Tents Review: Two-Person Tents
by Jason D.B. Kauffman, Backpacker Magazine’s 2008 Gear Review, March 2008
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo
Tent geeks will love this hybrid shelter, which delivers incredible space for the weight. Setup requires some futzing, but the payoff is a lavish floorplan that sleeps three in a pinch. Pitching the twin-door, twin-vestibule single-wall tent requires two trekking poles and a minimum of six stakes. Pre-bent spacer poles on either side create the tent’s arched peak. Despite this minimalist skeleton, the tent stood up to hail, rain, and strong gusts. But beware of severe, sustained wind: On our most recent test trip–at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies–howling gales ripped the lightweight fabric and fasteners. During good weather, roll the fabric back on the roomy vestibules for increased pass-through ventilation. Our testers reported minimal condensation, even in the worst conditions. Seams are not taped; plan on spending an afternoon hand-sealing them. $275; 2 lbs. 8 oz.
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 *FP
No housing crunch here. This sub-4-pound tent is luxuriously spacious, full of upgrades, and, yes, expensive. A hubbed pole system and a short, crossing “eyebrow” pole give this freestanding dome steep walls and an airy 42-inch peak height. Two 11-square-foot vestibules accept a boatload of gear, while extra-wide doors let you climb in and out without pulling a muscle. Ventilation and weather protection are equally high-end. The taut pitch easily shed heavy, wet snow in Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains. In the face of the fast-approaching tempest, our tester had the tent up and fully battened down in minutes. $400; 3 lbs. 13 oz.
Sierra Designs Anu 2 *FP
Get a lot of tent for a little money with this freestanding, single-door model. The Anu’s quick-pitching hubbed poles, combined with a short brow pole over the doorway, create near vertical walls and plenty of floor space for two. “I could even do yoga stretches without bumping into my partner,” said one tester. Other notable features include an ample 43.5-inch peak height, loads of mesh for good ventilation and stargazing, and an 11-square-foot vestibule large enough for two loaded packs. Weatherproofing is impeccable, reported a tester after a soggy trip in Idaho’s Smoky Mountains. If you’re willing to forgo the luxury of two doors and vestibules, this tent is a steal. $199; 5 lbs. 4 oz.
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 *FP
A combination of low weight and solid performance makes this tent a perennial favorite among our testers with minimalist tendencies. Exhibit A: When a massive thunderstorm pounded the Seedhouse with pea-sized hail and steady rain in Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, the shelter remained stable and condensation-free. Exhibit B: The next night, with clear skies, our testers removed the fly and enjoyed stellar Milky Way views through the all-mesh canopy. Caveat: Big guys won’t be happy with the compact living space. There’s only one door, the floor is narrow, and the tent’s tallest point (38 inches) is at the front end, so partners have to sit shoulder to shoulder. Two packs fit inside the single vestibule as long as they’re stacked. $320; 2 lbs. 14 oz.
Black Diamond Mirage FP
Big blow coming? Point this aerodynamic tent’s knife-blade profile into the wind, and let the gale pass over–and around–you. The dual-hub pole system is both stable and fast to pitch. The freestanding Mirage 2 also got a perfect score for ventilation, thanks to an all-mesh canopy and a fly vent at the foot of the tent. Interior space is merely adequate; sleeping pads overlap slightly at the narrow end and the height of the tent peaks out at just 37 inches. Likewise, the single vestibule–with a unique wraparound design that’s big enough for a pack and boots–is sufficient, but not generous. $280; 3 lbs. 15 oz.
EMS Eclipse 2
This freestanding single-wall weighs less than 5 pounds and costs less than $200, yet its lavish elbowroom and taut, weather-shedding pitch make it suitable for light winter use (it easily withstood a late-autumn storm in Idaho). Burly clips are easy to operate even with bulky gloves. The ceiling peaks out at a generous 47 inches, which makes tent-bound days more bearable, and the 28-square-foot vestibule easily swallows piles of cold-weather gear. Condensation is a minor issue, which is common with single-walls, and a tester broke the small plastic hub holding the two poles together when he opened them in the wrong direction. Both are minor complaints given the overall great value. $189; 4 lbs. 14 oz
GoLite Utopia 2+
Is it a tarp? A tent? Who cares–this floorless hybrid works. For less than 3 pounds, its 45-inch ceiling and spacious floor plan accommodate two people and lots of gear, or even a couple and a child. Equally impressive: Its taut pitch and rounded profile shed wind and rain with ease. After using the Utopia for four nights on the Continental Divide Trail, our tester was amazed by its quick and easy setup, which requires two poles and eight stakes. The perimeter hugs the ground tightly enough to protect against rain spatter and most bugs; you can add a bathtub-style floor ($45, 1 lb.) for extra protection. Despite two wall vents, we experienced some condensation on humid nights. $275; 2 lbs. 10 oz.
Kelty Corrie 2 *
One tester raved about this freestanding double-wall’s monsoon-worthiness after prolonged, dumping rains in Wyoming’s Wind Rivers. Credit goes to a taut pitch created by its hubbed two-pole system. Thanks to an abundance of mesh, condensation was nil even on the rainiest of nights. Testers also praised how quickly the single-door, tunnel-shaped tent set up in the face of the approaching storm. Another plus: Steep walls maximize space in the smallish 11-square-foot vestibule, which provides room for two packs stacked on top of each other. While its low weight is appealing, big guys will find the tent’s 27 square feet of floor space and 40-inch peak a bit confining. $280; 3 lbs. 10 oz.
