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#96512 - 05/19/08 10:22 PM New Post: Cheap Tents
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Point is.. ..... most tents aren't necessarily worth what they cost.....and the very few super-ultralight super cheapies available in $20-$30 three-pound range......are waaaaay the best value for summer backpacking.....compared with mainline and specialty manufacturers at ten times the price or more, and very similar weights or heavier...

Can anybody say why, for example, the undoubtedly very nice Huba Huba, is 11 times or 15 times more expensive, than a Wenzel Solo, when they are, I would contend, equally functional, assuming summer use.

HH is significantly heavier and only very slightly larger. Yes, I could be wrong and am looking for argument. There may be trollish element here, but on the other hand, I am sincere about my point.

The "Rainbow" to take another popular example, is similarly expensive and only slightly lighter -- and not less constricted in space than a Wenzel, but at best only equally functional, ..or at least that is my contention.

Many (most or all) the numerous other low-end backpacking tents, at Campmoor, for example, definately including most Wenzel models, are neither truly ultra cheap nor ultra light and I think of them as all-around bad bargains.....I can't believe Wenzel Solo is the only ultra-cheap ultralight, but it's all I've seen. Somebody mentioned Cabelas... etc.......I guess there are a few others

Perhaps the contract factories in Asia will soon be supplying the market with more along these lines.....?? Could easily be true and there could be improved ultracheap versions in the offing.... but it hasn't happened so far.

On the other hand, my late, great, sub-four pound puptent was purchased nearly thirty years ago in a large discount department store.......and the Wenzel knocks a pound off that and is somewhat cheaper at twenty or thirty current U.S dollars...

I've almost certainly purchased most or all of my lifetime supply of back packing tents, and have spent perhaps a thousand$$ ??? on various models... Therefore, I'm certainly hypocritical..... But I'm very glad my various tents have included one that was something like the current Wenzel Solo.

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#96513 - 05/19/08 10:55 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
I bought an el cheapo Texsport tent once. The problem with that POS was that the PU coating was too thin. A 5-minute, fairly intense garden hose test didn't reveal any flaws, but a continuous, overnight rain totally overwhelmed the thin PU coating and soaked right into the tent. Luckily, the overnight rain test was in my own backyard and I didn't sleep inside. It took a couple of cotton kitchen towels to soak up the lake inside!

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#96514 - 05/19/08 11:43 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 998
Loc: Australia
By the tone of your post I assume that you have not experienced a night of strong wind or heavy rain inside a cheap tent compared with a Hubba or a Rainbow.
I also have to assume that you are referring to the Wenzel Starlite as your "comparable" product.

First I can tell you for a fact that if one of the various Chinese manufacturers could make a similar tent to the Hubba using similar materials for a fraction of the cost of the MSR they would. There is at least one Hubba Hubba type tent sold by a Chinese company that is almost half of the cost of the MSR, but is heavier (cheaper fly material) and uses cheaper but still aluminum poles.
As far as weight is concerned, the Rainbow is almost twice as light and still offers more space inside (steep walls on the Star Light)
The real weight of the Wenzel is over 4 lbs, BTW...
There is a very big difference in cost and performance between taffeta nylon and fiberglass poles compared with silnylon and Easton tubes.
Take the Rainbow as a comparison. At $225 it is 7.5x the cost of the Wenzel. But that is not a way to judge a product. There are many that have used the Rainbow for more than 50 nights, some well over that. If you work on 50 nights, that is 4.50 per night.
Do some research and you will find that tents like the Starlite are used once or twice ( I have just noticed Ben's comment) and then the owner upgrades or gives camping a miss. That is 10,20 or $30 per night. Makes the Rainbow sound cheap, doesn't it ?


Here is the start of a user review for the Star Light :
The only positives of this tent are that it was really really cheap, and light. That being said, I don't really think it was worth the 30 bucks. I'd rather have put that money toward a real tent. I think it fails in all of the respects that a tent should not: size/comfort, ease of use, weather protection, durability

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/wenzel/starlite/review/6833/

Franco

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#96515 - 05/20/08 04:24 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Colin Fletcher used to say, "This is still an honest industry; you get what you pay for." He's still mostly right (with a couple of minor exceptions.)

When it comes to tents, you may choose two: light, cheap, weatherproof. You can't get all three.

The major flaw in your reasoning is "assuming summer use." However, if you are only going to use the tent in clear, hot weather, or can crawl into the car to sleep if it happens to rain, I still don't think a cheap tent is worthwhile. In those conditions, I'd submit that no tent is needed - just take a groundcloth and sleep under the stars (and maybe some bug netting to hang if bugs are an issue.)

Way back when, I bought one of those cheap Texsport single wall pup tents. It was hot when dry, wet when it rained, and cramped always. I soon went to a 6x8 coated nylon tarp and a piece of Visqueen, and found it far superior (I hung one of those twin-bed sized mosquito nets in it during summer.)

By the way, my choose-two selections are light and weatherproof.


Edited by Glenn (05/20/08 04:25 AM)

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#96516 - 05/20/08 06:47 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
My tent is a 3.5lb, $30, 2 person, one pole (aluminum) tent from Swiss Gear that I bought at Sams. I can't really recommend it because you can't buy it anymore. It has taped seams, but is not made of ripstop. I haven't done the garden hose test yet, I guess I should. I have slept in it several times with no rain. I found that if it is buttoned up all the way, major condensation problems. If you open the vestibule, then no problem with condensation.

Anyways, I can't really agree or disagree to your argument, because I really have never bought and expensive BP tent. Before this one, I had an old pup tent that I got at a garage sale. It was heavy, but I didn't know, I was young. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> I also had a cheap two man dome from coleman. The dome kept me dry in the all day rain of the PNW.

As for the Wenzel Starlite, Walmart is selling it online for $19. Sam's Club is selling a new Swiss Gear that looks a lot like a Hubba Hubba. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#96517 - 05/20/08 07:53 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: finallyME]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
"By the tone of your post I assume that you have not experienced a night of strong wind or heavy rain inside a cheap tent compared with a Hubba or a Rainbow."

Funny you should ask.

I bought a coated nylon pup-tent 29 years ago for $19.99, and almost immediately used it for seven continuous weeks on a bike trip. Subsequently over a period of nearly ten years, it went on a number of week-long trips, and countless weekends.

When my friend unfortunately abandoned it in the jungles of Costa Rica in 1989, the floor had become transparent in places due to abrasion, mainly from beach sand, and the tent had seen plenty of inclement conditions.

I only remember two nights when weather caused difficulty. One involved a heavy snowstorm in April, and one involved a tropical storm a few yards from the beach in Nova Scotia (though protected by a spruce thicket) during which I realized a shortcoming in my seam sealing job that was later rectified.

I'm sure this tent was functionally similar to a "Wenzel Starlight" now available for $20 current dollars. Except that the Starlight is potentially lighter due to its tapered wedge design. However, if I owned a Starlight, I'd ditch the fiberglass poles, one of which I think is an "A-frame," This would save significant weight at no sacrifice of utility.

As to Hubba or Rainbow, I've never used them, but I've owned at least ten other backpacking tents by various "name brand" makers, and slept in a certain number of others. The old puptent was lighter than, for example, the old Sierra Designs Half Moon, which was advertised at about four pounds.

What I've got in mind for the Asian sweat shops, would be improvements on the "Starlight" style wedge tents, possibly to include mass-market dirt cheap SilNylon, which I don't think yet exists.

