How to put up a tent for the first time

LAST UPDATED: 30 Dec, 2015 @ 07:46

AS some of you may remember from my first blog post, my family was introduced to the joys of camping in the final weeks of the summer holiday.

tentWell, it’s now December, nearly January, and it’s far too cold for us to brave the elements and sleep under canvas. All I have to feed my love of tent life are memories of our first faltering steps in the world of camping.

Thinking about the first time we tried putting up our brand new tent always makes me giggle. The day before we had visited Decathlon and enthusiastically bought up the entire shop, clearing the camping department of a variety of essential and, with hindsight not especially essential nor desirable, camping paraphernalia. On returning home we piled up our purchases in the corner of the room, excitedly anticipating the next day when we could unpack it all and give our novice camping wings their first test.

Unsurprisingly, all didn’t go to plan. Our first foray into tent pitching didn’t go as smoothly as we had foolishly expected.

Here is my guide to putting up a tent for the first time.

Firstly, in order to help you get off to the best possible start, please ensure that you have favourable conditions for your first attempt and make sure that you are mentally and physically ready for some pretty hard work.
Or, instead, do as we did and attempt to put up your tent –
*on the windiest day of the year
*on a day when I had rolled in at at 4.30am the night before and had enjoyed just 3 hours of fitful sleep.

Remember, putting up a tent for the first time can be quite challenging so it’s good to have somebody available who knows what they are doing to offer you a bit of guidance should you need it.
Or you could do as we did and have –
*one person who has never camped.
*one person who hasn’t put up a tent in about 15 years
*two young children who casually assured us they knew exactly how to do it and that it was really very easy actually.

Ok, now you are ready to begin! The first step is to unpack the tent bag. It can be initially disconcerting when, having unpacked the bag you are presented with a floor carpeted in a wide expanse of nylon, tarpaulin and plastic but fear not! These things are your tent, ground sheets, bedroom compartments and unassembled tent poles. Yes, it might take you a while to work out which bit is which and where the various bits go but keep at it! You’ll get there eventually!

Alternatively, like us, you could be stood for an hour on the terrace, looking at the various bits, moving them around, trying to match them to the pictures from the (minimal) instructional diagrams, moving them around again and finally getting a closer match just as the gusting wind blows them around and renders them unrecognisable again. Meanwhile, you gradually lose your patience and your temper gets frayed. You scrabble around for as many heavy objects as you can find to weigh down the fluttering edges while your children pop their head through the door every five minutes or so and gaze upon you, looking bewildered and lost in a sea of billowing, tangled nylon and on the brink of tears and ask, “Is the tent up yet, mummy?”

marianne-tentDon’t forget, your family sized tent will eventually be quite large so do make sure you have enough room to construct it before you start.
Or you could do as we did.
*begin in your woefully small living room, desperately pushing furniture back against the wall in an effort to make a bit more space and attempting to thread one end of an exceedingly long tent pole through the correctly coloured spaces while the wildly swinging other end of the tent pole sweeps random things off of shelves and threatens to dismantle the light fittings.
*realise that the living room is too small and so relocate to the terrace where you attempt to do the same thing in the howling wind, all the time holding on to the tent for dear life so that it doesn’t launch itself off of the terrace and fly away, giving the neighbours some jolly viewing entertainment.
*realise that it’s far too windy to set up the tent outside and decide to relocate back inside this time moving some of the indoor furniture outside and standing sofas precariously up on their edges against the wall in order to accommodate the alarmingly large tent.
*do all of this while trying not to shout at the children who continue to appear every five minutes to ask if you’ve finished.

The tent needs to be pegged securely to the ground in order to keep it upright.
Unless of course you are, like us, attempting to put it up indoors in which case you obviously can’t peg it to the floor. We found it extremely inadvisable to tie the cords to various household objects but did it anyway. The resulting hazardous labyrinth of criss crossed ropes going from the (still shaky) tent to door handles, terrace door gates, dining room chairs and tables was not only precarious and like some kind of fiendish maze but it turned out that we had attached each rope with some (as we later discovered) impossible to untie knots. It would certainly have made for interesting viewing as we negotiated this labyrinth while carrying the bedroom compartments inside and later, and much more challengingly, two inflated double mattresses.

Once you have successfully put up your tent you will undoubtedly feel a great sense of achievement. You’ve managed to turn that earlier tangle of nylon and tarpaulin into an actual, habitable tent!
If you are anything like me you will also feel –
*overwhelming exhaustion
*astonishment that 3 hours have passed while you have been tent wrestling
(swiftly followed by)
*a sense of foreboding at the prospect of dismantling the tent.

But don’t despair, for you will soon discover that taking down the tent wasn’t such a formidable prospect after all.
No, not at all. The real test will come when you’re faced with that huge tangle of nylon and tarpaulin again and you have to try and fit it back into the suddenly very small looking bag.

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