My first mountain tent---and why?

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Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 15, 2010 - 09:53pm PT
My First Mountain Tent and why?

Late summer 1972 I was back in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range with Harry, David, & some river-guide friends. The weather was unkind.

I pitched my plastic tube-tent.

It snowed 4 inches overnight and I awoke with snow in my nostrils and elsewhere.

The morning weather was promising.

The river-guides all left, explaining that: “it was going to be the Saturday night stomp in Stanley, and that beat freezing their asses in the mountains”.

The day was OK, but we didn’t climb much.

It snowed another 4 inches overnight and once again I had snow all over my upper body in the night.

Sometime that night I had the: revelation, epiphany, and the catharsis:
I needed to buy a decent tent!

Since the three of us were soon headed for the Cascades, and then Bugaboos, to climb----it had to be a 3-person tent.

I had a summers worth of river guide wages and tips to blow and could buy the best.

The best 3-person tent in 1972 was the Sierra Designs 3-man.

Pilgrims: this is when tents were still built in California with skill and care. Set me back $150.00.

It was a thing of beauty and was “the state of the art” until North Face started building dome tents in late 1975.



Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 15, 2010 - 10:31pm PT
Oh Dave: You would have fit into the U of Idaho fraternity whose members cut down a "dead larch" next to their frat-house one winter.

Larches are conifers that turn yellow and drop their needles every fall. The Canadian larch is a high altitude variety.

Larches really brighten up the fall forest view in the northern-Rockies.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jan 15, 2010 - 10:52pm PT
I loved those three pole SD mids. Like a lot of gear from that era they give me a deep feeling of happiness just seeing pictures of it. Not sure why. I guess there was just more adventure in the universe back then. Whatever it is, when I see '70s gear, tents, ice axes, skis, super gators, whatever, I get a little spark in my eye that has been long missing. My first decent tent was a North Face Sierra (I believe). Two person with two a-frame poles. Hard as hell to set up in the wind and snow. must of needed 18 stakes to make it taught. But damn did I feel secure with that thing after years of tarping it.

I guess the world is just brighter when you're young and there is so much to explore still...
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:03pm PT
It was a thing of beauty and was “the state of the art” until North Face started building dome tents in late 1975.

That was a big change. To be able to go out in just about any conditions and know that your shelter would not blow apart took a huge load off the mind. Couple of shots here of one of the early North Face domes. I think this was called a VE-24.

Looking out the front door on a perfect morning.

No need for bombproof shelter in conditions like this, but a couple of days earlier the wind was over 60mph and the tent didn't even flap.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 15, 2010 - 11:23pm PT
Ghost: I think yours was the most practical and most popular of the pre-1980 North Face Domes.

The first was the Oval Intention. It was a near perfect Bucky Fuller geo-dome, but a bitch to set up. There were three different pole sizes, with two poles in each size. You had to thread poles through the correct metal rings, from memory and intelligence.

The gear freaks loved it----and the others hated it.

We took one to Deborah in 1976. I had many friends that bought that tent, and I happily used theirs.

rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:44pm PT
hey love those Rossi skis to the left in Ghost's picture. That's what I mean. They skied worth sh#t compared to my 120 wide Atomics today, but I was having way more fun.

In fact, I still have mine and they are for sale for any collectors out there. $25 and they are yours. Still in quite good shape with cable bindings on them.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:50pm PT
There were three different pole sizes, with two poles in each size. You had to thread poles through the correct metal rings, from memory and intelligence

Yeah, that kind of complicated thing might work as a base camp tent, but setting it up in a full-on howler is next to impossible. But the poles on the VE-24 were all the same length, and they threaded pretty easily. It accommodated three people reasonably comfortably (well, short people), and two in luxury, and weighed just 8.5 lbs all in. And considering that it would stand up to anything short of a nuclear explosion...

In my mind, the introduction of those tents was like the introduction of sticky rubber, or Friends, or Gore-tex, or curved tools... A real game-changer.

