It depends. Are we talking about a tent for use on a warm sandy beach in Baja, or something for more serious conditions when kayaking in, say, Alaskas Prince William Sound?
Mountain Hardwear Casa 4
Casa 4 Tent
If the former, then definitely something big and airy. Keltys Screenhouse 10 ($200; kelty.com) offers protection from bugs and sun but lets in plenty of warm breezes. Its roomysix feet, four inches tall at its peakand has drop-down interior panels that you can position if you want some privacy for changing into swim gear. It doesnt have a floor, so youd probably want to get some cots if you plan to sleep in it.
For a little more shelter, I like REIs Hobitat 6 tent ($339; rei.com), new last year. As the name suggests, it can sleep six pretty comfortably. Its a tall tentagain, six feet, four inchesbut fairly sturdy thanks to its aluminum frame. It offers good ventilation and protection from the rain. It could use a bit more of a front porch/vestibule, and the four poles are enormously long when unfurled for set-up. But its a well-made and good-looking tent. Its great for the beach or other family-camping situations.
For somewhat more severe conditions, choices range from lower-profile family style tents to more traditional backpacking models. A good choice for sea kayaking, for instance, would be Mountain Hardwears Casa 4 ($320; mountainhardwear.com). Its a big four-person tent, but one that can be staked out and could ride through a pretty severe storm. And at around ten pounds, its manageable for stowing into a boat. Or, if you really expect some stormy weather, Keltys Pagosa 4 ($260) sleeps four but has a turtle-like profile to shed rain, plus a full-coverage fly. But it also has good ventilation for warmer nights.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.