REI Sub-Alpine UL

    Photo: Mark Wiens

STICKLERWith its sea-foam-colored rain fly and nifty porthole window, the three-pole Sub-Alpine UL evokes Captain Nemo's sub, the Nautilus. But the water metaphors end there, thanks to good cross-ventilation, a seam-sealed floor that didn't let liquid in when I ended up unintentionally snow-camping, and a fly that kept its distance from the inner wall. Best of all, the five-pound Sub-Alpine UL balanced comfort and portability, granting more than seven feet of length and ample room to sit up.

Bonus: The carrying sack's built-in compression straps should be an industry standard.

Bummer: Cooking is awkward in the sub-seven-square-foot vestibule when it's full of gear.

Brand: REI $239

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