Edit to add: The other huge difference (aside from being so bomb-proof) was that they were self-supporting. If the ground was too hard, or too soft, to stake out a tent it didn't matter.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 12:07am PT
rocker Mike & Ghost: Speaking of vintage equipment. In the Oval Intention photo are: a Chouinard bamboo axe, a silver (mithral) Jensen pack, the bottom of a green Jensen pack, and a Kelty Tioga frame pack.

The item I cannot remember or identify is the long metal item laying on the silver Jensen pack. We didn't carry pickets. Was it a curiosity we found on the hike in?
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:11am PT
The item I cannot remember or identify is the long metal item laying on the silver Jensen pack

Your stick clip?
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 12:19am PT
The tent owner Frank was a "gear feak"-----maybe it was his expandable crevasse-vaulting pole?

Probably some kind of picket that Frank brought.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:20am PT
My first tent that I could call my own was the tube tent I had in high school. That piece of plastic had some proud moments in adventure...

...the next tent was a "real" mountain tent that Debbie and I made in 1980 ourselves out of the book The Budget Backpacker by L. A. Zakreski ISBN 0-87691-189-0 which went along for many trips to the White Mountains and to Canada in 1985. I think it is in the garage in an old equipment bin still rolled up in it's stuff sack. It had become a bit mildewed and unacceptable to most people for staying in. I remember traipsing all over the garment district finding cheap nylon and other raw materials... couldn't have afforded a store bought tent in those graduate student days.

I don't have a good "showroom" shot of it,


here Mike is putting it up in Canada on the first Mt. Robson trip

Sometime in the late 80s I decided that stuffing three big guys into a homemade two man mountain tent was not optimum. It turned out the International Mountain Sport had a great collection of tents for sale. I bought a three man "Hyperspace" which was marketed in the US by Wild Country.

I still use that tent today. It is currently marketed (amazingly enough, I bought a new fly from them last year!) by Terra Nova in the UK (http://www.terra-nova.co.uk/Brand/Terra_Nova/Tents/Hyperspace_GREEN.html);.

Mike and Lawrence with the tent on the Columbia Ice Fields on our way to Mt. Columbia (we never made it).


It no longer has the yellow/gray rain fly, the victim of high altitude UV (I am very proud to say that!) Many of you have seen the red fly it now sports... and the very high tech lines that have reflective threads to make it easy to see by head lamp!

I suspect this is my last tent, unless it meets with some untimely death. The floor is pretty good, but leaks a bit... nothing a ground cloth can't deal with.

Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:26am PT
I remember traipsing all over the garment district finding cheap nylon and other raw materials...

You American yuppies...

When I was at that stage of my gear-buying (or not-buying) I couldn't even afford to go out and buy nylon. A couple of bedsheets became my first tent. (True)

John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:34am PT
My first tent was not a tent. It was a bivy sack I made from some heavy duty plastic that I hot glued. Too ignorant to know about condensation, the first night out I got cold and put my head under the plastic. Woke up in the morning with a soaked bag. It gets worse. My bag was cotton. Oh well, youth. I survived.

First mountain tent. VE24.
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 01:06am PT
About 1969- North face mountain tent- single pole in the back, wonderful wine color. I loved that tent- many winter adventures. Stolen from friend's car. Replaced with Sierra Designs classic A frame mountain tent. Still have it, but it languishes. The floor is patched from the tools dragging it- fully loaded - from where it was pitched slightly outside the C4 boundary- pissed.

The first tent I loaned to friends for Shasta climb. They came back apologetic- "Your tent got STRETCHED." High winds, they were waiting for it to shred and blow away any minute.
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 03:10am PT
A wussie would die, but there are no wussies here.

Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jan 16, 2010 - 03:18am PT
The first mtn tent that I wanted was the Moss Olympic. what a cool design. sexy look, spacious, vestibule, quality, etc. The VE24 was the staple. This was 89, i think.
aguacaliente

climber
Jan 16, 2010 - 04:07am PT
Not a mountain tent, but I still have the Eureka A-frame tent that my dad took us kids backpacking with, over 30 years ago (30!! what happened?) It smells bad from the waterproof coating degenerating but I haven't brought myself to get rid of it. Still have the old brass pack stove from the same times and I am never getting rid of that!
Tobia

Social climber
GA
Jan 16, 2010 - 07:18am PT
Early Winters Light Dimension. Two Person tube tent... I believe the first to be made of gortex. It only weighed 5#'s. It was promoted as a 3 season tent. An expedition grade tent The Omnipotent was touted as one of the best designs of it's time.

My first year in Yosemite 1978 and I needed a tent. A new friend at the time, Steve Sereda, was helping me figure out what to buy. He was very knowledgeable about equipment so I spent the $200 plus on it and it turned out to be a great tent.

The seam seal work was tough and I missed a little bit... The first time it snowed the gortex worked great but the seams where the support rods fit into the floor leaked like a sieve. I woke up in a pool of warm water...

Early Winters is no longer around as I just discovered on a decent website about the evolution of mountaineering (backpacking) gear from 1945 to present http://www.oregonphotos.com/Early-Winters-1.html. The website also has some good info on all the innovators of gear.

There is a picture of Light Dimension on this web page.
hooblie

climber
from where the anecdotes roam
Jan 16, 2010 - 10:39am PT
north face made an obscure tent called a morning glory. not much for extreme conditions, it was kind of a staked out big top, the seductive feature had to do with catenary ridge lines. grace over practicality, the romantic's creed.

went through the tube tent debacle too. trial by sop. that's how we rolled, sporting mildew, proud of the innovative tiedown tabs.

an earlier era yet, first boy scout checklist included ground cloth. i showed up with a green canvas boat cover made water proof
by the paraffin saturation technique. the thing would barely unfold. it was my first taste of trudging devastation,
stooped over sucking singlefile traildust.

ah, the throbbing of engorged limbs, hapless victims caught up in symmetrical acts of severance before straps had pads.

and as to why...maybe because the only worse fate would have been being left behind, never to deploy my folding trenching tool.

hell i wrestled in the 65lb category in seventh grade, what could i have weighed just days after tossing
my little blue cubscout cap into the air?
Scared Silly

Trad climber
UT
Jan 16, 2010 - 11:30am PT
My first tent was an Eureka Timberline. My parents bought it for me when I was about 14. Great little tent but heavy. Later in high school I moved up to a North Face Toloume. A frame in the front and a single pole in the back. I remember taking it with me a on a day trip with my girl friend and forgetting the poles!! Fortunately a few branches worked so we got to snuggle while it rained. Could never do that with a VE 24 which while most raved about I thought was a POS. The floor design, six equal sides, was never very good as one always ended up cramped against the sides with three people. Sierra Design's ProDome was a better tent. Easier to set up and better layout. That tent lasted 20 years before I finally sold it. Bought another Sierra Designs tent not too long ago for car camping. In between I have had a bunch of Biblers, still have a couple great for mountaineering.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 01:24pm PT
Thanks for posting tent photos and stories.

Hoobie: I remember the North Face Morning Glory. A big elegant tent. We took one to Deborah in 1976 as a "base camp" tent. Two feet of snow overnight took it down and did major damage to it.

The other tent we had along was a Trailwise Fitzroy. One of the strongest A-Frame tents ever made.


