The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 56: Two Two-Person Tents

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

The most popular style of tent for wilderness travel is the two-person, three season backpacking tent. This week on The WildeBeat, Two Two-Person Tents.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number fifty six.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: I talked to two volunteer testers from Backpack Gear Test dot ORG about the most interesting products in the range of two-person tents they recently tested. Here are their reviews.

Our first reviewer is Kathryn Doiron, from Boston, Massachusetts. As in all Backpack Gear Test reviews, Kathryn starts out by describing her own relevant experience.

KATHRYN DOIRON: I started backpacking a couple of years ago when I joined a hiking group. I discovered that I liked hiking, and from there, I eventually got into backpacking. So I've done a lot of my hiking and backpacking in the New England area, and last year I actually completed about twelve hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail. My pack weight tends to hover around twenty five pounds right now. It fluctuates up and down a little bit, but I've been trying to keep it down. So I'm heading for the light or ultralight category right now.

STEVE: Kathryn tested the Coleman Cloudview Two tent.

KATHRYN DOIRON: It's a five pound, thirteen ounce tent, as measured by myself. Coleman does claim it's a five pound tent. It is not a single-walled tent, so it does come with a fly. The body of the tent itself is nylon and mesh combination. So mostly the top of the tent is netting -- is mesh -- and the door is a combination of mesh and nylon, so you have the option of the nylon door for privacy, or you can have the mesh for air flow. It comes with two poles. The fly stakes out at several points. The color of the fly is a lightish green, and the tent itself is a gray, with a dark gray bottom. My first impression of the tent was: I found that at five pounds thirteen ounces, this is a bit of a heavy tent. It was relatively intuitive to set it up without instructions. The zippers on the tent are very nice. They're smooth, there's no catches. The fly actually comes with two zippers, so it is possible to open the entire vestibule and flip it to the top of the tent. And the door is a C-shaped opening, so it's possible to open from the top or the bottom. The tent has a lot of nice features with extra storage space, little pockets along the sides. There's small mesh openings that can be closed for privacy or opened for airflow. Those airflow pockets can actually hold gear, so you have one pocket when it's closed, or two pockets if you open the zipper halfway. For the testing phase, I've been taking the tent up into the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I've been off-trail camping, so for the most part I'm not camping on tent platforms. I'm just camping straight on the ground. I've really enjoyed the skylight on this tent. I've never used a tent before with a skylight, and it was very fascinating to lie down in the tent and watch it rain on me and know that the rain wouldn't actually touch me. The vestibule is not as large as I would like. There's a t least two or three feet in front of the tent along the ground, but there's not much head room. So it's possible to store footwear in the vestibule area, but it's really not possible to store gear there. The fly has Velcro tabs along the inside for attaching the poles to the fly, and I have noticed that the rain creeps in along these seams, so it's possible in a heavy downpour for drips to come into the tent if you only have the mesh on the door covering. The ventilation is very nice in the tent. There is an opening at the back of the tent that can be un-Velcroed to open up, and in heavy weather, I've actually noticed that the rain will come in a little bit with the wind. So I tend to keep it closed in heavy, rainy weather. I did not have any condensation issues while using it. For two people it would probably be a good backpacking tent. I would not recommend this for people trying to go ultralight.

STEVE: Our other tester is Raymond Estrella from Huntington Beach, California.

RAYMOND ESTRELLA: I've been hiking for thirty two years all over the state of California. I've also hiked in Washington, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho. But mostly I spend my time in the Sierra Nevada. That's my favorite place on earth. Over the last three years, I'm averaging between four hundred and five hundred miles of backpacking per year. And I've been trying to make a definite shift to lighter weight and smaller volume.

STEVE: Raymond tested the MSR Fling tent.

RAYMOND ESTRELLA: This is one of MSR's newest tents. It's a new single-wall tent that they've put out this year. It's kind of a strange tent. In one setup, it looks like a hoop tent, where it has a hoop in the back and a hoop in the front, and you use the lines at either end to hold the tent up. But then, with the addition of a center spine pole, it becomes a free-standing tent, and you don't need the lines. Another different thing about it is the beak awning. Instead of using a vestibule, it just has this -- it looks just like a bird beak. That's the best way I can describe it. It's pointed, triangular, curved -- that just sticks out over the door. The tent is their standard ultralight orange -- what they call sunset. According to the manufacturer, it weighs four pounds complete. It actually weighs four pounds five point three ounces, which I found to be quite a large discrepancy. It's the roomiest, lightweight tent I've ever used. It's seventy inches wide at the front, and forty inches wide at the foot. That's the narrowest place. With a forty-inch head height also. I've been enjoying the heck out of this thing this year, as far as the room. It's eighty inches long, it packs down to twenty inches by six inches. I started out using it in May. There was still quite a bit of snow, so I've had it in snow fields. I also had it up at twelve thousand, six hundred feet in the wind. It handled it very well. It works extremely well in the snow. I've only had rain a couple of times and very briefly. It's never leaked a drop and I did not do anything to seam seal it. It comes factory taped. Even with all the vents open, it has no water blow in, so it's done pretty good. One of the things that makes this tent different, besides this center pole, is the scheme that they have come up with for ventilation. The entire side of both sides of the tent, the entire length of it, has a netting -- like a shingle -- that is covered with netting inside. If you pull it out, it looks like the tent has another wall that stretches away from the bottom bathtub floor, if you will, of the tent. But it's actually enclosed with netting, and the idea behind this besides giving this extra ventilation, is that heavy condensation will run down the tent and out the netting instead of pooling it on the floor. And the scheme works extremely well. Out of ten days trying purposely to get wet in there, I can't. I can set this tent up faster than, I think, any tent that I've ever owned. That's extremely enjoyable. I am highly recommending this tent to just about everybody I know. I think that this would be ideal for somebody that wants a single tent that they can push into, maybe, early winter or late spring. The ultralight crowd that still want a free-standing tent, that is looking for a light package for two people.

STEVE: My thanks to Kathryn Doiron, Raymond Estrella, and the editors at Backpack Gear Test, for making this edition possible. Please remember that these opinions are those of the individual contributors, and don't necessarily reflect those of Backpack Gear Test, or of The WildeBeat. If you want to read the original text reviews of these products, please follow the links on our web site.

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Next time — Trail Work.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a public service of Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to support future editions of The WildeBeat. Contribute your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The Wildebeat, program number fifty six. Thank you for listening.

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