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Published on July 28th, 2011 | by David


Three Season Camping Gear from Sierra Designs and Kelty

I love camp­ing in late sum­mer and au­tumn- no sun­burn, no crowds, and no per­mit wait­lists make it easy, peace­ful, and stress-free. Of course, camp­ing lat­er in the year means cool­er tem­per­a­tures and blus­tery winds, which is why it helps to have a warm sleep­ing bag on hand.

Sier­ra De­signs has been around for ages, qui­et­ly mak­ing qual­i­ty out­doors gear with­out all the flash and bling (and high price tags) of oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers, as we’ve seen from pre­vi­ous re­views. With a sol­id war­ran­ty and re­pair pol­i­cy, I’ve trust­ed them for tents, sleep­ing bags, and out­er­wear quite a few times, so I was ex­cit­ed to take their Py­ro 15 Sleep­ing Bag out for a week­end.

The Py­ro is a down-filled sleep­ing bag, with the reg­u­lar mod­el a nice fit for folks up to six feet tall (a long ver­sion is al­so avail­able). In burnt or­ange, the on­ly avail­able col­or, it looks high qual­i­ty but not as “tech­no-neon” as some oth­er of­fer­ings. It has a smooth, stur­dy zip­per that nev­er snagged on me, and a zip­per draft tube to keep out the wind, and cool fea­tures like a “pil­low pock­et” for us­ing the any ex­tra cloth­ing as an in­stant pil­low so you don’t need to pack one! We’ve done that be­fore, but this bag ac­tu­al­ly en­cour­ages it.

The Py­ro is tech­ni­cal­ly rat­ed at 15 de­grees, but Sier­ra al­so pub­lish­es the more ac­cu­rate “EN Rat­ing,” a sci­en­tif­ic method of de­ter­min­ing a com­fort­able sleep­ing tem­per­a­ture with a giv­en bag and a sin­gle lay­er of clothes. The Py­ro is rat­ed at a “Com­fort Lim­it” of 25 de­grees F (-4 C), based on a stan­dard wom­an hav­ing a com­fort­able night’s sleep, and a “Low­er Lim­it” of 12 F (-11 C), based on the low­est tem­per­a­ture at which a stan­dard man could have a com­fort­able night’s sleep.

For most peo­ple, 15 de­grees is a three-sea­son rat­ing, though wear­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers in a warm tent or car, the Py­ro should do just fine in the win­ter, and if you run hot you might want a 20- or 25-de­gree bag for warmer sum­mer ex­pe­di­tions. On my mid­sum­mer trip to a lo­cal Bay Area park, tem­per­a­tures dropped to the mid-40s, and I was com­fort­able in a thin t-shirt and shorts. Avail­able for around $175 on­line, it felt a bit ex­pen­sive, but of­fers some nifty fea­tures that set it above the pack- like the straps that can al­low no-slide use with a sleep­ing pad like a Ther­marest. Al­so, it of­fers a tru­ly wa­ter­proof shell- most com­peti­tors are wa­ter re­sis­tant, which means lit­tle in a re­al storm where seams will quick­ly soak through.

Along with the Py­ro, I got to try out the Kel­ty Hu­la House 6. The Hu­la House is high-end, 3-sea­son fam­i­ly camp­ing tent that goes up easy and keeps out the el­e­ments. It has a stan­dard clip-and-pole con­struc­tion with 3 poles, and was easy for two av­er­aged-size peo­ple to set up in 10 min­utes or so. The name comes from the in­ter­est­ing pole struc­ture- kind of like a hu­la hoop- that can be a bit tough to fig­ure out at first but end­ed up draw­ing at­ten­tion and mak­ing us won­der why no one had done this be­fore. This isn’t a back­pack­ing tent- at about 20 pounds, it’s far too heavy- but for car camp­ing, it’s a great size. In­side, it com­fort­ably sleeps six adults (four side-by-side, and two per­pen­dic­u­lar to the rest). Four larg­er adults (over six foot) though, might be snug and en­joy the leg room.And this, like most tents we re­view, is a free­stand­ing mod­el, where you can set it up and then move it around if nec­es­sary.

Hon­est­ly, I of­ten tend to­ward bare sleep­ing bags for sum­mer camp­ing; many tents get hot and stuffy in the sun. Thank­ful­ly, the Hu­la House has al­most 360-de­gree mesh, per­fect for keep­ing bugs and crit­ters out while let­ting the breeze pass through. When the mosquitoes come out at dusk, it was great to re­treat in­to the tent and watch the sun­set with­out wor­ry­ing about get­ting bit­ten. For cold­er or wet weath­er, you may want to put up the fly. With in­clud­ed stakes, taped seams and guy­out points, it at­tach­es se­cure­ly and keeps out wind and mild rain, as well as warm­ing up the in­te­ri­or of the tent a bit. If the six per­son mod­el is a bit too large, they al­so make a small­er ver­sion that fits four and is about $100 less.

Car camp­ing tents have few­er de­mands on them than back­pack­ing tents- they don’t have to pack down in­to a pock­et or weigh three ounces, and com­pa­nies have more free­dom to build a com­fort­able, easy-to-use out­doors shel­ter. The Hu­la House de­liv­ers, with a rea­son­able price, ver­sa­tile de­sign, and 3-sea­son com­fort. It’s the best large tent we’ve test­ed, and though cheap­er ones can be found, this one will hold up bet­ter, set up more eas­i­ly, and you’ll be able to repack it and use it again with­out some­thing break­ing or wind tear­ing through it. We found it at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­count from MSRP ($399), avail­able for clos­er to $300 on­line it’s a stel­lar deal.

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About the Author

David has been writing professionally since 2008, as a translator and product editor for Japan Trend Shop. Along the way he has worked in IT for Six Apart (and its reincarnation as SAY Media), Naked Communications, and Tokyo 2.0, as well as volunteering his nerdiness for dance events and organizations such as the Fusion Exchange and the Portland Swing and Jazz Dance society. After graduating Lewis & Clark College in 2010, David entered the Teach for America program, and taught Algebra and Geometry at Aptos Middle School in San Francisco. When he's not educating young minds or buried in a computer screen, he spends his time dancing, and frequently teaches dance with fellow TrulyNet author Ruth Hoffman.

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