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Oregon-bound (May 2017)

May 8, 2017.

The day is here, and it's a big one. It was over half a year ago that I decided I wanted a CVT, and in that time I'd purchased one and fabricated a bed rack that I hoped would work to hold it behind the cab of the truck.

Naturally I'd gotten a good deal on the CVT, and had spent 10x more fabricating the rack (buying tools, etc.) than if I'd just purchased a pre-fabricated one.

This day was also a big day because it was the start of a week-long camping trip where we'd meet up with Dad and Uncle J for a few days of camping in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and then split up - each camping our way back home… us to the north, and they to the south.

So we really hoped that everything went smoothly with the tent - because we needed it to.

We got packed up and ready to go on Sunday night, and we left at 2am Monday morning, so we could arrive at @Cascadia Tents by opening (9am). Turned out that we got there around 9:45 after stopping for gas and breakfast and of course snapped a couple photos to memorialize the trip.

After playing tourist outside, we headed in and were greeted by Megan, who I'd traded several emails with as she'd generously held my tent in the warehouse for the last six months until we could make it down to Bend. Turns out it was a super busy morning for them (it was just her and Ty working the front of the house), but within half an hour or so, they got us setup around back so we had room to do the install, and gave us a few tips about how to open the tent and be as efficient as possible.

So we emptied all of our gear out of the back of the truck, and then, we were off to the races.

Literally. Without knowing it.

You see, it turns out that a couple other folks had also arranged to pick up their tents the same morning, and CVT was doing an install on a T4R and trailer in the back of the shop. Curious about how we'd fare, they kept coming out to check on us, discretely.

In fact, I never noticed that they came out to check several times, but when we were done and were driving away, @mrs.turbodb said, "Did you see that they kept coming to check on us? I heard them talking and they were surprised that we finished so quickly - faster than them!" LOL

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Tent install started by cutting open the box and laying it on the ground - a work surface.

We unfolded the tent and pulled out all the bits, which included the installation hardware, all tools needed for the installation (wow, this was amazing, even though we didn't need them), the cover, the annex, the mattress, and of course, the installation instructions.

We immediately set the annex aside - we aren't ever planning to use it, and then installed the mounting rails along the bottom. That was pretty much all that was needed to get the tent ready for mounting, so 15 minutes later we were lifting the tent onto the bed rack.

It was the moment of truth. Would it fit? Would we have somewhere to sleep for the rest of the week?

Yes! We would.

Tent on, we used the supplied brackets to secure it to the bed rack - inserting some rubber between the tent hardware and the bed rack in order to reduce vibration as well as rubbing/paint removal, and then, we installed the cover by inserting it into the aluminum channel on the driver side of the tent. It was a tight fit, but I considered that good!

Cover installed, it was the (next) moment of truth. Time to open the tent and get it setup for the first time. Of course, unfolding it for the first time was super exciting (isn't that what we all love about our RTTs?) and as I inserted the polls that hold up the various awnings, I just kept thinking - this is going to be awesome.

This was also the point at which we drilled a couple holes in the ladder to lock it into place when extended, thereby supporting the overhanging side of the tent. Again - we were well prepared (I'd brought a drill and set of bits) and everything went off without a hitch.

At this point, we knew we were home free - everything was going to work out - and so I went inside to find Ty. He'd mentioned wanting to give us a few tips once we got setup, and when he saw me walk in to say we were ready for the tips, he mentioned that our hour-long install was one of the quickest he'd seen. Cool.

As he wrapped up with a couple customers, he came out and showed us a few tricks with the tent. I'm sure I don't remember all of them, but the ones I do remember are:

  • Don’t use the plastic clips to "cinch down" the tent as you're closing it. Doing so can pull out the rivets. Instead, compress the tent manually, then connect the clips.
  • When keeping sleeping stuff bags, pillows, etc. in the tent, move them towards the middle of the tent (in all directions) before you fold it up. It'll close up easiest that way.
  • Store the "awning poles" in the fold of the tent, just before you put the cover on. They wont interfere with any of the tent material, and they are easily accessible whenever you remove the cover and before you unfold the tent.
  • When zipping the cover, "fold the corners up" to expose the zipper on the top part of the cover. It's easier to zip that way.

And then, we were done. The tent was put away, and we packed our stuff back into the bed. It was noon, and we were ready to head out on our first RTT adventure - a week in the back country of Oregon.

Oh, and it looks pretty cool too. That shouldn't really count, but c'mon, everyone loves for their truck to look cool.

... Chapter 2 coming soon ...


  1. Philippe Richen
    Philippe Richen April 7, 2020

    I am deciding on a RTT. Since it's been 3 years since your install and many trips how do you feel about the CVT? How has it held up, comfort, usability. I actually plan on mounting it on my Double Kayak trailer so I can travel and fish.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 7, 2020

      This is a great question. I've written up the following which I'll eventually post as a full post - but for now, there's no need to keep ya waiting! 🙂

      So, rather than keep all that bottled up in my tiny little skull, I figured I'd share my thoughts with everyone - after 3 years and some 250 nights on the trail and in the tent.

