I bought a new tent! As Amy is quick to point out, the last thing I need is another tent. But I wanted it.
I have been intrigued by Baker and Whelan tents for years. Basically, half of a small wall tent, they are designed for expedition camping. Open down the length, they have a flap which can be extended like an awning, doubling your covered space, or dropped down to fully enclose the tent for protection from the weather. This feature allows you to build a small fire just in front of the extended awning. You can cook while sitting out of the rain and your living quarters are warmed like a giant reflector oven.
A handful of companies make these tents in the traditional canvas. I considered buying one but at almost twenty pounds, it was just too heavy. Then I happened on the Laavu Pro, made by the Finnish company, Halti. It weighs just over two pounds and packs down to two feet by six inches.
Laavu literally means lean-to in Finnish. The Halti Laavu Pro is a small Bakers tent made of green polyester with a reflective, silver interior. Unlike a traditional Bakers tent, it also has a floor and a mosquito net door. Guy lines, stakes and a repair kit are included, but tent poles are extra. You can cut poles at camp, use trekking poles, or suspend the tent from a cord tied between trees. I am wishing I bought the tent poles. They would be much simpler and faster than cutting new poles each time I take the tent out.
I ordered the laavu on-line from Halti and it arrived ten days later. Friday after work, I loaded up the Triumph. Walter hopped into the sidecar; I secured his leash, slipped his doggles over his head, tugged the fur out of his eyes, and we headed north to try out the new tent. A pleasant ride into the woods, it took only forty-five minutes to get to our destination. As I shut off the bike, a kingfisher flashed by, just off the surface of the wide, shallow stream bordering a meadow still lit by the late afternoon sun.
It took a little time to clear a site and select some suitable poles. The bent wire tent pegs supplied by Halti are fine for the corners but kept pulling out when I tightened the guy lines. I cut some wood pegs – they worked better, allowing me to get the tent nice and taut.
With a floor of six by seven feet, the Laavu Pro is advertised as a four-person tent. Two people and gear would be a more reasonable expectation. Unfortunately, the six-foot dimension is across the front. Unless you are short, you must sleep with your head toward the door, losing some of the warming benefit of the fire. Also, reaching the door zipper without disturbing your tentmate would be a little awkward for more than one person. Ventilation is excellent and the tent is pleasant and roomy inside. It is a little over four feet tall at the front. The silver lining does reflect heat, but the color isn’t noticeable; the interior appears green when the sun is shining through.
By the time I had the laavu set up and some firewood collected, it was cooling off and the mosquitos were humming. I piled some rocks up in front of the tent to make a low windbreak and soon had a fire blazing. The smoke and a spritz of deet drove the bugs away. I poured a beer and lit a lantern, admiring the stars winking to life as the sky began to darken. Dinner was a hot dog, wrapped in bannock roasted on a stick. I think more bannock stuck to me than to the frank, but it worked out ok. Walter munched kibble and I licked dough from my fingers while the fire crackled merrily. After another beer or two, I turned in. Walter crawled under a nearby shrub for the night.
When I awoke at six, Walter was sleeping just outside the tent, leaning against the screen door by my head. He happily sprang to his feet, tail a-wag, when I got up to perform my morning ablutions. The night had been clear. Frost covered the ground and my bike. I rekindled the fire and had several cups of tea before making some hot oatmeal for breakfast.
The day went from cold to hot without much transition so the mosquitos never came out, but the deer flies pestered Walter as the afternoon grew warmer. I had left some fresh tipi poles when I camped here last month. They needed to be rotated to prevent them from warping, and I thought I might peel the bark off and remove some of the knots. I got two poles skinned and most of the bark off four more, but there are still three left that I need to do at a later date.
I ate my remaining frankfurter for lunch, along with beans and some bannock, this time baked on a board. I hadn’t tried this before. I dribbled a little beer on the dough so I could smooth and shape it without it sticking to my fingers. Baking bread on a board propped next to the fire worked pretty well. It would have worked better had I been paying attention, instead of working on a tipi pole. I scorched one side of the loaf. No problem; I whittled off the charred portion and it still made a nice, fresh bun for the hotdog.
After lunch, I stacked the tipi poles, put out the fire, and bundled up my gear. The new tent had proved its worth and was as easy to strike as it was to set up. Packed and ready, Walter hopped in the sidecar and we headed home. We rode from hot, sunny weather toward a looming thunderstorm, arriving home just before the rain began to fall.