Gear Guy

What’s a roomy, lightweight tent that’s easy to setup quickly?

I'm fortunate enough to live a half-hour from Shenandoah National Park. Often I'll drive out there after work, park by the side of the road somewhere, walk into the woods, and sleep there for the night. My little travel alarm wakes me in the morning in time to get to work. If the weather is dry, I sleep under the stars, but I like to carry a light tent or tarp for sudden showers. So I looking for a one- or two-person tent that is: 1) Quick and easy to set up; 2) Weather-tight enough to keep me dry in a thunderstorm; 3) Moderately light; and 4) Fairly roomy. Any suggestions? Would a single-wall tent be a good choice? I've looked at the Integral Designs Siltarp too—would that accomplish my purposes? Bill Stell Charlottesville, Virginia


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The way I read this was: “Dear Gear Guy: I often perform small-time stickups and bank heists. My getaways often take me into remote areas, where I find it advantageous to leave the car, travel lightly, and sleep in the woods. My little travel alarm ensures that I’m not late for my parole officer appointment. I am looking for a product that will complement this lifestyle. Yours, Bill.”

Do I have this right, or do I exaggerate? In any event, several products fit the bill. The Integral Designs Siltarp ($55) is really just that—a tarp. You’ll need to figure out how to mount it on hiking poles or tied to trees. It’s a useful thing to have, but my guess is that on a dark and rainy night, with those tracking hounds baying in the distance, it’s not something you want to fiddle with.

In any event, single-wall or double-wall doesn’t matter a whole lot. Single-walls are typically very expensive—most Bibler tents, for instance, are $450 and up. I’d suggest you just get a small double-wall tent. A great choice is the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight ($189), which for various reasons has come up often of late. It’s a very compact two-person tent that sets up quickly and is extremely weather-resistant. And it’s light—less than four pounds. Another good option is L.L. Bean’s little Microlight ($119), a tent that’s similar in design to the Flashlight (two-pole, hoop-style) but designed for one person. Weighs about the same. A third good choice is Mountain Hardwear’s Tri-Light, another solo tent, which also weighs in at sub-4 pounds. Alas, it’s also pretty expensive at $275. But a good little tent.

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