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Backpacker Magazine – Gear Guide 2013

Gear Guide: More Tester Tent Picks

by: Kelly Bastone

Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2 (Courtesy)
Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2 (Courtesy)
The North Face Mica FL 2 (Courtesy)
The North Face Mica FL 2 (Courtesy)
Eddie Bauer First Ascent Katabatic (Courtesy)
Eddie Bauer First Ascent Katabatic (Courtesy)

SOLO

Eastern Mountain Sports Velocity 1
A drum-tight pitch and excellent ventilation turned testers into devotees of this freestanding dome. The spacious, 9-square-foot vestibule offers more than enough space for a pack and boots. And it barely budged during 30-mph winds in Colorado’s Park Range. $269; 2 lbs. 8 oz.; ems.com

NEMO Gogo Elite
“An ultralight backpacker’s dream,” declared our tester after thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, where this single-wall shelter stood firm through torrential rain and 40-mph gusts. An inflatable airbeam (instead of aluminum poles) and ultralight 10-denier fabric make for a low weight, as do trim dimensions (more like a bivy than a traditional tent, the 27-inch peak height doesn’t allow sleepers to sit up fully). Gripe: Condensation collected in rainy conditions. $430; 1 lb. 4 oz.; nemoequipment.com 

REI Quarter Dome T1
Generous headroom and a side entrance make this freestanding dome feel surprisingly spacious, given the sub-three-pound weight. “I’ve always had to carry much heavier tents to get this kind of head and shoulder room,” says our 6’3” tester, who found it a stable refuge in 20-mph wind and rain in Colorado’s canyon country. Bummer: The smallish door contorts exits. $219; 2 lbs. 14 oz.; rei.com 

TWO-PERSON

Cabela’s XPG Dash Duo
Solid performance in wind and a super-easy setup earned props for this freestanding dome. Floor space is “a little tight, but reasonable for the weight,” concludes our tester. Gripe: There’s just one door. $190; 5 lbs. 8 oz.; cabelas.com

Exped Mira II
This all-arounder achieves a sub-four-pound weight without compromising durability or interior space. The 70-denier nylon floor resists punctures, dual doors and vestibules provide convenient exits and ample storage, and storm performance is tops: It kept our Washington testers cozy during an epic, only-in-the-Olympics deluge. $379; 3 lbs. 14 oz.; exped.com

L.L. Bean Microlight FS 2
This two-person tent hits all the right notes: Less than four pounds and just over $200—but with two doors, legit floor space, freestanding convenience, and three-season weatherproofing. $219; 3 lbs. 12 oz.; llbean.com

NEMO Obi Elite 2P
Most tents this light don’t offer two doors—but the Obi gives each occupant his own exit and 9-square-foot vestibule. The trick? Weight-saving fabrics (10-denier for the fly; 20-denier for the floor). Durability proved solid, but interior space is tight. $500; 2 lbs. 4 oz.; nemoequipment.com

Marmot Firefly 2P
“So much headroom, it’s like sleeping in an R.V.,” says one tester. The 92-inch length lets tall campers (up to 6’5”) stretch out, and the 26 square feet of storage (in two vestibules) provide ample real estate for packs, stoves—even a St. Bernard. Though heavier than many two-person tents, the Firefly is also bigger and (slightly) cheaper, thanks to cost-saving polyester fabric and DAC Pressfit poles. $319; 5 lbs. 9 oz.; marmot.com

Mountain Hardwear SuperMegaUL 2
Despite its skimpy weight, this dome easily handles big weather. “The bathtub floor was waterproof enough to ‘waterbed’ during Canadian deluges, and the well-designed overlap between floor sidewalls and rainfly kept out 30-mph winds,” one tester reports. $450; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; mountainhardwear.com

MSR Nook
Hikers who prefer racking up miles to lounging in camp praised this lightweight, one-door tent, which merely shivered in howling wind in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains. Downside: small vestibule. $400; 3 lbs. 2 oz.; msrgear.com

The North Face Mica FL 2
Weight-conscious hikers praised this freestanding, two-door dome, which kept our testers dry through light snow and sleet in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The 28-square-foot floor is just big enough for two smallish hikers, but storage is ample (thanks to two 10-square-foot vestibules). Bummer: Condensation collected in chilly, 30°F temperatures, and testers wished for a tauter pitch. $379; 3 lbs. 2 oz.; thenorthface.com

THREE-PERSON

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 3
Despite the gauzy materials (which make this freestanding dome as light as many two-person tents), the Seedhouse survived rough handling on Utah’s Green River. Setup is simple, and the all-mesh walls and ceiling facilitate stargazing. Correctly rigged and oriented, it endured 30-mph winds. $400; 3 lbs. 8 oz.; bigagnes.com

Exped Gemini III
“It’s one of the sturdiest freestanding tents I’ve ever used,” raves our veteran tester, reporting that it withstood 20-mph winds (with gusts approaching 40 mph) in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness and barely shuddered—even without full guyouts rigged. Ventilation is excellent, and durable, 70- and 30-denier nylon fabrics withstood careless treatment. $499; 5 lbs. 9 oz.; exped.com

SPECIALISTS 

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Katabatic
What makes this three-person tent an award-winner is its no-compromise blend of stability, livability, and a reasonable carry weight. With steep walls that actually give three adults and their gear plenty of headroom, this double-wall fortress proved a comfy bunker in foul weather—including howling 50-mph winds at 23,500 feet on Mt. Everest, where its weatherproofing impressed testers, to say the least. Said one, “This is the best four-season tent I’ve ever used.” $599; 10 lbs. 5 oz.; eddiebauer.com

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4
Huge headroom and a generous, 57-square-foot floor make this four-person, three-season dome so spacious that, in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, eight testers squeezed in for dinner and a card game during a snowstorm. Yet weight is low, and ventilation superb. $600; 5 lbs. 5 oz.; bigagnes.com

Brooks-Range Invasion
Alpinists who value weight savings above elbowroom loved this two-person single-wall, which barely shook in Tetons snow and gusty winds at treeline in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. The 30-square-foot floor just fit two climbers, but entrances require a commando-crawl, and condensation collected in most conditions. $570; 3 lbs. 7 oz.; brooks-range.com

 

 

 



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