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tent question

-- Last Updated: Feb-12-13 10:53 AM EST --

I am in the market for a new lightweight tent to kayak camp with. I want a solo tent. I currently have an Alps and it has been awesome, bone dry (it has poured every time i have camped on the coast of Maine) my only issue is it's not free standing, so i am in the market for a free standing solo light weight around $300. A local shop is pushing Big Agnes. Anybody want to share tent stories or info. that would be helpful? I like to buy from my local people, but have not much experience in the different types of tents out there.



  • You probably know this
    but a solo tent is a two person tent if you want any room at all inside. My wife and I use a three person tent.
  • Big Agnes
    -- Last Updated: Feb-12-13 12:05 PM EST --

    makes good tents and is touting a greener manufacturing process. Not sure how for realz it is, but it gave me warm fuzzies when I bought mine. Should be able to come into what you want for considerably less than $300, and I'll make another suggestion. I recently had a dilemma in that I wanted an UL shelter for canoe camping. What I didn't want was to spend $300 for a silnylon tarp as that just didn't make sense for me. What I ended up doing was buying a Big Agnes Lynx Pass 3 and having this gentleman http://shumateshelters.com/ make me an anklet for it. He's a super nice guy and did a good and prompt job for me. Now I can set up the whole tent or just use the fly, poles and anklet without needing the footprint. My main motivation was to save the tent floor from the ravages of Roll-A-Cot vs gravel bar, but this arrangement also saves weight and space, and now I have a tent and an UL shelter for $200. I'm very happy with how it turned out and I think this might be a good option for you. Happy hunting.

  • being very short and having a bivy style
    tent, anything else feels roomy. I do well with little, and can keep extra stuff in the kayak if needed. Not sure about the anklet thing...what about rain and bugs? it seems nice for a group shelter, but don't think i would need that. Cool idea though.
  • Options
    Am currently
    Doing my own tent research and Big Agnes was well regarded. Have decided against 4 season and am now looking at MSR Mutha Hubba as a good option based on price, size, well regarded manufacturer and water proofness. The Mutha Hubba got a lot of positive reviews. It was recommended to wash out the tent poles if am doing any kayakinging as they would never separate otherwise. Have decided on a 3 person tent for 2 people for that extra room.
  • MRS Hubba 1
    is looking good. Again...i don't hardly any room, plus this tent would save me over $100.
  • REI?
    if you are looking for a tent to use for beach camping, forget about Big Agnes - I don't know all thier models, but from what I've seen,they are not what I would call a true free standing tent - though they are sorta free standing, but you need to use a lot of stakes to pull out the sides and corners to make them livable and that's not going to work well in sand or rock

    I Have a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 (two person tent) that I use as my solo backpacking tent, because of the light weight; great for backpacking - I would never consider taking it canoe camping unless it was the only tent I have (and I hava a dozen or more tents). Of the tents I have, that would fit your requirements, I'd recommend the REI Quarter Dome T-2. signigicanlty more room than the BA tent, and free standing - you could set it up and not use any stakes for the vestibules if you wanted to, though its obviously better if you at least stake out the vestibules. It is the tent I take to Quetico on my solo trips there, for various reasons - quick to set up, lots of room inside for gear, and roomy to sit up comfortably, relatively small footprint, and two doors, so if a door zipper were to blow out, I have door #2 to use after duct taping the broken zipper. Weight and size are more than the BA tent, but still reasonable enough for kayak camping. cpmpared to my Fly Creek tent, it feels like it has half again as much room inside, and I have used it reasonably comfortably for two people from time to time.
  • REI Half dome 2 person
    I've got this one and really like it. Very quick to set up and light weight. 2 person tent that's great for one.

    For real comfort though, I take my Hennessey hammock!
  • Big Agnes, never again
    I bought a Big Agnes Parkview 3 tent and used it about a half dozen times. The tape used to heat seal the seams on the rain fly just simply peeled off--every inch of it--rendering the tent completely useless. So, I purchased an REI tent to replace the Big Agnes. I should have gone with REI to begin with, because you can always count on REI to stand behind their products.
  • I have the BA Copper Spur....
    UL tents in the 1, 2 and 3 person sizes. I've been using them for a few years now.

    The Copper Spur UL-1 is a good fit for me as its long, has a nice ceiling height and the steep walls give a goodly amount of usable interior room in which to move about.

    I've been in some pretty nasty weather in the backcountry of the Tetons and Yellowstone during early and late season trips. No troubles, the tents performed nicely.

