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Thanks to smart design and engineering, today's tents deliver high-altitude performance at a low-elevation price

    Photo: Cameron Davidson

EVERY GUIDE HAS A client-with-a- cheap-tent horror story, each one a variation on the same theme: The weary outfitter has just marshalled a squad of tenderfoots up a mountain, or maybe he's pacing out the Griswold family compound on a gravel beach in Oregon. Now watch our hero's face fall as one of his clients proudly unpacks a $39.95 discount dome that will leak in the lightest drizzle, collapse in the slightest breeze, tear at the merest abrasion, and come apart at the seams without any help from the elements. Guess who gets to fix it at 3 a.m.? (Hint: It ain't the client.)

You don't have to be a pro to know that a tent is your last refuge when everything else goes to hell. Whether it's a blizzard on Pakistan's Nanga Parbat or a summer thunderstorm during a car-camping jaunt to Yellowstone, you need a well-made shelter to shield you from the elements. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to find a high-quality tent that fits any budget. Plus, many models span several needs: Three- season convertible tents with zippered screen panels adapt easily to summer sun or winter storms, while other models light enough to pack on your back are still plenty roomy for tailgate expeditions. Meanwhile, strength and durability continue to improve. More manufacturers are using naturally UV-resistant polyester for rain flies, stronger and lighter aluminum poles, and computer-aided design to create taut structures that won't collapse, even in the stiffest gales.
To bring you up to date, we've assembled the newest nylon wonders, from a tiny solo hiker up to a cabin-size family shelter. Each one spells pleasant dreams for everyone in your party—including, of course, the guy who knows the way home.

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