Free-standing tents are problematic as ultralights, expecially dirt cheap ones. BTW, doesn't North Face, and many others, use Chinese factories?

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#96518 - 05/20/08 08:34 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
magnumopus Offline
member

Registered: 08/14/06
Posts: 16
Loc: New Mexico
Quote:

Many (most or all) the numerous other low-end backpacking tents, at Campmoor, for example, definately including most Wenzel models, are neither truly ultra cheap nor ultra light and I think of them as all-around bad bargains.....I can't believe Wenzel Solo is the only ultra-cheap ultralight, but it's all I've seen. Somebody mentioned Cabelas... etc.......I guess there are a few others


well aside from other issues mentioned in other posts. this is a large part of it.

you've basically tried to build a thesis off of a single tent, whose size/weight/price ratio is quite good. But myself, and i'm sure many others see a bunch of tents we don't want any part of by the same manufacturer and basically get suspicious of it.

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#96519 - 05/20/08 08:41 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
The purpose of a tent is to give guarenteed protection in really bad weather. If you backpack in an area with good weather, low wind, only afternoon storms that allow you to easily dry out after the deluge - you do not need a tent at all! Forget the cheap tent and go with a small tarp that is even lighter.

When a tent is truely needed, it better be bombproof. Tent failure and getting soaked in truely poor conditions is not an option. Think of a 4-day storm at 12,000 feet, above timber.

When I need real protection, I use a Mountain Hardware 2-man, 3-season mountaineering tent at 4# 14 oz. It was about $300 and has withstood many continuous days of horrid weather. It sets up tight as a drum, is very wind worth and offers enough room to sit out several days of weather and has never leaked.

I am quite willing to put my dollars into what I consider a piece of true survival equipment.

For other conditions, I go with my bivy - it is light and still very weather resistent but kind of miserable to be in for continous storms. The bivy is not cheap either - $150.

There are some poor high dollar tents too. I think the issue is quality regardless of price or weight. The materials the tent and poles are made of do matter, as does the design and quality of construction.

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#96520 - 05/20/08 09:29 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
Every cheap tent I've ever wasted my money on has lasted one miserable season, and usually failed catastrophically at a very bad time involving lots of wind and rain. One day you realize that you could have had a good tent for the same money you wasted over the last few years. Then you find out about camping hammocks and give the tent to your wife.
Quote:
Yes, I could be wrong and am looking for argument. There may be trollish element here, but on the other hand, I am sincere about my point.

Be sincere in one hand and...well, I guess you've heard that one.

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#96521 - 05/20/08 09:40 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I probably did not express my opion very well in my last post.

To me the issue is the consequence of tent failure. I would not compare bicycle camping to remote wilderness camping. The factor I look at is my "bail out" opportunties. I do not hear of bicylists dying of hypothermia. There are emergency response alternatives- call on your cell phone, flag down a car, hunker under a bridge. If on the other hand I am 8 days out, at 12,000 feet, 4 days to the nearest trailhead and have not seen a single person in 6 days, if my tent failed, I could die of hypothermia.

I have seen a lot of cheap tents in campgrounds - most of them flapping in the breeze and not performing very well when it actually gets stormy. I have yet to see anyone in a cheap tent in serious mountaineering conditions or in the really remote above-timber back country. Also cold wet conditions are far different than wet warm (Costa Rica).

By the way, I have also tried to sew my own tent and believe me, there is a lot to tent design. My tent was not what I called a success. It became a back-yard toy for the kids. To me, $300 for a high quality tent is a bargin given the design work that went into it as well as the construction and distribution. I guess each of us has his "price point". I have yet to see the added value of going to some of the really high end tents at $600.

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#96522 - 05/20/08 09:53 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Hector]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Hector,

Ground dwellers are so cute when they squabble. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

A good nights sleep would help their dispositions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#96523 - 05/20/08 10:16 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: ringtail]
fritz1255 Offline
member

Registered: 11/05/03
Posts: 78
Sorry to burst any bubbles here, but it appears that a Chinese contractor has indeed figured out how to make more expensive tents, if the Campmor catalog is correct:
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___24951
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___27370
Both the Big Agnes Seedhouse at $289 and the MSR Hubba Hubba at $279 are listed as "imports" (go all the way to the bottom of the product description). Doesn't say from where, but I would refrain from chewing on the zipper pulls. Got to wonder about quality control, given the Chinese practice of using muiltiple subcontactors to do most of the work. Doesn't look like they dropped the price when they switched production overseas......

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#96524 - 05/20/08 01:36 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: fritz1255]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
Switched? Big Agnes tents have always been made in China. And it's these Chinese tents that have built up an enthusiastic bunch of users -- myself included!

Let's avoid mindless broadbrushing here. There are horrible sweatshops there -- and quality manufacturers as well.

BTW, GM, Ford and Chrysler cars are junk! But you don't see me trashing an entire country...

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#96525 - 05/20/08 01:39 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: wandering_daisy]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
" If my tent failed, I could die of hypothermia."

Yeah you could die in the woods. Lotza danger.

Closest I've come to hypothermia was in a 1983 April snow storm in my cheapy puptent. This was due to unbelievable condensation and melting snow. It was nearly ten years before I went back to using down sleeping bags in the off season.

I wouldn't recommend a cheap coated puptent as anything but a "2 1/2 season" shelter.

"Every cheap tent I've ever wasted my money on has lasted one miserable season, and usually failed catastrophically at a very bad time involving lots of wind and rain."

Gee, sorry to hear that. I wore the floor out on mine after ten years of fairly hard use in highly variable conditions. I agree that most cheap tents are junk. But not all.

So if I like them so much, why don't I have one now?

I use mostly tarp shelters, or tarp tents, or whatever the term is.... Mine are much larger and lighter. and more versatile as 4-season shelters. They don't have a floor, so that scene in April can't be repeated.. The condensation and snow-melt just drain into the snowpack or into the dirt, rather than getting trapped inside the tent and underneath my sleeping bag, which is, in anycase protected by a cover with waterproof bottom. I've been foolish enough to spend about $600 --- Gawd! more! on four of them. It's a sickness....

Also, Wal-Mart tents do lack, shall we say.. a certain je ne sai quois???

However, I do miss the insect netting and all I've got along those lines, presently, is a miserable little worn-out one-person tent made from a very poor immitation of Goretex. It cost $180 in 1990, and given a choice at bedtime between it and a $20 Wenzel Starlight, I've no doubt which I'd choose.

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#96526 - 05/20/08 01:42 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
[P]resently, is a miserable little worn-out one-person tent made from a very poor immitation of Goretex. It cost $180 in 1990, and given a choice at bedtime between it and a $20 Wenzel Starlight, I've no doubt which I'd choose. [/quote]

Good that none of us has to choose between these two horrible choices. I'd rather just put my $20 in the bank.

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#96527 - 05/20/08 01:44 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: fritz1255]
Carter Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 355
Loc: Missoula, MT
Quote:
Sorry to burst any bubbles here, but it appears that a Chinese contractor has indeed figured out how to make more expensive tents, if the Campmor catalog is correct:
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___24951
http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___27370
Both the Big Agnes Seedhouse at $289 and the MSR Hubba Hubba at $279 are listed as "imports" (go all the way to the bottom of the product description). Doesn't say from where, but I would refrain from chewing on the zipper pulls. Got to wonder about quality control, given the Chinese practice of using muiltiple subcontactors to do most of the work. Doesn't look like they dropped the price when they switched production overseas......


