Eureka! A tent that stands the test of time |

Eureka! A tent that stands the test of time

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Weekly

As 10 parents of some 20 third-graders assembled and adjusted tents for a recent camping trip, the conversation naturally turned to the advances in tent technology. Nylon, we agreed, was a material sent from heaven. How could people have gone camping in the days of burlap, a fabric that seemed designed for heaviness and dankness, and the ability to retain water rather than keep it off the person trying to sleep underneath?

But while I agreed that the modern-tent ” durable, effective, incredibly light ” is one of our less-appreciated miracles, I had cause to believe that the march forward in tent design had stopped. Somewhere just short of 12 years ago, if you need to pinpoint the exact moment.

It was in 1996 that I married, and received as a wedding gift a Storm Shield Eureka! Tent Tetragon (the “sleeps 2-3″ model), from my childhood friend, Loi. Perhaps because Loi is the ultimate urbanite ” headed for Manhattan the second we graduated high school and hasn’t left ” and we assumed the tent was a cheap dud, or perhaps because my wife has never expressed enthusiasm for the idea of tent camping, we stowed the Eureka! along with other less-than-ideal gifts (a set of adobe taco holders comes to mind) in a far corner of the garage.

And there it stayed, till we received word that our daughter’s class would be going on a camping trip, and our chaperoning assistance was requested. Out of the garage, for the first time since the first Clinton term, came the Eureka!

I confess to a bit of embarrassment ” akin to the time I busted out my 1992 vintage basketball sneakers around 2004, and it was pointed out to me just how dated the footwear was. Just how behind the times was the Eureka!?

The Eureka! was small, especially compared to the Taj Mahal! model that slept all 13 girls in the class. But it looked handsome, came with all the up-to-date amenities (rain fly, numerous interior pockets, flashlight loop). Best of all, it was a cinch to assemble.

As for its sturdiness, here’s the story. Late afternoon, the wind whipped up ” just as you would expect on a marvelously unprotected high mesa in Paonia. All eyes turned to the tents. The Red Mountain Mansion! ” which had slept six boys with room to spare the night before ” didn’t just tumble down, it actually broke, and was rendered unusable. Other tents required much attention and rejigging to avoid a similar fate. And through it all, the Eureka! stood firm. At bedtime, the wind blew again ” and while others would complain in the morning, I slept beautifully, ignorant of wind, the few raindrops, even the collection of 9-year-olds a few feet away. I can’t wait to break out the Eureka! again.

One complaint: this concept of sealing a tent. It took me most of an hour to seal all the seams, as directed. Surely by now they’ve eliminated this step from the camping experience? If not, I know the next major breakthrough in tent technology.