Whoever says a tent is just a tent hasn’t spoken to our man Mike Cecot-Scherer! He’s a veteran in the business, having designed tents professionally for over 30 years. In this interview he tells us a little about his expansive career in the business, answers the question ‘which tent should I buy?’ and fills us in on the latest project he’s about to start. We certainly wish we had some of this info before our misadventure camping in Lagos de Montebello, Mexico!
You’d think after over 30 years and almost 250 tents designed that this guy would be pretty happy to call it a day, but Mike continues to push the boundaries in revolutionizing tents to bring the ultimate user experience to every single person who needs them.
Firstly, tell us how you get into the tent designing business?
As a kid I made a bunch of my own gear, but it wasn’t until I’d been working in retail that I started using those skills. I was working at Marmot Mountain Works’ Berkeley store and an SD tent was driving us crazy because it was a nice design, but it was just a little too short. The head of design had no time to deal with it so, long story short, he gave me my big break and I took to it well.
As a kid were all your friends jealous of your exceptional blanket-fort building skills?
My four brothers never mentioned it haha.
After designing tents professionally for over 30 years, what keeps inspiring you to develop new designs?
I have a ton of new designs yet to see the world. It’s like I’m a brick layer making a path and I just have a deep compulsion to use all the bricks I have… and the bricks are stacking up faster than I can lay them.
What has been the biggest transformation in tent design over the years?
In the old days we mostly thought of the tent as hanging off the poles. Modern designs have the poles and the fabric work together. Very often the poles can’t even stand up without the tent holding everything in place.
When traveling to different regions of the world with varied climates, which tent should I buy?
Since every tent is a tradeoff it’s probably a very good idea to be aware of what you’re going to encounter. For example, most ultra light backpacking tents are made for sheltered areas and generally warm climates, so taking them to the exposed terrain of Scotland or Argentina could really backfire, despite their travel friendly weight and small packed size. On the flip-side, a winter tent that would be great for those places would be very uncomfortable in the tropics. And so on.
If you are traveling to widely varying climates, then you will find that it’s actually quite hard to find a tent with the balance of features that works well. There just aren’t many really strong 3-season tents out there with just-so amounts of netting to make them a little warmer in cold conditions, but still livable when it’s hot. I kept exactly this in mind when I designed the RugRat tents on Kickstarter. Versatility was very important.
What would you say to all our readers out there deciding on a new tent purchase?
Boy, WAY too broad a question. It would take a gigantic chart just to cover design pros & cons and then you’d still be left wondering which way to go on probably the majority of the tradeoffs.
Tell us a little about the current Kick Starter campaign you’ve got running. How can people get involved?
Well, I have this crazy idea to make a tremendously versatile tent that goes to great lengths to help the occupants sleep. That came from a design exploration to figure out what a tent could do to help perennially sleep deprived parents get out with young kids and have a reliably fun time. You might ask why that’s different, aren’t tents for sleeping in? Yes but the market has become dominated by a bare-bones shelter mentality that has stripped out virtually every possible feature and places almost no value on strength, versatility or, really even enjoyment. If a feature doesn’t make a tent weigh or cost less, it’s axed. That’s the state of the current backpacking tent market.
So I’m offering something quite different: a tent designed in every way to contribute to a reliably fun trip. I have quite a lot to show people on the Kickstarter page. Even if you’re not looking for a 3 or 4 person tent, it’s pretty fascinating, I think, to see all the materials and features that could be on the market, but aren’t anywhere to be found.
Click here if you’d like to know more about Mike’s latest KickStarter campaign and the RugRat tent. And if you know someone looking for a tent, or who would enjoy the information, don’t forget to share this post!
Any further questions or comments please contact us and we’ll pass them onto Mike!