What looks like a snow-covered volcano in background was our igloo!
hooblie

climber
from where the anecdotes roam
Jan 16, 2010 - 01:47pm PT
ya fritz, that knife edge ridge did a fair job of cleaving the slushbombs falling from the sugarpine branches once the sun loosened the accumulated load. pretty much a full time job fighting back the encroaching snowpack as the tub walls give away your floor footage.

fine honeymoon suite though. with equipment banished to the farside, the right partner had room for a sassy pirouette under the peak

http://www.24hourcampfire.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php/topics/3102729/Experienced_Hunting_TENTS_for_

paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 16, 2010 - 02:14pm PT
First tent was a blue, two person Alp Sport in 1969. Indestructible, light, Simple, set up in seconds. Used it all four seasons and lasted for close to 15 year. Only got rid of it because of too many burn wholes in the floor. By the time I got rid of it, it was filled with the absolute best memories.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 08:07pm PT
Here is my 1974 "ultra-light." The Gerry Tarp-tent had various pull-outs on it.

1. You could pitch it zipped up as a one-person tube tent.
2. Or, as a two-person A-Frame with a string between two trees. It even had mosquito-netting at either end, in that configuration.
3. Or, as a large fly-type rain shelter.

No poles.

Weighed about 2 lbs.

I don't think the public was ready for it!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 16, 2010 - 08:36pm PT
Rockermike said:
Like a lot of gear from that era they give me a deep feeling of happiness just seeing pictures of it.

'nuff said and me too.


My first tent, was my buddies tent, that's the why and how.
(I had a tube tent of course.)

The North Face Tuolumne, on our first Sierra backpacking trip, 1975:
(I am reading "Spaceship Earth", that is the iconic "Sierra Cup" to my side, & AKdog's dad on the right)



Sawtooth Peak, my first Sierra summit, from that trip (I was 14):


The Tuolumne was an A-frame front side, I-pole back side.
Didn't even have a zipper door; just that drawstring affair there, forget what that was called, a very particular term though, storm door or something.

Most tents, in the vernacular of the standard A-frame mountain tents, like the North Face Mountain Tent or the Sierra Designs Glacier, had that opposite the zipper door, at the back.

The North Face Morning Glory was essentially two of those Tuolumne tents, pattern wise, attached at the tall A frame side.

The first tent I owned, also mentioned by Fritz, was a Trailwise Fitzroy.
Just over 8 pounds; a little heavy. I always wanted the ridge pole for it though. It had a peculiar floor plan and canted vestibule style "self-supporting" ends.

(Why: because at the Mount Adams Wilderness Institute in Washington state, that's what they used, and I was sold)

I would love to have a Rivendell Bombshelter even now.
hooblie

climber
from where the anecdotes roam
Jan 16, 2010 - 09:09pm PT
"to me, a tent is a piece of sculpture that you get into" - bill moss, under sung hero in my book.
a pioneer in curvilinear tent design, and other tension membrane structures.

he's got a bunch of patents, but i'm particularly intrigued by the elegant simplicity of a fly
that conforms to a shape called a hypar (hyperbolic parabaloid) surface.
there's a story about the application he submitted being refused by the patent office the first time around, they figured it was just a flat piece of fabric. he had to go there in person and demonstrate that his design eliminated the wrinkles that a flat sheet always forms when warped into this shape.

this puts me in mind of chouinard's pick conforming to the arc of the swing.
not that fancy as breakthroughs go, but for those of us who never came up with the idea...
like jimmy buffet sang, "it was so simple that like the two-step, it plumb evaded me"
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 09:17pm PT
There's gotta be an easier and more dignified
way to set this stupid thing up by yourself.
(especially after triggering the camera timer)
(might be an Early Winter)

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 16, 2010 - 09:28pm PT
Ha!
Very nice.

& That looks like a Jensen Pack, except for the waist buckle's not right...
They were typically fitted with an aluminum, simple interlock jobber.