      Brands (and durability/longevity)

      From what I can tell, they are all pretty much the same. I've got a CVT and love it. Tepui owners seem to love theirs. Same with Smittybuilt. It's the kind of thing where they all come out of different doors at the same factory, if you get my drift.

      The bigger decision IMO is really whether you're going to go with a "traditional" soft RTT, or a hardshell pop-up style, a wedge-style, or one of the hard-side opening style. I don't really have experience with anything but the soft "traditional" style from CVT (but I do have some opinions, below :)).

      As far as longevity - that's 100% based on how well you take care of it. My "Pioneer Series" CVT is ~3 years old now and still looks and works like new, with over 250 tent-nights in that time. Other folks spend a couple nights a year in theirs, bring their dog inside, put the tent away wet, and get only a handful of uses out of it.

      Style (soft vs. hard vs. wedge)

      This one - for me - is pretty simple and comes down to two factors: (1) - price you're willing to pay, (2) - number of people you need to sleep in the tent.

      If you have 2 people or fewer, and can afford it, I think the GFC wedge-style tent is head and shoulders above all the rest (at least as of right now). GFC didn't exist when I bought my CVT, but if they had, I'd have gone that route.  If you have more than two people, no wedge or hard shell is going to work - they will all be too narrow, so you have to go soft-shell, fold out.

      If it's about tradeoffs, the tradeoff between soft vs. wedge is really one of cost. You have to decide if it's worth 3x as much for a wedge-style tent that will deploy and stow more quickly, and be significantly less affected by wind and rain, and will also provide sealed, dry storage of everything in the bed area of the pickup. That dry storage alone can be a valuable thing in muddy conditions, so be sure to consider it. This sucks:

      Lastly, a word about hard-shell, non-wedge, tents - in my opinion, they aren't worth the premium price over soft shell, because they don't have the benefits (at least on a pickup) of a wedge-style tent. Or rather, the price difference between a hard shell pop-up and wedge style isn't large enough to offset the extra value of a wedge.


      The comfort of any sleeping situation comes down to whatever you've got below and above you as you sleep. Personally, I've never heard of a long-term comfortable mattress from any RTT vendor, so I recommend - highly - that everyone replace what comes in the tent with an appropriately sized Exped MegaMat (small | medium | large). The extra padding, as well as the extra insulation provided by the layer of air, makes for a great night sleep. I've been so happy with my Exped that I wrote up a Exped Megamat Review - 1 Year Later that I recommend reading.

      For "the top layer," I'm a fan of using down comforters with flannel duvet covers - primarily because they are extremely warm, can be layered, and are easily compacted when the tent is closed. But, a warm sleeping bag or blankets would likely work just as well - it's a personal preference at that point.

      Specifics on Soft Shell Tents

      Having only owned a soft-shell CVT, I do have some opinions about its various features.

      • Stargazer (roof) windows. Dislike. If you can get a tent without these, do. The plastic used for the windows is not transparent enough to really see the stars, and it attracts and holds water much more than the fabric rain fly material, which dries out much more quickly under morning sun.
      • Sliding ladder (vs. telescoping). Like. This is a personal preference I think, but I like the 2-piece ladder that slides to the correct length. It seems easier to keep clean, and is less bulky than the telescoping variants.
      • Wind noise. Dislike. In windy conditions, it's hard to sleep with the fabric flapping around. Earplugs are usually enough for me, but a wedge-style tent would make things a lot better.
      • Putting away wet. Dislike. Obviously there's not a lot you can do about this if it's raining out, but putting the tent away really wet means you should be ready for the corners of your mattress to be wet when you open the tent. Assuming of course that you zipped all the windows and doors fully before putting it away, otherwise everything will be wet. [smile id="rofl"]
      • Zipper for the cover. Dislike. The zipper is hard to close when it gets dusty or dirty. Do your darndest to keep it clean, and if you can clean it after really dusty trips, you'll love yourself for it later.
      • Heavy duty exterior straps (vs. light duty velcro). Like. My tent originally came with straps to hold the cover on that were velcro. They worked fine for the first year but then the velcro came out. Now I have straps that use some cam fasteners (mechanical). They work much better and won't wear out.
      • Interior space. Like. The inside of the tent is plenty roomy for two people.
      • Anti-condensation matt. Like. Moisture is the enemy of longevity since it can lead to mildew and mold - and no one wants a moldy tent that smells like mildew. The anti-condensation matt keeps everything up off of the coldest, most moisture-attracting surface of the entire tent - the inside of the metal floor. I wouldn't use an RTT without the anti-condensation matt.

      But that's not all!

      What do you think about various RTT styles? What have I missed or gotten wrong? Let me know in the comments!

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