A tent is the ideal place to stay in the summer. You can set it up in about ten minutes, it cools down quickly at night, and it protects from rain and mosquitoes. At my parents' camp, a tent gives me privacy, a retreat, a place where I can write in my journal or read a book.
My extended family camps together for long holiday weekends and for a whole week in July, gathering on the land that my parents own up on the river. My parents have a small one-room cabin, and the rest of us bring tents. My parents have almost sixty acres of land altogether so we can space the tents out as far apart as we want. We aren't an extended family that gets along magically – we have our arguments and issues just like any other family – but the tents give each smaller family their own space, and that's part of the reason we are able to all spend time together without killing each other.
My husband and I use a small backpacker's tent. It's barely big enough for the two of us, but that of course, is the whole point. No children are allowed. We set it up far from the picnic tables and fire pit, over under the pine trees so that we have a private shady place we can go if we want to take a nap. The teenagers tease us and refer to it as the sex tent. "Taking a nap? That what we are calling it now?"
For all their teasing, the teenagers have always been good about letting With-a-Why sleep in the teenage tent with them so that my husband and I can have privacy at night. "He’s our mascot," they often say. The teenage tent is the biggest tent at camp, and they set it up strategically as far from everyone else as possible. It’s the noisy tent. Walk near it in the middle of the night, and you can hear singing, laughing, and arguing over card games played by flashlight. No adult really knows all that goes on in the teenage tent at night – but it seems to be the source of all kinds of inside jokes amongst the cousins. This weekend, ten kids crammed into the teenager tent, and when they stumbled out to the picnic tables for breakfast each morning, they all kept complaining about who was stealing blankets from whom.
The medium-sized dome tent in the photo below, which is the tent my brother brought this weekend, is the kind of tent almost everyone else brings. It's small and light, but you can still stand up to change into a bathing suit. When my kids were small, my goal used to be to spend at least half my nights each summer sleeping in a tent. The six of us and all our stuff used to fit into a tent like the one in the photo. We've camped up on the river, of course, and in the mountains, and on a great lake, and in the sand dunes on the coast. A tent gives you the freedom to travel anywhere. It's still my lodging of choice.