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Jared
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So my shopping list for next season includes these three items. I need a tent for the 4 of us, dry bags for all of our stuff, and sleeping pads. What do you guys run, and what is flat junk? I want stuff that lasts, not cheap lasts 2 seasons stuff.
 

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Tent - Lots of good ones. I like Big Agnes. If you use a cot, make sure it fits.
Dry bags - Watershed is the only one I'll ever use. Sturdy, water tight, and easy to organize stuff in. But not cheap. I personally hate top loading dry bags.
Sleeping - Lots of folks love Paco pads.....I personally hate them. Bulky, hot, not comfortable for me. I LOVE my roll-a-cot. I use a 2.5 inch thermarest type pad on top of it. Heavenly to sleep on. It's great in or out of the tent (under the stars). Easy to get it level, and so easy to just sit up & get dressed. No more crawling around on hands & knees in a tent. What my friends with kids do, is get a good sized tent, put cots on each side for mom and dad, put the kids on the floor in between on pads.
 

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I'm assuming you will have a raft or cataraft to haul gear...

Tent: I always bring one but hope not to need it. Bugs mostly, but the biggest downpour I ever whitnessed was in Moab. Lots of good tents around. Durability, venting and ease of setup are a bigger priority to me than lightweght. My tent is a Eurika Exuinox, and I love it.

Dry bags, I like one med. to large one for clothes etc. and one small one as a 'day bag' for stuff like sunscreen and snacks. Usually I plan for each person to have their own bags, couples and or kids can choose to share, but having your own bags avoids conflicts. Note: those clear vinyl drybags are mini green houses in the desert, hot enough to melt a bar of soap! Mine are NRS, Sealine and some unidentified garage sale finds.

Sleeping pads, I personally like the roll-o-cot for my desert trips. It is very comfortable and can be set up on rocks, sand, water whatever. As others have mentioned make sure this fits inside the tent. I normally sleep out in the open unless there are bugs or rain. Paco pads or thermorest pads are a common choice. I usually take one or two of the cheap foam pads to use around camp, immune to catus spines and embers I prefer to let them take the abuse.

Shade device: While this isn't on your list it should be. Take a nice big tarp or several umbrellas for shade. Desert sun can be brutal. I use the Sprotbrella and the NoahsTarp
 

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I have a Eureka Timberline SQ 6, a-frame tent. Super durable, easy up, and plenty big. Im 6'3" and can almost stand in the center.
 

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I can share what seems to work for us. We are four.
When you say the four of us that makes me think of some sort of parental couple and perhaps a pair of clingons. As evidenced from your avatar photo I have reason to believe that one of them may be smallish in size and not quite self-sufficient.

We take two tents ( our girls are 8 and 11) so they have their own space to destroy with sand, bugs, sticks and all the other stuff they bring into the tent. Theirs is a Eureka outfitter picked up from a MF outfitter upgrading their gear. Easy to set up, stable enough in the wind if you guy it out.
Mine is an old Sierra Designs Clip 3 or something like that. I have it for twenty years of hard use and unfortunately the seam sealing has worn out so I will have to reapply. $7 over 20 years = 30 cents a year. I guess I will keep it but they don't make gear like they used to. Seriously I love my tent but we only set it up in extreme conditions as I tend to throw up a tarp over the entrance to the girls tent and my wife and I will often sleep outside. The girls will join us quite a bit but it is still nice to have their tent for containment purposes.

Sleeping pads: We have a pair of Maravia Landing Pads, a paco pad and assorted thermarests. With the addition of the Maravia pads we have upgraded the kids to thermarests that hold air or the paco pad. I like the paco. It is thinner, easier to roll up and I throw my uninflated thermarest pad on top it ( and leave it uninflated) and I am very comfortable. My wife LOVES the Maravia pads. She claimed the paco smelled. It does. Like plastic. So does the Maravia pad. Like Plastic......????? Who knows? If it makes you happy...then why the hell are you...oh never mind.

