The take-home message from the year’s best tents: less weight, more space. Who would choose a cramped two-person tent when you can get the extra elbowroom of a three-person model with no additional weight? Nobody here.
REI Quarter Dome T3
Easy to pitch and easy on the wallet, this tent is rock-solid when it comes to weather protection.
Consider the T3′s numbers: At 4 pounds and 7 ounces, it’s more than a pound lighter than the two-person Half Dome 2 HC, which earned an Editors’ Choice Award in 2002. And it’s $60 cheaper than its nearest freestanding competitor. But the T3 is no lightweight in terms of protection. In the Cascades, Sawtooths, and Colorado Rockies, it sheltered testers from rain, hail, and high winds. To cut weight but not storm-worthiness, this tent uses one full-length and two three-quarter-length poles to form the dome’s skeleton: A full pitch requires 12 stakes, but you can get away with six in mild weather. The interior has enough headroom for 6’3" guys sitting up, but squeezes them lying down. The mostly mesh body and two fly vents allow enough ventilation that condensation is almost non-existent. Each of the two tear-shaped doors has a moderate-size vestibule. You can also pitch the T3 in ultralight mode (3 lbs. 7 oz.) using only the poles, fly, and optional fastpitch footprint ($30). Just one catch: Living space is tight for three full-size campers. Choose the T3 if you want castle-like room for two at a bargain price. $289; 4 lbs. 7 oz.; (800) 426-4840; rei.com.