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Tents - what would you choose?

1. If you could only have 1 tent for your outdoor persuits, what would it be.

2. What would your 2nd choice be.

3. What would your car camping/family  be if you had 2 tents.

feel free to elaborate.

for myself 

1= my Hilleberg nammatj 3gt. No brainer here bomber, spacious and super easy set up.

2= kelty Trail dome 4. I like it better than my REI halfdome 2plus just because of the extra head room. Although the half dome is a far superior tent.

3. haven’t purchased one yet. Got it narrowed down to two. Just haven’t gotten around to pulling the trigger on one yet.

how about you guys. Be realistic. Its your money and not a wish list. What are your choices.

I would not carry an 8 lbs plus tent if you gave it to me for free.

Franco said:

I would not carry an 8 lbs plus tent if you gave it to me for free.

 Well I would. If needed  mine could sleep 6 adults under roof and is rated for anywhere .

if I only had 1 its a good choice due to its versatility. Now if I was only thinking of myself  then it would be my Clark Jungle hammock with tarp as it works as a bivouac also.

now I’m not keen on carrying that much weight either. But if you work out a little bit I’m sure you could handle it.

If I am taking shelter for 6 someone is going to have to haul their share!

Having spent too much time tent bound in my mountaineering days, headroom is a criteria, regardless of season.  It goes without saying that bivies are not a consideration.

I only use tents to shelter from bad weather.  As long as it is not raining or snowing, I cowboy camp in the open, under the stars.  Therefore the tent MUST keep the elements out; otherwise it is wasted weight.

For the last 25 years I have slept with a tent to myself.

I own several tents, but currently only use two:

  • My back packing tent is a 2P cuben fiber pyramid tarp.  It is a LARGE  for two people; a virtual palace for one.  Much more headroom than all other tent geometries, and in snow can be made to have even more room by digging into the snow.  The pyramid sheds wind better than other geometries.  Tent weighs 17 oz; with guy-outs, and stakes weighs just over 2 pounds.
  • A traditional vertical walled, cabin style family tent for car camping.  Tall enough to stand in, large enough to sleep six.
  • My alternate choice for a back pack tent is the MSR Hubba.  Not much in the way of roominess , but has adequate headroom and is long enough for me.  Weighs about 2 1/2 pounds.  


Hey Ed if ya have any,  would you mind posting a picture of that tent/ tarp?

ld like a look at one . You make it yourself?

My ultimate most favorite solo backpacking tent is my Hilleberg Keron at 8 lbs 10ozs.  I carry it on all my trips and do not mind the weight because it's my home in all conditions for long duration trips.

It's double wall so when condensation forms on the inside of the fly this drip water hits the inner yellow tent and falls off that and not onto me and my gear as with a single wall tent.

It has 37 sq feet which is perfect for a solo backpacker and all my gear---and allows my 12 inch lofted down bag to not touch any part of the tent walls which on occasion may have condensation moisture.

If I had to get another backpacking tent it would be another Keron.



John Starnes said:

Hey Ed if ya have any,  would you mind posting a picture of that tent/ tarp?

ld like a look at one . You make it yourself?

 Ultramid 2, by Hyperlite.  Simular to all other Puramid tarps, except larger for the given person capacity.  Comes in a 2P and 4P size.  Check out link for features/options


Thanks Ed . I have looked at this extensively  in the past, the weight savings is very impressive. Do you use a tyvec floor with it and have you ever rolled it your bag and knocked out the support pole/walking stick, depending on what you use? I always ruled these type tarps out for those reasons and the condensation issues. Plus the cost of them. I pretty much follow the same line of thinking as Tipi Walter, I’ve read what hes had to say many times in the past and he expresses it very well. Although I will use other tents of verring sizes. And the hammocks with a large enough tarp are just as effective as the tents. But I still remain curious about it. With something like that it opens up a few other nice options for ventilation , views and if large enough possibly even an indoor fire or stove, although a stove would probably be the only thing I’d ever attempt.

due to the outrageous  cost of them,  I’m thinking about asking my niece to make me one ( she is an excellent little seamstress.) Just to experiment with.

I have not experienced Walter's ballooning problems with this tarp. I see three issues with cuben pyramids:

  1. They make a "thruming" sound in high winds.  Ear plugs solve that. 
  2. They need an active draft to minimize condensation when a breeze is not present.  A candle mounted to the mast pole about 2' below the apex accomplishes this. 
  3. The last issue is the wet entry - rain getting in when the flap is opened.  I bring an umbrella which largely mitigates this issue.  Temporarily moving your gear away from the door also helps.

There is a huge advantage to using this shelter as a solo shelter: there is more than enough room to accommodate all of your gear, making it readily accessible, something other tents, even those with the largest double vestibules, struggle to offer.

As far as knocking into the mast pole - as I said the dimensions of this tarp are very generous, the mast was never in my way while sleeping.  And offsetting the mast slightly will add a foot to the width of your sleeping space with no significant loss in structural integrity. Alternatively you can use the loop attached to the outside of the tarp's apex to run a line to an overhead limb, making a mask pole unnecessary.

