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!

Featherstone Granite UL 2P

By the river at “Uncle Johnny’s”

I bought the Featherstone Granite UL 2P Tent in April of 2019 and used it on 450 miles of the Appalachian Trail and a month in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It was used on a full time basis for 4 months. The tent came with all the stakes, guy lines, foot print, poles, tent, rain-fly, cinch strap, and bags. I discarded most of the bags to save on weight, as well as guy lines and all but the essential stakes. I carried the tent in a roll on top of my pack. I would roll up the tent and lay it on top of the rain fly, place poles and stakes inside of their bag and on top of the tent/ rain-fly, and roll up. Then I would place that roll on top of the foot print and roll it up again and cinch down. (https://swanhikes.com/2020/05/07/how-i-roll-my-tent/) This way, I could have more room inside my pack and my tent would not get wet if it rained. If my tent was wet, because it rained over night, I didn’t have to put a wet tent inside my pack with my dry gear. Of course, I also had the rain cover that came with my pack to protect my whole kit. I like that the design is comparable to the Big Agnes 2 person tent and the MSR Hubba Hubba, though it is slightly heavier than both.

For a more ultralight set up, you could discard the inner tent and just take the poles, foot print, and rain-fly and camp like that. I have not used that method before, but people do it. You could also use Tyvek for the footprint to cut down on weight. I would definitely use a footprint of some kind, because the floor of the tent is not water-proof and I like to protect my floor from uncomfortable objects on the ground.

Three months into it’s use, the zippers started malfunctioning at the teeth. Also at 3 months, rain would soak the tent so much that I would have had to re-seal it, if I had not already had a new one waiting for me. With a price tag of $100 or less, I would highly recommend this tent. Due to the extreme nature of my hikes, I will only use tents that come with a warranty. The Featherstone Granite UL 2P Tent does not need a warranty at $100, but if hiking more than 500 miles, you will probably have to buy another one. If someone on a tight budget was looking for a good backpacking tent, I would tell them that this is the best bang for the buck. Happy Trails!

By the river at Harper’s Ferry

Tech Specs

Seasons: 3-Season
Sleeping Capacity: 2 Person
Floor Dimensions: 84 x 51 inches / 213 x 130 cm
Peak Height: 43 inches / 109 cm
Vestibule Area: 25.6 in / 65 cm
Pack Size: 16 x 4 in / 41 x 10 cm
Pack Weight: 6 lbs (2.72 kg)
Trail Weight: 5 lbs (2.27 kg)
Minimalist Setup Weight: 3.8 lbs (1.72 kg)


Rainfly: 75-denier Ripstop Polyester with 3000mm polyurethane hydrostatic rated coating
Floor: 210-denier Nylon with 3000mm polyurethane hydrostatic rated coating
Canopy: Noseeum Mesh
Poles: Single Hubbed Poles
Pole Type: 7001 Aluminum
Accessories: 12 Aluminum Stakes, Reflective Guy Lines, & Waterproof Footprint