Gear Review: Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT Two-Person Tent

It's not often that the lightest shelter in our test is also the cheapest and biggest.

[ultralight bargain]

It’s not often that the lightest shelter in our test is also the cheapest and biggest. Mountainsmith designers cut out the floor to achieve the trick, but hikers who want the weight savings of a tarp with pitch-anywhere versatility will like the result. The 54-square-foot shelter requires 13 stakes and two trekking poles. But step-by-step instructions printed on the stuffsack simplify the process and make this shelter less fiddly than most trekking-pole designs.

Once pitched, the numerous stakeout points make it stable in wind: It proved solid through 30-mph gales in California’s Sierra Nevada, and kept occupants dry during downpours. “Condensation is minimal,” our tester reports, since air can enter through the 1-inch gap between the tarp and the ground, and a vented window dissipates interior moisture. The 40-denier fabric withstood scuffs and abrasion without fussy care. And the relatively steep walls (and airy 54-inch peak height) created sufficient headroom for our 5’10” testers to sit up. Tradeoffs: As with all floorless tents, site selection is key, and there’s no protection from bugs. Consider your region before buying. $129; 2 lbs.; mountainsmith.com