I recently saw a post on Facebook from Seattle Backpackers Magazine where they were asking this question; “If someone was going to give you a brand new 3 season 2 person tent for free and didn’t put a price limit on it what tent would you choose?”. That got me to thinking about how much could, would or should you spend on a tent? So, I entered the search terms “Most Expensive Backpacking Tent” and hit “enter”. Bing (my search engine of choice) supplied me with 1.8 million results. Whoa, where do I start? I backed up a bit and looked at a few of the well known tent manufacturers and their 2 man tents. As of todays date (8/26/2013); On the North Face site I found the North Face VE 25 listed at $619, Hilleberg has their KAITUM 2 GT priced at $915, Big Agnes has the String Ridge 2 at $600 and Mountain Hardware has their Skyledge 2 DP and SuperMegaUL 2 listed at $450. (NOTE: I’m not offering an opinion, rating, suggestion or review on any of the tents offered by The North Face, Hilleberg, Big Agnes or Mountain Hardware). I then backed up a bit more and did a search through one of my favorite (not going say who) online outdoor retailers that offers tents. The following is a what I came across:
- Retail prices ranged from $55 up to $1,250
- Accommodates from 1 person to 8+ people
- Included tarps, bivies, hammocks and tents (solo to expedition)
- 2 seasons to 4 seasons
Obviously (at least to me) the search through this particular online retailer (again, not going to say who) provided options that aren’t relevant to backpackers. A backpacker doesn’t need an expedition sized tent and shouldn’t need anything larger than what can accommodate 2 people. Additionally, this retailer doesn’t carry all the manufacturers of tents (only 16 manufacturers were represented). Filtering it down some more to only include 1 – 2 person accommodations, I came up with the following:
- Retail prices ranged from $55 up to $600
- Accommodates either 1 or 2 people
- Included tarps, bivies hammocks and tents
- 3 – 4 seasons
Now we’re starting to narrow it down to reasonable parameters to answer the question posed by Seattle Backpackers Magazine. So, we’re looking at spending anywhere between $55 and $600. That’s a pretty big range and offers a lot of choices but again doesn’t include all manufactures. Although, I feel pretty confidant that you can find what you’re looking for in this price range from almost any manufacturer. Alright, this is where my question from above comes in; “How much could/would/should you spend on a tent?”
What Could You Buy? Out of the tents I looked at through the outdoor retailers site and the other mentioned above, answering the could portion of the question is much easier if price, weight, size, etc. are not an important factor in your decision-making process. You can go all out and get whatever want, though it may not be practical for you and your intended use. The would and should decisions are a little more difficult to make and require more analysis on your part.
What would you buy? This is where personal preferences come into play. Now you have to start considering tent (or bivy and hammock) size, weight, single wall construction, ease of setup, trail conditions, site locations, weather conditions, price, etc. At this point in my backpacking life tent size has become an issue. When I first started backpacking, I wanted something that offered plenty of room therefore I choose a two person tent. Weight was not an issue nor were any of the other issues relevant (except for price). This made my decision-making process (10 years ago) much easier. I ended up with a Eureka! Zeus 2 and this tent has been a workhorse for me.
I’ve used it in many any types of weather conditions. It’s held up through snow, sleet, downpours, thunderstorms, driving rain, heavy winds, etc. This tent met all my needs, at the time and for the most part still does. The weight has become an issue because I know that there are much lighter weight tents available that offer the same advantages (for me) as the Zeus 2. My tastes and preferences have changed over the years. An important one for me is weight. I’ve also learned that I don’t need (again from my perspective) the additional space of a 2 person tent. Because of changes in designs, there is now more room available inside a solo tent for gear or by using the available vestibule. I’m still very conscious of the ease and quickness of setup. Put up a tent in a driving rain and you’ll understand why the quickness of the setup is important. Price is still an important factor for me also. As far as addressing the “would” part of the question: I think that what you end up doing is settling for something that meets most but not all of your requirements.
What Should You Buy? When you do make your decision to purchase your shelter, your shelter should meet ALL of your requirements (within the budget you’ve established). Earlier in this post I gave a partial listing of requirements you may want to consider. Only you can decide what’s important to you. Remember that your shelter is your home for a night a week or months. It needs to provide you as much comfort as is reasonably possibly. Get as much information as you can regarding your shelter. Ask questions, read reviews, talk to people on the trail and get their opinions on the gear they’re using, visit manufactures sites and talk to their customer service departments, rent something if possible. While I’ve never rented any equipment, I did purchase my current GoLite from LowerGear. There are other companies out that provide rentals as well. Borrow a shelter from someone, if they are willing, and remember to return it in equal or better condition.
Take your time and don’t make a hasty decision. Again, this will be your home and you should be comfortable with it and in it.
Until next time…
When BackPackin’ go GreenPackin’
September 10, 2013 at 12:39 am
There are a lot of tents that would fit someone’s requirements within a certain budget. The problem is there are a lot of very similar tents out there and their prices fluctuate widely but do not necessarily reflect the quality or usefulness of the tent. To me, it seems that the best way about picking the right one is to use a review site like Outdoor Gear Lab which tests a multitude of tents in real life situation. They then rate the value vs. price as well as showing the stats of the tents (or other gear) side by side. This way you get the best tent for you. Sorry for the plug there, but OGL is awesome for the reasons stated.