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  1. #1
    Registered User Elaikases's Avatar
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    Default So, giving tent advice

    This is the advice I recently gave someone who was looking for a tent for a couple to use to through hike the AT next year. 5'8" and 5'10". They wanted to just buy one tent, not get on the treadmill of buying tent after tent until they got it right.

    Below is my advice.
    ...

    I’d suggest that you schedule a trip to an REI. REI will let you set up tents and take some time in store to look at them. Set up two or three side by side and lay down in them. My wife and I have done that. Set up tents, crawled in and out of them, compared them side by side, and taken some real time.

    So you set up 2-3 tents in the store and check them out, then take down one or two and set up some more (that way you always have a tent set up from the group before to keep a baseline going). After you have checked out the tents, rent/borrow/buy used a tent and do a short trip with it. Go to REI garage sales and see what people are returning (that is how they get everything the sell -- returns) -- often people who returned something are at the garage sale and will talk about why they returned what they returned.

    By experimenting like this (setting up and laying down in tents in store and taking tents on short week or so section hikes) my wife and I realized we like freestanding tents more than not. We got to a definite preference for side entry over front entry. (I confess that at the end what I really wanted was a two pound half dome At five pounds it is just too heavy. But it works for car camping). We tried 3p and 2p tents. Tried vestibule(s) for gear storage and tried storage in the tent. We checked out how much condensation we had issues with. (some people create more condensation than others, some have stronger feelings about condensation in a tent than other people do. Find out where you fit).

    That said, almost everyone updated their tents this year or last year, so everything is current. You have plenty of time to check sales. Options I’d suggest:

    • Tiger Wall 3p. REI exclusive now, but lots of sales. REI currently offers 20% off and the REI coop refund too.
    • Mountain Hardwear Ghost 3p. (Disclosure. I’m selling mine, but it is a great tent to look at).
    • From Big Agnes, the two backpacking standards: Copper Spur and Fly Creek. (Disclosure, we bought a CS 2p to use instead of the ghost).
    • Naturehike and Lanshan—especially since they are cheap and you can buy one to play with and experiment. You can get them on ebay and check them out on YouTube -- lots of reviews.
    • The Tarptent double rainbow. Free standing using a hiker pole. Depends how how much moisture you breath out whether it works for you, but it is a really solid tent (as are the other tarptents).
    • The various Nemos. Note that the Fly Creek and Nemo’s are not free standing. Lanshan is not freestanding.
    • My Trail Company. https://mytrailco.com/collections/te...nt=20147804867

    But those are the core choices to look at. All of those tents go on sale -- sometimes dramatically on sale. Almost all have a 2p and a 3p version, and the 3p version isn't that much heavier (For example: My Trail Company's 3p is 2lbs, 15.5oz (Fly + Nest + Pole Set) (the stakes and guy lines add to the weight) the 2p is 2lbs, 6oz (Fly + Nest + Pole Set). 28 square feet vs. 46 square feet.

    Tents I've owned include MyTrailCo. 2p, BA Copper Spur 2p, Mountain Hardwear Ghost 3p and a Half Dome (with the replacement pole sets). Etc. Wife and I currently use the Copper Spur 2p. But we are shorter than you and your boyfriend.

    I've set up and played around with the Nemo Elite, the Nemo Dagger, the Tiger Wall (gets good reviews, just seems kind of fragile to me) and some others. And I've played around with a number of different types of tent stakes while I was at it. We hike with pack covers for the rain and have used them when setting up tents at night.

    But it you are after "one and done" the real things you need to know:

    1. What kind of entrance are you comfortable with? Climbing in and out of tents in a store to try lying down in them will help you get a real feel for it. Some people don't mind a front entry. Some really hate them. Some just are "meh" on them. I'm kind of in the last group. I can live with them but would rather not.
    2. How tight a fit are you comfortable with? At first I thought 30 square feet was a bare minimum. 39 feet felt a little cramped. But in the end with the almost vertical sides, we've been happy with 29 square feet. Go figure. 2 lbs 11 oz. for the Ghost 3p is tempting though. You won't know how fit works for you until you've set up tents, laid down in them and asked yourself how you feel in them (with the rainfly on and buttoned up). Most people on a through hike spend about one out of four days (almost two days a week) in towns in hostels and the like. That really makes a smaller tent easier to live with. Through hiking is a different animal, it is a matter of just not stopping. 12.5% of couples through hiking used a 1p tent (?!). 28% used a 3p tent. 54% of solo hikers used a 2p tent.
    3. How much fussing around with your tent at the end of the day are you interested in? The entire free standing vs. not discussion, and the types of tent set up are all focused around this question. A lot of people are happy with either choice.