For drybags: We have a couple of NRS Bills Bags 3.8 Cu feet or something. I have never had a problem and the one I have is close to twenty years old. My wifes is about 15. Then we have JPW bags for the kids. The stiff 'seal' area of the JPW seems more likely to seal up in the hands of the inexperienced. I don't think they could even seal up a Watershed style closure but maybe I am wrong. Only handled one of those.

I like the NRS, JPW style bag better so far because I can make it into a tightly compressed, air free bag that lashes and stays in place better. All the watershed bags I have handled for my occasional passengers that are not family were unhandy to strap in and tended to flop around due to the air being trapped inside. You watershed guys know what I mean. Handy to get in and out of, no doubt. Not so handy to strap in.
 

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I can share what seems to work for us. We are four.
When you say the four of us that makes me think of some sort of parental couple and perhaps a pair of clingons. As evidenced from your avatar photo I have reason to believe that one of them may be smallish in size and not quite self-sufficient.

We take two tents ( our girls are 8 and 11) so they have their own space to destroy with sand, bugs, sticks and all the other stuff they bring into the tent. Theirs is a Eureka outfitter picked up from a MF outfitter upgrading their gear. Easy to set up, stable enough in the wind if you guy it out.
Mine is an old Sierra Designs Clip 3 or something like that. I have it for twenty years of hard use and unfortunately the seam sealing has worn out so I will have to reapply. $7 over 20 years = 30 cents a year. I guess I will keep it but they don't make gear like they used to. Seriously I love my tent but we only set it up in extreme conditions as I tend to throw up a tarp over the entrance to the girls tent and my wife and I will often sleep outside. The girls will join us quite a bit but it is still nice to have their tent for containment purposes.

Sleeping pads: We have a pair of Maravia Landing Pads, a paco pad and assorted thermarests. With the addition of the Maravia pads we have upgraded the kids to thermarests that hold air or the paco pad. I like the paco. It is thinner, easier to roll up and I throw my uninflated thermarest pad on top it ( and leave it uninflated) and I am very comfortable. My wife LOVES the Maravia pads. She claimed the paco smelled. It does. Like plastic. So does the Maravia pad. Like Plastic......????? Who knows? If it makes you happy...then why the hell are you...oh never mind.

For drybags: We have a couple of NRS Bills Bags 3.8 Cu feet or something. I have never had a problem and the one I have is close to twenty years old. My wifes is about 15. Then we have JPW bags for the kids. The stiff 'seal' area of the JPW seems more likely to seal up in the hands of the inexperienced. I don't think they could even seal up a Watershed style closure but maybe I am wrong. Only handled one of those.

I like the NRS, JPW style bag better so far because I can make it into a tightly compressed, air free bag that lashes and stays in place better. All the watershed bags I have handled for my occasional passengers that are not family were unhandy to strap in and tended to flop around due to the air being trapped inside. You watershed guys know what I mean. Handy to get in and out of, no doubt. Not so handy to strap in.
If there's air in a watershed bag, they aren't sealing/burping it properly. Just like any other dry bag, you burp out the air before you seal it all the way. I'm a watershed-aholic. I have 5 of them in various sizes. I hate super heavy unwieldy bags, so I have several moderately loaded bags instead of one ginormous one. For a family just starting out, Watershed bags probably aren't budget friendly, but I sure love mine. Never had a problem securing them in my boat.

+1 on the shade. A nice tarp for shade is a must. Hot, cranky people, large or small isn't fun. Also, get the kids their own camp chair. Let them pick it out so you have at least a chance that they'll use it, and not steal yours.
 

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A short caveat. I spend most of my time in the outdoors fishing, boating, hunting, camping and backpacking and have done so my whole life. I'm not necessarily a gear snob, because I am willing to pay for nice gear where it's justified....however I find that many times one does not need to buy the absolute top of the line to get a functional and durable product. For instance, boots I pay for top of the line because I have found it counts. They may cost me $250 but they last 10 years and literally thousands of comfortable miles. On the otherhand, I may fish 80+ days a year but my spin rods are $30 ugly stiks and $75 fly rods...that upper end stuff just isn't worth the price (to me). Keeping that in mind...(I know some gear snobs will find this laughable)....

