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Need advice for some good quality budget self-standing tent. Considering NatureHike Star River 2

We are in the search for a good quality budget friendly self-standing tent. Before we have been using the Quechua Quickhiker Ultralight 2 person tent and were quite happy with it. But we lacked the space inside quite a lot as well as the height. We need something under 2kg but at the same time not very expensive. We concerned about it being the light grey color as we do a lot of stealth camping and also the department for cooking and storing our backpacks. We have been looking into the Naturehike Star River 2 as it claims that it is a 4 season tent and quite spacious too. We like that the inner tent is not all made of mesh, as we would like it to be suitable for colder weather too. Have you tried this tent or any similar ones with the features we need? We would be grateful for all your suggestions.

It's just over 2kg so I don't know if that's a dealbreaker for you or not, but I've been super happy using my Eureka Midori 2 either solo or with a friend. Lots of space inside, dual vestibules, bomb-proof in 3-season weather so far. It's not an ultralight tent for certain, but it's one of my favorites, and my go-to for backpacking with a friend. 

Some of the features you desire are in conflict, other features are not present at all, and some features not advisable.

Conflicting features:
Weight/durability.  20D weight nylon is not generally considered suitable for tent walls of a 4 season tent.  NF V26 dome, considered a standard for decades for 4 season tents uses 40D weight nylon for tent walls and fly, and 70D for the floor. 

Weight/space/durability/economy.  You want all four?  Ain't happening! Light weight generally equates to more expensive materials, or weight loss at the cost of lost space and or durability.  While the pictures of the tent with occupants "look" roomy enough, note Naturehike chose to not disclose the dimensional specifications, leading me to believe the tent occupants probably were chosen for their size, with diminuitive campers making the tent appear larger than it actually is.

Over stated features:
Four season application.
Two factors disqualify this tent, as a reliable 4S shelter:

  1. The tent walls are not durable enough.  I got by with a cheap clone dome tent, back when dome designs first came on the market.  It was fine in 3S applications, but after getting loaded up with snow and subjected to higher winds, you can now see daylight through the stitch holes of the seams.  I no longer trust this tent if I have to consider weather. 
  2. Designs similar to the Star River have a tendency to allow spin drift to blow inside the tent.  The mesh panels are the culprit, as is the fly not reaching all the way to the ground.  The snow skirt option will reduce the severity of this problem, but lack of ventilation that results may also cause hoar frost to accumulate in the tent, which can be almost as bad.  In short the approach to this design's ventilation is not suitable for snow application.

Warmth.  It is a WILD exaggeration that tents add warmth to occupant space.  Really? Two layers of thin nylon or polyester that stand between tent occupants and the wilderness beyond have no significant R-factor.  Tents block wind, rain and snow.  To the degree you feel warm, inside, is the result of being dry and out of a draft, OR the tent is in direct sun exposure.  But the tent walls do not prevent heat conducting from the interior to the exterior, and radiating off into the forest.  Thus trading a solid inner wall panel for one with mesh also will have little affect on interior temps.

Not advisable.
DO NOT cook inside a tent or its vestuble.  Do people do it?  Yes.  People also have sex with no protection, drive drunk and abuse their partner.  People do a lot of stupid things.  Just because they seem to get away with these behaviors doesn't mean you will, too.  Goggle tent fire.  Do know this: tent fires have been determined to be the catalyst leading up to a fair number of mountaineering/trekking disasters.  No conventional tents or stoves are suitable for this application.  Consider provisioning your trips with a few cold meals for the days when you choose not to cook outside.

stormwalls.jpg
Above:  Cooking dinner OUTSIDE the tent, in bad weather: Mt Langley @ 13,500’, late January, air temp: -6°F (day time) wind speed: ~45mph.  Certainly if I can cook outside under these conditions, you can too.  If you don't know how this is possible, learn, or stay home!

---------------------

Given your needs, based on following your TRs,  I recommend going with a tarp.  Tarps are UL by nature, and with a little practice, are effective as a shelter as any 3S tent in blocking the elements.  If you really think you need to address snow, go with a pyramid tarp; this configuration is popular among experienced winter mountaineers and trekkers.  Tarps can be configured to stand off from the ground, to maximize living space, or anchored tight to the ground for maximum protection in bad weather.  If you still insist on a tent, I suggest the MSR Hubba Hubba.  It is a solid 3S tent, and within your weight specification.  It is a tad narrow, but has sufficient head room.

