Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Gazelle T4 Hub Tent vs. Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Awning Tent

Comparing these 2 tents may be comparing apples to oranges because there are different factors that come into play when deciding to use each one. I'm going to do my best to provide a run-down of both of them and give you my opinion.

Answering Questions

  • What kind of camping will I be doing? The Gazelle is great for general camping. If we're camping and we want to do some sightseeing, this is the tent. I would use the Rhino-Rack if we were overlanding and were going to stay put for at least a couple of days. 

  • What time of year is it? My first experience in the Rhino-Rack was in the Southeastern USA. That means it was hot and humid. Even with the huge doors on all sides of the Rhino-Rack very little air went through the tent. We put a fan in the top of the tent and didn't get a lot of relief. I've gotta give this question to the Gazelle. I think we would have stayed cooler in it. We've camped in warm weather with the Gazelle and actually ended up getting a little too cool with the fan going. 
    • That being said...I think the Rhino-Rack would be awesome for winter camping. Robert has a little stove that can be brought in and vented out of a door to make it even warmer.

  • Which is faster to set up? Hands down...the Gazelle. While the Rhino-Rack was pretty quick (especially comparing it to your standard camping tent), nothing beats the quickness of a Gazelle. Before putting up the awning tent the awning has to be out, so that takes a few extra minutes. Unless you use the tent as a "stand-alone", which can be done.

  • What about tear-down? Again, the Gazelle. The Rhino-Rack is so airtight that air bubbles in the tent when taking it down. Of course, it helps to have the doors unzipped a bit to let the air escape. Considering the time it takes to put either tent in their respective bags, it really doesn't take that much more time to put the Rhino-Rack away than it does the Gazelle. I just think the Gazelle has a slight advantage. Again, take into account that the awning also has to be put up so add a few more minutes to the awning tent.

  • Which will keep you dry if it rains? This one is a toss-up. We've been in the Rhino-Rack in a good hard rain, and if we had zipped up all of the doors we would have stayed completely dry. The Gazelle has also kept us dry without any problems. The Gazelle will keep you more comfortable when you're in a summer rain because chances are you'll be able to have most of the windows open with the rain fly keeping the rain out. The Rhino-Rack attaches to the awning and has a door so we can easily get into the van without getting wet so this tent may have a slight upper hand. Of course, the campsite could be configured to have the Gazelle next to the awning (when not using the Rhino-Rack) to keep you drier. Like I said, it's a toss-up. Both do equally well in the wind. We've had the Gazelle in extreme wind in Canada on the St. Lawrence and it held up exceptionally well. 

View of the back door of the Rhino-Rack opening to the van

  • What about space? Which one has more room? Keep in mind that the Rhino-Rack is a straight up and down square. The Gazelle gives a little more room on the sides since they bow out a bit. The sides of the Gazelle aren't as tall as the Rhino-Rack. We use 2 cots when we camp. With the Rhino-Rack Robert barely had enough room length-wise. There was no room to walk around the cots at the bottom or top. With the Gazelle, there is a little bit of room. There seemed to be more room on the sides of the cots with the Gazelle as well. I'm not sure how much this little difference matters; all you're doing is sleeping anyway. 

Both cots inside of the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent with room around the sides and bottom to spare

  • What about the cost? The Rhino-Rack Sunseeker Base Tent is $539.10; the Gazelle T4 Hub Tent is $459.99 but they have sales what seems like all the time. At the time of this posting, the Rhino-Rack was out of stock and it looks like it would have to be bought internationally and then shipped to the USA.

The Verdict

As you can probably tell by the above answers, I have to go with the Gazelle. I've gone from having to have a trailer with heating and air to loving tent camping with the Gazelle. I definitely think the Rhino-Rack would be great for cold weather camping but we haven't done much of that in the past. Yes, they are more expensive than the tents you'll buy at a local department store but it's well worth the money...and aggravation of the traditional tent. 
Portsmouth Island, NC

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Camping on a Tuesday: Jake Best Campground (TN)

I had one more week before it was time for another school year to begin. We decided to take a mid-week break and take a chance on a campground that is first come, first serve. We were a bit concerned that it might be full, but...

We had the whole place to ourselves. Jake Best Campground is in the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennesse, between Vonore and Tellico Plains. More specifically, it is in the Citico area. As we made our way along the gravel road to the campground, several dispersed camping areas were on the creek. This one is on the other side. The ones on the creek are quite spacious.

There is no fee to camp at these sites. Jake Best is $6/night and includes no hook-ups. The campground is open from around the beginning of March through the end of November. There is only one bathroom with a vault toilet.

Yes, I said only one toilet, but there are only 7 sites at this campground. During the peak season, there is a campground host who takes 1 spot. 5 sites are up a hill from the creek; there are 2 on the other side. Those 2 back up to the road; however, the road is one lane. When we were there, there was very little traffic. Robert said that the area gets quite busy once trout are released in the creek as well as during hunting season.
The road leading to the campground

The road leading to the campground on the other side.
Right beside the toilet is a box with envelopes and a pole where your payment is inserted. I'm not sure about other times of the year, but we didn't see any rangers while we were there.
The sites are a good size and are fairly level. There is no electricity or water, so be prepared. There is also no cell service so you're able to completely get away from distractions.
Site 2 seems to be the best site for RVs

Site 3 seemed to be the shortest site.
We chose Site 7 because it had a view of the creek down the hill at the back. The site next to ours also had a view but it wasn't quite as good.
The back of Site 7; the creek is down the hill

Site #7

Since this is bear country, bear-proof trash cans are provided. There are 2 right next to Site 5 and 2 beside the toilet. We didn't see any evidence of bears, or even raccoons for that matter. The campground was very clean and the garbage bins were empty when we got there. 
Bear-proof bins next to Site 5

Bear-proof bins next to the toilet

I would definitely stay there again. It was a little unsettling to be the only ones in the campground the first night but the second night I wasn't bothered by it. We had a backup plan in case the campground was full so we would definitely do that again. There is another campground not too far away that has overflow camping so Indian Boundary may be another option.

We very much enjoyed the solitude of Jake Best. The walk to the creek was easy. The water was very cold and very clear. Robert took a couple of dips in the cold water (I got in once) and we skipped some rocks. It was an exceptionally relaxing couple of days.

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