Baker tent or Bill Mason Tent

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Jun 12, 2012
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Has anyone ever canoe tripped with one of these? They have their good and bad points, and I like my little wall tent better, but it was fun sitting inside and watching the fire glow out front.
Heavy and bulky, not good in open wind, buggy during the season, mice inside, lots of guy ropes, takes a while to learn to set up fast.
But, I am glad I went on those trips with the owner and had the experience.
Also, You can see his reflector oven by the fire, that was nice to have bread and pies out on the trail, a Schimdt Pack saw on the ground and a Snow and Knealy Cruiser Ax in the log, and LL Bean boots drying by the fire.
This was in LaVerendrye Reserve in Quebec, a very good canoetripping destination for east coaster's, 12 hours from Hartford, CT

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Here I am making some coffee, that was my job along with gathering wood and washing tons of dishes. His son is under the tent, nice young man and a pleasure to have out on the trail.

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We used tents like that when i was in scouts for almost all our trips, canoe or not. A Baker tent, i think it was called. Heavy as the dickens, but very practical for 4 boys (essentially a mess-unit... a cook, helper/fireman/wood guy, and two laborers). If we got wet, it was our own fault for setting up in a low spot... the roof and overhang never leaked on us. iirc, we tried to set it up facing the SE, which kept the rain at our backs most of the time.

I hammock now, due to the bugs and ground-vermin down here. probably more practical up North in the fall, with a nice fire going in front of it...
 
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Jul 25, 2012
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I looked at the two sites you provided, Memaquay, the prices did seem high. I got my tent from Tentsmiths.com. and it's a Sutler Wedge Tent, 8'6"x8'6"x7'tall. The current price is $505. On the site they show a photo of something that is not the right tent, it's got some kind of gee-gaws on it. The photo is a mistake. What the Sutler tent is is a wedge tent with doors on both ends. The doors allow you to rotate one whole side up 90 degrees so you have that horizontal roof. Looks much like Robins first photo in this thread. Of course it's white canvas. The one half of the door hangs down and can be guyed out to the side or you can just flip it up on the roof.
I used it in historical reenactments on the island here, never camped in it. With the canvas floor I seem to remember it weighed about 25 pounds. Top quality construction. I'll bet the catalog from Tentsmiths would show the tent the right way.
Best Wishes, Rob
 
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That green baker's tent looks a lot like a green LL Bean nylon baker's tent that I grew up camping in. In the 70's we would go camping in Maine, VT, and the Catskills in that tent. (we had a VW bus in orange that I wish I could get back too). I loved that tent, and a few years ago I tried to find one but at the time I could only find canvas ones. That LL Bean tent got a lot of use over a good many years. I'd estimate we used that tent for 20 years. If I could justify the weight of canvas, I would buy one tonight. I have a several high end, spacious tents that would outperfom that old tent even when new, but I remember it as the best tent we ever owned. Thanks for the pictures.
 
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tentsmith.com Egyptian Cotton tents: working on availability

tentsmith.com Egyptian Cotton tents: working on availability

After posting the above I went back into the Tentsmith web site. They had a thing to click on about "Egyptian cotton tents". I expected a historical commentary about how great Egyptian cotton was and how you couldn't get it anymore. Not so, they said that they were out of the fabric and to stand by for an update. To my mind that says that they did have some of it and are working to get more. Evidently they have a line of old style tents that are intended to be made in Egyptian cotton: Whelen, Baker, several wedge tents and many more.

Wow! This whole subject has been one of harmless daydreaming for me; I never expected to actually have a choice. Now it looks like I'd better sober up and decide. That Whelen tent sure looks good, they say that loops are placed inside for netting, that and spraying with permethrin ought to make it workable in bug season. I wonder if anyone has approached them about making a Bill Mason tent. Looks like it's time to make a phone call.
Much excitement!
Rob
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2013
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Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
First off, anyone considering a Bill Mason tent/baker style tent, should get it. Yes there pricey but, if your considering it you already know that and you will also know as discussed in this thread, that canvas tents can last a life time! So if you can afford it and want it, go for it, it will serve you well. I too wish I could have that canvas tent I grew up camping in in the 70's-90's. can't find tents like that anymore.
For people who like the idea but can't get past the price tag I figured I would show you my tarp set up. I copied the northwest woodsman tarp. http://nwwoodsman.com/Product/Shelter/TarpTent.html
great for solo or one nighters. If you can peg in the four corners it's free standing and there are a bunch of different methods to set it up. Here are some pics of my homemade bootleg version....