    Highly recommend them.
  • How do they work?
    Is the anklet a webbing outline of the tent floor with loops/grommets for the fly's poles? Hard to tell from the pictures...
  • Exactly
    -- Last Updated: Feb-12-13 1:24 PM EST --

    Pretty simple concept really, but I couldn't buy the tools and materials to make one for what he charged me. He can make it to fit any tent. He just needs measurements between poles if it's for a tent he's never made one for.

  • Options
    LLBean Microlight FS
    FS=freestanding. Saw one in their outlet store for $139. I think EMS may also be making a knock-off of the MSR Hubba family.
  • I use the Marmot Limelight 3
    for two of us camping and they make a two man version. The vestibules are not freestanding but you will have no trouble finding rocks to use as a deadman.

    Freestanding is not what you want necessarily on the Maine Islands. (none of which have sand camping btw except if the tide is out and you sleep fast) A good set of many exterior tie outs can be helpful in sour weather. Tie one end of a line to the tieout and the other to a set of rocks..

    I also have a North Face Tadpole 23 that is a more freestanding version of the veritable Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight. All is freestanding except the long entry vestibule. Again deadman the tie out points.

    The Hubba Series of all mesh tents (I have an older Hubba Hubba) is too sloppy inside. I nixed Hubba just for that reason..its a true one man tent with no room for splash errors.

    You might visit a North Face Outlet (Freeport) and also Ragged Mt (Intervale) or IME(North Conway). The latter two have high quality consignment tents from time to time.
  • great ideas Kayamedic
    -- Last Updated: Feb-12-13 4:38 PM EST --

    i would like free standing for a couple of reasons though...one of them being you can easily move to find even ground, hate that when you are all set up and then you realize that you are on a slope. not easy to move the type tent i have, it's actually not even worth it. But free standing would be so much nicer for such a thing. also would be much easier for camping on platforms. The one i have is destined to my neice so while i am in the market, i want one that should cover all my needs. I do plan on anchoring, but would like options.

  • We (not an I) used the Limelight
    on chickees on our just concluded Everglades trip. The ease of setup was a great asset, plus the tieoffs were sometimes necessary..

    Chasing a tent into the water after its left a chickee is not a fun sport in my book. While a freestanding tent is said to be essential for them, it IS possible to tie to the floor board ends.

    Do you have a preference for end entry or two side entries?
  • Mountain Hardware Trango
    is the tent that I have use for about 10 years now. There is a 2man, 3man and 4man. They are not for summer camping. But for fall, winter and spring, they are great tents. I have used my 3 man for many years and it has held up well. It is a 5 pole tent and very stable when all staked out in extreme weather. Not light. Not compact in the sack. But rugged and durable. It is a free standing tent except you have to stake out the vestibules. This is s tent that can bring you through the worst weather you can imagine.
  • My tent wardrobe
    is the Limelight 3 for summer duet use, the Trango 3.1 for spring fall duet use and the 2 man North Face for solo spring fall use . The Hubba Hubba is reserved for true summer where no sand is anticipated. Before I got wiser I camped in Quebec with it in May and nearly froze..to its credit it did not cave in with the snow.

    The Trangos are the beefiest. They are true mountaineering tents. But on a chickee you might cook.

    I am not sure if the OP wants to chickee camp in Florida or GA but you do need a fly there..otherwise the dampness will soak your sleeping bag. (I tried going flyless). Some mesh is a plus in this situation. The Trangos have none and the fly comes down to the ground..a real asset in lousy cold weather.
  • Quarter Dome UL
    They advertise it as a two-man tent. More like one-and-a-half.

  • I spent 3 weeks on the ground...
    Due to a brand new Big Agnes sleeping pad. It failed on day 4 of a 26 day trip, delaminated and couldn't be field repaired. I wouldn't buy anything Big Agnes ever again, but that's just me. It was also the third pad I had from them that failed, I should have learned the first time, but they were so compact and comfortable for the time. I've since switched over to a exped.

    I spent three months in a MSR Hubba Hubba tent in Chile, and it performed perfectly despite not being the best tent for the wet\windy conditions down there. If camping on a sandy beach, I'd wake up to a tent that was more sandbox with all the sand blowing through. It did blow flat during a few gusty nights, but always sprang back up.

