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#136204 - 07/13/10 04:10 PM Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome?
Mike1239 Offline
member

Registered: 07/13/10
Posts: 20
I have always wondered: why spend $250 on a tent? Cheap 2 person domes are about $20, have only two poles and can be set up in the dark, pretty much. Light, too! So what do I get extra for $150-$450?

I realize some are for snow camping, but I don't believe all in the higher price range are made for snow.

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#136209 - 07/13/10 04:29 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
Please, take whatever tent you think suits your needs best. If one of your needs is not to spend more than $20 on a tent, then that qualifies as much as any other need.

More expensive tents generally have better materials and will hold up better under stress, strain and weather. Since a tent that collapses, leaks or breaks a pole is pretty much a useless dead weight, most folks here would rather spend more and have something sturdier.

However, it is entirely possible to backpack with no tent at all, or with a 3 mill plastic tarp, or any number of cheap alternatives -- and be happy, so it really does come down to finding your own way of getting out there, that satisfies your idea of the right way for you.

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#136210 - 07/13/10 04:31 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
"So what do I get extra for $150-$450?"

1. The ability to stay dry in a heavy rain.
2. Poles that won't break the second time you use it.
3. Seams that won't rip out the third time you use it.

Having said that, I used a few of those $20 tents back when the budget was a bigger issue than now. After a couple of ugly weekends, I learned that I needed to restrict my trips to fair weather if I wanted to use them. After buying my second cheap tent of the summer and watching it self-destruct, I simply invested in a $40 tarp, which I used happily for about 3 years while I saved up for a good tent (Eureka Timberline, $100 in 1985 dollars, and absolutely worth every dollar.)

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#136215 - 07/13/10 04:56 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801

The sub-100 dollar tents are cheaply made, with heavy materials. The poles are heavy, the fabric is heavy, water will come in the seam on the floor, the side, the fly. Most often these are PU coated nylon - PU coatings will degrade and flake away and cannot be renewed, leaving you with a useless tent. Many have partial flys which do nothing in wind driven precipitation. They are often poorly engineered and collect condensation like they were made to do it.

The more expensive tents are made with better materials, have been better engineered to provide ventilation that fights condensation on the interior without compromising rainproofness, and the poles are not so cheaply made they bend or fall apart within a few uses of the tent. And they will be much, much lighter. You get what you pay for, generally. Some of the $120-160 tents like the Kelty 2 person models are decently made but heavy; spend a little more and knock a pound or two off, you have the REI brand Half Dome or one of the Sierra Designs tents. Spend more yet and you get something like the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 at 3 lbs 4 oz (great weight and weather worthy to boot).

the more often you backpack, the more every pound matters. If you go once in a while and are on a budget, look at REI, Kelty, Sierra Designs, and similar priced models. Good value for the money.
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#136219 - 07/13/10 05:54 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: lori]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Lori
nice post. I agree people do not get their moneys worth buying a cheap tent, but what if they only camp in nice weather????? There are $29 tents out there... It cost ten times as much for a OK one.

Anyway - yer not "bashing" cheap tents are you? :)I thought not, you were merely expressing your educated opinion yes? I think thats what we come here for.
Keep it up
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#136222 - 07/13/10 06:53 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Jimshaw]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Well... if you don't need a waterproof light shelter, why take any tent at all? There are bugnets with zipper and floor for thirty bucks. A tent should be weatherproof or it's not worth carrying. It's a "shelter" right?

Yep, I've hiked with a lot of cheap tents. Never used one since I was a kid. One guy on a group hike strung up a tube tent on a nylon rope - the rope kept stretching, the tent kept flapping and keeping him awake. He took down the rope and used the tube tent as a ground sheet, for which purpose it actually worked better. Another guy brought a kid's spongebob tent. He busted the zipper on the first zip. Since it was nice out, he had no other troubles, but had to put up with bugs.


Edited by lori (07/13/10 06:55 PM)
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#136229 - 07/13/10 08:23 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
Mike1239 Offline
member

Registered: 07/13/10
Posts: 20
I haven't run in to any construction issues, but haven't camped in bad weather in a cheap tent that I can remember. Wanted to make sure it wasn't just a name brand as far as the cost, since I don't really care!

I would prefer to just sleep in the open but going to an area that has grizzlies and black bears, so might need a tent. Rather have them sniff the tent than me! Probably will just be camping right now, not sure if we'll backpack. We might though.