Don't get too shook up about tents made in China: the two standard shelters for the South Col of Everest are the MH Trango series and the TNF VE-25, and both have been sewn in China for many years.

Bibler tents, often considered the gold standard for "have to live through it" mountain tents, are also now made in China with no discernable drop in quality from when they were made in Boulder.

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#96528 - 05/20/08 02:26 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Carter]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Six user reviews (none mine) on http://www.trailspace.com/gear/wenzel/starlite/

give Wenzel Starlite and average of three out of five possible stars.

Not bad for a $20 tent.

I'd give it four stars -- what the heck...........

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#96529 - 05/20/08 05:15 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
fritz1255 Offline
member

Registered: 11/05/03
Posts: 78
Don't want to sound as though I am putting down Chinese tents - I own three of them, and they are the best tents I ever had. That said, I paid significantly less than I would have if they were American made. Suppliers who have their tents manufactured in China and sell at American prices might do well for a while, but sooner rather than later their supplier will produce a "clone" of their product and sell at a reduced price under a different brand name. Think it doesn't happen now? Look very carefully at the "no name" brands sold at discount stores, and many will look very familiar. Legal protection against this? You would have to thread your way through the maze of subcontractors to figure out even who to sue, and they will be selling under a different brand name before you get there. Chinese tents are a great value, but no way should you pay premium prices for them.

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#96530 - 05/20/08 05:29 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 998
Loc: Australia
Three out of five stars for a $20 tent.It would get 1 out of five it you paid $100 for it.


One reviewer gave it 4 stars but he is upgrading (too small, too much condensation)
Another spent $59 to make it useable but still compares it to a "tube tent"
Here is another 3 star review :
Have used this solo tent on several hikes. Its main advantage is how light it is. Only about three pounds. Getting in and out require you to crawl, and it is only a single wall. I have other double wall tents, but still use this cheap little number. I'm going for a very early spring hike this weekend and the forcast if for rain. I can't wait to see how it holds up.

This guy has not even used the tent ( in the field) , finds it hard to get in and out, but gives it three stars !!!

The other 4 star comes from a guy that uses the tent in fair weather .

Funny that two reviewers mention "about 3 lbs" , to most here there is a big difference between "about 3lbs" and "just over 4 lbs".....



If you had started the thread by stating "for mild weather and occasional camping , for some... a $20 tent will do" I possibly would agree with you , however your inference that a $200 tent is a rip off is at best naive.

As far as the Chinese manufacturing comments are concerned, yes a lot of the best ( and most expensive) tents are made in China, however for the moment because of the cost of materials, don't expect "cheap" silnylon/spinnaker/cuben fiber tents with Easton or DAC poles.

Franco

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#96531 - 05/21/08 06:42 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
Deleted lest the swine get a rumbly tummy on the pearls.

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#96532 - 05/21/08 08:25 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Your cavilier comment about "dying in the woods" smacks of machoism. Am I to read it that you feel a reasonable regard for safety is whimpy? I think it is understood that all of us who backpack have, by virture of participating in the activity, accept a certain amount of unavoidable risk. Reducing that risk where you can is a no-brainer. Hypothermia is a reality and one of the leading causes of death in the wilderness - and your choice of equipment does make a difference.

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#96533 - 05/21/08 09:43 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: wandering_daisy]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
I do think that the dangers of hiking are often overblown, especially in summertime forests, where most people hike most of the time. But that's a really different matter.

What I'm focused on, is that I've spent many months camping (hiking, kayaking and bicycling) over long period in a cheap puptent in a fairly wide array of conditions, and was perfectly satisfied with the protection it offered during summer months.

Met somebody who had bicycled from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia using something almost identical, with equal satisfaction, except for one evening that involved a tornado.

Other people do quite well with plastic sheeting, or $400 tents. End results can be roughly all the same, though the $400 tent is likely to be heaviest alternative.

One August evening, with a tarp, on a wooden tent platform in New Hampshire, I got a lecture from a near-by camper about how in the White Mountains, nothing but a mountaineering tent was truly safe.

He said my use of a tarp was irresponsible because I might need a rescue, thus subjecting people like him (who might rescue me) to grave personnel personal risk.

Thank goodness that particular camping area was patrolled nightly by federal rangers.

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#96534 - 05/21/08 10:52 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Pricing on tents, like many other consumer goods, is subject to a point of diminishing returns. Tent A that costs 15X as much as tent B is not going to be 15 times "better" (and what that really means is up to the individual). That last degree of quality usually comes at a steep price curve.

Any tent will usually do for fair weather camping. But if you want extra strength or lighter weight you have to pay. The Wenzel Solo may do the job for weather protection but there are far lighter alternatives that do the same job......at a price.

Any tent that doesn't perform the job you bought it for is no bargain, whether is costs $20.00 or $2,000.00.

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#96535 - 05/21/08 10:59 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Speaking of overblown, I was literally "overblown" while traversing the White Mountains 13,000 feet (the California White Mountain, a 14'er). The largest recorded gust that day at the weather station on the top of White Mountain was 100 mph! Average wind speed for my hiking hours was 45 mph, average "gusts" 60 mph. In my tent, as the rain started, I was very happy to have one of those $300 mountaineering tents! Quite a few of us out west here backpack extensively above timber or without timber. And the dirty little secret - it DOES rain in the Sierra - downpours too! Occasionally snows heavily in September - like the Donner Party fiasco. And the Wind River Range? - now there is an appropriately named range. And the desert is not very kind either. No trees. Windy. Scorpions. Ugh!

I am not prone to lecture other campers on their habits or equipment. That is a bit out of line. I just watch their tube tent blow away and smile.

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#96536 - 05/21/08 11:21 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1736
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
You don't say where you do most of your tent use but from the tenor of your post, I suspect that you haven't spent much time at high altitude in really lousy summer weather in the western mountains. If you had, I think you would realize that, with a few exceptions, you pretty much get what you pay for.

Far be it from me to tell you what tent you should take along on any kind of a trip. For myself, there are a few things on which I won't cut corners. These include: A tent, if I feel I need one; my sleeping gear; and my clothing. All of these items contribute to comfort and convenience as well as survival. Yeah, I can make a cheap tent work under really abominable conditions; I have been backpacking and mountaineering for a long time and have made-do in some pretty foul weather. Would I enjoy my time in a leaky, flapping, failing tent? No! Would I spend more money to have a better tent for the next trip? I sure would!

Right now, I have three tents: A SMD Luna Solo (2lb+); a Sierra Designs Lightyear (3lb+) and a Sierra Designs Glacier Tent (7lb+). I also have a 5' x 9' silnylon tarp. For most general summer use where rain is a possibility but not likely, I'll take the tarp or the Luna Solo. If I am on a longer trip where rain is likely and bailout possibilities are poor, I'll take the Lightyear. For four season mountaineering, I take the Glacier.

Sure, I usually have more weather protection along than I really need. But, I would rather have more than I need than less.
_________________________
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#96537 - 05/21/08 11:34 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Quote:
The "Rainbow" to take another popular example, is similarly expensive and only slightly lighter -- and not less constricted in space than a Wenzel, but at best only equally functional, ..or at least that is my contention.


I see your point about the virtues of cheap tents but let's be fair here. The Rainbow and the Hubba are between one and two pounds lighter than the Wenzel. That's a whole lot of weight to many people here.

Just curious.....have you ever actually used a Rainbow or a Hubba? By "use" I mean sleeping in it all night after carrying it and setting it up. Seems like that's the only way to do a truly fair comparison.

