Photo shows a Stoddard-Dayton camping car built for engineer and politician Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863-1930). Du Pont used the vehicle during his supervision of the construction of the DuPont Highway through the state of Delaware.
We actually have similar technology for hatchback cars today. One company is called Sportz Dome To Go.
Before buying my Springbar, I seriously looked at these tents, but I had problems with it. I like to set up camp, but sometimes we need to take the car for supplies, to head to the lake or even make a trip into town. If my tent is attached to my car, I’d have to break camp in order to make a firewood run.
One thing I liked about it was that I could sleep in the car and let the heater keep me warm, but since the tent is situated at the back of the car, I’d be constantly worried about car exhaust setting my tent on fire. It just wasn’t something that would work for me.
After looking at this video for the setup in a pickup, I have NO desire to own one of these tents. There are EIGHT poles?! Why does this tent need to be so complicated when my Springbar goes up in fifteen minutes?!
In the end, I prefer to use my car as a transport vehicle and keep my shelter separate from it. It appears that Thomas Coleman du Pont, however, did not agree with me.
I have been in a funk ever since the weather turned colder. All the activities I love, camping, biking and canoeing, are all on hold until the air warms up and the lake unfreezes. Mike and I had a cold trip to Lake Mead after Thanksgiving, but other than that, our gear has been sitting in the garage.
Part of the reason that I’m sad is that camping just makes me happy somehow. I saw this old picture from our camping trip to Mantua, Utah a couple of years ago and it reminded me. Campfires make me happy.
My favorite is the Work Top Box. Here is a video of how it sets up and packs up into one compact area.
They also make a HUGE workspace called the Grubby Two. It’s an amazing 6’2″ long. I love that you can close up the box for keeping out the little critters. Of course, it would be kindling if it encountered a bear.
Their simplest model is the Grubby One. I like this one as well because you can configure it in so many ways.
They also sell plans for all of these boxes, so if you want to build one yourself, you can.
I find this guy to be quite entertaining. They made a calendar for this year and he created a video showing where all the photos from the calendar came from. It’s a great little video to watch when you are stuck in the office or at home and wish you were in the mountains instead.
Of course, I’m a little scared of the “Evening Grease Bomb” from camping tip number 8. I liked the rest of the tips, however.
His calm voice reminds me of RedGreen, but mostly these videos really make me want to go camping.
So, I have decided to customize my tent in order to make it my own as much as the owner of that trailer did. Originally, I wanted to stencil on a map of the U.S. so I could color in each state as we camped in them, but that idea became too difficult. Instead, we decided to draw an image for each place we’ve camped.
To do this, we used Sharpie markers. We tested the Sharpie Fabric Markers, but their colors were so bright and they just didn’t look as good as the regular Sharpie markers. We hope to have a tent covered in little reminders of all the places we’ve camped. As of now, it only has the Lake Mead picture because that’s the only place we’ve put up the tent since we bought it last November, since our backyard doesn’t count. Here is how it looked with the regular Sharpies.
Luckily, we tested it with the Sharpie Fabric Markers on one of the bags. It didn’t look as good because we didn’t have as large of a color selection and the colors are a tad on the flourescent side.
You should test the markers on an unobtrusive part of your tent, letting them dry and then checking for waterproofing. The Sharpies didn’t affect our waterproofing on our canvas Springbar tent, but I have no idea how they would work on a nylon tent like our old Hobitat.
The next time I see an adorable trailer that has been personalized, I won’t feel as left out. I can look at my own tent and relive all the great memories we had camping in it.
Instead of the heavy, wooden legs, he used pipes that slide into the fittings. You can also see that he attached a towel rack that also holds his paper towels. He even added a bottle opener.
The camp kitchen opens in such a way that it needs to be on its legs to open up. He ended up adding little legs to the bottom so that he can just set it on a table to open and leave the legs in the car. You can see the little legs in this photo (they are the black nubbins on the bottom of the box). He said that if he made another one, he would design it to open flush.
He built it to work with his Coleman fold up stove, but the stove doesn’t have wind shields, so he ended up adding a windshield himself in addition to another shelf on the left side for extra workspace.
I felt a sense of camaraderie with him because he has the exact same pan set that we use. I could imagine making meals with that very chuck box while camping instead of my camp kitchen and it looked like fun.
I really liked that he painted the box to match his Springbar tent. They look really good together at camp, don’t you think?
I love the idea of being able to choose exactly the features I want for my camp kitchen instead of being at the mercy of the camping manufacturers. If I ever break my Mega Camp Kitchen like I did my Coleman, I think I will choose to design my own camp kitchen.
Our Springbar tent is better than our old Hobitat in every way except one: storage. The Hobitat had tons of pockets all over the inside of the tent, so it was a change for us to camp in the Springbar. The tent came with one storage closet, which is a zip-in panel with a bunch of little pockets, and one hamper, which is like a laundry bag.
