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Gear Guy

What's better: tent-pole sleeves or clips?

I've been reading mixed reviews about tents recently, with some raving that their tents are virtually bombproof, others demeaning theirs as utter crap. I'm after a tent for multi-season camping, something that will keep me dry and includes decent vestibule space, maybe even two doors for easy-exit toilet breaks. Any suggestions? And could you possibly explain the pros and cons of pole sleeves versus clips? Jim Toronto, Ontario

A: Well, all I can say is: Sometimes people expect too much. After all, your average two-person, three-season tent is a lightweight confection of nylon and thin aluminum tubing. I'm constantly astonished at the abuse they take, but I guess some people are astonished when they reach a breaking point, as all do.


As a rule of thumb, any tent out there made by a recognizable outdoor gear maker will be at least adequate, and probably more than that. For your purposes, you might consider a so-called "convertible" tent, which is designed to bridge the gap between late fall and early winter. Sierra Designs' Omega ($289; is one such tent. It has one big door at the "bow" end, a design that expedites access without adding the weight of doors on each side. Marmot's excellent Equinox ($259; is technically a three-season tent, but it's rugged and roomy, with a superb two-door design. The clips-versus-sleeves debate is an interesting one. Clip-only tents have better ventilation between the tent fly and body, and will generally set up more tautly because the clips establish tension lines between each attachment point. They also set up very quickly, although some clip-based tents do present you with a confusing muddle of clips and no clear idea of where to start (note: two minutes spent setting up a tent in a warm, dry garage as practice will eliminate any difficulties when setting it up in the dark, rainy woods).

Pole sleeves seem to make for a sturdier tent as they put a continuous line of stitching across a pole line, reducing the stress at any single point. But, sleeves add some weight, and can be a little trickier to set up (although the sleeves also suggest where the pole goes).

These days, a lot of tents use both. The Equinox combines clips and sleeves, for instance. The Omega is an all-clip tent, but I've used Sierra Designs tents for years and never had a clip pop, so I trust their designs plenty.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Sierra Designs