I have a Noah's tarp by Kelty, I think, any way I could work this in with anything? New tents smell bad so I got this. Maybe not the brightest thing I ever did, but if it will work, noticed the tarp suggestion, might not be a bad idea. Maybe put it on top of a cheap tent for bad weather, since this and a tent would still likely be under 8lbs., or about the same as a low end good tent.

An overnight trip might not need a good tent so much but , yeah, an extended trip if it broke or if you got wet and died from hypothermia, you would be better off with a good tent!

How would I use the 3 mil plastic or the tarp? What does everybody think of camping in the open in bear country?

Would camping in the trees keep the rain from going horizontally? Could I rig up a better rainfly?

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#136241 - 07/14/10 12:27 AM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By Mike1239
I haven't run in to any construction issues, but haven't camped in bad weather in a cheap tent that I can remember. Wanted to make sure it wasn't just a name brand as far as the cost, since I don't really care!

I would prefer to just sleep in the open but going to an area that has grizzlies and black bears, so might need a tent. Rather have them sniff the tent than me! Probably will just be camping right now, not sure if we'll backpack. We might though.


No tent will protect you from a bear. Sorry. It's an illusion.
Trust me - I sleep in the open in grizzly country frequently.


Quote:

I have a Noah's tarp by Kelty, I think, any way I could work this in with anything? New tents smell bad so I got this. Maybe not the brightest thing I ever did, but if it will work, noticed the tarp suggestion, might not be a bad idea. Maybe put it on top of a cheap tent for bad weather, since this and a tent would still likely be under 8lbs., or about the same as a low end good tent.

An overnight trip might not need a good tent so much but , yeah, an extended trip if it broke or if you got wet and died from hypothermia, you would be better off with a good tent!

How would I use the 3 mil plastic or the tarp? What does everybody think of camping in the open in bear country?

Would camping in the trees keep the rain from going horizontally? Could I rig up a better rainfly?


You can do just fine with a larger tarp rigged over a couple of trekking poles or sticks, as long as you're not incredibly exposed to wind. Wanna go on the cheap and be comfy and dry?

Start here:
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___20069

you can do fine with that sleeping on the ground with it rigged right. put it over this:

http://www.imrisk.com/testhammock/testhammock.htm

and you're more comfy. You'll need a pad in it to keep your bottom warm.
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#136244 - 07/14/10 01:31 AM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
verber Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/04
Posts: 269
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
I typically haven't seen a large premium for "name brand" tent. As others have indicated, the more expensive tents are typically made from more expensive materials (typically better performance vs weight) with higher quality construction.

In nice weather, anything will do. Many of us just cowboy camp (sleeping bag on top of a ground cloth) when the weather is nice. As others have indicated, the cheap tents typical show their flaws when you really want them to protect you.

Personally, I want a shelter that gives me the protection I need, leave me as connected to my environment as possible, and gives me a "just right" amount of protected space since too much is hard to set up, and too small makes in uncomfortable to manage in bad weather.

As to sleeping in a tent -vs- tarp in bear country... there have been some studies / analysis of bear encounters done over the last few years. I can't find them right now but my memory is that there was only a minor reduction of risk when using a tent -vs- open tarp. The much more significant issues where food (and other smelly things) being place away from sleep site, and that larger parties (>=3 is my memory) have a significant lower chance of an encounter.

I tend to recommend ultralight / tarptent type shelters.

--mark


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#136246 - 07/14/10 02:41 AM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Like most consumer items tents have a point of diminishing returns. A $300 tent is not twice as good as a $150 tent but if you want that extra refinement you have to pay.

Personally, I have been using a $50 Coleman 7'x7' dome for over ten years. My whole family slept in it when the kids were young. It works for me because I don't push its design limits. I have other more expensive tents too. But when the weather is nice and I don't care about weight I still reach for the Coleman.

I think your original question is rather incomplete and overly simplified because you did not specify any requirements. Does your tent have to be light? Do you need bug protection? Do you camp if rain is in the forecast?

Sure you can buy that $20 dome and it may work fine for you.....until you ask it to do something it wasn't designed for. Like being durable or withstanding high winds.

