Gear Guy

The Lightning XT 4     Photo: courtesy, Sierra Designs

Q:

What’s the best high-quality lightweight tent on the market?

Hey, I'm looking for your recommendation on high-quality lightweight tents. I lead extended backpacking trips (30 to 45 days) in Alaska during the summer (read: snow is likely, so both three- and four- season tents are options), and am hoping to find a good three- to four-person tent that can withstand strong winds, heavy rain, and is light enough to be carried by the group. Double wall is preferable. Any suggestions? I'd like to keep the price under $600 if possible.
—Casey
O'Malley, NY

A:Sure, Casey. There are lots of good tents out there that will work well for you. Probably a solid three-season is the ticket.

If you want a fair amount of ventilation (not a bad idea with four people), then a good choice might be Sierra Designs’ four-person Lightning XT 4 ($450). Its big advantage is weight. It comes in at just over seven pounds, which means you can spread it out nicely into loads of around two pounds (canopy/fly/poles and stakes). It includes a full-coverage fly for wet weather. But…the canopy is mostly mesh, so not the warmest tent. Comfortable in humid weather, though.

For something a little more buttoned-down, take a look at the Marmot Halo 4P ($399). Another four-body rig, it has a canopy with good ventilation but also a generous amount of ripstop nylon, so it will keep drafts out fairly well. I like its vertical walls, which create a lot of head space and a real feeling of roominess. The sturdy design sheds wind and rain like a turtle, too. The extra protection does extract a price, however. The Halo 4P tips the scales at around 12 pounds. Not terrible when split up four ways, but still a heftier tent than the Lightning.

If a three-person tent is adequate, take a look at Black Diamond’s Oasis 3 ($360). It offers a nice mix of light weight (just over six pounds), good weather protection, and adequate size. Not quite as beefy as the Marmot, but a solid tent.

Lastly, if you can afford it, just be done with it and get a Hilleberg Keron 4. It’s a big tunnel-style four-person tent made in Sweden, where they know a little about crummy weather. The Keron is admirably light (nine pounds), super-tough, and extremely weather resistant. I especially like its twin vestibules and doors, so there are lots of options for getting in/out and stashing boots and other gear. OK, it costs $825. But you’ll love it.

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