Sierra Designs has long been an excellent default choice for a lightweight two-person, or even solo, tent. New poles have cut the weight to just over four pounds, and at $179, its a terrific bargain (sierradesigns.com). Ive recommended it highly a zillion times, and continue to do so.
But youre right, Chris. Tent technology has changed so much in recent years that a four-pound, two-person tent is no longer that big of a deal. REIs Quarter Dome UL ($219; rei.com), for instance, offers two vestibules and a free-standing design (the Clip requires stakes for support, although of course all tents require stakes so they dont blow away) at a weight of right around four pounds.
Whats really interesting is the evolution of single-wall tents. These make perfect sense when weight is an issue, as tents such as the Clip Flashlight and Quarter Dome rely on two layers of fabrica canopy and flyto provide shelter. Mountain Hardwears Airjet 2 ($285; mountainhardwear.com), on the other hand, uses a single waterproof fabric layer and employs clever venting designs to ensure air flows through the tent and takes condensation-causing moisture with it. The Airjet offers a little more room than the Sierra Designs or REI tents, plus a super-sturdy design. Yet it tips the scales at just under four pounds.
New fabrics also make possible single-wall tents that vent without the aid of fancy draft systems, and weigh next to nothing. Black Diamonds Lighthouse ($379; bdel.com), for instance, uses Epic fabric, which is more breathable than laminates found in the Airjet. So while it is not billed as 100 percent waterproof, you can sit out many, many hours of rain. Its a roomy, tall tent that offers decent space for two, although its design obviates a vestibule, which may be an issue. Weight is fabulousonly three pounds, six ounces.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.