By Dale E. Smith
Tent camping in the 1960’s and ‘70’s taught me some valuable lessons about car camping. To start with, you have to search out that perfect campsite. You know the one, just enough trees but not too many because they block the wind. Find a level spot to pitch the tent. (It’s no fun waking up and finding out you and your sleeping bag have slid to the front wall of the tent or off of your cot). Most important was having the big canvas dining fly to cook and eat under.
These days it is virtually impossible to run to the store and purchase a 12 x 20 canvas dining fly with poles. They just don’t make them any more. You see, when you’re camping it isn’t much different than having friends over for dinner – you tend to congregate in the kitchen. Where camping differs from your home is that the dining room table is a large, wood picnic table.
I started looking for dining fly’s about ten years ago and found out, unless you have one custom made, they aren’t available. So, I started using screen tents for my camp kitchen. There are a number of styles from which to choose. I started with the six sided type. I was using a 15’ x 15’ screen tent and discovered three very important things:
First; the screen house was great in the summer, the six screen walls let
through plenty of breeze. That was also its downfall. I like to camp year round and in the late fall through early spring six screened walls lets in to much cold air. There just is no sense in shivering from the cold while you’re cooking and eating. I put a catalytic heater inside I hung vinyl tarps from the outside. All in all it was just a pain in the “you know what.”
Second; the six and eight sided screen tents looked great but really they just weren’t practical. How many tables have you seen that will fit flush on a wall that has two corners in a four to six foot area? What happened was that my stoves, coolers and camp boxes always ended up on tables and stands that had to be set up in the middle of the screen tent. That 15’ x 15’ space was now cut down to a very small isle in which to work.
Third; as you know I do this expedition series with my Border Collie, Keegan, as my only help. It takes a fair amount of time to set up a structure that has more than four poles. The longer it takes me to set it up, the more times we have to play fetch. That then extends the set up time.
Expedition Paw Prints went on the search to solve these issues. Through some networking we found an online store that had what we thought would be the perfect screen tent. We contacted Regular Joe, (RJ for short), at www.regularjoeoutdoors.com about the Eureka Northern Breeze. RJ and I emailed back and forth for months before we actually spoke on the phone. The phone call resulted in Regular Joe Outdoors.com becoming a gear supplier for our Expedition Paw Prints series. A week later, UPS arrived at our door with the Eureka Northern Breeze.
The Northern Breeze is Eureka’s top of the line screen tent. It has near-vertical walls and built-in wind/rain curtains that convert into awnings maximizing your space. The frame is made of lightweight aluminum and the tent itself is made of heavy-duty fabric for easy transport and durability.
THE NORTHERN BREEZE SCREEN HOUSE FEATURES:
• 4 pole square umbrella screen house sized to fit a picnic table inside or beneath awning
• Quality, shockcorded 7/8″ – 1″ aluminum frame is longer lasting and offers better performance in wind and rain than fiberglass
• UV resistant 150D StormShield® polyester splash cloth and roof is longer lasting than 75D polyester for maximum use
• 50D polyester no-see-um mesh wall panels
• Eureka! hub and ring and pin assembly offers easy set up
• Vertical side walls maximize interior space; 64.5 sq ft of awning covered exterior space on each side
• 2 full length doors zip completely open and out of the way for easy entry and exit
• Built-in wind/rain curtains on all 4 sides double as awnings when extra space is needed; 1 set of poles is included
• Optional snap-in floor sold separately
Regular Joe Outdoors sent the optional floor with the screen house; it is a very nice and handy option. Especially if you camp in and area that’s campsites grass isn’t mowed that often. The floor helps keep the insects that live in the grass away.
The Northern Breeze is four sided, 12’ x 12’ and weighs in at 25 lbs. That is tent, poles and stakes and comes with its own carry bag.
I always set ALL gear up in my backyard before I ever take it in the field. Yes, the neighbors will always ask if you are camping out and give you funny looks. However, there is a very good reason to do this. You don’t want to plan a camping trip, drive two hours or more, find the perfect campsite, unload the rig, set up camp only to find out that the new tent you just purchased is missing a tent pole, stakes, or has a tear in it. You then have the choice of packing everything back up, loading it back in your vehicle and deciding between driving home another two plus hours or spending the weekend in a hotel. That is not my idea of a fun outing with Mother Nature.
Keegan and I unpacked the Northern Breeze and started laying everything out. Everything was there that was supposed to be there so we started erecting the tent. Setting up any car camping tent can be a bit of a challenge when you are doing it by yourself. It always will take you longer alone that with help. But it can be done.
I worked my way around the tent, playing fetch with Keegan as I went. Put the pole together, throw the ball. Insert the hub in the poles, throw the ball. Stake down one corner, throw the ball. Normally if your help doesn’t have four legs and a tail, you wouldn’t stake down a corner first. These tents are self standing meaning once the tent is attached to the poles they will stand up on their own with no tent stakes. When you are pitching a cabin style tent alone, it helps to stake down a corner. It helps with getting the pole to stand up and not fall over. With two people you would have the helper hold the pole on one side while you worked on the other. My helper in this case was holding his ball in his mouth. Plus, Keegan has no hands, just feet.
The tent went up without a hitch. I staked it down and then started putting up the awning over the front entry. Each wall of the Northern Breeze can be set up as a canopy. This gives you a lot of shade and extra area around the shelter. It has two entry doors, front and rear. The optional floor snaps in and is very simple to do.
The Northern Breeze comes with three awning poles. This is enough for one wall to be set up as an awning. I would recommend purchasing some extra poles so you can set up multiple awnings. Since the side walls are already there and made to be used, you might as well use them right?
The Northern Breeze is exactly what I was looking for. In hot weather, roll up the wind/rain walls or set them up as awnings. Zip the doors closed and you have a breezy bug free area to cook and eat. If the weather turns cool, rainy or windy, put down the walls, hook them in place and you are protected from the elements. If you camp in an area that doesn’t get much snowfall, just cold temperatures, you could use this shelter in all four seasons. If you are camping and get a fair amount of snowfall, the Northern Breeze IS NOT made to carry the weight of a snow load on its roof. Don’t forget, if you are camping in the winter, snowfall is HEAVY! The Northern Breeze is rated as a three season structure for that reason. Remember there are no warranties for our own stupidity!
If you find that you’re unhappy with your present screen tent or you have always wanted one check out the Northern Breeze by Eureka. Expedition Paw Prints thinks this one is a winner. To purchase a Northern Breeze or other camping gear check out www.regularjoeoutdoors.com .
Expedition Paw Prints Gets its gear from Regular Joe, YOU SHOULD TOO!
Regular Joe Outdoors.com is offering Paw Prints The Magazine.com readers 10% off your entire purchase (not including shipping) No limit on uses EXPIRES 8/31/10
Regular Joe Outdoors.com is an Official gear supplier to Expedition Paw Prints.