DSC_5101Here’s REI’s pride and joy, already losing the battle to a not quite 30 MPH wind with a couple trees blocking upwind. Note the good 8 inch or so gap between tent fly and terra firma, enough for a goodly gust to make it inside through the mosquito netting. I went inside for a bit, and it was way too “drafty”… Good thing it’s 50 degrees and dry out, and my house is but a few feet away.

REI’s tents used to be legendary… They actually built a flat roof over the cab and bed of a pickup truck, then set up tents atop and “road tested” said tents at legal and probably extra legal speeds too.  From my day’s ownership of this REI tent, I suspect the legendary REI “tent test truck” has been long since retired in the name of PC. Given that REI’s current gear offerings seem designed to be accessories for the median REI member’s Suburu station wagon which is never far away, would one expect anything more from once legendary REI?

Now that legend was hard earned, REI having been founded by a bunch of mountain climbers so they could get better deals on climbing gear and such. With a small membership and resulting short lines of communication, REI’s gear had to be tough. These days, with millions of members and an insular board that’s pretty much bound by an obsolete corporate structure to replicate itself with more of the same, REI is great at PC like closing for black friday, but mediocre when it comes to stuff to keep us warm, dry, and comfy in whatever mother nature can dish out. That explains why my tents for the last decade have been sourced from the “Farm” stores or Costco for well under $100 instead of from the REI that I’m just another disenfranchised member/financier of. I wasn’t too happy with the considerable weight and bulk of the “small” tent Costco was offering for $79 this year, and all my tents from the $20 Farm & Fleet special to this one have the same draftiness in the face of a decent wind. At a windy campsite like the Florida Winter Rally’s on the southwest side of the lake a tent like this can make even a windy 50 degree night miserable, add a bit of rain and… Fortunately there’s shelter and a bank of coin-op driers nearby!

So I spend four times the price of last weeks Fleet Farm price leader $30 tent, and what do I get… Pretty much the same thing with a big helping of PC. Ok, the poles are aluminum instead of some kind of cardboardy stuff, but looks like the wimpy zippers and fabric will fail first anyway. That’ll do just fine for the Subie “campers” who probably figure tents are disposable after a short weekend’s use, but a motorcyclist sheltering for a windy and wet night on the prairie deserves better!

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