A lot of people think they need to stow their packs in their tents.  Why?  All you need in a tent is what you intend to use that evening, and what you need to change into the next morning.  So I take these items with me in a stuff sack, and leave the pack out side, under a large trash bag.  If you adapt this approach, you have fewer demands constraining your tent selection, as well it is a lighter solution to stowing your gear. 

I really don't like hanging out in tents; they are all too small for me to spend extended time in comfort.  I use a shelter only for a dry place to sleep.  In fact I sleep under the stars whenever possible.  I pack a UL rectangular rain fly, and use it for hanging out under, during rain.  A large rain fly and small tent weigh just a bit more than a spacious tent, and is well worth the few additional ounces for the comfort it affords.

Ed

Ed

whomeworry said:

Some of the features you desire are in conflict, other features are not present at all, and some features not advisable.

Conflicting features:
Weight/durability.  20D weight nylon is not generally considered suitable for tent walls of a 4 season tent.  NF V26 dome, considered a standard for decades for 4 season tents uses 40D weight nylon for tent walls and fly, and 70D for the floor. 

Weight/space/durability/economy.  You want all four?  Ain't happening! Light weight generally equates to more expensive materials, or weight loss at the cost of lost space and or durability.  While the pictures of the tent with occupants "look" roomy enough, note Naturehike chose to not disclose the dimensional specifications, leading me to believe the tent occupants probably were chosen for their size, with diminuitive campers making the tent appear larger than it actually is.

Over stated features:
Four season application.
Two factors disqualify this tent, as a reliable 4S shelter:

  1. The tent walls are not durable enough.  I got by with a cheap clone dome tent, back when dome designs first came on the market.  It was fine in 3S applications, but after getting loaded up with snow and subjected to higher winds, you can now see daylight through the stitch holes of the seams.  I no longer trust this tent if I have to consider weather. 
  2. Designs similar to the Star River have a tendency to allow spin drift to blow inside the tent.  The mesh panels are the culprit, as is the fly not reaching all the way to the ground.  The snow skirt option will reduce the severity of this problem, but lack of ventilation that results may also cause hoar frost to accumulate in the tent, which can be almost as bad.  In short the approach to this design's ventilation is not suitable for snow application.

Warmth.  It is a WILD exaggeration that tents add warmth to occupant space.  Really? Two layers of thin nylon or polyester that stand between tent occupants and the wilderness beyond have no significant R-factor.  Tents block wind, rain and snow.  To the degree you feel warm, inside, is the result of being dry and out of a draft, OR the tent is in direct sun exposure.  But the tent walls do not prevent heat conducting from the interior to the exterior, and radiating off into the forest.  Thus trading a solid inner wall panel for one with mesh also will have little affect on interior temps.

Not advisable.
DO NOT cook inside a tent or its vestuble.  Do people do it?  Yes.  People also have sex with no protection, drive drunk and abuse their partner.  People do a lot of stupid things.  Just because they seem to get away with these behaviors doesn't mean you will, too.  Goggle tent fire.  Do know this: tent fires have been determined to be the catalyst leading up to a fair number of mountaineering/trekking disasters.  No conventional tents or stoves are suitable for this application.  Consider provisioning your trips with a few cold meals for the days when you choose not to cook outside.

stormwalls.jpg
Above:  Cooking dinner OUTSIDE the tent, in bad weather: Mt Langley @ 13,500’, late January, air temp: -6°F (day time) wind speed: ~45mph.  Certainly if I can cook outside under these conditions, you can too.  If you don't know how this is possible, learn, or stay home!

---------------------

Given your needs, based on following your TRs,  I recommend going with a tarp.  Tarps are UL by nature, and with a little practice, are effective as a shelter as any 3S tent in blocking the elements.  If you really think you need to address snow, go with a pyramid tarp; this configuration is popular among experienced winter mountaineers and trekkers.  Tarps can be configured to stand off from the ground, to maximize living space, or anchored tight to the ground for maximum protection in bad weather.  If you still insist on a tent, I suggest the MSR Hubba Hubba.  It is a solid 3S tent, and within your weight specification.  It is a tad narrow, but has sufficient head room.

