The Backwoods Behemoth

My family owns the Taj Mahal of tents.

When my wife Stacey and I first started thinking about taking our family camping, buying the biggest tent we could reasonably afford sure seemed like a good idea.

My views were influenced, of course, by the years I had spent camping in only 2-person tents, tiny nylon bungalows that barely accommodated two sleeping bags. And with our two energetic boys under the age of three — the younger one tackling the dog, the older one dashing around while pretending to be a “lightning robot” — our whole house barely seems to contain our family on most days.

Cramming this production into a flimsy, cramped, portable structure seemed like a dangerous idea at best. Buying a 6-person tent for our 4-person family would be a reasonable compromise, Stacey and I agreed.

This weekend, months after we bought the thing, I finally set it up for a test run. We had waited until a visit to my parents’ spacious house in a Maryland suburb, because our yard and every room in our home — a duplex in the city — is too small to contain it.

In retrospect, that should have told us something.

Stacey doubled over laughing when she saw it standing for the first time, scraping the ceiling and nearly filling my parents’ basement. It appears to be bigger than our first apartment. It’s easily large enough to hold furniture — the baby’s crib, say, or maybe a loveseat and some end tables.

Moreover, it comes with its own screened-in porch and — this is Stacey’s favorite part — even an attic: A square of mesh netting hangs from the ceiling, giving us extra storage up by the rafters.

It sure seems like overkill, but I think we’ll keep it. I’m guessing that even this spacious structure will start to feel cramped after a few consecutive days of family togetherness — a theory that we’ll test during a half-week-long trip later this summer.

And in the meantime, as Stacey points out, this tent has increased our real estate holdings by about 25 percent.

Article © 2008 by Michael Duck