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Thats a great looking traditional tarp shelter BorealBoy. I've been wanting to try an open shelter method like this for a river trip with no portages. You mentioned it was your copy of the Northwest Woodsman Tarp tent. Noticed his original was 9x12 but now it is being made in 10x13. Is your version the smaller or larger? Wondering just how much more practical space that extra one foot will make.
 
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Thats a great looking traditional tarp shelter BorealBoy. I've been wanting to try an open shelter method like this for a river trip with no portages. You mentioned it was your copy of the Northwest Woodsman Tarp tent. Noticed his original was 9x12 but now it is being made in 10x13. Is your version the smaller or larger? Wondering just how much more practical space that extra one foot will make.
Mine is the 9'x12' and it is a MONSTER! couldn't imagine a bigger one! I should have stressed that this is one of many setups. If I had a of widened the front stakes that would bring the peak down and increase/widen the internal space. If course the tarp can be set up as any rectangular tarp can be in a pinch. I have a lighter smaller canvas tarp that I also use, I like them as getting close to the fire isn't an issue like with synthetics. yes their heavy but, their worth its weight in gold!
the small one i have used with a ridge line and tied it off, I have also thrown it over a little lean to frame I made from debris around the camp site and liked that as there was no guy lines to trip on.
Here are some pics of a camping trip in Kansas i was at in November. Thats where i got the small tarp.

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Mason / Baker style tents: A dissenting opinion

Mason / Baker style tents: A dissenting opinion

I'm of a very different mind on this one and thought I'd offer a dissenting opinion.

When I was just getting started with canoe-tripping and first read Mason's Song of the Paddle and watched his unforgettable movies, I was very strongly inspired to try such a tent. I was charmed by Mason's descriptions and photos of the pleasures of sitting in one's tent, enjoying a river view, coffee mug in hand, with the fire nearby under the tent's awning. It's very romantic imagery.

However, after years of canoe-tripping and talking at length with people who have used such a tent, I think that, for canoe-tripping purposes, the Mason/Baker style tent is inferior to modern free-standing dome tents for many reasons which I will list below. Unless one is committed to tripping in accordance with a certain aesthetic tradition for it's own sake, there are just too many ways in which Mason/Baker style of shelter is lacking. What follows are why I think so.

-They are needlessly bulky when packed, which means they occupy far more real estate in your pack, which means you need to lug more packs on your portages and they take up precious room in your boat.
-They are almost comically heavy compared to a modern tent, making them a hardship on portages.
-They take longer to setup because one has to cut poles, anchor them more securely against winds. By contrast, one can pitch a modern tent and string a modern lightweight tarp in less time it takes just to find and cut the necessary poles for a Mason/Baker style tent.
- They fare badly in the wind or bad weather because of their shape. Unlike modern tents which are domed to deflect wind and have a low profile and thus hold up well against even violent winds, the Mason/Baker tent is taller and has flat vertical surfaces which catch the wind like a sail and rustle and flap all night. They typically have one angled wall that can deflect some wind, but users have told me that the angled back wall seldom matters, since big winds from rainstorms typically come at you from open areas (namely the water) and so most of the time your tent's opening faces into the wind, rather than the wind glancing off the slanted back wall of the tent.
- They have no floor, which means one has to be more selective about site selection, otherwise, even with a ground cloth, your bedding will get wet from ground runoff. By contrast, I was once forced to pitch my dome tent in the only available flat spot, which happened to be in a depression. Anticipating overnight rains I lined the inside of my tent with a very thin plastic sheet in case a lot of water pooled in the depression where I was pitched. Water did pool beneath my tent and a tiny amount of water did percolate up through the fabric of the bathtub-style floor of my tent, but the plastic sheet protected me and my bedding from all moisture. This would hardly have been possible with a floorless tent, even with a plastic sheet (much less a very thin and light one). The bathtub floors of modern tents are a real plus when one is forced to pitch in an undesirable location.
- They have a larger footprint, especially when one take into consideration the awning area in front. This too limits where one can pitch such a tent.
- They take longer to dry out, longer to strike, and are harder to pack up. A modern dome tent's synthetic fabric airs out and dries out faster, can be struck very fast and crammed into it's stuff sack much faster, all of which matters on days where one wants to break camp quickly for an early start.
- They are much too heavy for backpacking trips, which means - if you're a backpacker too - you need to own two tents instead of just one.