Tents: I have owned and used many tents in my 25+ years of camping (and 32 years of life) and have developed some opinions for sure. I have owned some really nice(& expensive) North Face and Marmot tents also Kelty, Coleman, Eureka, and REI....of all of these which ones withstood the test of time you ask? The Colemans believe it or not-the cheapest ones. I now own 2 colemans, one is 25 years old and has never leaked and was never waterproofed. I still use it occassionally today. I also own a Coleman red canyon-big enough for your whole family and it has been through some crazy storms and used probably for 20 weeks over 3-4 years. It is big though in footprint and weight, but a good tent especially for the money. I absolutely love the coleman "bathtub floors" (durable and don't leak). I also own a Eureka Tetragon 3, lightweightish but affordable. For the most part all you are getting from expensive tents are lighter weights and smaller packages...and mine just never lasted as long as the heavier cheaper colemans...that's just a fact. If I want to go lightweight I use a hammock.

Drybags: I've had Sealine and the NRS ones...but (and this will get some laughs too) a few years ago I noticed some Outdoor Product ones in walmart on sale so I tried them. I've had those ones for 3+ years and have yet to have issues. In fact I was so impressed that I bought more and now they are insanely cheap! I think you can get the 20L for $7 and the 40L for $13...and again no issues. A friend of mine was beginning his guiding season this year and mentioned he needed a new bag because his watershed bag got ripped, I mention the OP ones I used and he scoffed saying he needed something durable to get through the season. I saw him the other day...he had bought one LOL! Yes they are clear but if it's hot and stuff might melt-I open it-we've had no issues though.

Sleeping pads: This one I do feel you need to shell out some bucks to get something comfortable. I do like pacos, but they are bulky, hot in summer and I just can't bring myself to spend that kinda money on them, but they are comfy (in cooler weather), durable and waterproof. Thermarest is what I lean towards. I like the 3/4 length blow up ones (about 2" thick?)...mine is pretty old so I don't remember the model or anything, but you don't wanna get them really wet. Any of the foam pads n' solid ones just aren't enough for me. I do like cots but they are just so bulky I never use mine. Honestly I normally use one of my inflatable beds when car or boat camping. It's just too comfy to give up.

More and more though I am starting to lean towards hammocks as they cover the shelter and bedding in one tight and light package.

wow...that got long! Sorry!
 

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I would have to disagree that Coleman's stand up to weather like top brands, though I do like Coleman's especially if you know it's only going to rain one night, but I have been in a 3 day steady rainstorm in a Coleman and it was leaking by day 2. Though this was never waterproofed by me jus straight factory so that may have helped. Sierra designs and mountain hardware have been great tents for my friends and I. You can usually find tents and camping gear 50% off in the winter which makes buying top brands easier on the pocket. +1 on the cots they are amazing.
 

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Jared
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Discussion Starter #10
We camp pretty often, but now I am finding I need two sets of gear, one for rafting and one for car camping. We have a large Coleman tent and a small Eureka tent, and have been happy with both. My Dad has 2 of the Kelty shelters, and I like those. (I'll propably get one of those too!)
I've been looking at a 6 man Eureka or Kelty product. I like the looks of the roll top Duffels for clothes, and then a regular style drybag for bedding. You don't have to access things much in a bag meant for bedding. I want a cargo bag for the rear of the raft too.
I have a 14 foot Sotar ST raft, a wife, with a 5 year old boy and an almost 3 year old girl. Totally looking forward to taking them on the river for overnight trips!
 

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More and more though I am starting to lean towards hammocks as they cover the shelter and bedding in one tight and light package.

wow...that got long! Sorry!
I'm with you on the hammocks. My cot is way comfy, but a hammock is even more so. But on the river, they aren't always practical.
 