    When you look at the annual hiker survey of AT Hikers, it becomes obvious that there is a wide range of choices that worked for people.
    With this in mind look at the statistics Mariposa has developed (you can check 2016, etc. too).

    https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail...-hiker-survey/

    Top 2-person models (used in 2017 on the AT. Note because this consists of numbers from 2017 it won't have the Tiger Wall which is new this year and well worth considering).

    • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 -- single entry, not quite free standing.
    • ZPacks Duplex -- high line. But still only $599. Not free standing by any definition. The total weight for the packed tent is 21.0 ounces. Does not absorb water, can be packed wet after shaking it with little weight penalty.
    • Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 -- free standing side entry.
    • MSR Hubba Hubba -- free standing, side entry.
    • REI Quarter Dome 2 -- almost free standing side entry.
    • Nemo Hornet 2P, Elite 2P -- both front entry, almost free standing. They were just too small for me. I'm shorter than you are, but you may find them ok. I really wanted to like the Elite 2p. Minimum Trail Weight 1 lb. 12 oz. Packaged Weight 2 lbs. 3 oz.

    So, lots of people are fine with not freestanding. Lots of people are happy with front entry. Lots of people don't need a high interior. At some point price/weight affects choices (you don't see any through hikers with an REI Half Dome -- 5lb is too much, but the Quarter Dome at about three pounds is a steady seller used by through hikers.

    For almost every choice but heavy there are lots of people like each choice. I hope that this lays out the how and why of your tent choices better for you and how to decide what you want. Note that many sellers have no questions asked return policies. Try not to abuse those.

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

    I did not suggest hammocks for a couple on the AT. Some day there will be lightweight two person hammocks that let you sleep flat. But today is not that day.
    Last edited by Elaikases; 04-08-2018 at 21:02.

  2. #2

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    So, I'm guessing you're a fan of NPR?

  3. #3
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
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    Lightheart Gear SoLong Duo.

    https://www.lightheartgear.com/index...-2018-duo-tent

    Depending on how "close" you wanna be, the below are on sale. I had TONS of room in my SoLong 6.

    https://www.lightheartgear.com/index...ng-6-clearance
    Old Hiker
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  4. #4

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    I am curious as to how everyone showing up at REI would affect the cottage industry...(No brainer)

    And how going to REI is gunna suck everyone into the corporate buy off the shelf china crap instead of buying from small time USA.

    These outdoor companies can offer such a lenient return policy because their margin is hundreds of points. "Oh you need a replacement tent? Here ya go, we could give you 2 or 3 of these before we cut even on the original sale"
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
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  5. #5

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    Elaikases---Your wordy tent advice rivals much of the stuff I write in my trail journals about the ins and outs of gear---and of course I'm often stuck in a tent in a storm with plenty of time to pen my reviews and tips and backcountry essays.

    And since Whiteblaze also covers many different trails other than the AT, tent advice should also take into consideration other trails or even just weekend backpacking trips into various wilderness areas.

    Like you, I've honed down what I want in a tent thru experience and personal desire. I don't know how newbies pick out a tent but I suppose many of them get on backpacking forums like this one and find a consensus of what works for others.

    Over the years I've seen alot of backpacking tents and especially Big Agnes tents. I've made a photo record of all the tents I've seen on my trips in the last 17 years. These pics will give people an idea of what's out there and what's being used---

    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/keyword/random%20tents/

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    So, I'm guessing you're a fan of NPR?



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    So, I'm guessing you're a fan of NPR?
    And I thought my wife could ramble on!!!!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  8. #8

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    My advice is to avoid REI entirely. I checked out all their tents, they seemed heavy, expensive, and generally harder to set up. You can buy a lot of the same tents at other retailers for a bit cheaper even. For REI prices, you can get a nice tarptent, or lightheart, that's just functionally superior.

  9. #9
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    My advice is to avoid REI entirely...
    Even if you don't particularly like REI, a general point the OP is making that is very good advice for any nubie looking into purchasing a tent is to actually take the time to check a few different tents out in person.

    Doing so will help you evaluate if you prefer a side entry or head entry tent (i.e. Big Agnes Copper Spur style v. Big Agnes Fly Creek Style), and get a feel for the actual usable space in a tent (because I always try to warn the nubie that tent specifications give the tent size in terms of where the tent stakes hit the ground, NOT the usable space inside a tent... usable space inside a tent is usually about 5" or 6" smaller than the specifications indicate).

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Even if you don't particularly like REI, a general point the OP is making that is very good advice for any nubie looking into purchasing a tent is to actually take the time to check a few different tents out in person.