As for stoves in a tent this small - DON'T! They are not designed for hot tenting.  A tent fire from a liquid or gaseous fuel stove is a serious danger; you'll get burned and damage equipment.  And the tent lacks sufficient draft for burning wood.  No amount of caution and expertise mitigates these risks; mountaineering lore is rife with tent fire mishaps from stoves, in some cases directly contributing to catastrophic endings.

As for making a pyramid tarp: my understanding is working with cuben fabric is difficult; it dulls sewing needles and scissors quickly, and requires specialized processes and materials to seal the seams.  FWIW, you can get a used siltarp pyramid off the web for about the cost of making one from scratch.    


sound advice 

I finally settled on the Tarptent Stratospire I the last couple of years. There's no perfect tent but that one fits the bill for me. Reveiwed it last year. I don't have a second favorite right now and when we family camped we used to bring multiple tents so everyone got their space....the kids really liked having their own and weren't particular. 

1st = The North Face Mountain 25

great bombproof tent for any adventure, down side heavy

2nd = Mountain hardwear Trango 2

Car camping = Sierra design meteor 4

Lots of room, unfortunately discontinued 


3 lbs 14 oz , con = non freestanding


Like all, backpacks, sleeping bags, etc., I don't have any one tent that that fits all situations. So, for my personal favorite light weight go to tent, I like Marmot's muted yellow Gore-tex® Taku................or Marmot's bright yellow strata™ MemBrane® Taku "2 person tent" which I actually classify as a modified bivy.




"or"  The Marmot Twlight in muted yellow Gore-tex® "2 person" three hooped bivy. A larger version of the Marmot double hooped 2nd generation Burrow shown below.


2nd choice would  any of the other dozens of tents I own depending on the situation.


For car camping and long stays alone there is no better tent in my humble opinion than Mountain Hardwear's Double Wall Satellite.  My all time favorite, truly bomb proof tent.   



The Mountain Hardwear DW Satellite replaces my 2nd all time favorite tent, TNF Ring Oval Intention, shown below




I'm currently experimenting with various versions of teepee tents made by Black Diamond, Golite, Mountain Hardwear & Chouinard.

I’m kinda surprised actually that everyone has chosen a smaller hiking tent. As their 1st choice. I could see that if it was only for that.

but I asked for all your outdoor pursuits. That would include more than hiking. Guess I didn’t word it too well. Cause if I only had one tent for any and all pursuits. My 1st choice is as small as I’d go! 

Now if I’d said just for hiking well the I’d understand. 

Sorry I didn’t word it better. Or are you sticking with your choices?

really just curious to see if we are all entrenched with our mindsets or if in that scenario we would opt for something that could handle a different range of standards.

id have my hille and just go with it or a hammock if solo. Just to give you an idea where I was going with this

Yea, I think I'll stick with my picks. I can't say that I've ever brought a tent or bivy on a single day trip, a hike up the mountain and then back down the same day. 

The trend these days is smaller and lighter is better.  Back in the day, the 70's+ the idea was to buy a tent that would last a lifetime or truly wear it out.  The TNF OI Intention I bought in 1980  has served me well as I humped it up mountians for 20 years as it was not only my go to tent, but my only tent...........10+lbs I believe.   Much of todays gear seems to be geared towards being smaller and lighter rather than being heavier, more rugged and in the case with tents......larger.  With that being said there's Tipi's Hilleberg Keron and Martin's TNF Mountain 25 which are by no standards small lightweight tents.

If your liking the Teepee thing like I'm checking out you can often find good deals on Craigslist.  I just picked up a Golite Shangri-La 4+ tarp w/ a nest for $200 + $25 shipping and a Golight Shangri-La 3 tarp w/ a nest and floor for $250, both about 30-40% retail when new I believe.  The Black Diamond Megalight seems to be held in high regard as well.

Yes I assumed you meant a tent for hiking but you did state "outdoor pursuit".

At the same time there is no way I would hike with a car camping tent or car camp for more than a day or two inside my hiking tent. 

The same is true for my kitchen and sleeping gear. 

Hi John Starnes, my the north face bivy is my ultralite choice, for single adventure or emergency back up. As mention by others, the terrain, time spending, and conditions for instance will greatly affect your choice of gears you bring along for your adventure.

John I would say I like to get a hilldeberg solo personally for winter and car camping,.,I use a tarp for summer anyway,,,But I'd like to get one for winter excursions next year

denis daly said:

John I would say I like to get a hilldeberg solo personally for winter and car camping,.,I use a tarp for summer anyway,,,But I'd like to get one for winter excursions next year

 Denis I certainly hope you do. It’s nice knowing your about as protected as you can get. It’s one less worry. It works and it works.

im just curious what everyone else would do with the wife and kids. If I had them they could fit in my choice.

?? Why don’t you add a hammlock to that tarp. It’s really nice having a breeze under you in this southern heat.