Listening to Robin Trower, Bridge of Sighs right now.
That should get your tent up.
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 09:49pm PT
Tar,
That pack was a Jensen rip-off I was testing for JanSport.
Do you also like the K2 Holidays? I really liked them in
powder, not that we got much of that in the Cascades. They
did cut crud pretty well though. This was the day before
the 'lanche which put paid to my solo traverse of the Chelan
Range. Never claimed to be real bright but when you don't
have weekends off you get desparate.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 09:53pm PT
Tarbuster: Re your great tent posts:

The North Face Tuolumne, on our first Sierra backpacking trip, 1975:
(I am reading "Spaceship Earth", that is the iconic "Sierra Cup" to my side, & AKdog's dad on the right)

One of the best BITD photos, from when we went to the mountains wearing Levis!

The photo makes me feel old and cynical.

Reilly: I feel your pain. Check out my snowy entry photo below.

Let those of us who are "into" old gear note his "Silvretta" bindings on the skis. You could use them with mountain boots. If you mounted the heel hold-downs for the cables, and you took a forward fall: the binding would usually not fully "release."

Can you say "ankle-breakers?"

Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 16, 2010 - 10:01pm PT
Those were called Silvretta "Grasshoppers" yes?
Sierra Designs sourced a really nice ethereal sky/french blue on those three-man & glacier tents.

I do like the look of those K2 Holidays and I was curious as well.
But what do I know; I can't earn a turn on that stuff, I just make it go out and back.
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 10:16pm PT
I do like the look of those K2 Holidays and I was curious as well.

Ha! They look good until you put 'em on your back. They weighed a good
20 pounds!


Humpin' 'em up the Kautz Glacier on Mt Reindeer.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 10:32pm PT
Tarbuster: Re. your question? "Those were called Silvretta "Grasshoppers" yes?"

I don't rememberthe model name. I will plead "high altitude memory loss."

We all bought and skied them in 1971 Sun Valley. Soon friends were suffering injury from: front falls where the front binding clamp would release, but the cable would not fall off the boot heel.

In my outdoor shop career I mounted a lot of Silvrettas on skis. By 1974 I refused to mount the "heel hold-down cable clips."

I've Gotta scan my old backcountry ski slides!
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
Jan 16, 2010 - 10:42pm PT
Yes well, those worked better on the boot best designed for them...
That touring specific boot had a squared off toe, not exactly a 75 mm Nordic norm, much stingier.
It also had a groove in the heel for the cable.
I think those bindings were otherwise "pressed into service" for mountaineering boot usage.

(Keep in mind I'm not really a skier; just a boot 'n gear nerd, who sometimes likes to go bouldering and mountain traveling by himself.)

Not that long ago, maybe mid-90s, I had a pair of Europa 88's with that setup and boot. The 88's had an aluminum edge.

I used a modern bail type crampon with them.
The ski bindings didn't come off, but the crampon did...

I've Gotta scan my old backcountry ski slides!

We would love to see those!
Reilly

Mountain climber
Monrovia, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 11:12pm PT
This pic is of my Galibier Rigid Rands on a pair of 3-pin Asolos
but I ran the Rands on my Super Guides and Peutereys in
the Silvrettas (didn't know they had any other appelation)
for years. They did release on the rare occasion. I mounted
them a bit forward (an inch?) of the normal position to allow for
a pack's weight.


ps
for someone who started racing on Marker 'Longthong' Turntables that had no release mechanism Silvrettas seemed 'safe'.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 16, 2010 - 09:13pm PT
Bump for those that like older gear.

Of course, you can say: "my first mountain tent" was a bivy bag.

On our 1976 Hayes Range Alaska trip, we rented a radio-phone from our bush-pilot Cliff Hudson----just in case.

After three weeks of climbing, we were ready to come home, but we needed "line of sight" over peaks to our north for the radiophone to reach Fairbanks.

There were a couple attempts to “call out”. I think Dane & Gwain had a short conversation with Cliff during one attempt.

When a few more days went by without a sign of pickup, Chris and I hiked the valley glacier about 12 miles down-canyon, climbed a ridge to where our maps showed line of sight to Fairbanks, and waited for a civilized hour to call Cliff.