    Doing so will help you evaluate if you prefer a side entry or head entry tent (i.e. Big Agnes Copper Spur style v. Big Agnes Fly Creek Style), and get a feel for the actual usable space in a tent (because I always try to warn the nubie that tent specifications give the tent size in terms of where the tent stakes hit the ground, NOT the usable space inside a tent... usable space inside a tent is usually about 5" or 6" smaller than the specifications indicate).
    As a newbie myself, I agree. I got a bit lucky when buying my tarptent notch, in that I'm 5'10." I easily figured out the interior floor dimensions, as opposed to the stake footprint... but I neglected to consider the slope of the walls. Anyone above 6' tall might have issue with bumping their head as they sit up. (I'm guessing, based on how much clearance I have.)

  11. #11
    Registered User KDogg's Avatar
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    While I condone trying out a bunch at an REI type store, I never met a couple using the ZPacks Triplex that didn't love it. It seems to be just the right size for two and saves a ton of weight.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    So, I'm guessing you're a fan of NPR?



    That is a great response. .

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Even if you don't particularly like REI, a general point the OP is making that is very good advice for any nubie looking into purchasing a tent is to actually take the time to check a few different tents out in person.

    Doing so will help you evaluate if you prefer a side entry or head entry tent (i.e. Big Agnes Copper Spur style v. Big Agnes Fly Creek Style), and get a feel for the actual usable space in a tent (because I always try to warn the nubie that tent specifications give the tent size in terms of where the tent stakes hit the ground, NOT the usable space inside a tent... usable space inside a tent is usually about 5" or 6" smaller than the specifications indicate).
    Very, very true.

  14. #14
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    While I don't have a need for a two person tent, I would suggest contacting Tarptent via their website. Someone from there always pops up a chat window for you to ask questions and get great advice.
    Blackheart

  15. #15
    Leonidas
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    Quote Originally Posted by KDogg View Post
    While I condone trying out a bunch at an REI type store, I never met a couple using the ZPacks Triplex that didn't love it. It seems to be just the right size for two and saves a ton of weight.
    I have one in my sights for the future, but for most people, when you spend $700 on a tent you tell people it is great whether it is or not.
    AT: 471 mi
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  16. #16
    Registered User KDogg's Avatar
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    That is probably true but I have a Duplex and will replace it with another Duplex when it wears out. It is an awesome tent.

  17. #17

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    Sounds like this couple will be done by the time they get out of GA but hey, I'm an optimist.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hiker View Post
    Lightheart Gear SoLong Duo.

    https://www.lightheartgear.com/index...-2018-duo-tent

    Depending on how "close" you wanna be, the below are on sale. I had TONS of room in my SoLong 6.

    https://www.lightheartgear.com/index...ng-6-clearance
    That is an excellent addition.

    I am really curious what the 2018 statistical analysis will show.

    Something like this post probably would go well in the essay part of the site.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    I am curious as to how everyone showing up at REI would affect the cottage industry...(No brainer)

    And how going to REI is gunna suck everyone into the corporate buy off the shelf china crap instead of buying from small time USA.

    These outdoor companies can offer such a lenient return policy because their margin is hundreds of points. "Oh you need a replacement tent? Here ya go, we could give you 2 or 3 of these before we cut even on the original sale"
    Tire kicking should not affect purchasing.

    Never did for me. Only tent I’ve bought at REI was for $25 at a garage sale —and it works just fine for car camping.

    .

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elaikases View Post

    But it you are after "one and done" the real things you need to know:

    1. What kind of entrance are you comfortable with? Climbing in and out of tents in a store to try lying down in them will help you get a real feel for it. Some people don't mind a front entry. Some really hate them. Some just are "meh" on them. I'm kind of in the last group. I can live with them but would rather not.
    2. How tight a fit are you comfortable with? At first I thought 30 square feet was a bare minimum. 39 feet felt a little cramped. But in the end with the almost vertical sides, we've been happy with 29 square feet. Go figure. 2 lbs 11 oz. for the Ghost 3p is tempting though. You won't know how fit works for you until you've set up tents, laid down in them and asked yourself how you feel in them (with the rainfly on and buttoned up). Most people on a through hike spend about one out of four days (almost two days a week) in towns in hostels and the like. That really makes a smaller tent easier to live with. Through hiking is a different animal, it is a matter of just not stopping. 12.5% of couples through hiking used a 1p tent (?!). 28% used a 3p tent. 54% of solo hikers used a 2p tent.
    3. How much fussing around with your tent at the end of the day are you interested in? The entire free standing vs. not discussion, and the types of tent set up are all focused around this question. A lot of people are happy with either choice.

    When you look at the annual hiker survey of AT Hikers, it becomes obvious that there is a wide range of choices that worked for people.



    Just darn good advise. Whether you are a loyalist, or a gram counter. As I look for a new tent for GAME 19, this is good food for thought.



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