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#221724 - 04/17/11 02:44 AM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: hikermor]
Denis Offline
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Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
Originally Posted By: hikermor
Art, I gotta say I disagree entirely. Money spent on a low grade tent is money wasted. I would rather spend it on a rental....

I would tend to agree with this. It was years ago now, but I did spend the money for a good quality 6 person tent for car camping with the family, much more than I would have had to spend for a similarly sized low-end tent. But that tent has seen some very nasty weather and it has withstood every storm it faced and kept us warm and dry.

I really don't mind spending good money on a quality tent with a good reputation because I know I will sleep sounder knowing my tent can handle pretty much any weather the day or night can throw at it.

And renting is definitely an option; I know of a few places around town do this.
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Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

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#221741 - 04/17/11 05:02 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Denis]
Art_in_FL Offline
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Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Back in the 70s the discount store tents were pretty useless. They might hold up for a long weekend in a backyard but the material was weak, the stitching abominable, and the waterproofing a miserable failure. In the early 70s I got an orange pup-tent model that I literally put an elbow through. What water repellent there was was gone in ten minutes so it was drier under the pine trees and when the wind came up the center-line seam parted slightly after one of the poles bent in half. Inexperienced, and naively placing a lot of faith in a distressingly shoddy nylon basket I spent a night and a day cold and wet. Youth thrives on adversity. One of the reasons I shifted to tarps over tents was that for what a broke student could afford I could get a useless tent or a sturdy tarp.

Things changed. Good materials have been commoditized so the discount tents and the brand name tents all use similar materials. Often the exact same materials. The differences are in the care in stitching, the details, seam-sealing, and the subtitles of design and feature sets. These can be significant but the way discount stores work, specifically the no-questions-asked return policy, means that discounters are under pressure to close the quality gaps. You can quite literally use a tent for a weekend, return it a week later and get your money back. Which means the tents a discounter sells has to be both cheap enough for people to not feel upset about minor issues and high enough quality to avoid catastrophic failures which might trigger a return.

It is why it is always best to open the package and look closely at all seams. Minor stitching errors are the second most common fault. If you spot one you couldn't fix with needle and thread in a minute get another. I've done quick checks on the store floor. The most common fault is something you can't easily check, leaks. It is why seam sealing a discount tent is pretty much required. It is also why you can get a reliable tent for $40.

Even this is changing as the same stitch-sealing threads and materials the name-brands use migrate into the discount market. This is a function of these materials becoming more common and the relatively small price the materials represent in the entire package. Feature sets are quick to catch up. Design theft is rampant so new design feature show up in discount tents very rapidly.

The general quality of all equipment has improved. The $160 fleece jacket I bought in the early 80s is not a lot better than the $15 fleece jacket I bought two years ago. Granted If I spent $160 now I would get a lot of design features and niceties but the jacket has always served my needs so I'm not sure the extra $145 would be money well spent.

As long as you avoid the lowest end products a simple two-man dome tent from a discounter is about as good as the mid-priced line from producers like Jansport and Eureka in the 80s. Back then scanning the seams for faults and seam-sealing everything yourself we par for the course. The idea of products coming out of the package perfect and perfectly watertight is quite new. The difference is that the brand name units were, even then, selling in the $250 and up range while the present day discount models are $40 to $60. The difference might come down to how much you are willing to pay to avoid spending time seam-sealing your tent.

One idea might be to buy a discount model, take all the proper precautions (including keeping the receipt in a dark spot so it doesn't fade), and give it a go in the back yard or easy weekend. If it doesn't impress you return it or donate it to the scouts and get a tax deduction. Scouts can use less adequate tents for easy overnight trips, changing rooms, equipment storage, latrine covers (cut out the center of the floor), or shade in hot weather (cut out the walls but keep the rain fly in case of rain).

The call to 'use the best' and avoid cheap equipment is inherently persuasive. It is a quick and easy truism. A bit too quick and easy. It pays to be as aware of what the discount suppliers are doing, and their increasing quality and value, as to fondle and drool over the high end items. IMO half of what you pay for on the high end is a name brand and gimmicks. You can still find useless stuff on the low end but it is getting harder. You have to be careful on both ends. Price does not guarantee quality.

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#221744 - 04/17/11 06:53 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Art_in_FL]
hikermor Online   content
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7507
Loc: southern Cal
I would certainly agree with Art about avoiding the extremes on the price/quality spectrum. On the low end you get junk (still) or at least less value for your bucks, while the high end has specialized qualities that most us who will never establish Camp VI on K2 will ever need to use. On the high end, there is a certain cachet, as seen by the tasteless advertising logos so thoughtfully provided by many purveyors. You don't need that either.

This relationship applies to a wide range of other outdoor consumer commodities, as well. You often find your best value somewhere in the mid-range, especially if bought from a reputable source. It also pays to watch for sales.

The best way to buy is to either rent (REI is great for this) or go out with someone else, using their gear. When I made my last large pack purchase, I rented, had it properly fitted in the store, took it out for a long, hard weekend, thought it over and then returned to the store and plunked down serious coin for that model with all the appropriate bells and whistles. Over twenty years later, that same pack has been used a lot and still serves just fine for a variety of trips, although lately I am not doing the expeditions that I used to.