    For nasty weather nothing beats a full on 4 season tent, no breeze cranking through the tent all night, no endless flapping all night. I've spent a lot of time in the MH Trango tents, pretty awesome. As are the Hillbergs, but so expensive. I cheaped out and found a Marmot Widi 2 that seems pretty good, kind of a tube tent 4 season tent, but can open up a big side panel to get lots of ventilation and access for nicer weather.

    NEMO designs out of NH seems to making some pretty burly little tents that would stand up to a bit of weather, and have more panels in addition to the mesh that's typical of other manufacturers.


    For kayak camping I usually add 3 or 4 feet of p-cord to tie down points to stack rocks, and lots of p-cord on the guy out points to tie to either a rock pile or whatever anchor is available. A well set up tent doesn't make as much noise or flap around in the wind all night. I carry extra cord to make sure I get a good set up. I've seen people who carry small eye-screws with them to tie into logs or wood platforms to get a good anchor point.

    For hiking I'm looking into a UL tarp setup, and a lot of manufacturers are making mesh inserts for the more popular tarps to keep the creepy crawlies out. I'm thinking if I can find something that will handle a bit of wind, I'll use this as my nice season kayak and hiking setup, and keep the four season tent for the kayak trips to places with a little more weather.



  • MEC Tarn 2
    -- Last Updated: Feb-13-13 12:12 AM EST --

    Canada's Mountain Equipment Co-op has the Tarn2 for $219 - great value, imho. Have used one for years, in wind and rain - when paired up with the Guide tarp, it's bombproof.

  • Don't get the Black Diamond....
    "First Light". After a lot of useless research, it seemed to be rated among the best so we got one last year for an expedition Challenge.
    We didn't get to use it for that, but used it on a six day five night trip, and were very disappointed to find that the inside wall would get soaken over night.
    We called them about it when we got back, and they passed it off saying that it just needed more ventilation. We had lots of ventilation and it didn't make any difference.

    Jack L
  • Thanks everyone
    Little nervous to buy an EMS product, sounds like they are going out of business, selling out to Bob's. they laid off over 100 employees.
  • No inside news but if EMS is going
    out of business, why did they open a second store recently in Portland Maine?
  • Also a new store in Bourne, Mass.
    Jack L
  • EMS
    not really sure why they would do that, we headr it the WMUR news about 2 weeks ago. They are closing the headquarters in Peterborough,NH and laid off approx. 116 employees. I noticed that the were having great sales unlike anything i had ever seen them do in the store in Concord, NH.
    Time will tell.
    Don't know only what i saw on the news and in the store.
  • beach camp with caution
    Generally it's better to get behind the first rise or dune.
  • EMS News
    EMs was bought by a private equity firm who ALSO owns Bob's. No stores listed to close as of now.

    The layoffs in Peterborough were associated with the closing of the warehouses. I believe the plan is to consolidate with the warehouses that they already own/service in Wilton, CT.

    For news, read here:

  • Thanks for setting us straight Suz.
  • Options
    Back to the OP's question,
    I have used a MSR HubbaHubba as a solo tent for years and am quite happy with it. True, now that I love hammock camping it gets less use but I love the roominess (I am a Big Guy) and gear storage room.

    I will be doing a cycling trip on the GAP trail from Pgh to Cumberland and back this June, and for the longest time I lusted over a MSR Hubba. But it is essentially a tall bivvy, only 26" wide and I got to thinking how "close" it would feel on a humid and rainy night. The HH is very well ventilated, and I have been happy when it sheltered me from the rain. And it ventilates relatively well to boot. The H would save about 1 lb, but I can do that by losing weight!

  • MSR Hubba
    This is a great tent for backpacking or kayaking. Very compact and light. My only issue with mine is that you want to leave the rain fly unpacked when not using it. I left mine packed in the bag for about 2 years and when I took it out, it had kind of glued itself together. Took me about 30 minutes to pull it apart. It's a bit gooey but it still works. (The tent was fine.)
  • Who solo?
    A two-person tent fits perfectly in a kayak and is so much more comfortable. I would never take a solo tent kayak camping. In fact I might even take a compact 3-person tent for the ultimate luxury.

    Desirable qualities: two side doors; brow pole (also called a spreader pole---stretches the top out); large vestibules for air flow; simple design with minimum of stakes.

    I've owned these two-person tents that I can recommend:

    Kelty Grand Mesa: light, but front entry and small vestibule.

    Kelty Trail Ridge 2: spacious, tall. Defect: no side pullouts on fly. That can be remedied.

    REI Camp Dome: cheap, rugged, just 2 stakes hot in summer (not enough mesh).

    Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2: My favorite of all. Good headroom; large vestibules for air flow; lots of mesh; rugged and waterproof; simple design (4 stakes); large doors with easy entry; rain doesn't enter when you open the doors. There are tons of positive reviews for this tent. You can usually find it for $99. It is well worth that price, equal in quality to tents costing much more.
  • EMS was doomed
    They were great in the 1970s, but after that they never developed a corporate image that distinguished them, as REI, LL Bean, Cabela's, and others did so well. High prices, uninspiring equipment designs (like tents).
  • Can't you read ?
    The OP is looking for a "lightweight solo tent

  • Why get snarky?
    Reading all..the tents are good for solo.

    Today tents that are marketed as solo tents often are simply a tall bivvy.
  • Totally agree.
    These days when considering tent capacities I summarily remove one person. In my mind two person is tent speak for one person and gear or two persons who don't mind spooning all night.
  • in response to why a solo?
    Price is part of the factor, and my current tent is as 1 person put it "not much more than a bivy".But i am okay with that. I am short and still can get a gearbag in with me just fine. So cheaper and little is good for me.
    Thanks for all your tips..leaning toward the MRS Hubba solo.
  • Mgmnt seldom really looks at details....
    >They are closing the headquarters in Peterborough,NH and laid off approx. 116 employees. I noticed that the were having great sales unlike anything i had ever seen them do in the store in Concord, NH.
    That's so mgmnt can party more vacation-style wkends. You might think I'm joking...well go ahead, but I've seen my share of US Corporate bozos who don't know their business...and relish looking to a company's future plans like our politicians look forward to paying off the national debt.
  • Similar problem when not packed.
    I store all my tents together in a loose condition inside a huge box (no folding, no rolling, no packing of any kind when in storage). All of them have been doing fine for years, but the rain fly of my MSR Hubba has turned gooey and a bit sticky to the touch after just a few years. It started happening after about two years, if I recall. It still works, but I can see how leaving it tightly packed for an extended time would be a disaster. The stuff bag, which is made of the same material as the fly, has had the same thing happen to it.
  • Solo tents and comfort
    -- Last Updated: Feb-15-13 8:57 PM EST --

    I know what you mean. I use a solo tent quite often, though only in the summer because that's the only season my solo tent is good for. Actually, I use the same tent you are considering and I like it a lot (though you might check out my "very slight complaint" about the tent which I posted in response to an earlier remark in this thread). I find that I can put as much overnight gear and clothes to be needed in the morning as I could ever need, along with my shoes, inside the vestibule, and still have more than enough empty ground leftover on which to walk/crawl in and out. Usually I use a solo tent to reduce the weight and volume of stuff that I carry, because sometimes I simply enjoy having less stuff with me. Other times I don't care as much about gear size and load, or perhaps the weather will help me decide to use a two-person tent instead. It's all a matter of what my priorities are for a given trip.

    Anyway, I usually just chuckle when someone is adamant that solo tents are way too small. In most cases when someone says that, my immediate reaction is "okay, here's another guy who became really big on his path toward middle age." That's not an insult to anyone in general or in particular, especially because many of my very good paddling friends fit that description, but of course that's something that colors a person's perception of what size tent is "too small". I didn't become huge in reaching this age, and I also didn't become less flexible as I got older (much the opposite in fact, and that was my choice even more so than not getting bigger), and therefore I can be just as comfortable in a solo tent now as was the case when I was in high school (and even more comfortable for things like changing clothes on account of my greater flexibility). This means I can understand perfectly when a small person says a solo tent is what he/she wants.

  • Too small is very much psychological

    If you are putting a solo tent under a tarp or can run from tent to tarp that is one thing. The tarp gives you "that other view" that we need to keep us sane when the weather turns sour for days.

    OTOH if rolling around and having lots of room inside makes you mentally more comfortable during miserable day long downpours in camp you really do have to consider how your head feels as well as how well your body fits.

    For some a solo tent is not unlike a coffin mentally.

    The newer H tents have a longer fly. When I tried one the H had a short fly and it did indeed soak people.
  • solo tents
    I spent several years camping out of a motorcycle and using a "solo" tent. I understand that it can be done and I did not mind at the time. But the fact is you have more options with a so-called two person tent and there is little or no sacrifice in space or weight for kayaking. YMMV, but it is easier to keep the gear you need dry if it rains and you will have more headroom. So wear a hair shirt if that fits your style. Or make things easier and more comfortable. The cost of doing so is very small.
  • yeah,
    ... that's exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of when I said that the weather can affect my priorities. In summer when I could choose the solo tent, I probably use a two-person tent instead at least half the time.
  • "Why" solo
    Sorry, typo.