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#96538 - 05/21/08 10:21 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Trailrunner]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Ray Jardine writes of how, as a "wilderness instructor" (for NOLS? Outward Bound?) he and his students in Colorado relied for a number of summer seasons exclusively on plastic sheeting, including above-tree-line camps.

Colin Fletcher, you may recall, was also a big fan of plastic sheeting.

Actually I've done a fair bit of camping over many years in meadows, snow and on glaciers in Washington. On those occassions, I've mainly used a one-person tent made of Goretex knock-off material (the old SD Divine Light). The majority of weather I've happened to experience out there, in summertime at least, has been calm, dry, and fairly mild.

I've never used a Hubba Hubba nor Rainbow but I'm sure they are as good or better than anything on the market of their particular sort. As for direct comparisons I've owned fairly high-end backpacking tents from at least a half-dozen "name" manufacturers, as well as my old Wal-Mart puptent, which weighed three pounds or less with aluminum I-poles and few or no stakes.

I consider Wenzel Starlight the same as my old Wal-Mart tent, as they are/were both essentially no-name "trash'" which may partly explain their unpopularity.

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#96539 - 05/21/08 10:59 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
JohnDavid:

Curious, have you had your Wenzel tent in a prolonged and heavy rain?

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#96540 - 05/22/08 12:52 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: wandering_daisy]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I have participated in other discussions about cheap tents. My take on gear of any kind is that it is worth what you willing to pay for it.

I don't own a lot of camping gear and don't get out all that much, but what I do have is good stuff that I know won't fail me. To me, the security of knowing my gear is reliable is worth the cost. Some of what I own is about 20 years old and to me well worth what I paid for it.

A tent, like any other product, has 3 components-design, material and assembly-any of these 3 can be good, bad or indifferent, but where something is made is not necessarly an indicator of the quality level of any of the 3.

I can understand buying cheap gear if that is all you can afford or if you don't consider the investment worth it because you only use it once in a while. I certainly have no argument with that decision.

But, just because a cheap tent works in many situations, doesn't necessarily mean that buying a better tent for a lot more money is afoolish investment. In a bad storm, the great bargain you got for something will be meaningless if it comes apart at the wrong time.

WD, I have to disagree with you about bike camping. When I was in NZ in the 80's, I was often totally alone along some backcountry road and nowhere near any kind of shelter other than my tent. Cel phones were just an idea back then, not a reality. My tent was a SD Flashlight and it withstood some pretty nasty weather.

As far as Fritz's comment on clones-designs are hard to protect for a lot of reasons, but determining who to sue is not one of them. In many instances, the designs are dissimilar enough to avoid claims of infringement or the design may not be protected at all.


Edited by TomD (05/22/08 01:04 AM)
_________________________
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#96541 - 05/22/08 06:36 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
Quote:
What I'm focused on, is that I've spent many months camping (hiking, kayaking and bicycling) over long period in a cheap puptent in a fairly wide array of conditions, and was perfectly satisfied with the protection it offered during summer months.

Your beloved Wenzel solo is completely useless down here in our southern forests during the summer, as it lacks adequate ventilation and serves only as a rickety sauna. Something much more open is required here. My wife uses an old MSR Bughut (same as the REI Bughut II and others still made) with a Kelty Noah tarp for rain protection. That combo's about $120 retail. I'm sure you've had fun in your cheap pup tent. Why not get another and go for a long walk somewhere? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

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#96542 - 05/22/08 08:30 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Hector]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Hector: Perhaps you're limited by exceptionally high humidity down there. It's bad enough sometimes in New Jersey, where I currently live. Up in these parts, however, it seems high humidity and very cool temps, when they happen simultaneously, create the heaviest condensation. I could be wrong, because I try hard to ignore it when possible.

QUALITY ISSUES

As far as "low quality," plastic sheeting is as low as you get. Yet two of the best-known instructional writers in backpacking swear by the stuff.

Most textiles are a commodity product, so as far as fabric, there's probably little or no difference between low and mid-priced backpacking tents.

Seam construction quality can probably more easily vary among tents. A proper sealing, necessary in any case, might strengthen things up some, depending on what sealant is used.

Wenzel uses 'double stitched, lap-feld seams"-- which sounds good anyway. Amazing what they do with automation these days.... Their floor seams are "welded" which does sound a little dubious, although apparently Mountain Hardwear and Sierra Designs use a similar process on certain products.

But more to the point, I've never seen anything like seam failure -- on ANY tent. Just doesn't seem like a reasonable concern.

The Starlight's "low quality" is mainly in evidence in its fiberglass poles, steel stakes, and lousy guylines, all of which I'd toss, though I doubt they'd break (cheap poly cord is excessively strong, steel is steel, etc..) These elements have no affect on weather protection.

I notice Wenzel has a 10-year warranty on materials and construction. If their tents were actually falling apart in appreciable numbers, offering this guarantee might be uneconomical and ultimately impossible for Wenzel.

COUPLE OF DESIGN NOTES

In general, a very low-profile tent like the Wenzel Starlight (24 inches tall at rear) would by definition, have superior wind resistance to "brand X" backpacking tent.

Also a couple of rigid poles, in general, offer more strength and stability than the typical lightweight dome, which in a moderately strong breeze, makes one think of Jell-O, and whose poles, no matter the brand or price, are extremely delicate and prone to breakage.

Break a dome pole, and you've got a problem --- no matter where you like to camp or what you paid for your tent; break a puptent pole (less likely) and a replacement is immediately at hand in the woods.

The Starlight design looks superior to my old 3-pound Wal-Mart tent, due mainly to its door beak, which offers better rain protection when door is open, and its front-to-back taper, which offers lower weight. I also like the door and vent zippers. Mine had cloth ties and yes, it was quite effective in prolonged, windy, heavy rain on many occassions.

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#96543 - 05/22/08 08:36 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I've been thinking about this post (and the various replies it has gotten) quite a while, trying to figure out how I feel about this issue. (In the interest of full disclosure I'm strictly a tarp guy, either with a bivy or with a hammock -- I don't even own a tent, except a Walmat tent we've used for car camping once or twice.)

Then yesterday I came across something interesting. Francis Tapon did a yo-yo of the continental divide trail last year and I was listening to a podcast of him talking about what he did. I was curious about his gear. He took a super light cuben fiber tarp from MLD (very pricy if they aren't sponsoring your hike) but he said that he rarely used it. He cowboy camped almost every night. When it got late he looked for a somewhat sheltered spot and laid down his pad and quilt and slept.

Really makes you think about how much (and how nice/expensive) gear is really needed for backpacking.

A few observations are in order

1. He's a very experienced hiker and no amount of gear compensates for lack of experience

2. The continental divide trail is a high mountain trail, often above tree line, and can be quite cold so it's definitely a trail that most people would think calls for a super tent.

3. His standards for comfort are pretty low -- he only used a 1/8th inch Gossamer Gear thinlight pad under him at night.

So I guess my current thinking is this:

We all lack a little of the experience/toughness of a world-class hiker like Francis Tapon so we must compensate with more gear than he uses, for safety and/or comfort. If you have a lot of experience in a certain area or can stand a lot of a certain kind of discomfort then you can get by with very little of a certain kind of gear.

On the question of tents I think that the right amount to spend on a tent depends on how much you are going to rely on it. If it's just a glorified bug/rain shelter then a cheap tent is probably fine. But occasionally you will have to pay the consequences -- which may not be too bad if you have the experience/toughness.

