I'm looking for a two-person tent that can be used for backpacking or car camping. Something light but not ultralight, and easy enough for one person to set up. I usually camp alone but want the space of a two-person tent. Suggestions?
Oh, there are a zillion tents out there. It’s largely a matter of what style you like, and maybe even what the tent looks like.
The Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL2 ($279) is typical of what should work for you. It’s a well-made, four-pound tent that accommodates two people. The upper section of the canopy is mesh for good ventilation, and it has a full-coverage fly for ample weather protection. It also has twin doors and twin vestibules, which means you can store shoes or boots in one vestibule and leave the other clear. Setup is relatively easy; the five poles join together to create the tent’s exoskeleton and the canopy clips onto the poles.
The Sierra Designs Meteor Light 2 ($290) is a classic tent. It’s heavier than the Jack Rabbit, at about six pounds, but it's also sturdier and larger. It has two doors and two vestibules. Setup is easy with three poles.
There's also the Marmot Limelight 2 ($199), which comes in at five pounds and has a single side door—fine for one person. It has a very simple two-pole setup.
A really good value is REI’s Half Dome 2 ($179), a spacious and light tent at about five pounds. It's well ventilated, sets up easy, and also has two doors. Plus you get light, strong DAC poles that are usually found in pricier tents.
With any new tent, it's always a good idea to spend time practicing setup. My rule of thumb is “If I have to look at a manual, it’s too complicated.” (On the other hand, I’ve set up scores of different tents over the years, and that may not be a good guide for everyone). It's best to have setup on auto-pilot in case you make camp in the dark or in a thunderstorm. And either buy a ready-made footprint to put under the tent (they’re usually about $25), or buy a role of 4mm PVC sheeting in the garden department of your hardware store, and cut a piece that is slightly smaller than the dimensions of the tent. Putting something under the tent will prolong its life.
Hope that helps!