My Marmot Peapod tent, useful in my glory days, just doesn't have the real estate needed for a two-adult, one-child family. Neither does the single Therm-a-Rest. Can you recommend a quality family tent that is available in Canada? Ditto for a good inflatable double mattress. Bernard Quebec City, Quebec
Ah, excellent! Time for some car-campingthe best kind of camping there is. I've always felt that car-campers are having the most fun in roadside parks. All the RV peopleand I have no argument with them (well, except for the guy with the generator grinding away at that national forest campground near the Wallowa Mountains)are inside by seven o'clock, watching TV. The tent people are all outside by a campfire, watching the stars come out, maybe roasting marshmallows, sipping a good wine.
REI Hobitat 4 Tent
There are several good choices for you. On the domestic front, the MEC Frontenac 4, sold at Mountain Equipment Co-op (C$538; www.mec.ca), sleeps four adults and two youngsters comfortably in a sturdy tent that offers lots of ventilation and windows for more light and better views of the outside world. Its built like a mountaineering tent. On the other hand, MECs Funhouse 6 tent (C$399) is a little more like a traditional" car-camping tent. Its taller than the Frontenac at just over six feet (1.86 meters), versus less than five feet (1.4 meters) in the sleeker Frontenac. So you might be happier in the Funhouse.
Of course there are U.S.-brand tents that you can purchase in Canada or have shipped your way. One that I like is the new REI Hobitat 4 (currently on sale for US$190, C$210; www.rei.com), which sleeps four quite nicely in a very tall tentsix feet, six inches (nearly two meters) in the middle. Its a well-made tent, but with that height it wont be great in super-high winds. And when I set one up a while back, I found I needed a HUGE radius to manage the poles, but thats true for most large tents. Otherwise, its well-made, well-ventilated, weatherproof, and reasonably priced.
Eurekas Equinox 6 (US$350, C$387; www.eurekatent.com) sleeps six, which means more room for everyone, in a well-made tent that like the MEC and REI tents has aluminum poles (tougher and lighter than fiberglass).
For a mattress, Id get an Aero Sport All-Terrain Mattress (www.thinkaero.com) in the twin size (US$70, C$78) or the queen (US$90, C$100). I mean, why not be comfortable?
Check out this years more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive tents section, in the 2006 Buyers Guide.