As an example, one day on his yo-yo Francis Tapon was in high in the Colorado mountains early in the spring. It was windy and cold and he woke up in the middle of the night shivering. He was paying the price for his bare-bones set up. He knew what to do though. He got up and hiked all through the night. That kept him warm and he was able to make up the sleep later.

If you are that tough and experienced then even a $20 tent is overkill.

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#96544 - 05/22/08 10:26 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> Up in these parts, however, it seems high humidity and very cool temps, when they
> happen simultaneously, create the heaviest condensation.

They don't have saunas up in those parts?

> As far as "low quality," plastic sheeting is as low as you get. Yet two of the best
> known instructional writers in backpacking swear by the stuff.

False opportunistic appeal to authority -- do you also carry 50 lb. loads in your external frame pack like Colin did? What do you think either would have said about your cheap pup tent? Why cite authorities who think you're full of it, or with whom you do not agree?

See ya -- I'm out of this troll-bait thread.

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#96545 - 05/22/08 11:31 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
jasonlivy Offline
member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 654
Loc: Colorado
Johndavid:

It's hard to fathom your responses here. In fact I would dare say that your comments are foolish and you come across as someone who doesn't really have the experience you are trying to convince us of. I also get the sense that some of your comments border on irresponsibility.

Whenever we go into the backcountry we assume some risks. There are some who take this to the extreme and, hopefully, understand that the more chances they take, the greater the possibility of them not returning home. Your proposal of taking a $20 Wenzel to any serious backcountry destination is at best foolish and at worst dangerous. Sure you might be lucky to experience perfect weather with no wind or rain, but that can never be assumed (again, were talking a serious backcountry location). The fact that you believe that "most" people's experience mirrors your own tells me you really haven't gone into the depths of the backcountry (I've read every entry here and don't agree that you have all that much experience, sorry). All it takes is one very wet miserable night at the verge of hypothermia to help you realize the need for decent shelter.

There are so many excellent options in tents today. You buy quality and take care if it, it will last you a lifetime, keep you protected from the elements, be easy to set up, be light, well-designed, and give you a relative sense of comfort. This is what's known as value. The manufacturers go to incredible lengths to bring these products to market. You might think they are making an exorbitant profit, but those of us in the outdoor industry know that is simply not true and, in fact, laughable. Most of these guys have experienced a very bad day backpacking or camping and are passionate enough to start their own company in making sure that doesn't happen again. The founder and owner of Cascade Designs is still hard at work and is employed by the company even though he is almost 80 years old. Retirement isn't even in the picture.

One of the interesting details in regards to MSR's dedication to quality is the effort they made to find the best manufacturer in the world for their tents. The challenge was given to a very select group of factories all around the world. This included some from the US, Portugal, Taiwan, China, South Africa, etc. They had 6 months to complete the model of tent they were required to finish. The best tent would win the contract. Once all of them were submitted, they were gone over with a fine tooth comb. Only the best factory was selected to make MSR tents. The factory that won happened to be in China. It had nothing to do with economics as far as Cascade Designs was concerned, but everything to do with quality.

You are free to buy whatever product you want. We all have our reasons and our motivations. Your arguments in this thread are elementary and come across as foolish by someone who lacks experience in recommending a tent to any one. You might want to check out the BACKCOUNTRY BEGINNERS area on this forum.
_________________________
Believe, then you will Understand...

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#96546 - 05/22/08 12:06 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: jasonlivy]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
Jason:

Unless JohnDavid convinces me otherwise, I will have to agree with you.

I asked him whether he has ever been inside his Wenzel tent in a hard and continuous rain (to me that would mean 8 or so hours of downpour). He posted a very, very long post after, but did not answer my question at all.

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#96547 - 05/22/08 01:59 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
magnumopus Offline
member

Registered: 08/14/06
Posts: 16
Loc: New Mexico
Quote:

As far as "low quality," plastic sheeting is as low as you get. Yet two of the best-known instructional writers in backpacking swear by the stuff.

actually visqueen is extremely high quality, it's tough, seamless, doesn't lose structural soundness if punctured and is completely water proof.
and it can be easily cut to fit you preferred style of tarp pitching.

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#96548 - 05/22/08 02:47 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Johndavid

You are getting a lot of payoff for this troll huh. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" />

Its not worth telling you [deleted] <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" /> YMMV - no offense intended.
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#96549 - 05/22/08 04:23 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Jimshaw]
kat Offline
member

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 63
I'm going to agree with JohnDavid to some extent. Just for the record, I have owned: Hilleberg Nallo 2, Stephenson 2R, Gossamer Gear Squall Classic; currently have Stephenson 2C and Moonbow custom tent.

But for sunny camping, I have returned to my old Texsport Knollwood Bivy Tent on many occasions. $25, 2 person tent 34.3oz, stock poles 10oz. Nice to pull this out and go when inbetween other tents. It is not super heavy, I like the space/setup and lack of condensation. No I have not had this out in a pouring 8 hour rain and do not intend to; there is this thing called a weather forecast I always check before I go....

Anyway, just my 2 cents.

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#96550 - 05/22/08 04:38 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
Kat:

A "fair weather" tent has its place. That's completely legitimate.

But that wasn't what OP was saying at all. He was essentially saying that his tent was functionally the same as those much more expensive tents that he listed out.

I hope he realizes that we are not brand or image whores. The many refutations centered on two issues:

(1) a sunny weather tent cannot be compared to a truly weather proof tent.

(2) OP has made numerous statements that betray his lack of experience -- both with the Wenzel itself -- and backpacking in general.

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#96551 - 05/22/08 04:55 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Ben2World]
kat Offline
member

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 63
Thanks for the summation, Ben2World. I read the OP's first post in which it states functional equivalence "assuming summer use" but then there are further statements about rain capability later on so you are correct.

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#96552 - 05/22/08 05:08 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
Ben2World Offline
member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 1754
Loc: So Cal
Oh, Kat, if you read the very first reply... the el cheapo Texsport tent I talked about was actually a Knollwood!!! DON'T EVER bring it out if there is any chance -- however remote -- of rain! To Texsport's credit, if you read the packaging/instructions -- it does state that the tent is "rain resistant" -- so at least it isn't lying or making any claims to rainproofness. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

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#96553 - 05/22/08 06:36 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 998
Loc: Australia
As a 16-17 year old, I slept a few times at around 8000' on the Italian alps with no tent or tarp. At that stage I had never seen an alpine tent and certainly could not afford one. My sleeping bag was borrowed, heavy( made from animal hair...),and painfully inadequate. If the weather had turned nasty one of those nights, as it does at that altitude, I could have died. I had no torch and, at lest on an a couple of occasions, a way of getting off the mountain till daylight. Should I start a " all tent and tarp users are wimps!" post ?
To even mention Francis Tapon as an example is highly misleading and dangerous. He is a professional athlete, not an amateur backpacker.
Can I remind you that Reinhold Messner went up Mt Everest, by himself, without oxygen and during the monsoon season. Should I start an "all Everest climbers are wimps" thread in one of the mountaineering forums ?
As it has been pointed out, in fair weather most tents provably are too much, but If you have not heard people say "I'll never go camping again" after they have spent a bad night inside a cheap tent, you have not been camping.
Keep in mind that the original poster was stating that most tents are overpriced, not that in some cases a cheap tent will do. Also keep in mind that most people here are not just car campers, often there is no quick escape .
Franco

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#96554 - 05/22/08 07:07 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Franco]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I am not sure the tents are over-priced. I have tried to make one myself. The fellow who makes the tent has overhead, investments and pays workers. I am not sure I like the idea that a cheap tent I buy is made by slave labor in China. The last time I went to a discount fabric store I paid 4.99 per yard for low-tech rip stop nylon. The last time I tried to design and sew a tent it took me over a week and it turned out horrible! Yeh, they probably spend $50 making the $200 tent with high volume manufacturing. But the point is, if I were to try to make one myself, and valued my labor at a minimum of $10 per hour, I would still have a $200 tent- probably more. And probably thousands of people have used the manufactured tent and it has refined its design over the years and is a better tent for that.

