GearCamping

The Best Summer Tents of 2017

Portable abodes for every clime

At the foundation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs—shelter. (Photo: Inga Hendrickson)
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Shelters for wherever the trail takes you. (Read more of our in-depth tent reviews.) 

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MSR Access 2 tent (Photo: Courtesy MSR)

MSR Access 2 ($600)

If you haven’t upgraded your hiking shelter in a while, you’re missing out. Weights are tumbling, while living space, durability, and feature sets continue to grow, making for tents that perform year-round. MSR’s Access 2 is at the extreme end of this trend. Until it came along, most options fell into one of two categories: three or four­season. Take a light three-season shelter winter camping and you’ll be cold and miserable. Four-season tents, with their extra poles and thick fabric walls, are heavy—and overkill in the muggy summer months. With the Access, MSR bridges that gap, using top-of-the-line materials to cut heft and beef up performance. Despite weighing half as much as most winter shelters, the Access barely flapped in an alpine windstorm. It took on six inches of slush without a slouch, thanks to the 20-denier fly and floor fabric, and didn’t turn into a sauna during warm-weather outings. Plus, the 29-square-foot volume only hints at the amount of livable space. The poles push all four walls toward vertical and boost the ceiling, so getting in and out doesn’t require crawling. Add two big vestibules and large storage pockets, and a couple of guys with gear were cozy but comfortable. Those details are a testament to the little things invested in this, the only tent you need. 3.7 lbs

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Eureka Suite Dream 2 tent. (Photo: Courtesy Eureka)

Eureka Suite Dream 2 ($250)

Best For: Honeymooning.

The Test: A husband and wife team heading out on a monthlong road trip planned on roughing it. But after pitching this mansion at a walk-in campground on the Olympic Peninsula, things changed. “The truck seemed like a hovel after the tent,” they said. The 40-square-foot interior—ten feet more than a typical two-person tent—is big enough to fit a queen-size inflatable mattress. The couple could sit up and get dressed under the four-foot peak, and the dome shape afforded several feet of elbow room. A triangular space for boots and shoes added more storage. Finally, the media center—with a touch-compatible tablet sleeve—made the tent feel even more like home.

The Verdict: The epitome of comfort camping. 4.4 lbs

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Therm-a-Rest Tranquility 4 tent. (Photo: Courtesy Therm-a-Rest)

Therm-a-Rest Tranquility 4 ($480)

Best For: Car-side luxury.

The Test: Therm-a-Rest took its mastery of the sleeping pad and applied it to a shelter, and we’re impressed with its first salvo. The Tranquility 4 packs into a svelte backpack a welcome change from the bulky, awkward sausages that pass for most car-camping tents. Clipping its three color-coded poles to the body creates a modified A-frame: a five-foot-high pointed roof with walls that bow out to nearly vertical. This sucker has more headroom than a Subaru Outback. The vestibules enclose a foot-wide space in front of each door. They kept shoes and towels dry when zipped shut during a summer shower, then rolled up and out of the way when skies cleared, leaving the huge door to deflect sand blowing off the beach at our campsite. The Tranquility 4 was palatial for two and perfect for three. Families of four: upgrade to the six-person version. 

The Verdict: A solid debut from the sleeping-pad pioneer. 13 lbs

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Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 tent. (Photo: Courtesy Sierra Designs)

Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 ($200)

Best For: Old-school functionality.

The Test: Sierra Designs brought the Clip Flashlight to market more than three decades ago. This second iteration stays true to the soul of its tried-and-true predecessor and adds a few important upgrades. It still isn’t freestanding and needs to be staked upright, but the two hoop poles raise the mesh body higher (42 inches) and wider (52 inches). The single vestibule is bigger, too, and zippers on either side let you roll it out of the way or transform it into an awning. And this version is just as light—and affordable—as the original. “It’s roomy for its weight and price and, most important, stayed dry and stable in a storm,” noted a mountain-guide tester in British Columbia.

The Verdict: A smoking deal for a dependable tent. 3.9 lbs

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REI Quarter Dome Air hammock tent. (Photo: Courtesy REI)

REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock ($219)

Best For: The hammock curious.

The Test: Suspended tents are having a bit of a moment, and while many are gimmicks—painfully claustrophobic and finicky to set up—the Quarter Dome Air leads the pack by several miles. REI borrowed elements from a parachute to create a flat surface that holds its shape well enough that you can sleep on your side without feeling like you’re sinking into a tarp taco. Lightweight stabilizer bars at each end hold the hammock open, while six webbing straps evenly distribute tension. Thanks to the hanging shelter’s intuitive, versatile design, you can sleep on either side—one with a bug fly and one without. From there it’s easy to adjust the fly by pulling a series of straps to snug it low or loosen it for more ventilation. The pièce de résistance? The Quarter Dome Air stows small and light. 

The Verdict: A hanging tent suitable, dare we say it, for backpacking. 3.1 lbs

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Big Agnes Tufly SL2+ tent. (Photo: Courtesy Big Agnes)

Big Agnes Tufly SL2+ ($400)

Best For: Backcountry capability with car-camping comfort.

The Test: Cooked up by a team of women designers at Big Agnes, the Tufly is a tent with every creature comfort you’d want at a drive-in campsite. Think six storage pockets, two overhead media pockets, and generous square footage. But flashy accoutrements don’t mean it lacks grit. Two guides hauled the Tufly into the Vancouver Island alps on a stormy four-day trip. “Might be the best tent I’ve ever used,” said one. “The only negative is that we fought over sides.” While the shelter itself is symmetrical (read: easy to set up), one vestibule is bigger than the other and props into an awning. Truss poles push both doors out, preventing water from sloshing in when you’re entering and exiting. They also lift the side walls to vertical, which makes the Tufly especially roomy. 

The Verdict: A two-person tent that lives up to its billing. 4.3 lbs

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Nemo Hornet Elite 2 tent. (Photo: Courtesy Nemo)

Nemo Hornet Elite 2 ($500)

Best For: Going solo.

The Test: Unless you plan to spoon all night, don’t attempt to share this Nemo with a mate. But it absolutely shines on fast and light solo missions. Weighing in under two pounds and packing down smaller than a water bottle, the Hornet Elite has ample room for a soloist and all their gear. Camped on a hike-in surf beach in pouring rain, we kept a fully stuffed pack inside and still had room to stretch—an impossibility in most one-person tents. The two doors and 12-square-foot vestibules seemed luxurious. But treat the gossamer seven and ten-denier fly and tent fabric with respect.

The Verdict: The premium option for the weight-conscious loner. 1.8 lbs

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