A lot of people think they need to stow their packs in their tents.  Why?  All you need in a tent is what you intend to use that evening, and what you need to change into the next morning.  So I take these items with me in a stuff sack, and leave the pack out side, under a large trash bag.  If you adapt this approach, you have fewer demands constraining your tent selection, as well it is a lighter solution to stowing your gear. 

I really don't like hanging out in tents; they are all too small for me to spend extended time in comfort.  I use a shelter only for a dry place to sleep.  In fact I sleep under the stars whenever possible.  I pack a UL rectangular rain fly, and use it for hanging out under, during rain.  A large rain fly and small tent weigh just a bit more than a spacious tent, and is well worth the few additional ounces for the comfort it affords.

Ed

Ed

 

Hello, Ed, thanks as always for taking your time to give a detailed answer. We do appreciate it.

Well, yes, we recognize that the quality of materials are not that good at all in this tent and we of course don’t want to have the worse quality than we had in our previous one. We are exploring different alternatives, the Naturehike was mentioned as an approximate example of what we want. Also now we learnt that Nylon is different than Polyester(our previous tent was made of it) and less durable which is a real disappointment.

We don’t generally plan to use the tent in the winter snowy conditions so the 3 season tent may be fine for our needs. We need it to be durable enough to stay in the high winds in the mountains sometimes. So do you think this design of a dome or half dome is bad for this?

Considering warmth we do know that mesh may not make any difference but we were thinking about the wind passing through better if it will be entirely mesh of example. And some people in reviews have referred to that.

Well we have been considering a new option lately - Rei half dome 2 plus do you think it is comparable to MSR? As it is a bit more budget friendly. With tarps we really have no experience at all and would prefer to stick with a tent for now but maybe we will come to them in the future.

We store our packs in the vestibule, not inside the inner tent, that’s why we mentioned the vestibule. As with cooking we do it really carefully and with the previous tent had no incidents at all, we find it quite safe. We do prefer to have warm meals always and it is super important for us. Also of course gas usage is more economic if you cook without wind(in fact we almost never succeed in boiling water outside or we have to use a mat protection or search for the rocks). We feel like this is more of a personal preference and what works for you and you are used to. On the picture you posted it looks absolutely impossible to us, you should be really tough to do that. Maybe it will come with time and practice.

Well, generally we prefer to use our tent for sleeping only too most of the times. But for example this summer when we were on a 4 months trip and practically lived in our tent the comfort started to matter more. As we stayed exclusively in the tent in the campgrounds even when we were out of the trail. But we would love to have different options or rather to collect with time for different occasions including a tarp or just  a rain fly as you mention.

Angelina,

I’ve had good experiences with ALPS Mountaineering tents. None were really free-standing, without the fly you could get by without staking them down but stakes were needed to keep the fly tight and to form the vestibules. Budget-wise they’re very reasonable, they’ll be heavier and have fewer niceties than more expensive brands but mine did the job for me. I don’t know what they have in the sub-2kg weight, though. As mentioned, you can have 2 of the 3 (light, rugged, inexpensive), you choose which!

Phil Smith said:

Angelina,

I’ve had good experiences with ALPS Mountaineering tents. None were really free-standing, without the fly you could get by without staking them down but stakes were needed to keep the fly tight and to form the vestibules. Budget-wise they’re very reasonable, they’ll be heavier and have fewer niceties than more expensive brands but mine did the job for me. I don’t know what they have in the sub-2kg weight, though. As mentioned, you can have 2 of the 3 (light, rugged, inexpensive), you choose which!

 Hello, thank you for sharing your experience, have never heard of this tent before, it seems that they have a pretty good range to choose from, will look into that. Sure we still want to have a decent quality item not necessarily very lightweight but also not too bulky and heavy.

Walking Nature World said:

"..As with cooking we do it really carefully and with the previous tent had no incidents at all, we find it quite safe. We do prefer to have warm meals always and it is super important for us. Also of course gas usage is more economic if you cook without wind(in fact we almost never succeed in boiling water outside or we have to use a mat protection or search for the rocks)..."

Cooking in tents...

