If you know me, or at least if you know me on the internet, you will know I am a dude who likes to do dude stuff. In the past year or two I have jumped out of a plane, rappelled off a fair number of cliffs, paddled whitewater in Alaska, ridden my bike around Rwanda and drunk my fair share of craft beer. I own a pocket knife and frequently use it for things other than opening Amazon packages. I have had a gun pulled on me twice and there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t drink whiskey, often the really cheap face puckering whiskey. You know, dude stuff.
The problem with conventional cisgender masculinity is that it’s ridiculous. Look I have done lots of badass shit but you know what I will never do? Sleep without three pillows. I have hauled inflatable pillows up and down literal mountains because this is something I will not compromise on. Also, I recently discovered conditioner and hauled a bottle of it on a 1000-kilometer bikepacking trip because I like how it makes my hair feel.
Last year, I raced my bike 200 miles across the dust and heat of the plains of Kansas, but halfway around I felt sad so I stopped for a while to watch videos of my cat doing silly things. When I’m not drinking rotgut or sleeping in the bed of my truck I like to do plenty of things that are not so ridiculously macho, in fact they are so ridiculously un-macho that you might, if you were so inclined, pull out any of the dozen weird insults for non-gender-conforming men.
Which leads me to my favorite piece of outdoor gear. It’s not my truck-top tent, although I do love that. It’s not my titanium gravel bike or my really nice Norwegian knife or my “beat to death but still working fine” hiking boots. It is, in fact, a tiny tent that my cat can sit in when we pretend she is camping.
I didn’t grow up as a man who loves cats, but I guess I haven’t had a boy’s haircut since I was 16 and I had a massive affinity for extra thick eyeliner for a while in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until I put away the eyeliner and moved in with my now wife that I realized quite how wonderful cats are.
Working from home gave me plenty of opportunity to bond with her old cat, Nala, who would sit on my lap as I debated how much I could swear in stories that were supposed to be “family friendly.” But it wasn’t really until we went out, got drunk, received a text message with a picture of a small kitten, immediately committed to adopting her, and woke up with hangovers and a new pet that I really fell in love.
She fit in my hand when we got her, and we called her Moose because that was funny and she was kind of chocolate colored. I hand fed her milk when she was a baby, I buy her costumes every Halloween, and right now she is sleeping on my desk. I have a bracelet which is the same as her collar and I wear it so much — every second of every day — I have a tanline from it. Also, she was once published by a prominent national publication when she walked across my keyboard and thanks to the miracles of autocorrect added a sentence that a copy editor thought belonged there.
So yeah, I really like cats. I also love the outdoors, and I am a pretty heavyweight gear nerd. I own several GPS devices and my apartment smells of festering base layers. But among the Dyneema and the 4-way stretch active denim, my favorite piece of gear is one that doesn’t even go outside at all.
This tiny tent is the only review product in years that I have met the FedEx guy on the porch for. It is also the only product that my cat has ever preferred to the box which the thing came in, and that includes several premium cat trees. I am not the only one who likes it; it seems to have been the fastest-ever tent to sell out on REI.com. (Editor’s note: The Matador tent in question is no longer available there, but you can get it at its own site, tinytents.com.)
Now, what exactly do I do with my tiny tent? Not much, really. I unzip the fly sheet and the bug netting (because yes it has proper bug netting like a proper tent as befits a cat of refined tastes), and then I watch my cat go and sit in it and she sits in it, and she looks at me, and my heart melts. That’s it.
I do realize there are other ways you could spend $25, for instance you could purchase two fancy beers and leave a decent tip or a solid half liter of awful whiskey. But this cat tent won’t leave you with a lingering sense of regret that emanates from your liver. It will, in fact, leave you with a warm glow inside that emanates from your heart. And if you think that isn’t a very manly thing to say, I’ll kick your teeth in.