One is supposed to zip in on one side of the tent and the other on the other side. After having so many pockets in our Hobitat, however, I just couldn’t go to having so few places to put stuff. To solve that problem, I bought one additional closet and one additional hamper. Hanging them, however, was the problem. There are only two inside zippers in the tent, so I had to find a way to hang the additional items.
Here’s how I solved the problem:
I sewed a zipper onto the bottom of each storage closet so that the hamper could attach to the bottom of it. Here is it with the hamper partially zipped.
Now, both Mike and I each have a closet and hamper of our own. That is barely enough pockets for the each of us. Here is how it looks all together.
That additional loop on the bottom of the closet is also something I added. It’s for our toiletries bag. There is a loop on the closet, but when we hung the toiletries bag from it, it covered our pockets. This way, we can hang the bag, but it will hide behind the clothes hamper.
We also had a problem with no loops for our lanterns to hang from, so we added string to the top with a few loops in it. This is such a simple thing to do, but it took us a while before we realized how to add those loops. Springbar had added a spot to tie the string, but we didn’t make the connection until Dan mentioned it to us.
Having that string taut across the ceiling of the tent is good for us because we can hang our wet towels over it to dry. I wouldn’t trust the loops to hold a heavy thing, like those fans that are supposed to cool off your tent, but they are perfectly fine for a small flashlight or our LED lanterns.
When you order your Springbar tent, don’t be disappointed in the amount of storage you have. Order an extra closet and hamper and add zippers to the bottom of each closet. You’ll have plenty of pockets to hold all your stuff.
We had just set up camp when a new camper arrived at an adjacent site. She was a petite woman, and she was alone. The tent she had dragged out of her van was obviously one of those canvas behemoths, and my wife and I nudged each other knowingly.
Sixty or eighty pounds of canvas. This woman (and for that matter, any unassisted man) was going to have difficulty erecting this monster. I stood proud and tall in my masculinity, and offered to assist our new neighbor. My wife (equally prideful, if a bit less tall and not-at-all masculine) offered to assist.
Our neighbor stopped — briefly — to say “Hi neighbors, no thanks.”
He’s right, my tent weighs ALOT and it’s difficult to carry, but I don’t need to carry it far when I’m car camping. I can get it out of the car and to the site, but, honestly, I struggle with it. The tent really shines when it’s time to put it up, however.
Before I had time to finish a fresh Pete’s Wicked, our neighbor was finished.
Our neighbor had stretched out the bottom of the tent, and driven a dozen or so tent stakes into the ground around the tent perimeter (ten minutes, or half of my beer).
I was a little puzzled by the apparent “misunderstanding” of what I thought should be the order of events, and remained confident we would have to assist.
She then assembled four springy-thingies-like-auto-antennas onto a thicker tubular bar while threading the springy-thingies into loops on what will become the roof of the tent. A serious-sounding “snap” turns the lumpy canvas into a trampoline-taut roof, still lying on the ground (five minutes, or several more good pulls on my beer).
Now mystified, I waited to see more.
Our new camping neighbor assembled tubular pieces into four tent poles. One of them was used to partially erect the tent — raising half of the roof. A second pole raised the rest of the tent with impressive, near-straight walls. The remaining two poles were used, along with the first guy-lines I had seen, to raise the fly over the entrance. (Another five minutes, bringing me up to the last swallow of my beer).
He’s right, I can erect my Springbar tent ALONE in the time it used to take to just get those stupid aluminum poles extended and threaded through the tiny nylon sleeves of my Hobitat. The most time I spend on tent erection is pounding in the ground stakes.
Mike and I camped with our Hobitat 6 tent from REI for five years. We paid over three hundred bucks for the tent and I can safely say that I HATED every minute in it. There were only two nights when I wasn’t miserably cold in that tent, even though we only camped in the summer. The mountains of Utah are just too cold at night for that flimsy thing. To REI’s credit, they seem to have redesigned the Hobitat 6 since we bought it, but I can’t help but feel ripped off.
This year, we bought a Springbar Traveler 5, which has the same height and floorspace as the Hobitat 6, but it’s FAR warmer. I can open the windows for ventilation on hot days, but in Utah, we have to worry about extreme cold weather more often than too much heat.
Last Thursday, I set up the Springbar in our backyard. That day, it was 26 degrees Fahrenheit. After putting up the tent (it was a one-person job, as opposed to the difficult MESS it was to put up the Hobitat), I put an electric heater in the tent. Within five minutes, the tent was a toasty 74 degrees. I realized that I could camp all winter as long as we have electric hookups at the campsite. All that pining for a trailer so I could camp throughout the winter was a waste of time. I have a tent that allows me to do just that.