    One way to think of it is that the terms "one- person," "two-person," etc. indicate some general measurements rather than the recommended number of people. A 2P is generally about 50" to 54" wide, for example.

    Very few backpackers who backpack alone use a solo tent. I'm guessing that 90% of solo backpackers use a 2P. For a kayak camper, the weight and bulk difference between a 1P and a 2P are insignificant, yet you gain very valuable space with a 2P. For a backpacker saving 2 lbs might make it worth giving up the extra space but most don't want to make that sacrifice. Kayak campers just don't have a compelling reason for the sacrifice.
  • Yes, but I don't write too well
    I meant to say "Why solo?"

    The OP wrote that s/he "have not much experience in the different types of tents out there." So I proposed several tents that are lightweight and compact enough to work well for one person in a kayak.
  • We 2 just finished 2 weeks of "bliss"
    in a 3P tent. I kept wondering how person 3 would have liked all the kicks s/he would have received being in the middle. I love how all the tent diagrams show people lying on their backs with arms at sides and legs extended.
  • Price and fabric
    If you want to reduce the price of a tent, going with a 1P is not the best way to do that because of what you give up. The Hubba is $280. There are many fine 2P's for less than $200. The REI Half Dome 2 is one of the best tents you can buy. It's made of rugged materials and can stand up to abusive conditions (like all REI tents). Same for the Alps Zephyr 2.

    Be aware of the quality of the materials and the thickness of the waterproof coating. Example: the floor and fly of the Hubba are 40D, compared with 75D on the Zephyr.

    If you really want a 1P, consider the Alps Zephyr 1. It has significantly more area than the Hubba (23 sq ft versus 15.5 sq ft) and costs less than half the price.

    If price is a concern, MSR and Big Agnes aren't the best brands for you. Solid, low-cost brands: REI,Alps, Sierra Designs, Kelty, Marmot. Some low-cost Marmots are available at Dick's Sporting Goods.

  • Not only that, ...
    -- Last Updated: Feb-16-13 12:38 AM EST --

    ... back when I paid attention to such things (and I haven't looked at a camping-gear catalog in ages), the diagrams showed the people alternating which direction the head and feet were pointed, JUST LIKE SARDINES IN A CAN. I remember that the diagram for sleeping in a 4-person Timberline showed the people oriented crosswise to the door and alternating like sardines. I have a 4-person Timberline and it's great for two people lying side-by-side with their heads toward the door, especially since the length of the tent is greater than its width. I think three could lie lengthwise if need be, but without alternating like sardines. I sure hope that with four people inside, no one except the one who's blocking the door has to get up in the middle of the night to pee!

    I also remember that the diagrams for some large dome tents showed three people side-by-side and alternating like sardines (no other way to fit three in a row like that), and an additional person oriented at 90 degrees at each end of the first three.

  • Contact MSR
    They may just replace your tent for you, GREAT customer service, which is another reason to go with MSR...
  • All solo tents are not the same size
    For a long time, I used a Eureka Mtn Pass 1XT that was warm (full double-wall) and compact due to use of shorter poles than standard. GREAT for packing into kayak hatch compartments. I bought it from Campmor in either 2003 or early 2004. Last year I finally sold it via craigslist.

    Later, I bought a Hilleberg Unna that is also warm and has a full double-wall structure. I like how it is set up with the fly poled up first, and then the body is hung underneath--good for when it's already raining. It also is a few inches wider than the Mtn Pass 1XT, and boy that few inches is nice to have. Hilleberg refers to the Unna as being a 1-person tent that can host two in a pinch, and I agree with their description. It's a wonderful size for one person and dry bags. But it cost much more than the Eureka tent did.

    So check out the actual product size specs when comparing 1-person tents. They do vary.
  • Maybe bit off topic - but not really
    If, like me, you always travel with a good tarp - one option is to carry just the body of a tent and sleep under the tarp sans tent in good bug free weather and use the tent body under the tarp if it gets buggy. It is not a great option for really bad weather - especially wind, but 99% of the time it works well. Having a nice light big tarp - such as the tarps made my Cooke Custom Sewing - adds a huge amount of comfort to the canoe/kayak tripping experience.
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