Tent choice

Hi everybody. My wife and I are thinking of getting our own tent and using a charter service this year. Any suggestions on tents would be much appreciated. I’ve done some looking but way to many choices and I want to make sure I don’t screw this up. I’m the tallest at 5’10”

37 Replies

Ron Sigrist, January 25, 2017 at 5:06 pm

I have never done Ragbrai so this will be our 1st year. My wife and I are taking a 3 person dome tent. If you don’t have to carry it and may not use it much in the future I would opt for something inexpensive but make sure it has good water protection. Walmart has a brand called Ozark Trails and we have one of these tents and are very happy with it. Very inexpensive. Coleman and some other companies also sell the 3 person dome tent at reasonable prices. Amazon is a great place to look. Read the reviews. An inexpensive decent tent should be between $25 and $75. I think the rain fly or water protection is the most important think to look for. Not fun sleeping in water puddles


soianewlee, January 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm

I hear you on the water puddles. I’ve been looking on Amazon but some of the reviews aren’t real trustworthy. Decisions, decisions.


jelly0317, January 25, 2017 at 6:37 pm

I wouldn’t recommend pinching pennies when buying a tent. I’ve always been happy with Eureka.


Amanda, January 25, 2017 at 6:48 pm

I have used Ozark Trail tents for most of my 18 years on RAGBRAI.I love them. Easy to put up and take down! That is a major deal on RAGBRAI. Last year I bought a new tent. I think it was a 3-4 person tent. Instant dome tent by Ozark. It went up in under 1 minute! The best tent ever! The only problem I had was my twin size double high air mattress didn’t fit the best. So for this year I have a 6 person instant tent.Room enough for my bed,bags and bike if needed.And the center height is 5’4″ perfect for me! I think if you have 2 in a tent you need at least a 4 person tent


Mike Murphy, January 25, 2017 at 7:06 pm

I have done eight Ragbrai’s and the last three I have used a Coleman Instant Up tent. They are tall in the center and take less than a minute to put up and take down. I keep my bike inside mine along with my bags, I use a 4 person tent. For two people I would recommend the 6 person version if you want to keep your bikes inside. I had used dome tents in the past and I have found that the coleman gives me much more room and is so much easier to put up and down. I will never go back to a dome tent.


Michrider !!!, January 25, 2017 at 7:24 pm

Whatever tent you choose, check it out before RAGBRI. Spend a night inside the tent, in the rain (or your garden hose/sprinkler). If it leaks, better to find out before Iowa. You will experience rain and at least one Iowa storm!!! Don’t forget to bring Duck tape!!!

BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


Brian Wallenburg, January 25, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Agree with others on the size of the tent and be sure to spray it with silicone at least a couple times a week or two before the start.


soianewlee, January 25, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for the responses. I was looking at a 3 man that is 90 x 66 but now I might have to rethink this.


KenH, January 25, 2017 at 10:02 pm

I bought a three man Eureka Sunriver tent from Dick’s for last year, the first year I have tented through RAGBRAI. It worked great. It maybe took 5 minutes to set up and tear down and that was never a problem for me. Last year was the first year I can recall where you would have done pretty well with a leaky tent because it just did not rain much. DON’T count on that!! Get a tent with good reviews for weather resistance.

I got the three man tent for me, myself, and I. It was NOT too big for me and my gear. It would be tight but doable for two people and their gear — in a pinch. But I agree that if you want the most enjoyable experience you should be thinking about 3*N person tents where N is the number of persons who will be staying in the tent. You can cheat that a little if some of the people are small children but occupancy rating for tents are based on the number of people who can lay in the tent cheek by jowl and who keep their gear somewhere else. Obviously if you want to sleep on a double high twin air mattress (as a surprising number of folks do) you should check floor and mattress sizes very carefully and you may have to upsize from 3*N to fit the mattress and your gear. I can attest to the fact that a sixty something can get along fine for a week on a 2 inch Thermarest pad however. I had to buy all my gear from scratch at the last minute last year as my normal motorhome based team bailed out on me so I saved a little money by going with the 2 inch pad. Next time I do the ride in a tent I won’t have the other startup expenses and might splurge on a 3.5 inch Thermarest….

Dick’s, Gander Mountain, Cabellas, etc can be decent places to buy a tent. My Eureka is a slightly dumbed down version of their Midori line made specially for Dicks but it is still a very well made tent that should outlive my ability to ride a bicycle across Iowa given my advanced age and the fact that I won’t use it for anything but RAGBRAI and not even every one of those. Prices are good, they have sales, and stock is generally good too. They carry a variety of brands at a variety of price points so you should find something that fits your needs. REI is another good place to look. They carry several respectable brands including their own well regarded house brand.


trknight, January 26, 2017 at 6:01 am

For RAGBRAI, with heat and humidity, a tent should be very “airy”, with a tent body that is mostly mesh material starting a few inches above ground level. I found my really good tent for camping cold nights in the mountains wasn’t best suited for RAGBRAI. The mesh also contributes to being lightweight, important if you are restricted on weight. how much vestibule space for storing gear do you want. For some, the more the better. I’ve always felt you get what you pay for. There are a lot of cheap tents that didn’t survive well during some of our more epic evening/nighttime storms. And, how much do you plan on using it beyond RAGBRAI?


Ron Sigrist, January 26, 2017 at 11:11 am

Is it difficult to find room to put up a tent? We are thinking about moving up to a 6 person tent for my wife and I just to have some more room. I just was thinking that maybe the bigger the tent the harder it is to find a place to pitch it


Craig Parson, January 26, 2017 at 11:44 am

I recommend an Alps Mountaineering Chaos 3 tent. I am 5’10 and my stoker was 5’11”. It is a 3 person tent with aluminum poles, 2 doors ( I can’t stress how important this is) and two vestibules to stash gear oustide of the tent but out of the rain. Lots of mesh. I paid only about 100 bucks for this and I would buy another one in a second if this one got stolen. Read the amazon reviews.



Brian Wallenburg, January 26, 2017 at 11:49 am

You don’t have to worry about the space needed for a 6 person tent. My wife and I used an 8 person one year, it was like staying in a townhouse! Obviously takes up more space to pack though. Now we use a Eureka 5 person. Fits a queen air and our bags, nothing more.


PAM JUSTEN, January 26, 2017 at 9:02 pm

we bought a LightSpeed tent from Sam’s club 5 years ago and it’s great. Fabric is attached to the poles. It goes up in 5 minutes and takedown is just as easy. That’s what you want when you have to deal with it every day.


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