As I said, putting up the tent was a piece of cake. The biggest difference is that I have to stake out the tent BEFORE I try to put it up. With the Hobitat, we were supposed to raise the tent first and then stake it down. That’s not possible with the Springbar. In fact, if you can’t stake down the tent properly, you won’t be able to raise it at all. If you’re used to just throwing up your tent and hoping the sleeping bags inside keep it from blowing away, that’s just not an option with the Springbar. Here is a video of how to do it:
I don’t know if you can tell, but that lady is really tall, so she had a bit of an advantage. When it comes time to put up the second half of the tent, it’s a little difficult for me because I’m only 5’2″. I am still able to do it on my own, but it’s a lot more clumsy than shown in that video.
In fact, I wasn’t able to zip on the awning because I’m so short. Mike had to do it the first time we put up the tent and we’ve kept the awning on the tent ever since (rolling it up with the tent instead of removing it). If you watch this video, even that super tall girl has to stretch to reach the zipper. That was the ONLY thing that I couldn’t do myself when putting up this tent.
One thing we loved about the Hobitat was that its bag was big enough to hold it, even after we had used it. I was worried that the Springbar would never fit back into its bag, but if we fold it like this video, it fits just fine, even with the added bulk of the awning still attached.
I haven’t encountered any extreme winds or rain in my Springbar yet, but it’s comforting to know that the tent will stay standing. Here is a video of one of their tents in tornado force winds of 95 MPH.
If you have packed away your camping gear for the winter, think about investing in a canvas tent. You might be able to camp all year with one. Here are some links about the products I talked about:
Hobitat 6 at REI: I wouldn’t recommend this tent, even though it has been redesigned. It’s just too thin for the Utah mountains.
Springbar Tent Models at Kirkhams: I was able to just walk into their store and buy the tent, but they sell their tents online as well.
Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow 6-Person Canvas Ten at Amazon: If you prefer the lenient return policies of Amazon, you can try out this tent from them. Kodiak Canvas is also a Utah company, but I haven’t tried one of their tents.
Check out this video for the swissRoomBox. It turns your car into a mini-RV!
The water pump, refrigerator and other electrical items run off your car battery. I love how the boxes move out of the car for a camp kitchen like a teardrop trailer, but then also move toward the back to make the base for your bed within the car. This video showed a rather large car, but it will work with a compact car as well. Here is a small car with the swissRoomBox in kitchen mode:
Here is it in sleeping mode. It looks a little claustrophobic for my tastes, but it’s still doable.
Here is a video showing a family camping with the swissRoomBox:
Here is the extreme skiing version of the video complete with a DJ Rave and snow-kissed fondue:
If you understand French, this video might be helpful as well:
It nice to see it work with a tiny car as well as a large minivan. The swissRoomBox is a made-to-order item and is quite expensive, but it makes car camping look so fun and easy!
For years, I happily used the Coleman Pack-Away Kitchen. Last summer, I broke the aluminum supports along the side and I suddenly found myself in the position of having no camp kitchen. It only took half a campout until I knew I needed to replace the Coleman.
Having a camp kitchen might seem redundant when almost every campsite has a picnic table, and quite frankly it is, but there are so many times when we have needed the camp kitchen that the thought of camping without one is unpleasant now. Often, the picnic table is broken, a frozen slab of crumbling concrete or flat out missing, and when we boondock camp, the thought of the luxury of a picnic table is laughable. Our camp kitchen has saved us every time.
I looked at lots of camp kitchens at every camping store in the city and even online. I very nearly bought the Coleman again just because it packed up so neatly and small. Even now, I still miss that camp kitchen because it was so easy to carry. If you have limited space in your car for packing up camping gear, it’s truly the best choice.
I put the paper towels on the poles instead of on the holder to keep them from flying in the wind. I use a couple of plastic bins in the sink (one for soapy and another for rinsing water) and so I don’t use the drain on the sink. We used the soapy water to put out the fire at night. As you can see, the dish pantry is attached on the right. The food pantry was locked up in the car when I took this photo to prevent critters from eating our food, but it hangs on the left. The hooks on the sides are great for plastic grocery bags. Hang them there and use them for garbage. They’re small enough that you can dispose of them every night to keep the animals away.
Setting up this camp kitchen takes hardly any time now, but it was a little difficult to figure out the first time. This is a setup video of a very similar camp kitchen available at Cabelas. I actually looked at this kitchen, but it cost forty bucks more than the one I found at Sportsman’s Warehouse. Mine is almost exactly the same as this one, except my middle table is a light, foldable top and my zippered food/dish pantry bags are blue instead of green.
Whether you go with the tiny Coleman kitchen or a huge mega kitchen like I found, having one makes camping cooking much easier.