after months standing, the first issue has appeared. I now have to be a little more careful with the zipper.  After constantly daily use for months, the zipper is a little finicky.

Now I am moving into a farm house and no longer need Trump and I am adamant that it be taken down and saved for future camping…because this Trump is kind of a badass.

Breakdown:

Pros:

  • Huge three bedroom with sturdy removable separators so it feels like a small apartment
  • Heavy duty floor and the wall material that refuses to tear and survived a husky assaulting a fly against the side of it.
  • Reflective Heat resistant rain fly that keeps everything completely dry even after two days of non-stop rain and thunderstorms.
  • Big windows and vents for air flow

 

Cons:

  • Only one door
  • only one ceiling hook
  • no floor to ceiling windows for dogs to stare out of
  • Noisy in high winds
  • Mesh Ceiling can get a little cold at night

At this point, even if this tent disintegrates tonight, I will give it a damn Viking Funeral for its exemplary service.  Apart from the heavy snow, it stood up to everything I put it through with a flappy grace.

 

 

 

 

 

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