These days it is fairly easy to get reasonably impartial evaluations of gear from a wide variety of internet sources - just be sure they are truly unbiased and impartial. And the best places will have a reasonable return policy. If you do your homework properly, you will never need to use it.

There is a big difference between a tent that is used just for car camping and one that will be backpacked. The backpacking model needs to light, strong, and durable - expect to pay an honest price for that. Weight doesn't matter for the car camper, and durability isn't as critical. I got a perfectly adequate car camping tent at Costco for a very low price, and it has served quite well for that purpose. It will never get very far down the trail, unlike my backpacking models.
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#221757 - 04/17/11 10:26 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Denis]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3601
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Cheapo tents are just fine for weather that's just fine. Art's right that construction has gotten better. Flys and seams and floors come into play big time as the conditions worsen. An easy solultion if you get caught out in it is to make sure you use a ground sheet, and then cover the works up with a well secured tarp. Ventilation might be a problem but you'll survive. Also, if the tent has a bathtub floor, it does help a alot.

Remember, the better you take care of your tent, tne better it will take care of you.



Edited by bacpacjac (04/17/11 10:29 PM)
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#221786 - 04/18/11 02:25 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Hikin_Jim]
Denis Offline
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Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
Originally Posted By: Hikin_Jim
I myself have been pretty happy with a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 1 for three season solo use. I find myself unwilling to schlep around a two person tent anymore for solo use. My knees aren't holding up like they used to.

I can see why; I was checking out the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1 & 2 (which seem similar to the Seedhouse line) this weekend and I was amazed at how much lighter and smaller they packed down compared to the models I was looking at.
_________________________
Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

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#221789 - 04/18/11 02:56 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Denis]
Denis Offline
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Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
Regarding low-cost solutions, I admit I am fairly ignorant as to what exactly is available, both from a quality and cost perspective.

That said, when I hear low-cost tent, this is what pops into mind: Escort 3 Person Dome Tent

This is a design I've never trusted, at a minimum I've always insisted on full coverage of the inner tent by the fly (comes from growing up on the Wet Coast I guess smile ) and I haven't really seen any low-cost tent that offered this. Granted, as mentioned, this can be overcome by setting up the tent in combination with a tarp, but that seems to be getting back to a setup which may work for car camping but I imagine it would be a royal pain if backpacking it. I could be wrong on that I guess, but that's my impression.

Maybe there are better designs out there for the $50 range, but as I said, I am not aware of them.

When exploring the low-cost route earlier (before I talking myself into my new budget smile ) I was considering 2 options.

The first was to go down the used route. The main avenues I found for this were MEC's Online Gear Swap and their semi-annual Gear Swap at their physical location (think outdoor gear swap meet; both MEC selling rentals, returns, etc. and individuals selling from their own tables). The University of Calgary's Outdoor Centre also sells off its rental gear at various points in the year.

Lastly, if going with a lower budget, but still new gear, I don't think I would go too wrong with the MEC Camper 2 ($149). It meets most of my criteria for about half the cost of the ones I am considering now.


Edited by Denis (04/18/11 02:59 PM)
_________________________
Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

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#221791 - 04/18/11 03:02 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Denis]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7507
Loc: southern Cal
Run away from this tent as fast as you can - fiberglass poles are bad juju for backpacking. The coverage of the fly is not so bad, but there are much better ones available.

I could not easily find a weight for this tent -that would be critical. Just as a rough guideline, it should weigh around 8 pounds or less to be feasible for a three person backpacking tent.

For car camping, this is a pretty good deal. I have one very similar which has given satisfactory service, but I would never put it on my back.
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#221797 - 04/18/11 03:09 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: hikermor]
Denis Offline
Addict

Registered: 01/09/09
Posts: 631
Loc: Calgary, AB
Originally Posted By: hikermor
Run away from this tent as fast as you can

My thoughts exactly, but when I hear $40 tent this is what I think of.
_________________________
Victory awaits him who has everything in order luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck. Roald Amundsen

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#221799 - 04/18/11 03:18 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Denis]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078

This is the tent that currently resides in my BOB, its called a Force Ten Vitesse 200. This 2 man single skin tent rated for 3 season use which weighs in around 2 1/2 lbs. I also use a single man mosquito net as an inner for double bug protection. I needed something a little more spacious and easier on the eye than the blue Lightwave ZRO Cylq I was previously using.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_VFSiE656o

It is very spacious for a very lightweight and compact 2 1/2 lb tent and is a green colour as well.

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#221821 - 04/18/11 07:11 PM Re: Selecting a backpacking tent? [Re: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
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Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7507
Loc: southern Cal
I just looked at The North Face on line catalog and I was surprised and delighted to see that the VE25 was still available. It ain't cheap, but it is a serious four season/expedition tent. With anything like reasonable care, it will serve well for a long time. It has been around since the mid 1980's which says something.

I am not sure I would recommend it for you - it is probably more than you need, but it is a good point of reference. my experience with the VE25 has been very positive.
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