If I had a wife, and or, kids I'd pick entirely different tents than the ones I picked above. But, there again all is dependent on how many kids one might have. I would also pick a different car, truck, house, etc.

How many kids do you have and of what ages are they?

apeman said:

How many kids do you have and of what ages are they?


i usually take nephews nieces and friends and their kids

FYI, there is a Golite Shangri-la 5 tent/teepee and nest on Ebay at a current bid of $186.50 that is up at 2:06 PST today. I believe it has 90 sq. ft. interior space if I remember correctly. $700+/- worth of tent when new. That's a pretty good deal. Lots of room for lots of people and gear. I would jump on this if I did not already have one. It's missing the center pole but those are cheap and one can either use the top loop to tie it up or just cut a branch to use as a center pole. A great way to get into a quality teepee style family tent for real cheap.

It must be remembered---tipi tents like the old Chouinard Pyramid and/or Black Diamond Mega Lights are single wall tents with no floors.  In the Southeast where I backpack you don't want a single wall tent due to fly condensation and inside dripping---and you need a floor in rainstorm deluges with flowing ground water.  See below---

If you don't have a floor in these kind of storms, well, you end up squatting on your sleeping pad with everything on top as the water rushes in.

And I like what Apeman says---Yes, back in the day all tents were meant to last and all were sold as 4 season---none of the flimsy single season stuff we have today.

Another sad fact is that many great tent models don't last long in the marketplace.  North Face and Mt Hardwear are notorious for dumping perfectly good tents---unlike Hilleberg which develops models over a 50 year period and improve on them thru the years. 

One of my first backpacking tents was the outstanding North Face Tuolumne A-frame shown partially here.  Tunnel snow entrance---lived in the thing for 10 years.  Where is this tent now?  Who knows, North Face dumped it like a hot potato.

When you can't find the Tuolumne what do you do?  You upgrade to a North Face Westwind, shown above.  An excellent little tent.  North Face dumped this model like a bag of human stool. 

After North Face disgusted me I went with Mt Hardwear in 2001---and got their Muir Trail frog-style tent as above.  What happened to the Muir Trail model?  Dumped in the dust bin of history.

And then Mt Hardwear came out with the nifty single wall Mountain Jet tent as shown.  Where is it now?  In the Gear Urinal.  They couldn't be bothered with keeping it and improving it over time.

And then they came out with nice Light Wedge 2 but oops their concentration levels hit zero and this model didn't last long on the market.  Irksome.

And then they came out with the Hammerhead 3 but it too took the long dirt nap and can't be found anywhere except in the company toilet.

LESSON LEARNED?  If you find a tent you really like---buy 4 of them cuz they'll disappear by next year.

Here's a better pic of the old NF Tuolumne I got from the Internet---and not my pic---

I have to post it cuz it brings back tremendous memories---because I lived in this tent on a permanent basis from 1980 to 1987.

Tipi - keep  preaching you make a whole lot of sense to me. I’ve learned a lot reading your post and trip reports.

Thanks John.

Few know as much about tent life as Tipi. 

On your note about hiking tents for all your outdoor pursuits John, mosy of my pursuits involve a backpack so it's appropriate for me. And when the kids camped with me we each had our own tent...fhey liked the village with all our doors pointing toward "downtown" so we could chat into the night. Wonderful memories. 

Depending on conditions, I go with just a bivvy sack, a b sack plus overhead tarp, or an enclosed tent (light as possible - usually less than two pounds)- that is when I am carrying the weight on my back.

Weight is not a consideration when using a vehicle.  My family camping tent is a large, commodious big box el cheapo which is fine in the normally mild conditions in which it is used.

Some years ago, I geared up for an archaeological project, mostly in the back country (supplied by vehicle, however).  I went with North Face VE 25, one for each of us.  Chose that model because of its superior wind resistance and it worked quite well.  I note that model is still available, although slightly altered, from what we had in 1990.

I did a long backpacking trip in 1987 with a Windy Pass VE-24---a North Face off-shore model.  Sadly no pics.  Part of a dead tree snag fell on it at Mary's Rock on the AT in the Shenandoahs and tore the fly and broke a pole.  We fixed it at Swami Satchidananda's ashram in Farmville, Virginia.  Windy Pass gear was their "economy line."

This is what the tent looked like---got it off the Interwad.  See---

Also spent many months in a Chouinard Pyramid tipi tent back in 1986---

old-pyramid.jpgThis is not my picture but my Pyramid looked just like this---

Pic from this interesting blog---

As can be seen faintly in the pic, the side bottom perimeter is just high enough off the ground to allow wind-billowing underneath resulting in the thing wanting to take flight like an umbrella.  Not good.  It was designed to be used with snow packed around the bottom edges.

Phil that seems like a good plan. It make everyone would have given full effort and the young one would develop nicely that way. A real good confidence builder.

cool posts guys. Great tent pictures and experiences

October 25, 2020
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