Tent Life from West to East

White River National Forest- a cook tent

            I graduated from 3 programs at The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School (https://guideschool.com/) and worked for a short time for the school’s owner. It was October and the snow had begun to fall on the Grand Mesa and Battlement Mesa where my adventures were located. That particular adventure may have been ending, but as Robert Earl Keen says, “The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends”. Before my introduction to the world of Rocky Mountain outfitters and guiding, I was living on a ranch with a family on a mesa in south west Colorado. The woman who I was dating at the time said that she was putting the teepee up that we were living in and moving back into the house with her son, but that I could keep camping if I wanted to.

            On my way home to the ranch, I stopped at the Cabela’s store in Grand Junction, CO. I was very excited to be purchasing the (Cabela’s Big Horn III Tent – Swan Hikes) tent that I had dreamed about for a few years. The old man who grabbed a cart for me shared in my glee at my new home. It was nice to be standing there with a fellow outdoorsman who was happy for me. Although a store employee, he was not making a commission, he works at Cabela’s because the outdoors is his passion. We talked for a bit as I also picked out my new Colorado Mesa Stove. The store employee told me about a Cabela’s tent that he had recently purchased. It was a great day for an outdoorsman with a paycheck in hand.


            When I got back to the ranch, everyone was excited. The ranch hand and the foreman’s brother-in-law and nephew came down to help me set it up. Once it was set, I added a mattress, portable wire armoire, some black and yellow totes from Home Depot, rugs, and then off to work. It was October and I had no firewood. There was a couple down the road who had a lot of wood that was starting to rot. There was also a lot of pine that they would not burn in their house. I spent days going back and forth in my light, short-bed truck picking up 3 or 4 cords of wood to get me through the winter. Soon, the snow would have everything covered up.

            I stacked the wood on the north west side of the tent to protect it from the cold winds that blow across the Mesa. On the other side was a stand of scrub oak that made a nice wind block. The family that I lived with, regularly had people come to camp and had made tent pads. It was the perfect spot. The rugs on the floor and my Cabela’s 0-degree flannel and canvas sleeping bag helped to take the edge off of the freezing cold.

            It was lonely when I was camping by myself. I still took pride in the fact that I was trying to live outside through a Colorado winter at 9,000 feet elevation. I had been working at 10,000 feet. There is a big difference that 1000 feet can make. The foreman of the ranch had become my EX-girlfriend, but I continued living there because I got along with the family. I was part of the circle. That was nice, because I greatly respected her father who I learned a lot from. I am very grateful to her and her family. Never-the-less, an ex-girlfriend is an ex-girlfriend and I felt the need to get away.

            In January, I moved across the state to a small mountain town on the front range. I was couch surfing at high elevation, but spent some nights sleeping in a mine shaft, because my new room-mate, a stranger, was doing some things that did not groove with my conscience. Around the same time that I met him, I began dating another woman who wanted to move, but needed a room-mate. We got an apartment in the city together and broke up a month later, which was right on time, because I did not like living in the city.

            I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I wanted to be outside and that I did not want to settle down anywhere. Before I bought the fancy tent, I was going to do a winter hike of the Appalachian Trail, but my ex-girlfriends father convinced me to stay with them and wait until Spring for such a journey. Most of my stuff was still on the ranch. I took the tent down, but was unable to pull it up due to the frozen ground. My friends at the ranch used the tractor to pull the stakes out of the ground and I met with them down in Montrose to get it. It would have been difficult for me to get a 2-wheel drive box truck up that Mesa. It was a scary drive taking a box truck across the frozen continental divide twice. I drove straight through a winter storm front that had my booty puckered like all-get-out! Hah!

            I made the 2000-mile journey home to a storage unit in Georgia, packed my backpack and got dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park on April 1st 2019 and began hiking north. I didn’t know how far I would go. All I knew was that I could not sit still. Before heading out, I sent my resume’ out to several Rocky Mountain outfitters hoping for employment as a camp cook. I thought that I would hike to Pennsylvania and then turn around and walk back to Georgia, unless I got hired, in which case I would go west again. I got dropped off at the top of the falls and set out on the busy approach trail. To read about my hike, please start here: The Walk-A-Bout Continues – Swan Hikes. Thanks for reading!

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

This picture was taken immediately after setting up in the rain.

I bought the MSR Hubba Hubba NX in late July of 2019 for the northern half of my Appalachian Trail hike. I had been using a two person tent for myself, because I am claustrophobic. I met my (now) wife (Rusty) a few weeks before I received my tent. It was a relief that it was roomy enough for both of us without me feeling claustrophobic. I think this mostly has to do with how much I love her and not the square footage of the tent, although the square footage is sufficient. For perspective I am a stocky guy and about 5’9” tall and she is petite and 5’2”. Now she carries the poles and I carry all the fabric.

The doors on each side are nice. We were able to use the vestibules to store things and crawl out of the tent without having to crawl over each other. The tent did not come with a footprint, so I used the old one from my Featherstone Granite UL2. I am planning to use a Tyvek sheet for my footprint on my next trip. Something I may do is cut the Tyvek so the footprint extends into the vestibule. One of my trail brothers has a different tent that is designed that way and I really liked that feature. I really liked how when I spread the poles out, they almost attach on their own. It is a very easy set up. The stakes are small, light weight, and very solid.