People have died from CO gas poisoning, due to operating a stove in a tent.  Some opine that those victims did not practice safe stove operation.  The concept of "safe stove operation" in a tent is similar to "safe" IV street drug use - neither are ever very safe.  CO can accumulate in your blood over a series of exposures and become a problem, even when a tent is vented.  At the very least, built up levels of CO in your blood may leave you feeling exhausted, unable to do the trekking you have shared with us.  Since campers lack the technology to measure CO, you cannot assess if your ventilation is adequate, you can only guesstimate if you have sufficient ventilation.  Do you feel lucky?

Everyone tries to be careful around fire and fuels in a tent, but nobody is perfect.  Even if you are perfect, stoves have failure modes beyond your control, having nothing to do with your skill and caution.  All liquid and gas fuel stove designs have the potential to malfunction. 

People claim they can preclude or manage stove fires - and I can block the sun out with my thumb.  Both stove and sun can flare and turn me into a crispy fool.  Check out the tubes that document tents burning up from stoves used in tents, the over flash fireball INSTANTANEOUSLY fills a tent with flames, making it look like a mini Hindenburg zeppelin going up in flames.  Reconsider if cooking in a tent is worth losing that tent, sleeping bags, your hair, or as documented in wood lore literature, sometimes causing loss of life.  Thus your "quite safe" is my "not worth the risk".  This topic has been discussed in several TS topic threads.  Read them! Start with this one.   This particular TS forum post  includes comments from Tpi Walter, Bill S and Moi on the topic - the three of us combined have more than 150 years of BC experience - many thousands of days spent backpacking and camping - that lead each of us to conclude that tent cooking with conventional backpacking tents and stoves is not worth the gamble.  Bills S concludes one post: "As Clyde Soles, wrote in an article on stoves in Rock and Ice Magazine a number of years ago, 'Treat all stoves like the barely controlled explosions they are.' "

The reality is the you can probably continue this practice your entire lives with no incident.  Note "we find it quite safe" states an opinion, not fact.  I knew fertile women who felt quite safe not using any birth control, because they were careful and  practiced "safe sex".  I know drunks who think they can drive "safe" while intoxicated.  If you are fully cognizant of the topic, the statistics thereof, and have considered all alternatives, then you make an informed choice, but that doesn't make it "safe."  Do not treat this as something that happens only to others, that you are somehow more lucky or better than everyone else.  

Ed

Walking Nature World said:

"..So do you think this design of a dome or half dome is bad for this?..."

"..Well we have been considering a new option lately - Rei half dome 2 plus do you think it is comparable to MSR? As it is a bit more budget friendly..."

Actually the Star River tent pole design is very similar to the MSR tent I mentioned.    The problem is the tent and fly fabrics of the Star River are not strong enough for big mountain winds.  As for the REI Half Dome: REI branded products have long been known to deliver adequate performance for those on a budget.  The REI Half Dome will do just fine, but if you can find the coin to make up the spread, the MSR brand is generally superior and lighter.  And both have good product warranty programs.

Ed

whomeworry said:

Walking Nature World said:

"..So do you think this design of a dome or half dome is bad for this?..."

"..Well we have been considering a new option lately - Rei half dome 2 plus do you think it is comparable to MSR? As it is a bit more budget friendly..."

Actually the Star River tent pole design is very similar to the MSR tent I mentioned.    The problem is the tent and fly fabrics of the Star River are not strong enough for big mountain winds.  As for the REI Half Dome: REI branded products have long been known to deliver adequate performance for those on a budget.  The REI Half Dome will do just fine, but if you can find the coin to make up the spread, the MSR brand is generally superior and lighter.  And both have good product warranty programs.

Ed

 

Thank you, Ed, for the valuable information about cooking stoves, it surely is needed to be prepared for any consequences and we never claim that it is the best way to do it. We just found it convenient for us. But we may think how we can do it in a safer way for the future. As for ventilation we always do it with open doors of the tent but just using its vestibule which is of course never safe as we realize how easy inflammable it is.

Thanks for this clarification about these brands. We still hesitate which one to take as there are so many on the market, some are more known and others less but seem to be good quality too. We did learn that the materials are not that good in Naturehike and we wouldn't like to compromise on that. As we had our previous tent made our of 75D and 40D Polyester. With the expensive brands we may look into the used items in a good condition maybe we'll have luck there.