What else can I buy for $200? One week's groceries for a family. Two college textbooks. One leather purse. One evening dress. One pair of designer shoes. A bookcase. 50 gallons of gas. 70 gallons of milk. Half a year garbage pick-up. 2 hours of help from a computer expert when I kill my computer. And although I do not get paid all this, under 2 hours of work that I do for clients. It is all a matter of perspective.

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#96555 - 05/23/08 08:02 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Franco]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Easy there dude. I'm not trying to mislead anyone.

My point is simply that whether you need to spend a lot on a certain piece of gear depends on how much you will rely on that piece of gear. If you have the ability to get along without it then there's no need to spend the money to get the very best.

Now Francis Tapon is world class, as I said, so he doesn't need much of anything. I'm not even close to that. I skimp on some things and know what that might cost me. But for things that I consider critical I get the best that money can buy.

For myself I don't spend a lot on shelter (no $300 tent for me) and I'm prepared to deal with the possible consequences. In a bad storm I may be under-protected and end up not sleeping. I can deal with staying awake on a cold-stormy night while I wait out the storm. What I can't deal with is getting chilled while I'm waiting and risking hypothermia. So I bring very high quality clothing with lots of extra layers above and beyond what I'm expecting to use so I know that in the worst case I can still maintain my body heat. I spend way more on clothing than on shelter.

Now other people may make the opposite decision: bomb-proof tent and only adequate clothing. I've got nothing to say against that decision. Every hiker needs to choose where to go high quality and where to skimp.

To say that EVERYONE needs an expensive tent to backpack is just not right.

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#96556 - 05/23/08 08:54 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Heber]
kbennett Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
Seeing as one of my favorite writers is being asked to carry water for this troll, let me quote a couple of passages from the Complete Walker (this is from the 3rd edition):

1. On the cost of equipment: "'Ignore the cost' is easier said than done, of course (though I should like to add, at the risk of sounding smug, that even when I used to live on what many people regarded as the smell of an oily rag, I would not think of walking away from my ancient car with any equipment in my pack that fell short of the best available)."

2. On what kind of tent to use: "Under most conditions the best roof for your bedroom is the sky. This common-sensible arrangement saves weight, time, energy, and money. It also keeps you in intimate contact with the world you are presumably walking through in order to come into intimate contact with."

(more) "It amazes me, though, that most practicing backpackers also seem to regard a tent as obligatory, even in fair and stable weather."

Hmmm, "best available" equipment, and, er, no real need for a tent for three-season backpacking.
_________________________
--Ken B

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#96557 - 05/23/08 09:17 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kbennett]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Excellent quotes! Thanks for those.

In fact it makes me rethink what I said earlier. Perhaps the answer isn't "a cheap tent (or whatever piece of gear we are talking about) is okay if you won't be relying on it for survival" as I was suggesting. The more enlightened answer might be "if you don't really need it then why bother carrying either a cheap or expensive one? Carry just what you need but make it the best."

Hmm, I'll have to think about that some more.

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#96558 - 05/23/08 09:45 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Heber]
kbennett Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
Exactly.

When you *really* need a tent -- winter conditions, appreciable snowfall -- a $30 Wally-mart special isn't going to cut it.

If you assume (like the OP did) pleasant summer conditions, then you don't need a tent at all. A simple tarp or plastic sheet will do fine if it rains (and be lighter, possibly cheaper, and better than the cheap tent in any case.)
_________________________
--Ken B

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#96559 - 05/23/08 10:01 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kbennett]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Threads like this one lead to broad generalities about "3 season" v. winter, etc.

I saw a documentary called "Christmas in Yellowstone" on PBS. Part of it was about a photographer who was skiing around and taking pictures. He used a tarp and did so during a storm. However, I could see that he was sleeping in a Western Mountaineering Bag-I saw the label in a close-up. My guess is it may have been a Puma or Bison from the size of the bag-these are $7-800 bags.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/yellowstone/survival.html

So, the point is, sure you can get away with a tarp in winter, as long as you have the best bag money can buy.

Remember, people have paddled, rowed and sailed tiny boats across the oceans, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#96560 - 05/24/08 02:50 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
EWH Offline
member

Registered: 12/11/03
Posts: 63
Loc: California
I guess I'd have to question what is meant by summer backpacking. I've been in snow storms in the Sierras in June, July and August. I recall a couple years ago when an unexpectable storm caught some backpackers by surprise in September? in the Kings Canyon area. I think they ended up rescuing a few by helicopter.

I think one of the most exciting parts about backpacking is we're heading out into the unknown. Because, well, it is unknown. And you truely never know what you are going to get. Sure I look at the weather report before I go but those reports are generally not very good for mountain areas. In any case, weather reports, at best, are good for about 3 days and typically my trips are much longer than that.

I also actually like challenging my gear. When Silnylon first came on the scene I remember thinking there's no way this stuff would hold up to the rigors of backpacking. Now I've become quite found of it. It's an incredible feeling knowing my 32 oz SMD Lunar Solo can handle prolong rain and considerable winds. I doubt that Wenzel would do well in those conditions. One of my most memorable experiences was sitting out on an exposed ridgeline while a set of three thunderstorms passed overhead throughout the night. I don't think I slept a wink and it was so cool!

Another requirement I have for a shelter is being able to sit up in it. I used a Eureka Gossamer for one season and didn't like it. The headroom was too tight and it was a pain getting in and out of. I think it was about 24" tall in the front. That Wenzel tent is a taller at 36" but that isn't going to cut it for me. Shelter's like the Rainbow, GG's The One, Henry's new Sublite, as well as my Lunar Solo are all shelters you can sit up in and move around in. And they all weigh consierably less.

So am I willing to pay a couple hunder dollars more for a lighter, more storm worthy, and more functional shelter? Absolutely!

- Erik

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#96561 - 05/24/08 06:21 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: Ben2World]
kat Offline
member

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 63
Hey Ben2world I'm just curious - did you seam seal the Knollwood? I did every single seam (including above the zipper) twice. But I've only experienced a very light brief sprinkle in it - I plan my outings around good weather <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

I do know someone who's actually had the thing out in snow, tho - couldn't find the pic on nwhikers.net.

Here's one pic of the Knollwood from last year. I've been using it on and off for about 5 years now I guess, as I said when I'm inbetween other tents. I like trying a lot of different tents lol.



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#96562 - 05/24/08 07:39 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
pennys Offline


Registered: 12/31/01
Posts: 2842
Loc: Washington
tent repair person chiming in here, over 15 years in the biz...Misc comments on the thread....

The china comment - any product is only as good as the management that oversees production. To use the "made in China" argument as an overall indicator is lame at best.

Quote:
Wenzel uses 'double stitched, lap-feld seams"-- which sounds good anyway. Amazing what they do with automation these days.... Their floor seams are "welded" which does sound a little dubious, although apparently Mountain Hardwear and Sierra Designs use a similar process on certain products.

