Can you help me salvage a hand-me-down tent?

I have just acquired a Quest Starlight tent that’s in pretty good shape. But, the older fellow who sold it to me said that it likely wouldn't hold up to several days of rain. Can I make the fly waterproof enough so it won't wet-out if rained on for a long time? What about the floor? Ken Calgary, Alberta

May 5, 2008
Outside Magazine
The North Face Rock 22 Tent

The North Face Rock 22 Tent


Today, class, we are going to deviate from our usual discussion of All Things Gear. Instead, we are going to contemplate another fascinating subject: Economics.

The particular concept that is relevant today is that of the “sunk cost." This is a cost that you already have incurred, and likely cannot recover whatever your future actions. People stuck with sunken costs (also called “stranded" costs), however, often take them into account in their decision-making. For example, you buy a car for $5,000. It breaks down. You can fix it for $6,000, or replace it for $5,000. Many people might choose to repair it, with the logic, “Well, if I don’t fix it, I’ve thrown away $5,000." But they already have thrown away $5,000. All that matters now is what they do in the future.

You, Ken, have a sunk cost. It is called your Quest Starlight tent. You can’t even get them any more—it had to be seven or eight years old when you bought it. And the “older fellow" who sold it to you did not do you any favors, unloading what, by his own admission, was an unreliable tent.

So, let’s say you spent $75 for this piece of cra…I mean, tent. You can spend $10 on Kenyon Re-Coat and try to put a fresh waterproof coating on the fly. Same for the floor. OK, two cans of Re-Coat, so we’re up to $20. And that won’t be anywhere near as good as the factory finish on the tent materials. So then you have a tent that you will still regard as unreliable.

Or, you can simply declare the Quest a “sunk cost" and move on. Go to the Campmor site, check their tent hot deals, and get a The North Face Rock 22 for $130. Brand new, factory fresh, no re-coating required. Or get a Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight for $150. Or check out the REI site and get an REI 2 HC Half Dome for $170.

See where I’m going? You can spend money and time on the Quest and get part way where you want to go, or spend a bit more and be exactly where you need to be.

And that is the end of today’s session, class.

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