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JPWinc.com for gear bags, watershed for possibles and day bags. Lost count of trips on JPW gear bags and never had one leak or tear. I have several sizes of JPW gear bags and you buy one and it lasts forever. Did have one watershed smaller size bag (it was a old model one) tear at the fold and leak. I did have a lot of years use on that bag tho.

Rollacot for sleeping for all the reasons mentioned above. As you acquire boating related injuries and joints start loosing flexibility - cots make a lot of sense.

Pads - big fan of JPW pacos - they just do not wear out. The more you abuse them the more you appreciate their quality construction. My favorite is the Silverback. Super good on the cot, almost as good on the ground. I just spread out my little silver/red ground cloth put the Silverback on the ground cloth and sleep like a baby. I also have two of the thicker Thermarests and they work ok, just not near as comfy as the JPW Silverback for my use - but work great on the rollacot.

Tents - most all tents these days are good. My favorites are REI and Hilleberg with original Moss Tarps for kitchen and group meeting when needed. I also have a Alps 5 person outfitter grade tent for use when I think I will put the cot inside (I find Alps Mountaineering Products to be low price with high quality). Otherwise I take one of the smaller tents and hope it does not rain. I have just wrapped up in the small tent's fly on the cot when I get lazy and do not put up the tent out west and rain sneaks in.

One thing for sure I find a lot of the modern tent fly waterproofing will turn sticky pretty fast. The manufacturers say you have to put them up dry and not let them get hot in the truck or garage. B/S in my opinion as I buy hi dollar gear and take care of it and I have had several hi dollar well known tent fly's turn sticky even when I treated them like royalty. So beware of sticky tarp and fly's.
 

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We camp pretty often, but now I am finding I need two sets of gear, one for rafting and one for car camping. We have a large Coleman tent and a small Eureka tent, and have been happy with both.....

.....I like the looks of the roll top Duffels for clothes, and then a regular style drybag for bedding. You don't have to access things much in a bag meant for bedding.

This is what I do too. The HUGE Coleman is my car camper (too big for many sites on river and I don't wanna lug it on/off boat) and the Eureka is my boat camper when the girlfriend is with me...or the hammock when it's just me because I can ALWAYS find trees here to attach a sling to.

For boating we use 40L dry bags for clothes and my bedding (inflatable mattress, pump and sheets) is in a gamma lid sealed 5 gallon bucket.
 

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One thing for sure I find a lot of the modern tent fly waterproofing will turn sticky pretty fast. The manufacturers say you have to put them up dry and not let them get hot in the truck or garage. B/S in my opinion as I buy hi dollar gear and take care of it and I have had several hi dollar well known tent fly's turn sticky even when I treated them like royalty. So beware of sticky tarp and fly's.

^This....hence my affinity for colemans and scotchguard
 

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I like the NRS, JPW style bag better so far because I can make it into a tightly compressed, air free bag that lashes and stays in place better. All the watershed bags I have handled for my occasional passengers that are not family were unhandy to strap in and tended to flop around due to the air being trapped inside. You watershed guys know what I mean. Handy to get in and out of, no doubt. Not so handy to strap in.
If there's air in a watershed bag, they aren't sealing/burping it properly. Just like any other dry bag, you burp out the air before you seal it all the way. I'm a watershed-aholic. I have 5 of them in various sizes. I hate super heavy unwieldy bags, so I have several moderately loaded bags instead of one ginormous one. For a family just starting out, Watershed bags probably aren't budget friendly, but I sure love mine. Never had a problem securing them in my boat.

I own a bunch of different drybags. Big Bill (too big), Seal Line, Watershed, and some other cheap-ies (Cabela's brand?) in assorted sizes. I drag along the cheap stuff on day trips and let passengers use them. Since I've owned the Watershed bags (Yukon for me and a Colorado for the wifey) we only take them on the multiday trips, and the Big Bill bag I've had for years is now used to haul around my firepan. I have never had an issue with air being trapped or strapping down a watershed bag, FWIW.
 

