So, my lovely girlfriend and I spent last week up in the Smokies. We were going to do some backpacking, but I managed to give myself a gimpy leg the second day there, so we stuck to easy hikes and managed campsites. It poured rain, literally every day. We spent one day on the AT (when I hurt myself) and it rained for 90% of the hike. The day before, it rained the entire hike. The one day with a few nice hours was spent tubing on the Little River, which is way more fun that you would think it should be.
We slept in a Eureka Timberline, and were dry the whole trip, except when we would accidentally leave something touching the side of the tent for a while. I had a tarp under the tent, so the floor was always dry.
I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone else in the campground had tents that got them soaked. Most of them were humungous WalMart tents that could fit a family reunion, but had rain flys that covered only the very top of the tent. Several had mesh ventilation in the side, with no cover over the mesh. I have never used one of those kind of tents, since we always at least had a big Eureka when I was younger. When the rain fly got old, we would rig a massive tarp over the whole campsite. A few people I saw last week did this, but most would just get a tarp that was barely bigger than their rain fly and just throw it over the tent. Of course, this was usually the second night, after they had gotten a good soaking.
Where do you guys sleep when you car camp? Are those huge tents as bad as they look with handling water? Is the extra space worth the trade off? Do you just have to buy a 20′ x 20′ tarp to take with you?