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Gear Guy

What are the lightest tents in this category?

I'm looking for a new lighter tent as I'm going to be doing some extended backpacking this summer. I'd like one that is freestanding, has a vestibule, and has enough interior space for two people to sleep comfortably. What are the lightest tents in this category? Jim McCreary Cazenovia, New York

A: Keep in mind that the vestibule and free-standing requirements both add weight, making the sweet spot in this category around six pounds. Still, some tents creep a bit below that weight. One of the best choices is the Sierra Designs Orion AST ($225). It fits two comfortably, has a single front door (lighter than doors on each side) and a small vestibule that can handle a few pairs of boots and maybe a small pack. Very sturdy and goes up easily. And, if you wish, you can leave the inner canopy behind and take only the fly and poles. Another appealing tent is Mountain Hardwear's new Approach ($315). Very light-four pounds, 12 ounces-but perhaps a little cramped inside as it is quite low (35 inches at the peak).

If you're willing to put in some stakes-and face it, ANY tent must be staked out to be secure-you can save pounds. Hilleberg's Nallo, for instance, is an extremely rugged two-person tent that weighs only three pounds, 12 ounces. It's a little expensive at $425, but well designed and made with first-class materials. Or, you could get an MSR Zoid 2 ($199), based on the successful Walrus Ultralight tent designs. It weighs just over four pounds and ventilates well. Not a tent for weathering long storms-few two-person tents are-but a good, light tent.

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