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Point taken on the watershed bags, but even burped properly I have never seen one come close to the kind of tight I can get on my Bill's Bag the way you can compress it as you seal it. But I know people like watershed. I just use stuff sacks inside of the Bills Bag and leave my sleeping loose and stuff it around the other bags. Works great. Years of habit will be hard to break.

I like the idea of two tents instead of one big one for flexibility. Every fiberglass poled tent that we have had, has failed. If that is your only protection then you are done. Unless you carry spares.
I have spares for the Eureka Outfitter ( all the same pole ) but not for my Sierra Designs. I have broken poles on them all. I do camp almost year round. It took 80 mile an hour gusts in November in Southern Wyomin to break the aluminum on the Sierra Design and I think I didn't have it seated properly. So operator error on that one.

I know you may not be intending to camp in that extreme of weather but storms are rarely predictable and in Idaho you need a four season tent year round.
 

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agreed!

No matter how much or how little you pay for a river "dry" bag, proper "burping" is a skill river runners need to learn and practice for satisfactory service!

on tents, I have seen tornado type winds spring up when least expected on western river trips. I have also seen tents not staked out properly blow down wind and several time into the river. If you put up a tent, making sure it is well staked down is a good thing.
 

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Just came back from a five-day overnighter trip. All depends on your set up and how you will be carrying your gear. Here are just a few thoughts.

Tent: whatever tent you can fit your family in. I prefer one big one vs. two small. We had a dozen in our group, but used one large 8 person tent (carried 2). Grownup men slept under the stars.

Sleeping pads: roll-a-cot all the way. Pacos are nice but bulkey and heavy. For the same weight, roll-a-cots double as nice bench for dinner, campfire. Some put thermarest over the cot, but not necessary as long as you have a good sleeping bag.

Drybags: I have a bunch of small drybags from Seattle Sports. Very handy for carrying day stuff, and towels, or things that you don't mind getting wet. NRS Bill's bag is ok, but too bulky and the quality is no better than the cheap ones. My buckle strap (all made with cheap plastic) snapped on the second use. I had a flip, and all the sleeping bags got a little wet. If you can shell out some money, look at watershed. I had all the night clothes for 6 people in one Colorado, and it stayed bone dry. All my DSLR gear stayed in a smaller Chatooga and also stayed bone dry. Had I put them in a regular top loading dry bag, they would've been destroyed. Watershed bags may seem expensive at first, but if you are planning to do this enough, it is a small investment.

Tarp: absolute must. Especially if you have kids and a wife, and want to get to a campsite early for setup and play. Most canyon rivers provide decent shades by 4-5PM, but when the sun is out in the open, it can be most unforgiving element of the nature. I carry a large wing type (20'x20') that doubles as a shelter at night. It packs down to the size of a small one person tent, and weighs meager 4lb.

You have to try them to see what works for your boat and family. But, you can save a lot of time and money by taking in the advice other boaters suggested here. Good luck.
 

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I have two tents I use for outdoor use, including backpacking and kayaking. A Big Agnes King Creek 6 and a High Sierra Zia 2. They're both standalone and reasonably light--I even backpack with the BA when the 5 of us go backpacking. For self-support kayak, the HS is perfect--small and light, and sets up in an instant. The BA takes a little longer to set up, but is standalone, with a nice big vestibule to keep your extra gear dry--VERY nice. When we backpack with both tents, I can put the HS *inside* the BA's vestibule--keeps us all close as a family (including dog), and allows Momma & Daddy time. :D

For pads we use Thermarest and BigAgnes...and LOVE them. As these are mostly used for backpacking, they're the ultralight, inflatables ones (you have to manually blow them up), but they're super-comfy and well worth their price tag, plus they're guaranteed (for life I think). I sent mine in for a leak and they replaced the thing--a $150 pad.

For dry bags, I have about a dozen or so of various sizes and brands, nothing in particular stands out, so I can't comment on that.
 
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