Mason's primary objection to modern tents was that they are a "doghouse" because they're small and low. He was right. They are. But that's actually a virtue, provided one doesn't try to live in it. I don't live in my tent. I just sleep in it. I'll occasionally nap in it, and when I do, I never have to worry about the wind blowing the campfire smoke into my shelter. I do my living, my relaxing, cooking, eating, camp crafts, and socializing 'round the fire, under my tarp...which provides me cover from rain, wind, and sun and can be strung where I can enjoy the best view or catch the best breeze. My doghouse is light, compact, dries out fast, takes 2 minutes to pitch or strike (no exaggeration there), holds up better in wind and rain, keeps out the bugs, mice, and ground water, and it needn't be pitched where there's a view or where I will make my fire, but rather in the flattest and most level spot I can find.

So, while I do share in that romantic nostalgia for older-style tents, I find them too impractical and frankly inadequate compared to modern self-standing dome tents.

Hope this helps,
- Martin
 
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Sad but true, Martin. Tentsmiths never answered my e-mail. I found plans for the Whelen tent online and weighting out one of my existing canvas tarps from Tentsmiths got the pounds/square feet of surface. If I made the whelen tent from the regular Tentsmiths canvas it would weight above twenty pounds. And that's no floor.

Now Martin, you're a nice guy, but if you have any observations about Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny I do wish you'd keep them to yourself. As I'm well into my second childhood I really like something to look foward to.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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Sad but true, Martin. Tentsmiths never answered my e-mail. I found plans for the Whelen tent online and weighting out one of my existing canvas tarps from Tentsmiths got the pounds/square feet of surface. If I made the whelen tent from the regular Tentsmiths canvas it would weight above twenty pounds. And that's no floor.

Now Martin, you're a nice guy, but if you have any observations about Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny I do wish you'd keep them to yourself. As I'm well into my second childhood I really like something to look foward to.

Best Wishes, Rob

I hate to break it to you about Santa and the Easter Bunny...but they ain't real. Now,the Tooth Fairy; she's real...and she's awesome!
- Martin
 
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On all those points, Martin is totally right of course. But is there no room for a bit of romance in tripping, even if it doesn't make practical sense?

Don't be too discouraged about the Whelen, Rob. Not sure if you've seen this blog from a Korean Bushcrafter. He made a reduced sized Whelen from some lighter weight canvas and it clocked it at am impressive 3.13lbs.

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I will listen to anything Martin has to say! and in this case, i wish I hadn't, cause he is right again.
Last canoe trip I was on I brought my "doghouse" but, that was just in case of rain and there wasn't so I slept under the stars. Like what martin said, the dog house is just a place to sleep. So whether I bring my doghouse or hammock I will still have the canvas tarp in case i want to get a fire going under it in the rain.
Would I personally take a baker tent on a canoe trip, probably not but they would be great to have for extended camps in one location.
 
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Murat V, that tent from Korea sure was interesting. I wonder what kind of canvas he used. I suspect if I go with anything like that I'll just get a CCS Lean. And watch the sparks.

It was interesting to see someone from that part of the world thinking about the same kinds of things we are. I never thought about wilderness and that area (Asia) before I read "The Tiger: a true story of Vengeance and Survival" . What a tale! Takes place in the far eastern Siberia.

Martin, I don't know if your Tooth Fairy is much consolation; at this point a loose tooth means a trip to the dentist. Root canal and caps; lots of fun stuff. Now if it was a female and cute like Tinker Bell that would be fine, anything else can stay away.

Best Wishes, Rob
 
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On all those points, Martin is totally right of course. But is there no room for a bit of romance in tripping, even if it doesn't make practical sense

Good point Murat. There is indeed room for romance, tradition, and nostalgia when canoe tripping. We each need to decide for ourselves how much inconvenience we are willing to contend with in order to achieve a certain aesthetic experience when camping. I certainly am not of the opinion that one should always opt for the newest, lightest and most practical gear. For instance, I like to use charred cloth and primitive fire-starting techniques when I go camping. I also like to cook my meals over an open fire when that's possible, even though a butane lighter and a modern camping stove would always be faster and easier. Others favour traditional clothing, wood & canvas canoes, even though they require greater care and are heavier than their modern synthetic counterparts. It's all a matter of what sacrifices one is prepared to make when it comes to using traditional gear and techniques.

I would hope no one thought that my dissenting view on Mason/Baker style tents was intended as a criticism of anyone who would prefer that style of tent. I posted because I thought someone should point out the short-comings of such a tent, not to suggest that one ought not use one just because we have modern tents that offer greater conveniences. Some people will surely derive enough satisfaction from a shelter that's in keeping with an older aesthetic that it will be well worth those short-comings. When I cook over an open fire and start my fires with a ferro-rod or flint & steel, and charred cloth, I'm fully aware that I'm making the task of meal preparation take longer and more difficult than it needs to. But, for me, a crackling fire is an important aesthetic feature of the camping experience. Indeed, it doesn't even feel like an inconvenience to me because I derive satisfaction from the very thing others might find pointlessly time-consuming. Others need and want more tradition, romance and nostalgia in their tripping experience. It's all good. I just wouldn't want anyone spending good money on a more traditional shelter without knowing some of the short-comings.

