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March 2008 Tents Review: Two-Person Tents

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 *FP
A combination of low weight and solid performance makes this tent a perennial favorite among our testers with minimalist tendencies. Exhibit A: When a massive thunderstorm pounded the Seedhouse with pea-sized hail and steady rain in Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, the shelter remained stable and condensation-free. Exhibit B: The next night, with clear skies, our testers removed the fly and enjoyed stellar Milky Way views through the all-mesh canopy. Caveat: Big guys won’t be happy with the compact living space. There’s only one door, the floor is narrow, and the tent’s tallest point (38 inches) is at the front end, so partners have to sit shoulder to shoulder. Two packs fit inside the single vestibule as long as they’re stacked. $320; 2 lbs. 14 oz.

Black Diamond Mirage FP
Big blow coming? Point this aerodynamic tent’s knife-blade profile into the wind, and let the gale pass over–and around–you. The dual-hub pole system is both stable and fast to pitch. The freestanding Mirage 2 also got a perfect score for ventilation, thanks to an all-mesh canopy and a fly vent at the foot of the tent. Interior space is merely adequate; sleeping pads overlap slightly at the narrow end and the height of the tent peaks out at just 37 inches. Likewise, the single vestibule–with a unique wraparound design that’s big enough for a pack and boots–is sufficient, but not generous. $280; 3 lbs. 15 oz.

Bargain!
EMS Eclipse 2

This freestanding single-wall weighs less than 5 pounds and costs less than $200, yet its lavish elbowroom and taut, weather-shedding pitch make it suitable for light winter use (it easily withstood a late-autumn storm in Idaho). Burly clips are easy to operate even with bulky gloves. The ceiling peaks out at a generous 47 inches, which makes tent-bound days more bearable, and the 28-square-foot vestibule easily swallows piles of cold-weather gear. Condensation is a minor issue, which is common with single-walls, and a tester broke the small plastic hub holding the two poles together when he opened them in the wrong direction. Both are minor complaints given the overall great value. $189; 4 lbs. 14 oz

GoLite Utopia 2+ *
Is it a tarp? A tent? Who cares–this floorless hybrid works. For less than 3 pounds, its 45-inch ceiling and spacious floor plan accommodate two people and lots of gear, or even a couple and a child. Equally impressive: Its taut pitch and rounded profile shed wind and rain with ease. After using the Utopia for four nights on the Continental Divide Trail, our tester was amazed by its quick and easy setup, which requires two poles and eight stakes. The perimeter hugs the ground tightly enough to protect against rain spatter and most bugs; you can add a bathtub-style floor ($45, 1 lb.) for extra protection. Despite two wall vents, we experienced some condensation on humid nights. $275; 2 lbs. 10 oz.

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