Brand: Big Agnes
Model: Soda Mountain SL4
This dome isn’t the lightest in its class—the freestanding Burn Ridge weighs four pounds more than ultralight options—but it costs half as much, making this two-door, four-person shelter a fantastic buy for families seeking an affordable backcountry shelter.
Our testers used it on paddling trips and short-haul hikes, and loved the generous space and headroom. The 60-square-foot floor measures 96 inches on the longer side, which keeps even the tallest campers happy. Using polyester instead of nylon fabric lowers the cost. (Poly is nearly as strong as more expensive nylon, resists UV damage better, and sags less when wet, but it’s not as abrasion-resistant.)
DAC’s 6000-series aluminum poles, which are heavier than Featherlite models, also keep the price down. Setup is simple, with an H-shaped hubbed pole that creates airy headroom and a soaring, 50-inch ceiling. Two 13-square-foot vestibules offer ample storage for boots, packs, or the family dog. One family of five used it for a weeklong float along Utah’s Green River, as well as overnights in the Rockies, and had no problem with condensation. Credit plenty of mesh and a taut pitch that encourages airflow between canopy and fly.
D-shaped doors keep mosquitoes out during entrances and exits (by unzipping only the bottom edge and keeping most of the door closed, testers sitting inside the tent could lace their boots in the vestibule). Downside: It’s bulky (24” x 8”) when packed, so hikers divvied the components. $300; 8 lbs. 8 oz.; bigagnes.comThree season, free-standing, superlight family backpacking tents