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First up, the Flylite from MSR. This garage-looking, non-freestanding tent has near-vertical walls and pitches with two trekking poles and one short tent pole, keeping the weight at 1 lb., 9 oz for two people.
Big Agnes, long on the cutting edge of ultralight, ultralivable tents, has taken the scalpel to its popular Fly Creek 2 tent, slicing off ounces, throwing on lighter zippers and putting out this Platinum version, which weighs in at 1 lb. 9 oz.
Sling Fin moved into the three-season market this year with the CrossBow2. Their concept is a trekking-pole bolstered skeleton that can be fit with one of three tent bodies (all sold separately). There’s the waterproof fastpacking Stormpack ($395; 3 lbs., 2 oz.), the Mesh ($460; 3 lbs., 14 oz.), and the 3+-season R/S ($580; 4 lbs., 6 oz.).
Hilleberg tents are known for durability. So when designers wanted to make a new three-season 1P tent, they modeled it on their popular Akto. The Enan uses lighter fabric (10D), fewer guy points, and mesh ends (with zipping covers) looks like a solid (9mm poles), nonfreestanding tent that’ll pitch quick. ($625; 2 lbs. 7 oz.)
This hammerhead-looking Three Island UL4 by Big Agnes is one of the more disruptive designs we’ve seen so far. It’s a four person tent arranged like a cross, so campers sleep two on a side and everyone’s head meets in the middle. At 4 lbs., 4 oz, it’s light for a 4P, but finding a good spot for such a long tent (168 inches) could present a real challenge.
At the high end of livability, NEMO’s Wagontop 4P is shaped like a pioneer wagon of old and definitely has the room to fit the family, even a family of really tall folks. But, like the Mountain Hardwear, it’s a comfort base- or car camper ($450; 18 lbs., 2 oz.).
On the other end of the spectrum, Mountain Hardwear launched a plus-size Optic (which we awarded an Editors’ Choice award earlier this year) that sleeps six. It ain’t light at 15 lbs, 2 oz., but even tall guys can stand up inside.
And for the grand finale, Big Agnes has a full, seven-tent line called mtnGLO. Strings of lightweight LEDs are sewn into the fabric, giving even light at the tent’s canopy. A separate USB-chargeable battery powers the whole thing. It adds about 2 oz. and $50 to the prices of its current line. Be on the lookout for a separate strand of retrofittable lights in the near future.
You griped, they listened. You complained that most tents are too heavy to carry far, or that most tents lack livability and make camping more of an endurance event than a fun one? Well, the gear companies have got you covered with a robust new class of shelters that skew light or skew big, but this year, it’s all about comfort.