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This is an exciting time to buy a big tent, as designers tinker with everything from architecture and durability to patterning and pockets.
NEMO Aurora Highrise 4 ($400, 13.75 lbs)
The dome-style NEMO Aurora Highrise 4 prioritizes indoor comfort. Two crossbeam poles lift the roofline enough for a six-foot tester to stand up, and tilt the sidewalls outward, yielding enough elbow room to keep three men comfortable without any turf wars. Details also helped: eight pockets, two mesh windows with fabric shutters, a plaid patterned floor, and two 19.5-square-foot vestibules. Critically, the 68-denier polyester fly and 150-denier PU-polyester floor stood up to brambly tent sites and trampling by bike shoes without a scuff.
Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 2 ($600, 12.25 lbs)
In the case of the Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 2, innovation comes in the form of a covered patio. The 44-square-foot vestibule is more than a foot taller than the 34-square-foot two-person tent it’s attached to. On a car-camping bike trip in the British Columbia interior, we filled this front patio with a table and chairs for two; at night, we cleared it to fit a pair of mountain bikes, a cooler, and a host of other gear. Using trekking poles, we pitched the vestibule’s two doors into awnings to add even more living space, while an additional door at the back meant late-night exits were still easy. Testers struggled to wrestle the Wyoming’s four lengthy center poles (plus two smaller supports) and gigantic fly, but doing so paid dividends when a storm whipped up 30-mile-per-hour gusts: our shelter barely wiggled. Still, at only 12 pounds, the Trail 2 is way more portable than its 78 square feet of covered space would suggest.
REI Wonderland X ($1,249, 35 lbs)
For truly luxurious living, we love the 70.5-square-foot REI Wonderland X. It’s wide enough to engulf a picnic table and tall enough (six feet three inches) to back a small SUV into the vestibule. Twelve separate poles lift the fly first; the tent body then hangs from toggles inside the rain fly. This allows you to dry-pitch in rainstorms and choose from three interior configurations: center the mesh body to yield a small vestibule on each side, move it backward to create one big vestibule, or use the fly on its own. No matter how we set it up, the tent stood tall during a 20-mile-per-hour gale.