Marmot Aura 2P *FP
“Very efficient use of space.” That’s how our tester described this freestanding, double-wall dome. While other two-person tents have more floor space by the numbers, the Aura 2P proves that stats can be deceiving. The unique, asymmetrical pole structure creates almost vertical walls and a 40-inch peak height, providing more living space than we expected. An all-night rainstorm in Idaho’s Smoky Mountains left no doubt as to the tent’s supreme weather-worthiness. Our tester’s only complaint was minor condensation during extremely humid conditions with highs in the upper 30s. Two roomy vestibules house piles of gear, and the large tandem doors are easy to slip in and out of. $299; 4 lbs. 1 oz.
MontBell Crescent 2
There aren’t many two-person tents in this rarified weight class, and few compare with the Crescent 2 for its price-to-performance. It’s a non-freestanding hybrid that combines single- and double-wall construction, with a single pole that creates a steep-walled profile. The design easily shed heavy rainfall in Idaho’s Smoky Mountains, and the full-length vent along the single-wall side kept condensation to a minimum. Thirty-four square feet of floor space is sufficient for average-size campers, but the narrow profile reduces headroom. Biggest compromise: The tiny vestibule is hard to access because of a small door, and it accommodates little more than a couple pairs of boots. $279; 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1 *FP
Here’s a change that’s easy to like: The Skyledge 2.1, which had 41 inches of ceiling height and plenty of elbow room last year, now has 3 more inches of floor length and weighs 3 ounces less. And the changes didn’t alter this freestanding tent’s ability to withstand fierce weather. In Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, our tester rode out a rainstorm of near-biblical proportions and awoke the next morning as dry as a good sauvignon blanc. Floor-to-ceiling mesh makes condensation a non-issue. The twin vestibules are each large enough to store a pack and boots. Crossing poles clip to the canopy and a short eyebrow pole crosses the top, making setup a breeze. $325; 3 lbs. 15 oz.
It weighs less than a full water bottle and packs down nearly as small, yet the Twing’s massive (68 square feet) coverage offers sleeping space for up to four, in a pinch. Our testers found a number of ways to pitch this versatile, sil-nylon tarp. Use two trekking poles and the six pre-rigged guylines and it’s an open-ended floorless tent (be sure to pitch its low end into the weather). Or attach the two center guy points to an overhead branch and stake it out for a spacious rainy-day kitchen. The twin-peak tunnel shape of the Twing makes it easy to tension a tight pitch; it held strong during a night of 30-plus-mph gusts in Idaho’s Pioneer Mountains. Only drawback: For a tarp, the price is hefty. $230; 1 lbs. 14 oz.
NEMO Losi *FP
In the ever-shrinking world of lighter and smaller, this tent bucks the trend with luxurious space. Our tester, his wife, and their chocolate lab slept inside without feeling pinched. The combination of crisscrossing hubbed poles and a pair of shorter brow poles makes for steep walls and a lofty 46-inch peak. Two 13-square-foot vestibules accommodate a week’s worth of gear for two. Vast panels of mesh and scalloped vents on both ends of the fly keep air circulating, while the taut pitch easily sheds blowing rain. Bonus: The ingenious corner anchor system locks poles in place with a secure ball-and-socket system. Smart accessories include a machine-washable Pawprint liner ($49) that joins two sleeping pads together and carbon-fiber poles ($40), which save 2 ounces should you want to go lighter, not smaller. $325; 4 lbs. 14 oz.
EMO Morpho AR
You’ll never break a pole in this tent because there aren’t any. Instead, it has inflatable air beams, which, when guyed out correctly, are incredibly strong. The sleek profile easily shrugged off gusting winds that topped 50 mph on an 8,000-foot pass in Idaho’s Hells Canyon country. After more than a year of off-and-on testing, we still haven’t popped a tube. This year’s redesigned Morpho sports a proprietary fabric that’s significantly more breathable than its predecessor’s, and three vents provide good cross-ventilation in breezy conditions, eliminating the condensation problems we experienced with last year’s version (though droplets did collect on the ceiling during a September snowstorm in Idaho’s Boulder Mountains). The headroom on this single-wall, non-freestanding tent peaks at 42 inches, and the length is a luxurious 112 inches. Two doors are a bonus, but the vestibule is tiny; only boots fit. Bummer: The Morpho is bulky when packed. $385; 4 lbs. 13 oz.
REI Quarter Dome 2 TT *FP
Welcome to Extreme Makeover: Tent Edition. This year’s Quarter Dome has a new pole configuration that creates more elbowroom and a higher ceiling than last year’s version. Lots of mesh and two adjustable fly vents minimize condensation, dual vestibules each hold a week’s worth of gear, and weather resistance is as good as ever. Setup is simple the first time out: “I was able to assemble it alone, with a fading headlamp, in about six minutes,” one tester said. Length is best for sub-six-footers. Bummer: The teardrop-shaped doors hang in the middle when open and can’t be tied out of the way. $259; 3 lbs. 12 oz.