Gear Guy

What tent should I get for camping in the Everglades?

I looking for information on free-standing tents before heading into the Everglades, where I'll be sleeping in the chickee huts along the waterway. Can you point me to some particular manufacturers or Web sites? Jeff Naples, Florida

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Are you sure you even need a tent? If chickee huts (open-walled, palm-roofed shelters) are available, that may be all you need. Or, maybe just a mosquito-net shelter to put inside the chickee hut. The Repel Tropicscreen II ($79;, for instance, is a two-person net shelter that’s ideal for use where it’s warm and humid. The chickee hut can keep off the rain, the net shelter can keep out the bugs.

Of course, lots of other tents would work, too. The term “free standing” is a bit of a misnomer, however. True, most tents use poles only for 90 percent of their structural integrity. But most of these tents also have a loose flap that must be staked out; then it becomes a vestibule. Also, all tents must be staked down, once erected, to ensure they don’t fly away in a strong breeze.

That said, you might consider the MSR Ventana ($250;, a tent that has a canopy that’s almost all mesh. In dry, warm weather, it’s all you need. But if it’s raining, add the polyester fly for good protection against bad weather. The fly requires one stake to support the vestibule, and some stakes for wind security, but otherwise it pops up with poles. Marmot’s Odyssey ($239; is another two-person tent with lots of ventilation. It has a door at the “bow” end, unlike the side-mounted door on the Ventana, giving slightly easier access when two people are inside. But, it doesn’t quite boast the mesh of the Ventana. Mountain Hardwear’s PCT 2 ($189; requires a little staking out to set up, but in exchange you get a very light tent. It also has great ventilation.

The three tents above all are backpacking-style tents. If weight is no object, then look at something such as the Eureka Breezeway ($269;, a big, family-style tent that sleeps four or five and can be set up with only pole-supported mesh for great ventilation. Of course, it weighs 21 pounds, so it’s not something to throw on your back and lug around. But it’s the equivalent of a backcountry palace, big enough for you to stand up in and change clothes. Now that’s luxury!