Best Convertable tent ?????

11:47 a.m. on January 4, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

I am in the process of finding a new tent. I have several pretty good 3 season tents, the newest being and REI quater dome. However i am becoming more interested in winter packing and need a tent that can take a litter colder night and hold a little snow if needed. I have basically narrowed it down to the Marrmot Swallow and the MSR Fusion 3, i would like to get some first hand info on these two tents. Also if someone feels i have overlooked a worthwile tent tell me about it. Any help would be very much apprec.
thanks
Josh

12:52 p.m. on January 4, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

I got an REI Morph 2-man tent last fall and it rocks. Caveat- I camp primarily in the southern Appalachians and I have not had a chance to see its performance in heavy snow. However, it seems to have a pretty sturdy frame. REI had a close-out (a prioryear model I guess) and I got it for like 170. But I think they normally run about 250 or so.

5:42 p.m. on January 4, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

Price Range

There are many on this board who snow camp and are very knowledgable. That said, I get the impression that most of the quality snow camping tents are pricey. I think that it would help people give advice if you could give them a price range that you are willing to spend. You might also want to address whether the weight of the tent is an issue.

7:09 p.m. on January 4, 2005 (EST)
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8:26 p.m. on January 4, 2005 (EST)
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Tent for all reasons

Josh -

First, no tent is perfect or even suitable for all seasons or all climates (No such thing as a "tent for all reasons" or all seasons, for that matter). You will have to compromise or make do if you insist on having only one tent in your portfolio (you don't have to do like me and acquire a dozen tents, though).

I am not a fan of convertible tents for use in winter snow camping. The main reason is that any open mesh, even covered by a zip-in/out panel, seems to let spindrift in, at the very least, and some of them let more substantial flakes in. Also, convertible tents tend to be significantly heavier for the space than a dedicated 4-season tent.

That said, a lot of 3-season tents, especially if they do not have open mesh, work very well for mild winter/snow conditions. I have even used my old Sierra Designs Sleeve Flashlight in fairly serious winter conditions, despite the fact that the front door and tiny back window of the main tent body are mesh. I don't dare use my newer Clip Flashlight this way, though, because it has mesh panels on the sides as well.

I also have a Sierra Designs Meteor Light that seems to work (so far), despite having a fair amount of mesh.

Frankly, though, I do not understand the current fad of making the main tent body of even a 3-season tent mostly mesh. Yes, I know, it provides lots of ventilation (except that putting a decent fly on it that actually keeps out rain greater than a light drizzle in no-wind conditions defeats the ventilation, and even then a good breeze can whip the rain under the fly and through the mesh with anything less than a full-coverage fly). And supposedly on clear nights, you can leave the fly off and enjoy the stars - except that the mesh strongly interferes with a clear view of the sky.

The main thing in sleeping in cold weather is keeping the wind off, plus sheltering you from any precipitation. One thing that can happen with a largely-mesh tent in cold weather is that your body moisture will condense on the underside of the fly and drip through the mesh onto you and your sleeping bag (or freeze and the ice crystals will snow on you when you brush the tent sides). You can easily make up for the colder nights by increasing the warmth of your sleeping bag (a warmer bag, a liner, a blanket inside or over the bag, heavier long johns, that sort of thing).

As far as holding the snow, the basic rule of thumb is "the number of poles equals the number of seasons." So a 3-season tent needs 3 poles and a 4-season tent needs 4 poles. Yeah, Jim S and I use our Bibler Eldorados in the winter (heavy storms, at that) and they have only 2 poles. There are exceptions, but you pay the price.

If you were considering serious snow camping, I would recommend looking at a tent with 1 more person capacity than you intend having in it. 2 people cooped up in a storm in a 2-person tent gets pretty claustrophobic, but a 3-person tent is more livable. For your "a little snow", a 2-person tent for 2 people is fine. A usable vestibule makes things somewhat more livable. But adding room inside or in a vestibule adds weight. Again, if you were considering serious snow camping, I would suggest having 2 real doors. But "little snow" says a fairly cozy tent with a single door will do just fine (check how cozy you and your companions can stand, though - I once had to spend 2 nights in a 3-man expedition tent with 6 of us in it - got pretty tight after a few hours).

So, I would suggest that you consider a tent in which the main body is regular ripstop (non-mesh), and the door is mesh with a zip-panel that stays attached. It should have 3 sliders so you can vent the top and bottom of the door to promote ventilation (and reduce condensation) while still shielding against drip, frost-snow, and blown-in spindrift. I also suggest the "solid" door panel should be on the inside and mesh on the outside so in mosquito season you can open the solid panel leaving the mesh zipped up from inside the tent (keep them varmints out!!) The fly should be full coverage, coming to within 3 or 4 inches of the ground all around (allows some ventilation while reducing wind-blown precip).

Take a look at expedition tents (in person, not just catalog or web pictures) and think about the way things are arranged and why. Then carry this over to your 3+ season tent requirements (example is no exposed mesh, no zipout panels to lose).

4:16 p.m. on January 5, 2005 (EST)
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The guys who have already responded to you have way more experience than I do so there's not a lot to add except this-I have a Sierra Design Flashlight and bought a tent just for winter-an EMS Pompero I got pretty cheap on eBay. The difference between the two is pretty obvious-the Pompero looks much like a Mountain Hardware Trango Assault-five poles and a fairly big vestibule. The SD has two poles and no vestibule (it's an old sleeve version). It's not too hard to figure out which one would survive a snowstorm better than the other. If price is a factor,eBay can be a good source if you already know what you want. Since you already have other tents, you may as well get one just for winter that will hold up if that "little snow" unexpectedly turns into a lot of snow overnight.

