Little Big Houses: Three-Season, Double-Occupancy Shelters

At right around two pounds per person, these three-season, double-occupancy shelters do everything but weigh you down.

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

BEST ALL AROUND

Black Diamond Mirage

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The double-wall Mirage hits the sweet spot in this rarefied weight class, combining a roomy interior, rock-solid weatherproofing, and durable materials. The hubbed-pole setup is fast and easy, even in driving wind, and the fin-shaped design stood firm in 40-mph gusts and shed several inches of heavy, wet snow during a spring Colorado storm. In fair weather, the fly rolls back to expose enough mesh for stargazing. Ventilation is superior in all conditions, thanks to good airflow through the vestibule vent on the fly and broad swaths of mesh. The large floor and 37-inch peak height allowed our 6'2" tester and a companion to comfortably ride out a prolonged rainstorm. The tent's single door is angled to the side rather than centered, which allows you to store packs and boots without blocking the entryway. Drawback: One door is less convenient than two. Reader service #101

  • Floor space 30 sq. ft.
  • Vestibules One (10 sq. ft.)
  • Weight 4 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Price $299
  • Info bdel.com

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

STORM READY

Kelty Corrie 2

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"During the Northwest's wettest spring in memory, this tent was a dry refuge," reported one tester. The double-wall Corrie's taut, aerodynamic pitch easily shed wind, rain, frost, hail, and snow. After one practice round to orient the hubbed-pole configuration, testers found the setup quick and simple, even in blustery conditions. Despite the ultralight weight, the tent's fabrics proved tough and abrasion-resistant on the rough basalt coulees of eastern Washington. Mesh panels kept condensation from accumulating on nights below 35°F, a somewhat unusual feat for low-slung ultralight shelters. The biggest compromise is space: The floor is simply too tight for two large hikers. The narrow vestibule over the single, front-access door is also too snug: Two packs fit when stacked, but they block the exit and leave no room for cooking. That said, for iffy conditions and shoulder-season trips, testers said they'd happily sacrifice a few creature comforts for this tent's bomber weatherproofing and low weight. Reader service #102

  • Floor space 27 sq. ft.
  • Vestibules One (11 sq. ft.)
  • Weight 4 lbs. 1 oz.
  • Price $280
  • Info kelty.com

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

TOP SINGLE-WALL

The North Face Vario 23

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Single-walls and hybrids like the Vario offer smart weight savings when used in relatively dry climates: You benefit from the lightweight construction (less fabric) without suffering much from the unavoidable penalty (more condensation than with a double-wall tent). That made the Vario, with its roomy interior and stable, gust-busting pitch, a favorite for trips in the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest, where prolonged wet weather is unusual. Setup is fast, and the pitch is taut: "I could do it at night and in the rain; once up, 40-mph gusts barely fluttered it," said one tester. Two D-shaped doors conveniently hang to the side–not on the floor–and each camper gets a small but functional vestibule. The easy pitch and convenience of twin doors and vestibules elevated the Vario above some larger digs, but it's hardly tiny: The spacious floor and 41-inch-high ceiling are plenty roomy for a pair of six-footers. And packed into its compression sack, the Vario squashes down to the size of a gallon jug. Just note that condensation is fierce in humid locations and long storms. Testers in the drippy Northwest had problems even with only one occupant. Reader service #103

  • Floor space 32 sq. ft.
  • Vestibules Two (6 sq. ft. each)
  • Weight 4 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Price $289
  • Info thenorthface.com

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

BIG-GUY FAVORITE

Nemo Nano

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How roomy is this tent? Some testers climbed inside and thought they'd received a three-person version by mistake. The Nano easily let one couple sprawl out with their 70-pound Lab. The single-wall hybrid pitches from the inside, meaning you climb in it to fit the two crossing poles into the corners and secure them with Velcro attachments. The atypical setup confers a unique benefit: In the rain, testers stayed dry–as did the interior–since they were inside while pitching it. (A downside: it's hard to avoid tracking mud and dirt inside.) The one door is huge–72 inches across–so entrances are contortion-free even when the wide vestibule is filled with packs and boots. The tight pitch withstood windy weather and steady downpours in the Pacific Northwest. But in a rainstorm, you can't unzip the vestibule door fully because water drips into the tent; the problem is that the doorway extends about six inches past the drip line. As with most single-walls, condensation was a problem in humid conditions. Reader service #104

  • Floor space 36 sq. ft.
  • Vestibules One (8 sq. ft.)
  • Weight 4 lbs.
  • Price $299
  • Info nemoequipment.com

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

CUSTOMIZABLE

Big Sky International Convertible 2P Shelter

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Tailor your tent to suit the conditions where you typically hike. The double-wall Convertible 2P has winter and summer options for the tent body, plus your choice of lightweight or winter-weight poles. We paired the silnylon fly with the mostly mesh summer canopy for a tent that tips the scales at just 3 pounds 10 ounces, yet delivers poker-night floor space. The 42-inch peak height allows even tall hikers to sit up in comfort. Two doors allow fuss-free exits, and two vestibules offer just enough space for packs and boots. The gauzy fabrics are super-compressible (the rainfly packs down to pint-glass size) and the tent shed rain, graupel, and moderate winds. So why didn't it score higher? The delicate pole-sleeve fabric showed early signs of wear, and the stakeout cords shredded easily. Ventilation was adequate so long as the fly's numerous rain flaps were rolled up (a tedious process involving lots of tiny toggles). Stowed, the flaps collected rain water, so packing up without soaking the interior required unbuttoning each flap. Verdict: Best for ounce-counting tinkerers. Reader service #105

Best All-Around | Storm Ready | Top Single-Wall | Big-Guy Favorite | Customizable | Lightest

LIGHTEST

Mountain Hardwear Helion 2

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If you want an ultralight shelter that disappears in your pack, this is your tent. Stuffed, it's no bigger than a bike helmet. The double-wall Helion trims ounces with a fly made of superlight (and super-strong) hollow-core ripstop nylon. But the Helion's dimensions are Spartan: Placed side by side, two 20-inch-wide, standard-length sleeping pads overlap at the foot. ("If you use this as a tent for two, one of you better be tiny," said a tester.) If the size works for you, you'll love the performance. The sturdy three-pole frame held strong against stormy winds and easily shed the worst rain we experienced, and the ultralight fabrics were unscathed after encounters with sandstone and volcanic rock. The all-mesh interior provided outstanding ventilation in all conditions, and the forward-angled pole around the head area kept the entryway dry even when the vestibule was unzipped. Besides the cramped quarters and hefty price, the only other downside is a fussy pitch: feeding poles through tiny weight-saving rings (in lieu of clips) is slow. Reader service #106

  • Floor space 28 sq. ft.
  • Vestibules One (8.5 sq. ft.)
  • Weight 3 lbs. 6 oz.
  • Price $395
  • Info mountainhardwear.com