I've been listening to a hiking podcast and recently learned about a company called Hyke & Byke. I honestly don't know what the quality of their gear is like, and I'm not in the market for a tent, but the prices are amazing. 

whomeworry said:

Walking Nature World said:

"..So do you think this design of a dome or half dome is bad for this?..."

"..Well we have been considering a new option lately - Rei half dome 2 plus do you think it is comparable to MSR? As it is a bit more budget friendly..."

Actually the Star River tent pole design is very similar to the MSR tent I mentioned.    The problem is the tent and fly fabrics of the Star River are not strong enough for big mountain winds.  As for the REI Half Dome: REI branded products have long been known to deliver adequate performance for those on a budget.  The REI Half Dome will do just fine, but if you can find the coin to make up the spread, the MSR brand is generally superior and lighter.  And both have good product warranty programs.

Ed

 Now looking at the MSR brand we discovered the heavier but more budget friendly option of MSR Elixir 2 which seems to be pretty durable and high quality. How do you think they would compare to REI? As the weight is more or less the same. 

MSR Elixir vs REI half dome... They are close enough that personal preferences probably drives the final say.

One driving personal preference for me is I do not hang out in my tent.  In fact I sleep under the stars, and erect my tent only when wet weather.  All tents feel confining, so I am up usually up and about until bed time.  My tent needs a footprint just large enough to sleep, and ceiling tall enough to sit up.  I also carry a 9X11' UL rain fly, for camp lounging in rain.  Less confining, more social.     

Note, the Half Dome has a high ceiling and larger floor.  There is a big difference between a 40" and 44" ceiling.  The MSR tents tend to have tight quarters.  The pole designs of REI and MSR chase along the tent ceiling differently, and one probably offers greater ceiling area volume as a result.

I noticed the REI poles looked like they may be more challenging to put up.  Maybe a Half Dome owner can chime in?  I think MSR's "floating" cross-pole can respond to forces independently of the arch poles, and better distribute stress more evenly over the tent walls.  I prefer the door and zipper arrangement of the MSR. 

Ed

whomeworry said:

MSR Elixir vs REI half dome... They are close enough that personal preferences probably drives the final say.

One driving personal preference for me is I do not hang out in my tent.  In fact I sleep under the stars, and erect my tent only when wet weather.  All tents feel confining, so I am up usually up and about until bed time.  My tent needs a footprint just large enough to sleep, and ceiling tall enough to sit up.  I also carry a 9X11' UL rain fly, for camp lounging in rain.  Less confining, more social.     

Note, the Half Dome has a high ceiling and larger floor.  There is a big difference between a 40" and 44" ceiling.  The MSR tents tend to have tight quarters.  The pole designs of REI and MSR chase along the tent ceiling differently, and one probably offers greater ceiling area volume as a result.

I noticed the REI poles looked like they may be more challenging to put up.  Maybe a Half Dome owner can chime in?  I think MSR's "floating" cross-pole can respond to forces independently of the arch poles, and better distribute stress more evenly over the tent walls.  I prefer the door and zipper arrangement of the MSR. 

Ed

 

Thank you very much for your valuable advice and thoughtful comments. We decided to go with the MSR in the end because it really seems to be a great value for the money and have a good quality materials. Hopefully it can serve us a good couple or years. The only thing it doesn't come in a good compression bag so we'll need to figure it out how to make it more compact. Interesting fact is that we had the MSR tent on our vision board and now it comes true:) We are excited to share our experience with it after some time of use.

Walking Nature World said:

"Thank you very much for your valuable advice and thoughtful comments. We decided to go with the MSR in the end..."

LOL!  The irony!  You has me sold on the Half Dome!  But you can't go wrong, either way.

Ed

whomeworry said:

Walking Nature World said:

"Thank you very much for your valuable advice and thoughtful comments. We decided to go with the MSR in the end..."

LOL!  The irony!  You has me sold on the Half Dome!  But you can't go wrong, either way.

Ed

 :)) Well it happens sometimes. The problem we had with the Half Dome is that it is not available in the local online stores, only on the US store and so we had to pay quite a big tax for it so that it would be more expensive and we would wait more for it. So everything turned out this way:)

October 27, 2021
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