4:47 p.m. on January 5, 2005 (EST)
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Why convertible?

As others have suggested, if you already have a three-season tent, you might be better off looking into a four-season (e.g. winter) tent instead of a convertible. The convertible option is basicly for people who will only use one tent year-round. If you have mulitple tents, you might as well specialize. A true four-season tent will be stronger for the weight and better designed for the conditions you're likely to encounter.

If you haven't already, check out the reviews in the gear section of the site:

http://trailspace.com/gear/tents/convertible/
http://trailspace.com/gear/tents/four/

If you're set on getting a convertible, there aren't any for the Fusion 3, but there are a number for both the Fusion 2 and the Swallow:

http://trailspace.com/gear/marmot/swallow/
http://trailspace.com/gear/msr/fusion-2/

Hope this helps
-Dave

8:33 p.m. on January 5, 2005 (EST)
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Excellent points, Tom

For someone who claims little experience, you hit the main points right on the head.

1:38 p.m. on January 6, 2005 (EST)
(Guest)

Re: Tent for all reasons

I have looked at 4 season tents, i love the MSR phantom and the prophet but they are just a little to pricey for me at this time, i am a college student. The convertible seems like the next best thing, let me know if you have anymore advice your last reply was very helpfull.
Thanks

5:44 p.m. on January 6, 2005 (EST)
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4-season pricing

Josh -

There are a number of good 4-season tents that are no more expensive than the convertibles you names. I suggest you broaden your range of considered brands. Sierra Designs, for example, makes several good 4-season tents. They tend not to appear in overstock and closeout catalogs like Sierra Trading Post (SD's 3-season tents do appear there quite often). You will need to go to a shop that specializes in mountaineering gear. I like MSR gear in general, but their tents are a bit pricey for what you get. Walrus is another brand (now owned by someone else), and Eureka makes several very good 4-season tents that are less expensive, but still well-suited to what you are saying you intend to do. Look at the Northern Mountain Supply website - they have a lot of cosmetic seconds at much lower prices than you will find the same tent for in the stores (the problems that made them seconds are usually things like someone getting the label on crooked, or a waterproof ink line from the inspector getting careless with his pen - Northern Mountain is pretty good about telling you what the particular problem is).

A couple examples off the Northern website -

The two tents you mention list for about $360. Northern Mountain has the Sierra Designs Hercules for $329 and the Tiros AST for $349. These tents have been used by several people in the winter camping course I teach and have worked well (we have a tradition of a serious blizzard during the course, although the year we wanted to build a big igloo, it was sunny and the igloo melted as fast as we could put the blocks up). They also have a couple tents by Big Agnes that I know nothing about.

1:20 a.m. on January 7, 2005 (EST)
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Thanks, Bill. I spent a couple of days in Jim's VE25 (I think that's what it is)last winter. Big difference between some of the tents I've seen set up at REI or A16 and a real winter tent-not too hard to figure out if you just look at them. Best winter shelter I've been in are mountain huts-too bad there aren't more of them here. New Zealand has a whole track and hut system-given the sketchy weather there,way better than a tent any day if you don't mind company.

10:17 a.m. on January 7, 2005 (EST)
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Re: 4-season pricing

Just an FYI, Walrus sold out to MSR as did Moss. They may have sold to someone else first, but MSR owns both now. In any event, many of the MSR designs are simply Walrus or Moss tents that may have been tweaked a bit.

Walrus tents appear on ebay with some regularity and sell for under $200 quite often. Not a bad price for the quality.

12:44 p.m. on March 24, 2005 (EST)
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Josh, All of the information you have gotten is top notch and they have far more experience than me on camping in snow, but let me share this with you. I live in the south (Alabama), and we rarely even see snow! I too wanted a 4 season tent that would take it all and even some snow if I wanted to go somewhere and indulge in snow camping in the U.S. I talked to the nice folks at Sierra Designs on the phone about a 4 season tent that was on sale at REI-Outlet. He actually talked me out of buying it!! After I told him that primarly it would be used in the humid warm south and maybe twice in it's lifetime be exposed to a heavy snow event. He said that I would be very disappointed in a four season tent under those guidelines of useage. He said the 4 season would be very hot and will not breath good if used in the warm southern states. He also said that condensation would drive me crazy. After that conversation and some research, I purchased a Sierra Designs Omega convertible tent. As Bill as told you, and I feel he is very right....under extreme snow conditions I am sure the mesh in the convertable tent will cause you problems, but for a guy that lives in the south, I felt the convertable was the way to go. Buying a full 4 season tent in the south would be used about twice in one's lifetime, I concluded. Bill is also VERY right in that my convertable weighs a lot. Sometimes I feel it is so overkill for my kind of backpacking. I only use it when I feel like I might be exposed to severe weather or using it as a base camp tent. This tent kicks butt if you want a rock solid tent for rain/wind storms of any kind, and makes a fantastic base camp tent for any outdoor activity....such as backpacking, kayak/canoe camping...etc...An example might be if you are camped on an island on a lake kayak/canoe camping. If a severe thunderstorm comes up, put me in my convertable tent any day over the flimsy 3 season tents. So I said a lot to say this...In my opinion it really depends on where you live in the United States and how much you think you would really benefit from a 4 season tent. Hope this helps to add to all the other information the guys have given you.

July 28, 2014
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