But more to the point, I've never seen anything like seam failure -- on ANY tent. Just doesn't seem like a reasonable concern.



Everyone uses double stitched lap felled seam, and if you haven't seen seam failure on a low price tent you aren't looking very hard. The thread quality is very poor, and and tends to shred and break.

You can seal a tent just as well with seam grip as factory seam sealing - more depends on the over all quality of the materials and construction.
Low thread count fabric, cheap thread, soft metal on the zipper sliders.... only a few factors that add up to make a big difference in longevity and performance.
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#96563 - 05/24/08 10:27 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I have a knollwood/texsport and had it out in heavy rain - after nikwaxing and seam sealing it, it's main problem is the door design is retarded - if you use a small tarp over the door, it's just fine, but the design of the front of the tent is idiotic and no amount
of seam sealing will keep it from leaking.

I still have it, because other than it's inherit design flaw it's really light - I give it
to guests who need a solo tent, and ensure they put a microtarp over the front entrance.
with a little tarp over the dumb front door it works fine even in a deluge. My advice
if you have one, or get one for almost nothing (I paid $15 for mine from someone who
bought it online and didn't like it <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> just find or sew a small silnylon tarp to attach to the
top hoop and go over the door. Then it works just fine.
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#96564 - 05/24/08 10:38 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: kat]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
I don't understand certain objections and am slightly suprised at the argumentum ad hominem..

Other than to suggest that it's best to assume minimal good faith in these forums, I don't see how to make a rational, helpful answer to this question of whether I'm a liar about my experience, nor why it's been suggested.

But it's actually not relevant to the point that a well-designed cheap tent can indeed be highly efficient shelter in summer conditions. I think I've made a number of specific, rational arguments to that effect above, and certainly cannot add to them.

Some people say that the assertions of Colin Fletcher and Ray Jardine that plastic sheeting can make an effective shelther in places like alpine settings in Colorado is irrelevant as a demonstration of the idea that high-quality materials aren't essential to serious backpacking equipment. The point seems so obvious to me, that I'm at a complete loss to elaborate.

There's a big emphasis on "stuff" when it comes to backpacking., inescapable overemphasized. Somehow a legacy of 1970s "gormet" cooking craze...buy only the finest cookware...."consumerism".....Yeah you can get slightly damp sometimes for a little while, in a tent when it rains hard, or maybe if there's a lot of dew. Whether one tent or another leaves you 10% more damp or not... dunno......is that a critical matter?. But I currently own five different tarps and tents. NOW THAT'S STUPID.

Actually my peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking -- which last I checked boils down to mainly sleeping and walking. I think some people attempt to manipulate the topic of risk in a condescending manner to gain what they perceive as some obscure status advantage over other people.

Yeah there's risk -- whatever. It's also good to check the brakes on your car and also have a good concept of what auto wrecks are, and how they occur....

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#96565 - 05/24/08 11:42 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Somehow this thread seems to have turned into a "Tent vs. Tarp" argument. I don't believe that was the original intent here.

The biggest problem I've found with tents while backpacking is that once a tent gets wet during a rainstorm, if you can't get it dried out before setting it up and sleeping in it again, you are going to get wet. An expensive tent is not immune to this problem. The design is what makes a difference. Generally speaking, tents that are more mesh than fabric are going to dry out much faster, which could make a difference if you're in a locale where you might only get a short break in rain. Truth be told, in rain a tarp/bivy combo is typically a much dryer set-up than a tent. Having done both in very went conditions for treks of 1-3 weeks in duration, I prefer the tarp option.

Where tent QUALITY really comes into play is not so much in RAIN as it is in WIND. Some tents are definitely designed to withstand wind better than others, and were I to do alot of travel in an area with high exposure to wind, that would be my deciding factor on what tent to buy. So far my MSR Twin Peaks (floorless tent) has proven to be very wind-worthy, provides the privacy I like, and keeps me plenty dry in rain. This would not be my choice for every trek in wind, but certainly suits my needs for now.

From my experience, quality/cost does play a factor in staying dry if you are not taking down and carrying your tent wet, but once you start setting up a wet tent, the benefits diminish.

On the other hand, if there is any chance that you might encounter extreme weather situations (i.e. in the Rockies, Sierras etc.), even in the summer, a quality tent will pay off in spades.

In other words, you simply can't make generalizations over the cost of gear versus its function. In some cases the benefits of expensive/quality gear are minimal, and you'll be fine with cheap gear. But once you start pushing the limits of conditions, the benefits of expensive/quality gear becomes much more evident. You need to buy gear based on the conditions you will be dealing with, not based on being cheap.

MNS
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#96566 - 05/24/08 01:45 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Johndavid:

I think the point that you've help make is that you have to know the limitations of your gear, as well as your own limitations.

Beyond that, I think you do have a valid point: cheap gear (and not just tents, but also packs and sleeping bags) can work - to a point. "Back in the day" when it was a choice between new shoes for the kids and really good gear, it was a no-brainer: I outfitted myself with cheap gear, including a Texsport pack, Texsport tent, Coleman sleeping bag, and Sterno stove. It got me out there, and being out there on the cheap, with the attendant shortcomings of such gear, was a whole lot better than NOT being out there. I never ventured off established trails in the "frontcountry" of national forests and parks, I couldn't go out in serious cold (the bag wasn't warm enough), and I couldn't carry enough to stay out for a week (the pack wasn't large enough or sturdy enough to overpack), but that was OK - I was out there.

But I upgraded as soon as I could. The better gear didn't necessarily keep me drier or safer, but it was more comfortable and more convenient to use - i.e., for me, it made things more fun. It also let me do some different things, like stay out for a week, venture into the less-traveled parts of the national parks and forests, or take a weekend trip when it was below freezing.

So, you're right, depending on how you define "summer" and on what your preference is for comfort.


Edited by Glenn (05/25/08 09:20 AM)

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#96567 - 05/24/08 01:54 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
lv2fsh Offline
member

Registered: 04/27/08
Posts: 111
Loc: socal
When I was young, I seldom used a tent unless it was raining. I used plastic tarps for most trail camping. I felt tents were too confining. I took my wife car camping and we slept on the ground with a ground cloth(no pad). She almost never went camping again. (yet she still married me <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />) I then realized if I did not want to camp alone, I needed a tent. I bought a cheapo two man dome tent. She married me and we went on our honeymoon in the Sierra in July. It rained every day! The tent had a few leaks but wasn't too bad. It was however heavy and bulky. When we finally tried a backpacking trip, it was in October and it snowed on us. I had to rig a tarp over the tent and keep knocking off the snow buildup. We survived but had our uncomfortable times. (still one of our greatest memories though) That brought me to a four person, four season tent. That gave us plenty of room for both of us and our dog. The tent weighed about ten pounds but was bullet proof. I still use it for car camping but have went through about three other tents since deciding that it was just too much to haul. After buying and trying these, I don't think I could justify paying for a very expensive tent (over $250.00) without being able to try it first and I don't like returning things unless they are defective and not just because I am not 100% happy. I don't think it's fair to the seller to be stuck with a used tent because I might like something different from the next guy. On a personal note, my current tent is a Cabella's XPG ultra light three season, three person tent. I haven't had heavy rain or snow but have had very heavy wind one night and it blew around but stayed intact with no damage. It also didn't have the condensation problem that I had with the last one. It weighs approx. 5.5 pounds but is roomy and tall enough to sit in. My feeling is take what ever you need to keep having fun doing what you are doing. If spending too much for a tent takes the fun out of it, then don't spend it but if safety and comfort is what keeps it fun and spending the cash doesn't take that away, then do it.

