I need a new tent - any suggestions

I have a Eureka Backcountry II. It has served me well but while camping the other night I noticed lots of micro holes in the nylon. Also, I have given up any dreams of hiking (I’ve tried it but I just don’t like to hike) so this will be used for beach camping from my kayak and car camping. In other words, weight is not that much of an issue nor is pack size as I will soon be upgrading to a more voluminous kayak. Ease of setup IS still important and, and so too is propensity to stay put in strong winds. I almost invariably camp solo but if it rains or what not, I like to be comfortable (like, not rubbing the ceiling with my head when I sit up). So I’d like some headroom and enough floorspace that I can have my clothes laid out, my laptop, that sort of thing. Anyhoo, does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

When I went looking for a tent I had these criteria…
2 person, even though it would be just me
2 vestibules. One as a door, one as a closet for gear.
Simple pole set-up. Pole clips, No pole sleeves
Min. of 42 inch ceiling height. I’m only 5’5", so you may want something bigger?
Full coverage fly.
Smaller packed size and under 5 pounds. Since I’m packing this inside my SOT kayak, I wanted a lower bulk tent.
Under $300

What I bought was a Big Agnes Blacktail 2. Love this tent, but as usual, Big Agnes appears to be phasing this tent out. I got it on sale with a free footprint from Campsaver. There appear to be some still around via Amazon. I particularly enjoy the stash doors, and the ceiling pockets in the tent. The ceiling pockets are super handy for sticking small stuff in an easy to reach place.

If I was buying again and the Blacktail wasn’t available, I’d go with REI. I have two REI stores close by, and their stuff usually holds up pretty well. I’d go with the Half Dome 2 Plus.

The REI Half Dome is a very good tent and not super expensive. And REI has that lifetime warranty, so if it ever develops those pinholes after years of use, you can send it back.

Also check out the Marmot Tungsten 2. It is also a pretty good value, as is the Mountainsmith Mountain Dome 2.

I have been using an REI half dome 2 plus for a while now. It’s quite versatile and capable in all conditions (I’ve used it in high winds and driving rain on more than one occasion). It’s not the lightest but by no means a porker. Perfect for kayak camping (my primary use). I feel it’s the best mix of features, size, quality and price.

@BrianSnat said:
The REI Half Dome is a very good tent and not super expensive. And REI has that lifetime warranty, so if it ever develops those pinholes after years of use, you can send it back.

I will second the REI Half Dome or Half Dome Plus (slightly larger and heavier). If you happen to be a REI Co-op member their annual sale should be coming up in under two months. That would bring you at least 20% off the price plus you can use your dividend.

Another good tent to look at would be the Nemo Galaxi 2.

I’ve come to love the lowly old Eureka! Timberline tents. The dome tents do give more head room and, for using a laptop as you mentioned you might, could perhaps offer you a greater advantage.

But Its hard to beat Timberlines for set up speed… They stay dry enough, are affordable, the XT series come with a single vestibule rain fly (and a second add-on vestibule can purchased separately). I like the two door versions because a) if two people are sharing it (a tight squeeze in the Timberline II with clothes) it is nice not to have to climb over each other to get to the side the door opens on and b) those zippers will wear out eventually but not simultaneously. I prefer tents that clip to the frame rather that attaching by sleeves: I believe its true that sleeves are sturdier (as in snow) and perhaps quieter in a strong wind, but threading poles through sleeves as the storm front winds are gusting with the rain starting to fall is a less than enjoyable enterprise and threading through sleeves is slower than clipping even in ideal weather. I’ve used both and decided I prefer fast to quiet, though there are reasonable people who’s opinion differs. Get longer stakes for camping on windy sand beaches. If you camp in windy conditions a lot (as on ocean beaches or L. Superior), its not a bad idea to add an extra attachment loop to each side of the rain fly.

Happy shopping!
PS: I second the above - REI is great on warranties.

I’ve owned 12 tents and used a lot of others (i was an outdoor guide for years and often have gone on trips where I shared someone else’s tent.) Also sold many of the major brands for a number of years at an outfitter and learned a lot about how they are designed and produced from manufacturer training.

I have 4 now and my favorite for kayak camping is a Marmot, I won’t bother mentioning the model because it is more than 12 years old and they don’t make that exact model now but they have many like it, spacious 2-person styles under 5 lbs and with a generous vestibule for storage and a full mosquito net roof with ground level full fly. Marmot’s quality and designs are excellent, the tents are simple and quick to set up.

We took that tent to the Everglades a few years ago and just as we were starting to set up camp a storm blew in with wind and driving rain. We were able to set up the tent and clip on the fly in under 5 minutes, diving inside with our sleeping bags and pads just as it started coming down like crazy. All night long there was thunder and lightning, the wind blew hard, and the storm poured on the tent like we were under a waterfall. When we got up in the morning it had stopped. The campground looked like a disaster area, with huge puddles everywhere, collapsed tents and our neighbor campers draping wet bags and gear on all the picnic tables and fences to dry out. Everything inside our tent was completely dry – no leaks, no rain blown in under the fly and no condensation. Best performing tent I ever had for storm conditions, bar none.

I also lived in that tent for 3 weeks straight at an archaeology field camp in Wyoming one summer and was very comfortable in it, never felt cramped. The seam sealing is excellent on the tent, it pitches tight as a drum, has very good stitch quality and reinforcement at stress points, quality zippers that never snag and packs down to a size that fits easily in a kayak hatch (poles break down very short). It has anodized aluminum poles – you don’t want fiberglass if you are going to camp in windy conditions.

