Gear of the Year

Camping Tents & Sleeping Bags

May 19, 2005
Outside Magazine

Sierra Designs Reverse Combi $240

At six pounds 13 ounces, the Reverse Combi is the heaviest of the eight new-for-2005 shelters we tested—and is probably the most tent you'll want to carry. But this Gear of the Year's thoughtful design and creature comforts threw our usual light-is-right rules out the mesh window. Perhaps bigger is better.

1. When you're not obsessing over pounds, you can draw from a more appetizing menu of features: The Reverse Combi's color-coded webbing speeds setup; pole tips lock into grommets for stability; and doors tuck nicely into side pockets to stay clean and out of the way.

2. If the Combi feels roomier than its 4.5-by-seven-foot floor plan suggests, it's not the single-malt talking. Sierra Designs cleverly located varying diameter pole sections to create steeper walls and more living space than other similarly configured tents.

3. While many of today's tents are cut prosciutto-thin to shave ounces, this shelter's floor, body, and fly are made of heavier-gauge 70-denier nylon or taffeta nylon. With a new antimicrobial finish—designed to head off potential stuffsack funk—the Combi conveys a reassuring air of solidity; I expect it will still be inviting abuse in 2015.

4. Many side-entry tents have just one door, and heeding nature's call can also mean waking up your camping chum. Luckily, the Combi gives each occupant an escape route. Another twofer: dueling 11-square-foot vestibules, each with a door that rolls up and out of the way.

5. With the rain fly staked out taut, the dome hunkered down like a tortoise, scarcely shuddering during a night of meteorological Sturm und Drang below Washington's Mount Stuart. One quibble: The vestibules have pretty small windows.

Marmot Atom $229

Behold the Gear of the Year: A 16-ounce, 900-fill-down wonder that's destined to be the new sleep standard for fastpackers and anyone else who appreciates gossamer weight in a three-season bag. Marmot's ultrastuffable Atom practically vanishes into your pack.

1. How feathery is the Atom, with its Ÿber-premium down and superlight Pertex fabric? It reminded me of a chunk of San Francisco fog I once spotted scudding along California Street. How compressible? Picture a cantaloupe.

2. The Atom's trapezoidal footbox—the bag's bottom end swoops upward like a ski tip—won't force you to splay your feet sideways.

3. Its 40-degree threshold might seem sketchy, but this nocturnal nest is all you need for most late-spring-through-early-autumn outings: It kept me—as well as several eager-to-try-it friends—toasty on a chilly September summit attempt yet stayed cool on summer car-camping trips to my local crags.

4. With its half-zip, the Atom won't be mistaken for a stateroom, but it slips on like silk pajamas and is roomy enough around the shoulders for sleepers who don't toss like a Maytag all night long.

5. Not many above-freezing bags sport a mummy hood, complete with an insulated face muff, and a cinch cord to batten down the hatches on brisk nights. Outfit yourself with a wool cap and some merino long underwear and push the Atom's rating down to the frost line.

Filed To: Tents, Sleeping Bags

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