We didn’t carry tent, bivy bag, rope, or climbing gear, except for two ice-axes: for our nighttime jaunt. (we were really sorry about the lack of climbing gear when we reached a crevassed area, where two valley glaciers came together). We took sleeping bags, clothing, our faithful Optimus 111B stove, and a lot of food. We were hungry boys and were eating voraciously.

Unfortunately we got to our ridgetop about 4:00 AM in the morning and it didn’t seem like a bright idea to bother Cliff at that time of day. One of us would stay in a sleeping bag, keeping the radio and batteries warm, while the other melted snow, boiled water for freeze-dried food, and danced about to stay less cold.


Finally at about 6:00 AM we called Cliff. He explained he had been having some mechanical problems, but would come get us in a few days.


We got one more climb in before he showed up.

HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 16, 2010 - 09:25pm PT
The other tent we had along was a Trailwise Fitzroy. One of the strongest A-Frame tents ever made.
Also my first tent.
Excellent bulletproof tent. Until the urethane coating aged and started to peel off (and stank like only rank polyurethane can)

Retired my very early Chouinard Megamid (1986 vintage) two years ago when the urethane coating got mucked with sand on a hot beach party day. Try getting melted-in sand out of polyurethane, go ahead, I dare you. My new Megamid (SilNylon) is even better.

Optimus 111B stove. Yup. Heavy, bulky, bulletproof. The only thing you need to keep it running is some vegetable oil for the leather pump packing.
Howard C Runyon

Mountain climber
Lake Placid, NY
Jan 27, 2015 - 06:26pm PT
I still use a NF Tuolumne, a 1980s one with a normal double-zip triangular door in place of the original snow tunnel. Great little tent, though of course heavy by today's standards. It does for two in warm weather and is a nice size for winter soloing. I may pop for a Stephenson one day....
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jan 27, 2015 - 07:43pm PT
My first tent was a pair of Army shelter halves. They buttoned together along the ridgeline. No floor, canvas---do not touch when wet! But in those days I slept directly on the ground with no pad or air mattress.

It soon became apparent that the shelter halves weren't going to cut it in any mountain environment, so I graduated to what everyone else I knew had: a US Army Mountain Tent. (The climber in front of this one is the mathematician Frank Adams.)


The sleeve entrance created a bombproof seal and there were no zippers anywhere to malfunction. Catenary seams were not a feature. Getting in and out required an easily-learned contortion. The tent was made of coated nylon and so was totally impermeable; year-round condensation (frozen in the winter) was just a feature of camping life. I think all the early mountain "pup" tents were inspired by this design, but thank god were made breathable with a fly.
Risk

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Jan 27, 2015 - 08:29pm PT
I had several tents before buying a North Face Mountain tent in about 1970 with Fresno Bee paperboy money and a long bike trip out to Alpine Sports on Blackstone. One was this really cool 100 percent cotton muslin tent that held up amazingly in a downpour as long as you didn't touch it. In 1979, I luckily acquired a Trailwise Fitzroy from Sonora Mountaineering at their old store on the north side of town. The one I got had snow flaps that turned out really important that summer on my first accent of Shasta. We camped way up high at about 13,000' with the winds really whipping, and I stacked rocks on the snow flaps to hold the thing down. We took refuge early with the little gullies of melting ice quickly freezing; it was calm as a church (almost) inside. After the summit in the morning, we broke camp and then descended to Lake Helen (?) to find that every tent the night before had been destroyed by the winds there. The Fitzroy lived on until I needed money and I sold it.

EdwardT

Trad climber
Retired
Jan 28, 2015 - 06:56am PT
First "tent" was 2 army ponchos and a bit of string. Summer camp. I was nine. We'd tie off the hoods and use each poncho as a side of an A frame tent. Used twigs for stakes. Dug a trench to handle rain.

This system worked well on a four day backpacking trip. Rained two nights. We stayed dry.

My first real tent was a Eureka Timberline. A classic.
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