Q:

What’s the most versatile solo or small two-person tent out there?

I'm looking for a tent that can do it all. I’ll be in New Zealand in July (their winter) biking around the North Island. I also really like to backpack here in Oregon. Which tent will work for both pursuits? Zach La Grande, Oregon

Jan 3, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Black Diamond Lighthouse Tent

Lighthouse Tent

A:

Why don’t you just bike around La Grande right now? When it’s YOUR winter? Why go all the way to New Zealand for somebody ELSE’S winter. Maybe because in La Grande it easily drops into the teens with snow to match, whereas in New Zealand you’ll generally be above freezing.

Anyway, several tents will work. First, though, the philosophical stuff. Weight matters a bit less when biking because you have a better mechanical advantage thanks to the gears. That’s especially true when pulling a trailer; it’s easier to haul a load in a trailer than to load it on your bike. But sure, weight matters. Especially if you want a tent to take hiking. The other thing is, tents really aren’t “warm," as such. They simply have more or less ventilation.

So, if it were me, I’d probably take a Black Diamond Lighthouse ($379; bdel.com). It’s a three-season tent that seals up well enough for blustery weather, and it weighs only 3 pounds, 12 ounces. It can fit two people, meaning you’ll have lots of space for yourself, or room for a guest, should you need it. It’s a light, single-wall tent made from a material called Epic, which is a little bit breathable and offers plenty of rain-resistance. It’ll work great on your bike trip, then make the transition nicely to backpacking.

I also like Marmot’s EOS 1P ($225; marmot.com), which is a solo three-season tent. It’s a more traditional design—you pitch the canopy, which has some mesh in it for ventilation, then you toss a fly over that to keep out rain and some wind. It’s even lighter than the Lighthouse, around three pounds, which is fantastic. It’s smaller, of course. And it might be a little drafty when the wind is up and temps are near freezing. Then again, you should be able to find sheltered spots in which to pitch it.

For a really, truly weatherproof tent, take a look at Mountain Hardwear’s Spire 2 ($425; mountainhardwear.com). It’s a true mountaineering tent with very rugged construction, a full-coverage fly, and a canopy that buttons up tightly. Weight, at five pounds, is pretty good. But I think it’s more than you need. Really, I’d take a Lighthouse.

The 2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.

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