BTW, the leading culprit in pin holes appearing in your tent are tiny sparks that drift up from camp fires, especially when people use crappy wood like pine, burn a lot of paper trash and food wrappers without watching it carefully or build giant raging bonfires far beyond what is needed to cook or warm themselves… Always pitch your tent at least 15 feet from where you will have an open fire and make sure it is not downwind from the fire ring. Nylon and polyester melt on contact with hot sparks and cinders. We used to see this regularly when I worked in outfitter shops – people bringing back their fairly new tents claiming the fabric was “defective”. The first thing we would ask was whether they built big bonfires at their campsite – the question usually resulted in the “D’oh” look from the customer.

I recently bought a new tent so only one trip with it so far but to me it looks to be the strongest tent I could find being a 3 season tent. Only way to go stronger would be a 4 season BUT 4 season tents don’t have decent ventilation for summer use. ALPS Mountaineering Extreme 2 Tent. By stronger I mean wind resistance. I wanted something that could take 40 mph and higher winds.

I’ve had this MSR tent for a year or so. Solidly built, and while still small, quite roomy for one guy. Nice mix of venting and solid panels… Vestibule zippers have rain gutters which really work. Polyester fly means your rain fly stays taut. MSR stands behind their stuff. This tent was sent to me free after I had a problem with another tent of theirs, which is no longer being made.

MSR Elixir 3 Tent


If you want something a bit larger I have an REI half dome 4, My wife and I have used it in the everglades canoe camping, and I have also used it for 3 while kayak camping at the beach on the coast. it would be small for 4. Most of the time a friend and I use a Marmot 3 man, but I don’t know the model. Both of these tents have held up to stiff winds. I use an REI passage 2 or eno hammock when camping by myself.

I should add those big plastic stakes work well in sand, or for compactness I use the REI snow stakes as they nest and 8 take up less space than 2 of the common plastic ones.

I find the current tent offerings of most manufacturers to be undesirable in one way or another. Having large sections of mesh means that you lose heat on chilly nights. I much prefer tents that have double doors with a mesh outer door backed by a fabric inner door, so that you can adjust for temps as you need.

That mesh also means that when you are putting up your tent in the rain, the wet goes straight into the inside before you can get the fly in place. There are a few makes where the inner tent and the fly are pre-attached and then the poles form and exoskeleton over the fly, not under it. Drier, and goes up faster.

Free-standing is another criteria for me. If I camp on hard rock surfaces or sand where pegs can’t be placed, then free-standing allows for easy assembly, and then “pegging out” with heavy rocks or tie-outs of some sort.

The only tents available these days that tick these boxes are the Hillebergs like the Allak, Staika, Soulo, the Exped Orion, and nothing else that I can remember. Big Sky Chinook has all but the double doors.

I have been using an old Mountain Hardwear HammerHead 2 that does all this except the exoskeleton. All of these tents are heavy and bulky and expensive. Mine is slow to assemble. But I am comfy cozy at night when it is cold and windy.

Also, I wish that companies would make their inner tents 90" long. I’m 6’2" and need all the length I can get. And wish they would make a solo tent that is 30-35" wide to accomodate a 25" pad with a bit of breathing room.


I had a hybrid single/double wall tent for awhile. Sierra Designs Lightning 2

It was an interesting design, and went up in a flash. It did have the mesh door with inner fabric to zip up or down as needed for warmth or privacy. However, in spite of having plenty of mesh for ventilation, it was a rain forest inside the tent. The inner walls were soaking wet every morning…spring & summer, desert & forest, cool & hot. No matter what I tried with regard to tent placement or leaving the large inner door fully open. I woke up with a wet top quilt and a wet tent interior. I sold the tent.

Seems most tents nowadays are geared towards hikers, tend to focus on weight savings which can affect durability, and the ability to handle the type of weather you get on an exposed beach. And the mountaineering tents are great except they’re often very expensive, and often don’t vent well. I’d love to get a Hillberg Nallo GT, but I’m not about to spend 900 dollars, unless I was going on a major expedition where I really needed a serious shelter.
Would be cool to have a beach specific tent that doesn’t cost a fortune, had a bomber bathtub floor, huge vestibule, can close it down to keep out wind and sand, and fast setup for the rain. All without being too bulky, don’t care about the weight, but bulk is hard to pack. Like a three and a half season tent with a huge vestibule.
The new MSR Access tents looks pretty good, smaller vestibule and pricey, but I like the solid inner wall and light weight. Looks like it would handle a windy night well, while not being quite as bulky and hard to setup as a mountaineering tent.

I got tired of fine sand blown through mesh, so I bought a Hilleberg Unna. It is described as a solo tent that can house two people if necessary, and I agree. There is space for one to sleep comfortably with dry bags all inside, lined up alongside.

With all panels zipped up and the fly on, it is fully double-walled.

Just be aware that ventilation is less than on the mostly-mesh bodied tents.

The tent goes up very quickly, thanks to the Euro style in which poles support the FLY, and then the body is clipped to that. Avoids getting rain on the tent body. You can set up the fly only for when you don’t want the tent body. I think they sell an optional kit that also allows you to set up the body alone, without a fly.

The new MSR Access tents looks pretty good, smaller vestibule and pricey, but I like the solid inner wall and light weight. Looks like it would handle a windy night well, while not being quite as bulky and hard to setup as a mountaineering tent.

I’ve sometimes considered taking a tent like that and modifying it by sewing on a second door out of mesh. Wouldn’t that be cool?


Living in the South I am fine with the mostly mesh lithweight tents. Lived with sand most my life. Been in some high winds without much problem. I have also owned a 4 season mountaineering tent I used in the winter at 5 to 6000’ in the Smokies, and Colorado in the fall at 10,000’. I have pitched my tent with the fly frist and then the tent under it. Takes longer, but a rather rare event here.

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone. I went with the Marmot. Had it out this weekend, including some heavy rain and it performed great.