best gear for yosemite camping in august?
May 16, 2011 7:37 PM   Subscribe

whats the best tent & sleeping bags for 2 persons on a 3 night camping trip in yosemite in august? asking for brands & models but also specs i should look for. specifically tents that are easy to setup. bonus points for any additional information about gear to bring, weather in august, and any experiences youve had there. we're going on the green tortoise tour from san fran if anyone has any stories about that... thanks!
posted by fumbducker to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I love my Black Diamond Mesa.

  • Very easy to setup
  • Sturdy
  • Sleeps two and has opposite side entries (each person can enter from their own side and doesn't have to climb over the other during the night).
  • Pouches for both people at both ends (so you have a pouch near your head whether you sleep head-to-head or head-to-toe).
  • Good ventilation
  • The fly color makes the interior feel "warmer" even on dreary days
Cons: It's a slightly heavier than some other 3-season tents.
posted by justkevin at 7:58 PM on May 16, 2011

I've got the REI quarter dome, which I love, but it's definitely a backpacking tent. The Half Dome is another good option; it's bigger and a little heavier; a good trade off if you're car caping. Many of the same features justkevin mentions about the Mesa.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:01 PM on May 16, 2011

If you're looking to do this economically, Sports Basement rents tents at very low prices.
posted by samthemander at 9:25 PM on May 16, 2011

Might be a bit pricey to ship outside of Canada, but I've camped in Yosemite in August (and elsewhere in other seasons) with the MEC Apollo and highly recommend it. The fly can be left off on clear nights, so it's just you and the stars (and the mesh to protect from bugs). Super easy to set up, spacious, lightweight, and well-ventilated. MEC sells good sleeping bags, too. It's only worth purchasing gear if you plan on camping fairly regularly, though -- otherwise, just rent as samthemander suggests.

The weather when we were there was beautiful -- dry and clear, but not hot. We arrived in the early evening on a Friday and were still able to find a site at the remote Tamarack Flat Campground. We chose a spot next to a rocky hill, which we climbed after dark. We lay on the rock, still warm from the day's sun, and watched the stars (and the high blinking lights of the seemingly endless stream of airplanes heading to SFO). Wonderful experience.
posted by fhangler at 10:55 PM on May 16, 2011

I have a Sierra Designs "Lightning". An older one, they've changed the style up. It is now like this. Mike has this one, so I've seen it on bike trips. It's light, packs well, sets up fast and easy, and generally rules (his and mine. but his is cooler as it has 2 doors, and better color scheme). If for some reason I were to buy a new tent I'd be very tempted to buy this one.

a good stove and a water filter are good and necessary to have.

oh, and sleeping pads.
posted by rainperimeter at 11:01 PM on May 16, 2011

Where will you be staying? If you're staying at any of the campgrounds (as opposed to the backcountry), you won't need a particularly fancy tent or sleeping gear. You'll be staying there at one of the driest (and warmest) parts of the year in well-shaded camp sites surrounded by windbreaks. I spend probably 70% of my weekends somewhere in YNP during the non-Wintery parts of the year and I see plenty of people having a great time in pretty casual Coleman tents and low-end sleeping gear. If you don't own any of the equipment you need, I would recommend first trying to borrow gear from outdoorsy friends and if that doesn't work, only buying what you need to get the job done.

Tent-wise, a 2 or 3 person tent is what you want. Tents tend to be kind of cramped for the number of people that they are rated for, but if you get one that's too big, it's hard to keep warm if it happens to be cold at night.

In August, you probably won't need a sleeping bag rated for anything below 30 degrees. I use a 15 degree bag year-round, but by the time August rolls around, I sleep under (or above) the bag rather than inside it. A sleeping pad of some sort is a necessity; the thicker it is, the more comfortable it will feel. The inflatable ones are generally more comfortable than the plain foam ones.

If you need to buy sleeping gear, I would definitely try it out in person before purchasing; comfort is highly subjective. If you live in San Francisco, I would definitely check out REI and Sports Basement. Sports Basement is usually slightly cheaper, but the selection at REI is usually better (also, membership in the co-op gives you an eventual 10% discount on your purchases). REI's own REI-branded gear is both reliable and affordable and the staff is quite knowledgable re: camping.
posted by strangecargo at 1:28 AM on May 17, 2011

I did the green tortoise there at the same time a few years ago. Super trip! We didn't use a tent - we either slept in the bus or took the mattresses from the bus (or used ground mats) and sleeping bags outdoors. Have a great trip. It's hot and dry there in August.
posted by hannahlambda at 2:43 AM on May 17, 2011

Mountain Hardware Hammerhead 3 (or 2 if you want to be cozy). Lots of mesh for the warm; zips up tight for the cold.
posted by buzzman at 4:00 AM on May 17, 2011

If you have an REI store near you, they will happily let you set up and dismantle all of the tents that they have in stock right in the store. They may also rent the gear you want.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:10 AM on May 17, 2011

thanks for all of the replies, especially about renting @ sports basement. we dont live in SF, we are flying in from NJ for 13 days, 4 of which will be in YNP. we have gear here, but dont feel like lugging it to SF & back, i was going to buy tent & bags there & ship it home or donate it, but renting sounds better. we are joined up in the REI co-op too.

sounds like it wont be cold, even at night, @hannahlambda?
posted by fumbducker at 5:47 AM on May 17, 2011

All I came in here to say was, whatever you do, don't buy a pop-up tent if you ever intend to get it down again. Although you don't seem to intend to. Still, don't.
posted by teraspawn at 6:06 AM on May 17, 2011

"Free standing" tents tend to be the easiest to set up. A "2 person" tent will have just enough room for 2 people and absolutely nothing else. Tent prices are higher for lightweight tents. If you're not backpacking, you don't need to spend extra for an ultralight tent.

You'll likely want sleeping bags designated as "3 season." These bags are typically temp rated to 15-30 degrees. Take the temp rating of the bag subjectively.

Bags are usually synthetic or down filled. Down insulates better ounce for ounce, but is useless if it gets wet. Synthetic still insulates when wet. Down is more expensive, lighter, and packs down smaller. But you shouldn't need an expensive down filled bag. Also if you're allergic to down...

You also likely need some sort of sleeping pad. They're not always so much for comfort as they are for insulation. The ground sucks a lot of heat out of you and your bag fill under you won't be as effective at insulating because it will be compressed by your weight. Even in warmer temps, the ground will still sap heat.

Cheap closed cell foam pads can be had for $20 (or even less at a big box retailer). For more comfort, consider a self-inflating pad like a therm-a-rest or similar (for more money).
posted by thatguyjeff at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2011

Marmot in Berkeley will rent you anything you need and they're easy to get to on bart. Looking at the Green Tortoise website it seems your tour is partly in the valley and partly in Tuolumne. It'll be in the 50s at night in the valley and more like 35 at night in Toulumne, there's also a good chance there will still be snow on the ground in Tuolumne. Every group camping trip includes a bunch of people that don't know how to set up their tent and a bunch of people that are happy to help out. You'll be fine with whatever you end up with.
posted by foodgeek at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2011

thanks all, especially samthemander, thatguyjeff & foodgeek. really, 35 @ night with snow in toulumne, even in august? good to know, i was thinking more like 50-60 @ night everywhere. most likely going to rent at one of those places.. you all rule!
posted by fumbducker at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2011

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