So you probably already know how to set up your dome tent, even if you never even cracked open the instructions that came with your tent. Almost every dome tent is the same with two main poles that cross in the center and a shorter single pole that stretches out the rain fly. Here are some instructions and pointers in case you’re feeling a bit rusty.
1. Get out your tent and ground cloth. What’s a ground cloth? Well, most tents don’t actually come with one of these but if you want to keep the bottom of your tent dry and free of rips and tears, you’re going to want to use a ground cloth. Most tent manufacturers will try to sell you a ground cloth separately to exactly match your tent’s footprint (I recently paid more than $30 for a ground cloth to fit my North Face Tadpole, a real rip off). Instead of forking over the big bucks, pick up a plastic tarp at Wal-Mart for about $5 or so.
2. Unfold your ground cloth and roll out your tent. Get the pole bag out of the way and unfold the tent completely. Set the rain fly aside.
3. Assembling the tent poles is perhaps the most exciting part of putting up your dome tent. In most dome tents the poles are attached via elastic strings and often you can simply shake the pole sections into place (just make sure no one is within a 10 foot radius of you as they might get whacked!). Go ahead and put all the poles together at once.
4. This step is probably the most frustrating part of many tent pitchers’ experience. Slide the poles through the pole sleeves starting at one corner and ending at the opposite corner. Be sure to push the poles through as pulling usually causes the pole sections to separate inside the tent sleeve. Thread both poles through without attaching them into the corner pockets.
5. Now you’re ready for the real action: a standing structure. Place the end of one of the poles into the corner pocket. Have a friend help you insert the opposite end of the pole into the pocket on the opposite corner of the tent. You’ll need to bow the tent pole at this point: this is what gives the dome tent its shape. Repeat this procedure for the second pole as well.
6. If you’re camping in a warm climate and no rain is expected overnight (and you’re not concerned about your privacy) you can skip the next step, installing the rain fly.
7. The rain fly typically involves a single pole and is assembled in much the same way the tent itself is assembled. Slide the fly pole into its sleeve and place each end into its pocket. Center the fly with the pole extending across the center of the tent entrance. Attach the fly clips to the corners of the tent.
8. Now, turn your attention to your ground cloth. If you’re using a tarp that hasn’t been custom fitted to your tent, you’ll probably have some excess material sticking out from underneath your tent. It is important to tuck this excess underneath the tent, especially if you expect it to rain. During a downpour, water will run off the roof of your tent and if your ground cloth is hanging out beyond the roof of your tent, it will collect all the runoff water and send it straight to the floor of your tent. Roll or fold the edges for a neat result.
If do a good bit of camping and don’t expect to multi-task with your tarp, you might want to consider trimming your tarp to create a custom groundcloth for your tent. Just set up your tent up to step 7 and trace around the tent onto the tarp using a magic marker. Take the ground cloth out, cut along the lines you’ve marked, and you have a custom ground cover!
Some have found Tyvek to be a great ground cover material for use in camping. Tyvek is puncture and tear-resistant and is semi-permeable, although it is best used with tents that already have water proof bottoms built in. See Goodling Outdoor for more information.
9. At this point you could consider yourself done with tent setup and if you have alot of gear you’ll be keeping in your tent or if the wind is calm you might be right. But most tents come with ground stakes for a reason and you should use them particularly if it is windy in your location or if your tent will be empty during the day (and more liable to be blown away). Push stakes in with your hands in the corners and in any other location on your tent where you find stake holders.
10. Place your stake, pole, and tent bags somewhere you won’t lose them while you’re camping. I like to put mine in the pouch inside the tent so I have them when it’s time to pack up (and so they don’t end up inside a backpack or the car where I can’t find them).
11. Taking the tent down is the same process as above but in reverse. Make sure to shake any condensation off your tent materials (rain fly included) and ideally wait for your tent to dry before rolling it back up. If you must pack up a wet tent, be sure to reopen it as soon as you get home to let it air dry (otherwise you may get mildew or worse). I prefer to store my camping gear (tent included) in the attic where things are relatively dry and hot as opposed to the damp cool basement.
And there you have it, a few tips on putting up your dome tent for your next camping trip.