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July 2022

Springtime Camping with the Family: Big Agnes Camping Gear Review

Written By: Adrianna from Kids Who Explore

Where to shop for camping gear?

Valhalla Pure Outfitters has been a main source for our family outdoor gear since I was a baby! We always dropped into our local shop prior to camping trips, road trips, hikes, and in the later years, backpacking in different countries. Valhalla has always been reputable and trustworthy with the best gear in the outdoors.

“It’s always a challenge to get a family photo camping but here we are! Getting to pass the Valhalla love onto my baby.”

Equipment Trial

Getting to partner up with Valhalla and test out the Big Agnes camping gear is a huge honour for our family. I spend much of my time hiking in the Canadian Rockies with my now 1 year-old and baby on the way! We want to raise our kids with help from mother nature. We are learning to do all the outdoor things we love with kids in tow. Family camping trips have become super important to us now, as nature really is the best place to raise kids. I founded, Kids Who Explore, a family-friendly outdoor community that’s all about getting kids connected to nature and helping families go beyond their front door. A family camping trip can create beautiful memories that will be cherished by your kids for many years to come. Ensuring you have adequate gear to keep your family warm and safe is so important when venturing off into the woods.

“The sweetest views from inside the tent.”

A New Season, Time to Camp!

There is something about the first camping trip of the year. The smells of the new season and the welcoming to all the wonderful sounds in nature just seem so inviting. We chose to camp in Banff as the camping season opened a little earlier due to some amazing warm and sunny weather. We loaded up our family truck with all the camping necessities and eagerly embarked on our road trip to Banff. We did forget camp chairs but managed to remember all the items for our baby.

Where to camp?

We drove the stunning road up Tunnel Mountain and checked in to the Tunnel Mountain Village I Campground. The campground is close to the town of Banff and offers a traditional camping experience with epic mountain views, firepits, car camping tent spaces, with an array of hiking and biking trails. Our family loves to hike so being able to step on the trail from our camping site was incredible.

Our trip was a front country experience otherwise known as car camping! So we were able to drive right up to our campsite and set up camp.

“Tunnel Mountain Camping with an incredible view!”

Car Camping Tent

The most ideal tent for our family car camping adventures is the Big Agnes Dog House 4 with the Dog House 4 footprint to go under the tent. The Dog House 4 is super easy to pack up and down and transport. I personally love the vibrant orange colour makes because it very easy to differentiate from our other gear. This Dog House 4 isn’t just about looks, as it is designed effectively for simple set up and take down, which is extremely necessary when you have a toddler creating havoc around the campsite.

The Dog House 4 is high-quality and has functioning space that allows for a very quick camp set up even just for one parent to set up solo. The footprint was super easy to secure in place with the tent pegs and is a staple in our gear to preserve the life of our tent. There is a lot of sharp rocks, pine cones, needles, and other miscellaneous debris around the campsite. It felt like the footprint helped with keeping the warmth and added to the waterproofing as well.

The height of the Dog House 4 is approximately 60 inches and allows for a decent amount of headroom space when inside the tent. I loved the gear lofts to keep things out of reach of the toddler tornado. The venting system worked well, and we managed to keep the heat in the tent but we haven’t had a chance to camp in the super warm weather yet, as Spring in Alberta is quite mild. I’d like to note that the mesh window is a half window instead of a full one, so the warmer adventures might be a bit more challenging to keep things cool in the tent.

The Dog House 4 was sturdy even when the wind gusts came up and we managed to keep dry within the tent during a very light rain. It's is a single-walled tent, meaning the body and rain fly are sewn together and it worked well to keep us dry. I did find it a bit tricky with the zippers in the middle of the night, I am pregnant and pee breaks happen frequently in the night. I was getting the zippers snagged a bit as I was moving a bit too speedy with the zippers. The trick with the zippers is to ensure the flap isn’t in the way of the zipper and a slower approach to opening and closing the tent is necessary when operating these zippers.

Overall, we love how easy the Dog House 4 is to set up with the Dog House 4 footprint to fit perfectly. We believe that the tent will hold up in the wind and the rain and the ventilation was quite decent. We didn’t notice a pool of condensation at all. There is plenty of room to gear up and get ready for adventures inside the tent. Due to bear activity, I typically leave most items in the car though! Just to be extra safe.

Sleeping Mats

Throughout the night, we managed to stay very cozy inside the tent. Our sleeping mats are the Hinman Regular by Big Agnes. The Hinman was easy to inflate in a matter of minutes and provided ample cushion and insulation as the material is a high-density foam. The Hinman has a two-way adjustable valve, which makes deflation, and any kind of adjustments easy. We didn’t feel any cold off the ground and Banff does get quite chilly in the night. The R-value is rated as a 5 and we certainly could feel that as the heat stayed with us. The Hinman mat stayed inflated throughout the night, and it was one of most comfortable sleeps I’ve had camping before, even with a baby and being pregnant.

Overall, the Hinman increased our comfort and made for a relaxing family camping trip for the day naps and throughout the night. The mats are high-quality and stayed at the same level of inflation even in the morning. I have never stayed on something so nice before when camping. Due to the thickness and foam, the insulation kept the coolness of the ground away. The Hinman comes with compression straps for compact travel.

Sleeping Bags

Our sleeping bags are the Big Agnes Torchlight Camp, Regular, -7C/20F, which is incredibly comfy and warm with great value. Perfect for car camping (not so ideal for a backpacking trip) as the sleeping bags are slightly bulkier but ideal for our style of camping. The shell is made of nylon with a water-repellent finish with a polyester taffeta. The Torchlight Camp fill is a Fireline Pro Synthetic Insulation that is excellent at trapping the heat in. We loved the hooded design that fits around your face snuggly if needed and believe the Torchlight Camp would be great for three seasons. The hood keeps the heat from escaping out the top during the night. The zipper has an anti-snag slide with pull tabs on the inside and outside of the sleeping bag. The inside of the Torchlight Camp is super soft and cozy. Once the sleeping bags are packed down in the compression sack, its size is realistic for car camping, but I wouldn’t want to hike super far with this sleeping bag as it is a bit of an awkward size and babies are a challenge enough to carry right now. I just feel like Valhalla made a wonderful car camping recommendation for our family and we are very happy with our gear choices. There is a mesh storage sack and nylon stuff sack included too.

Camping is much more enjoyable with high-quality gear that also fits a realistic family-friendly budget. When it comes to the sleep department, that really can make or break the camping trip. Our camping trip was made better by having a very warm and comfortable place to sleep. Even when the wind came up, there was a sense of safety within the tent.

What an incredible experience it is to camp as a family. Getting back to the basics and being present around the campfire and waking up to the sounds of nature is something we are so grateful for, and we wish this kind of experience for other families that love to get outdoors as well.