The second week in use, there was some “hubba hubba” going on IN the Hubba Hubba and we rolled the wrong way and ripped a couple stitches on the wall where the mesh and fabric meet, but it is still holding together after 100 more uses. I am probably going to repair it myself before my next big hike instead of using the 3 year warranty that came with it. I would not call the floor waterproof, but it is much better than my old tent, the Featherstone Granite UL 2. Again, use a footprint. The rain fly is really nice. You can zip it in different configurations. It fastens to the top pole very securely, which enables the user to setup different rain-fly configurations. When it was scorching hot outside, or if I just wanted a better view of nature, I would pull the sides of the rain-fly up and fold them over the top of the tent. It has lots of mesh on the inside and vents in the rain-fly that can be opened and closed. The tent breathes well and stays warmer than I expected.

I just used this tent last night in a deluge. There was thunder, lightning, wind, and rain. It has been packed up for several months, but still performed great. Rusty, Baby Wolf (our pet dog), and I slept magically beside a waterfall. It is a little too tight to have the dog in there with us, but it is also just a two person tent.

Rusty and I do OK, but our dog “Baby Wolf” prefers more room. She hates feet.

https://www.msrgear.com/tents/backpacking-tents/hubba-hubba-nx-2-person-backpacking-tent/10316.html for specifications.

Cabela’s Big Horn III Tent

First set up on a mesa by the Uncompahgre National Forest.

See also: https://swanhikes.com/2021/04/04/tent-life-from-west-to-east/

After, my friend took her tee-pee down that we had been staying in all summer and moved back inside like a sane person when winter strikes at 9,000 feet, I bought the Bighorn III to continue camping. I bought this tent in late autumn of 2018 and pitched it on a mesa at 9,000 feet elevation in South Western Colorado. I lived in it from October to January. It was taken down in January, but because the snow was deep and everything was frozen, the fabric was left on the ground, covered up with a tarp. Later in the spring, the stakes were pulled up with a skid steer. It was put in storage for a year. Currently, it is being used in the Georgia woods and has been set up for two months. There is a bit of a leak at the middle top seam, but I have a tarp over it for a quick fix.

In Colorado, when I first bought the tent, I did not know that I needed the ember protector that costs an extra $100. I thought that if it was really needed, that it would come with the tent. I found out after my first fire when I discovered 6 pinholes from embers. This was very disheartening after spending $1,000 plus on a tent. I was using a Colorado Mesa Stove. The tent was positioned so that the smoke would predominantly blow away from the tent and not across it. I also had a stack of 3 cord of wood in between the strongest wind direction and the tent.

I lived in the tent full time for three months. Inside of it was a wire armoire, a double mattress, 3 totes, Colorado Mesa wood stove, a camp chair, and some rugs. Often times, I would wake up and there would be two or three feet of fresh snow. In the evenings, I would get a fire going in the wood stove and keep it going until bed time. This would be plenty warm. Before bed, I would stack the stove full of wood. It would get hot enough inside the tent that I would be sleeping with just my feet inside of my Cabela Outfitters 0 degree sleeping bag. In the middle of the night, the stove would go out and it would get chilly. After stepping out to pee, I would be thankful for my tent and jump back in my sleeping bag and sleep nice and sound until morning. In the morning, it would be VERY cold. This is where a Mr. Buddy heater is super handy. I would turn it on and get back in my sleeping bag while the Mr. Buddy would go to work taking the edge off the coldness. Then I would set it at my feet while I built a new fire in the stove and turn the Mr. Buddy heater off before I light my new fire.

I feel like the issues I had with this tent were user error, except for the ember protector not being included with the tent. This has been a great tent and I am glad that I have it. Soon, I will be repairing the pin holes and leaky seam and will write an article about that. Maybe even a video. Happy Trails!

UPDATE on 3/27/2021:
This tent is currently in the garage. We used it for 6 months in the woods of Georgia. We then took it to New Hampshire. We stayed in the White Mountain National Forest for 2 weeks and then moved it up to Maine, where we lived in it for another three months. While using this tent in the east, I think it is best to keep a tarp over the top of it. We did finally patch the holes with the patch kit that came with the tent. It was not any trouble.

In my opinion, the tent was designed for use in dry climates like Colorado. With a name like Big Horn, that makes sense. I can’t afford to have two separate large tents like this for different climates. This is my go-to expedition tent and if I am in a wet environment, I use a lot of tarps.

Early December
I like the option to unzip the floor in the stove area and be able to zip it up in the summer when the stove is not in use.


Cabela’s Big Horn™ III Tent

  • Sturdy enough to take on extreme conditions
  • XTC fabric repels rain and snow with ease
  • Heavy-duty steel frame ensures support
  • Hexagonal design maximizes interior space
  • Three large multiple-panel windows
  • Zippered opening in the sewn-in floor for a stove

This is a new and improved version of our already popular Big Horn II tent, and we made it sturdy enough to take on extreme conditions encountered on extreme adventures. It’s a roomy single-wall tent made of XTC fabric that repels rain and snow with ease, and is tough enough to handle harsh foul weather. A heavy-duty steel frame ensures support to withstand wind and precipitation. The tent measures 12 ft. x 14 ft. with an 8’6″ roof tapering to 5’6″ sidewalls. The hexagonal design offers room for cots, gear and a stove around the sides while leaving the middle area open. We moved the stove area to keep the wall near the stove cooler. Three large multiple-panel windows include zippered covers, a clear-vinyl zip-out window and a mesh screen. There are three fold-down shelves that have mesh cup holders. There’s a sidewall stove jack, a storm flap and a heat-resistant insert, as well as a zippered opening in the sewn-in floor for a stove. The inverted “V” door is outfitted with a heavy-duty zipper. Includes 12″ steel stakes, guy ropes and zippered storage bag. The stakes weigh 11 lbs. Tent and frame weight is 72 lbs. Imported.

Painted by http://www.rustyartist.com