What’s the perfect four-person tent?

We are in need of a new tent! Our wonderful ten-year-old, well-used Walrus has served us well, but the dog ate the vestibule two years ago and the duct tape is old, the pole sleeves are starting to shred, and the poles are fatigued. We need to accommodate four people as well as one dog in the vestibule, and will be camping in the Idaho mountains. We typically car camp, but I would like to add short backpacking trips as our kids are getting older. We tried a tent from REI and we froze over Memorial Day. It is not uncommon to have snow on the 4th of July. We also camp in the more temperate areas of Oregon, so ventilation is good. I really want a new tent just like my Walrus, but I find the choices overwhelming. Can you help limit our options? Thanks! Love your column. Michelle Boise, ID


I love it: “Honey, the dog ate the tent." But you sure got good use out of it. Ten years is a long lifespan for a tent if it gets regular use.

The Den 4

There are two things you can do. One is to get two tents—one for the grownups, another for the kids (and maybe the dog). Or, of course, just buy one large tent. A single tent that could hold you all would be something like Marmot’s Den 4 ($350). It’ll hold four comfortably, and with two doors it’s pretty easy to manage access. For the hound, there is a large vestibule that zips up tightly for shelter. The full coverage fly will keep you dry, while mesh panels help ventilation. Weight is about 11 pounds, which is okay when split three ways—fly, canopy, poles, and stakes. It’s definitely packable.

Sierra Designs’ Lightning XT 4 ($450) is even lighter—just over seven pounds. And it’s very roomy thanks to an innovative design that combines the space of a big tunnel tent with the freestanding qualities of a dome. Like the Marmot, it also has two big doors for access, and a vestibule for gear and pooches.

But...the Lightning gains some weight savings by employing a canopy that is nearly all mesh. So it ventilates beautifully, but also will let in chilly air. So that’s a tradeoff. But really, no tent is all that “warm." I tend to think you’re better off scaling your sleeping bags to accommodate cold weather.

You also could do something such as buying two REI Arete ASL 2 tents ($270). Weight for two is about the same as the Marmot, and you have the flexibility to utilize smaller tent sites and giving adults and youngsters their own space. Dog can go wherever he/she wishes.

Thanks for reading!

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Filed To: Tents
Lead Photo: courtesy, Marmot
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