Price and true cost are not the same thing.
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If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#136252 - 07/14/10 08:22 AM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Trailrunner]
Otis Hiker Offline
member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 24
Loc: MA
If there's one thing I've learned while getting into the sport of backpacking/hiking its that you get what you pay for. Obviously there are times when you can buy that item that is 1/4 the price of the top of the line (like some tents/packs/cookware) but in general the more expensive items are lighter, convenient, and will last much longer. Also I've found that the companies that produce these higher end items stand behind their product more if you were to have a problem with it (like Katadyn when my water filter broke...sent me a replacement part for FREE)

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#136271 - 07/14/10 01:56 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
If you want the best tent without a weight concern, get a springbar. They will take a heavy Wyoming wind and keep you dry with lots of space inside. They will also last a lifetime. Too bad they weigh around 40 lbs and cost $500.

For backpacking you want aluminum tent poles (fiberglass breaks too easily) and fabric that won't leak and is light. You can luck out and find a tent around 3.5 lbs that fits this and is less than $50, but it is very difficult.

But, if you are only car camping, just buy any tent and throw a big blue tarp over the top.
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#136279 - 07/14/10 02:50 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
Mike1239 Offline
member

Registered: 07/13/10
Posts: 20
As far as weight, I'd like to do more backpacking, so it is a concern. I would prefer to sleep in the open, but should probably get some bug protection.

The small 2 person domes seem light and with two poles are extremely easy to set up, so I'd like to go with one of those. But you can't really afford to get wet, and weather is tough to predict.

I don't really want a roommate so I prefer a smaller tent. 5x5 is fine if you sleep diagonally.

What about asphyxiation with throwing a tarp over a tent? are tarps airtight?

If I'm driving to the campsite or hiking less than 5 miles to it , probably wouldn't freeze to death if I got wet, just go back to car. but for an overnight trip, need to stay dry. Concerned about hypothermia.

Thanks for all the good replies so far!

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#136288 - 07/14/10 04:08 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I'm going to chime in here...

I have several old K-Mart tents that I have beat the snot out of and camped in nasty thunderstorms and never ending rains and they have held up amazingly well. They are all simple 2 man dome tents.

I took one and set it up last Fall in the forest behind my house where my neighbors and I have a campsite. I've only slept in it a few times since then, but I've been in and out of it quite a bit, and it has continued to stand and stay dry in hard rain storms with 30-40 mph winds, some small ice storms (1/4"), and some pretty good snow storms (6-8"), and it's still standing up down there now and still doing pretty good, and it's probably ten years or more old now.

None of them are very light, probably close to 6 pounds, but I'm just saying, they will work...

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#136349 - 07/15/10 11:54 AM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
bmwrider Offline
member

Registered: 07/31/08
Posts: 94
Loc: Michigan, just N of detroit
Just remember that a tent without a full coverage raifly will expose the inner wall to the rain and allow water to saturate through the tent and into anything touching that part of the tent. in a fullcoverage rainfly double wall tent you and your gear are not touching the tents outer wall

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#137449 - 08/09/10 03:04 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
Ol Dirty Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/08/10
Posts: 8
Loc: Rockingham County; NC
I don't have much to add, but this thread is great.

I don't have experience backpacking, but I have been car and boat camping for over fifteen years now. I've used plenty of cheap tents over the years. Many were loaners or gifts. I've camped in extrema rain storms, sometimes for more than a week at a time, with them and was able to stay dry by implementing tarps, bungees and ropes. I've never used an expensive tent, but from my experience I would say that it's probably cheaper, and a time saver in the long run to get a nice tent made to endure the elements rather than buying a cheap tent, and combining it with tarps etc.

That's just the thoughts from my experience though, to each their own.

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#137479 - 08/09/10 10:28 PM Re: Why an expensive tent? Cheap dome? [Re: Mike1239]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Cheap tents or tarps or no tent at all are fine in good weather. I've slept in just a bag and light bivy sack (BD Winter Bivy) on snow (on my two pads, of course). If I was industrious enough, I could just take a shovel (I do anyway) and build an igloo in winter, but a tent is far easier to set up.

Where the difference comes in is in bad weather. I have a five pole winter tent with full rain fly and vestibule. When staked down, I think it could withstand almost anything except hurricane force winds. I've spent some time in pouring rain in a Sierra Design Flashlight; not the ideal tent for rain (no vestiblule), but waterproof.

I've read too many accounts of leaking tents, snapped poles and torn flys to put much faith in cheap tents. Car camping? Sure, why not, you've got a bailout shelter (your car) nearby, so if the tent comes apart, you aren't going to die from exposure.
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