Hope this helps,
- Martin
 
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"Heavy and bulky, not good in open wind, buggy during the season, mice inside, lots of guy ropes, takes a while to learn to set up fast."

Hi Martin
My words above in my OP, I agree with you 100%, they don't compare to modern tents for canoe tripping.

But, I would say a canvas tent can have it's place on a canoe trip, and if your a hunter/fisherman who travels early spring and late fall, having a tent with the option to heat it is a huge plus. Speaking for myself, when I hit that 60 year old threshold, the cold started to bother me, more than the thought of an extra trip across a portage. Now at 65, the cold has really slowed down my outdoor activity's, so a week camping/deer hunting out of a canoe in the Adk's or Maine late October/early November requires something better than a nylon dome tent. Same thing with a springtime fishing trip to LaVerendry where it has snowed on 2 of my trips. No more doghouses for me in those conditions. I need heat, and the tarp and campfire won't do anymore.

While the pictures I posted showed a large tent, I have seen them smaller and these I consider a good option for someone who needs heat and can only purchase one tent.

It also gives the canoeist/winter camper the option of having a tent for the winter camping season with heat to be used with a toboggan.

I use a small cut down wall tent for off season, and I have to carry a frame that is also bulky, but in my case this tent fits the bill and it actually keeps me "out there" longer because of the comfort level it provides.

Here is a couple of pages out of the 2000 Duuth Pack Tent, Tipis and Tarps Catalog with the different size campfire tents available. Hopefully it's legible, but the two person tent comes in at 20 lbs, 10lbs for pole kit, (I would pass on the pole kit, beaver sticks make fine poles). A small Titanium stove weighs 8lbs. This tent has a floor and can be closed up for the stove out front with a stove jack included.


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Again, a Campfire Tent is no comparison to a modern tent as you so well explained. But, if I where in the market for a tent today for 4 seasons without having to settle for a cold tent, I would strongly consider a Baker tent or my real preference, a cut down 8x10 wall tent to about 7x6 at 54" high with a wood stove option.

Finally, I added this "Traditional Gear" section to the forum for something different. I know a few folks who use alot of traditional gear, but not always, and certainly not because it's better. Some of it is comparable to modern gear, some of it is better, but most of the traditional gear leaves much to be desired in today's modern world with new materials coming out every year.


Canvas, wool, wood.....they still can have their place.
:)
 
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OK, now what do I know; not much right? But I was over on wintertrekking site and they have a write up about tents. Talked about how Egyptian cotton is no more etc. BUT they did list a web site over in Britain www.ventile.co.uk I went to the site and it sure seems that if the material isn't Egyptian cotton it is just as good if not better. No one over on winter trekking has got any of the material and they were very interested in reports from anyone who has given it a try. Does anyone here have any idea of what it takes to order from England?

I'm not sure I did the math right but it seems to look as if some of the lighter fabric Ventile makes would bring the weight of the Whelen tent down to about ten pounds.
Best Wishes, Rob
 
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I must have daydreamed for years, gazing at one of those iconic photos of Bill Mason lounging in front of his campfire tent, telling myself "someday that'll be me". I remember his "doghouse" opinion, and found it a little hurtful, but he was entitled to his opinion. Me, my wife and our four young kids would crawl into our collection of doghouses every camping season, with our tails tucked dutifully between our legs. I kept thinking "someday, that'll be me". Eventually we "moved on up" to a single free standing dome "dog kennel". I remember it slept 8, but my wife insists it slept 6. Our kids didn't care. Pillow fights during rainstorms, and scary stories late at night meant that it fit our camping "lifestyle" perfectly. It set up easily, and kept us warm and dry. Soon afterwards I stopped having that particular daydream. I still look from time to time for a campfire tent, because they really are a romantic design, but I've adapted with ways to make things work. A large tarp works great near a fire and cooking area. I still like to crawl into a tent for an afternoon nap, and love to hear the gentle patter of a soft rain on the fly. Since the kids have grown, my wife and I have gone back to a much smaller "dog house". It's a 2 human Hubba Hubba, super lightweight and packs small. I did need to add the optional "gear shed" vestibule. After all, one needs a porch were one can shake off the rain before crawling in for an afternoon nap and a daydream.
 
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