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Is a freestanding tent worth carrying the extra weight?

My hiking buddy for Vancouver’s North Coast Trail already has a solo tent, so I'm looking for something for me. Is a freestanding tent worth the extra weight and the extra pole? Dan Calgary, Alberta


No, free-standing is NOT worth the extra weight and pole. I’m all for free-standing tents—I use them a lot—but part of their rationale is ease of use and the ability to set them up in a storm—and on a showroom floor, for that matter. To stay upright they must have enough poles to form a self-supporting tripod.

REI Quarter Dome T2

Quarter Dome T2

For the most part, the lightest tents out there still need stakes for full support (keep in mind, so do freestanding tents, so they don’t blow off in the wind). That would include a tent such as Mountain Hardwear’s Sprite 1 ($150), a so-called “tunnel" style tent that has two hoop poles and stakes at the end. By eliminating a third pole, weight is cut to three pounds. Sierra Designs’ Light Year is almost identical in size, price, and weight.

REI’s Quarter Dome T1 ($179) is a self-supporting tent that is competitive with tunnel tents in weight, mainly by using lots of mesh in the canopy (not so good in cold weather). The two-person version, the T2, is $259.

I think you’re best off getting a two-person tent for the two of you. If you got a T2, you’d be looking at just under two pounds per person. Same for a tent such as the Marmot Aura 2P ($299). Plus, it’s easier to find one tent site than two. And you have the chance to share warm thoughts with each other during the long nights.

But if a one-person tent is the decision, get a Sprite 1 or Light Year.

The 2008 Summer Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From riding to trail-running to camping, get reviews of nearly 400 gear must-haves.

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Filed To: Tents
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI