Another tent(s) photo, with some rants



Sierra Designs and Big Agnes tents on a sandy island site. The entry vestibules have custom-cut fake grass mats to scrape off sandy knees when getting in. Neither are my favorite tents.

P5100020 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Minor design rant. The Big Agnes is an older Copper Spur “two” person model. Essentially a clone of the Hubba Hubba. Nice single person, lightweight tent, good in rain or storms, properly scalloped footprint, etc, etc.

Not nearly as intuitive to set up as the Hubba Hubba. If you look closely you’ll notice that it is slightly asymmetrical, a little taller at one end. That slight asymmetry causes various set up issues:

You better set up the tent & poles with the (ever so slightly) taller head up uphill on any slope. OK, effed up, no biggie, if I haven’t filled the tent with gear yet I can unstake it and turn it 180 degrees. Or sleep with my head at the slightly lower “foot end”.

Side note: Another reason for an “outie” ground cloth that can be staked down taut before the tent body goes up, beyond not blowing away in the wind; it is a lot easier for me to judge what ground slope, if any, I have, and the uphill end I want for my head. Hell, stretched and staked taut I can even see that buried pine cone or greenbriar thorn I missed.

But you damn better get the asymmetrical spidered poles at the correct ends of the tent body, or it just won’t work. Same thing with the asymmetrical fly orientation. The poles ends, tent and fly tabs are helpfully color coded. I am colorblind. ARRGGHH!

My color sensing wife likes it. I bought a second totally symmetrical Hubba Hubba for myself when REI had them on sale dirt cheap, the first one has 10 years of trip on it and the zippers were getting worrisome.

Major design rant. That Sierra Designs tent is, IIRC, the Apex model. It is not yet fully staked and guy lined out in that photo. A three-person (ie two person) three plus season tent.

On the upside it is bombproof in the wind, has lots of guy lines on the fly and is two person spacious. Might even squeeze three in a pinch.

On the downsides:

It has Sierra Designs bizarre “clip lock” tabs that stretchy attach the tent body to the poles. Those clip lock tabs supposedly add increased wind proofieness. I guess they work, but they are a pain to clip on in the correct twist/hook and pole location/orientation. Over engineering at its finest.

It does not pack small or lightweight. To achieve smaller/lighter packed size the tent body has zip-fully-off side panels over the mesh walls. Oh boy, more zippers to add weight and eventually fail.

That seems a nonsense weight reduction solution to me; what am I gonna do, set the tent up at home, climb inside and remove the side panels, repack the tent and then set it up again when I get back home to rezip the side panels in place? Never gonna happen. It is nice to have side panels that open for added ventilation, and to zip closed in blowing sand, but fully removable panels is just more over engineering.

The zip down/roll up door panels on Timberlines were a better solution. A modern tent design, with mostly mesh walls and Timberline-ish zip down panels would definitely interest me in hot, sand blown desert or coastal use areas, or even for the couple degrees of warmth a nylon wall adds over mesh in off-season use.

The Sierra Designs is a complex bugger to set up, asymmetrical in every way; poles, tent body and fly. Not something you would want to attempt in the dark with a storm approaching.

It has two vestibules; the big on visible in the photo, one uselessly teensy one on the back. The back vestibule design is a PITA to crawl through entering or exiting the tent - you would not want to open that shallow vestibule door in the rain - and is not big enough to store much gear. So have fun crawling over your gear in the larger vestibule.

The footprint that came with it does not have scalloped edges, just flat sides, and is the same size as the staked out tent body, not indented at all. Remember to tuck that footprint back under the tent, or it will pool water under the tent. I made a proper undersized/scalloped edge footprint with corner grommet tabs for it.

Worst of all, and this is inexcusable, even when staked and guyed as taut as possible the tent has a flat area between the two < > roofline poles. Actually, not flat, but a cupped depression, worse when the fly gets wet, visible even dry in that photo.

A cupped depression that fills with water when it rains. I have seam sealed the bejeepers out of that rainfly, which so far has worked, but I have little faith in a tent that puddles water on the roof in the center of the tent. Inexcusable.

For a tent named “Apex” that roof peak puddle is a shitty design. It still comes on trips because one son likes a big tent, and if his brother’s Hennessy Hammock is unusable for lack of trees or regulations they can share a 3-person tent.

Rant over.

I would be very interested in a fully symmetrical 2-person tent, in the intuitive set up and corner tighten down Hubba Hubba style, that included zip open or closed side panels over the mesh walls.

Suggestions for such a tent?