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#96568 - 05/24/08 04:23 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: lv2fsh]
johndavid Offline
member

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ
Yes...........My primary choice for winter camping currently is MSR Twin Peaks which I've owned for about five years......... This of course, with snow banked around all the edges for warmth and windproofing. Very nice, though I think it's been somewhat radically redesigned recently--- with addition of snow flaps....

MSR TP has a fully coated canopy, in this aspect like a Wenzel, and I've NOT found the frost and condensation build-up unmanagable with MSR TP.

At times of snow and cold, however, in my defunct, cheap, coated puptent with integral coated floor, I found that the moisture would collect on the impermiable floor & of course, not drain, creating difficulties. The Wenzel S has such a floor. The MSR Twin Peaks has no floor.

Perhaps for this reason as much as any, I WOULD NOT WANT WENZEL STARLIGHT in winter. But a Wenzel Starlight has mosquito netting. The MSR TP does not. My earlier point is WS is optimal for summer --- not winter...


I've heard a few people call me a liar, but nobody has told me why dome poles, cheap or costly........... aren't a comparatively serious liability for breakage relative to a rigid pole or poles and prospects for their repair or field replacement..

The Wenzel in question (not any/all Wenzels and NOT my defunct puptent) is 24 inches tall at the rear, and not very tall in front. According to very rational and reasonable theory, a very low-profile tent will be more stable in wind, than a higher profile tent.

I think of WS as really nicely designed one-person, or maybe even 2-person tent, apart from stupid fiberglass A-frame front poles and a few other doubtful but entirely acceptable issues related to materials and construction.

RE MSR Twin Peaks (floorless) though designed good for snow camping It is notably less warm than my TNF Starfire (27 SF, discontinued -- a three-pole Frog dome design) with its double walls, for which I've lost the pole set and may some day decide to replace for about $200.).

This is a considerable drawback, despite TP's 1/3 + greater square footage....which is highly welcome with companion.......I might be untruthful here, so you'll just have to be the judge............I admit I don't have a coherent theory here about coated floors, except that a double-walled tent has less condensation than coated canopy....

.
.............Getting somewhat back to the Wenzel Starlight: Relative exclusively to wind, I tend to think that rigid poles offer superior resistance to domes -- certainly two-pole domes.

I used an SD 2-pole dome quite a lot. (What was it called? It's now discontinued and was stolen at trailhead car break-in in `95 while I was doing Mt Stuart's North Ridge route in Washington. Grade Four route, class 5.7.....This is most difficult of about twenty alpine routes I've done in Washington, mostly in summer and never with cheap pup tent )

(You might say I'm fibbing..but we filed a police report you could maybe check in Leavenworth..... The parking lot was site of an intense forest fire on the following day. Icicle Creek area, first week of August as I slightly recall.)

I was disturbed any number of times by this particular dome's performance in the very typical summer on-shore beach breezes in afternoon/evening in So. New England/E. L.I. Sound. These breezes are 20 mph or more at times.

I recall similar conditions many times using the Wal-Mart puptent, that were somewhat less of a problem, especially when tent was pitched into wind. It blew up like a balloon.

My Sierra Designs Divine Light one-person (disontinued) which I've beaten to near death..has such a low profile, that getting totally flattened by the wind would be only slightly different than being fully and properly pitched. It is very low in profile.......

MSR TP is considerably higher profile than Wenzel, has a fully coated canopy, in this aspect like a Wenzel, and I've NOT found the frost and condensation build-up unmanagable with MSR TP.

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#96569 - 05/24/08 11:57 PM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: johndavid]
jasonlivy Offline
member

Registered: 01/02/04
Posts: 654
Loc: Colorado
Quote:
There's a big emphasis on "stuff" when it comes to backpacking., inescapable overemphasized. Somehow a legacy of 1970s "gormet" cooking craze...buy only the finest cookware...."consumerism".....Yeah you can get slightly damp sometimes for a little while, in a tent when it rains hard, or maybe if there's a lot of dew. Whether one tent or another leaves you 10% more damp or not... dunno......is that a critical matter?. But I currently own five different tarps and tents. NOW THAT'S STUPID.
Outdoor adventure is a very personal matter. For some, it is about new innovation in backpacking equipment and a large part of them going into the wilderness is about using the latest, greatest gear. For others, gear is a distraction when venturing out. Both groups can be condescending to the other. Both feel they are right. The truth is that neither are right nor wrong.

I'm one who believes the emphasis should be placed on safety. If you can safely go to wherever it is you go and take only plastic sheeting no one should have a problem with that. Having said that, safety is only part of the picture. A well designed tent will give you peace of mind, comfort, and a haven incase things do go south. I can't tell you how many times I have grinned from ear to ear while lounging in my expensive but well made Hubba Hubba while the wind is howling and the rain is pouring just outside of it's nylon walls.

Your statement stating your "peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking" strikes me as someone who simply lacks experience in a truly rugged, raw backcountry desination and supports my earlier point. You are basing your arguments on the fact the going into the backcountry doesn't have risks because, perhaps, I assume you've never had an experience that would cause you to think it's dangerous. My own experience SCREAMS otherwise. It only takes once...

I don't really care that you don't like people expressing the fact that venturing into the wilderness is risky. That's your opinion. My opinion is to say otherwise is irresponsible. I can give you several destinations that would quickly change your mind. It's true we express our opinions based on our realities. My reality and your reality obviously are different. However, I'm never comfortable not talking about safety. My philosophy is that you should "hope for the best, but plan for the worst". You will never go wrong. Therefore, the gear you take should be well made, reliable, well designed, dependable, capable, and durable. This is near impossible to find at the "$20-for-a-tent" level.

However, if you never go to a rugged, raw backcountry destination and only wait for exceptional weather, you would be wasting your money on a $300 tent.
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#96570 - 05/25/08 12:11 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: jasonlivy]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
Quote:
Your statement stating your "peeve is not people who falsify their outdoor experience, but rather people who like to harp on the risks of hiking & backpacking" strikes me as someone who simply lacks experience in a truly rugged, raw backcountry desination and supports my earlier point. You are basing your arguments on the fact the going into the backcountry doesn't have risks because, perhaps, I assume you've never had an experience that would cause you to think it's dangerous. My own experience SCREAMS otherwise. It only takes once...
I'm with Jason on this... there most certainly are risks to backpacking and hiking, and risks to the people on the mountain rescue teams who come get you. To imply that there is no risk in this sport is flat out irresponsible. The risks diminish significantly with experience; a lack of experience and expensive gear won't necessarily save you, but a lack of experience and low-quality and inappropriate gear could be the trigger in a sequence of events that could lead to injury, disability or death due to exposure or dehydration. People who assume that there are no risks in hiking and backpacking will inevitably come up against something for which they were unprepared.

MNS
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#96571 - 05/25/08 05:26 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: jasonlivy]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1736
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Jason, you said it well. Hiking, backpacking and mountaineering are not risk-free activities. There is always some objective danger to contend with be it weather or terrain. "Hope for the best but plan for the worst" is the only safe way to play it.

Quote:
For some, it is about new innovation in backpacking equipment and a large part of them going into the wilderness is about using the latest, greatest gear. For others, gear is a distraction when venturing out


I tend to fall into the latter category; I hate fussing with gear and will go for years using basically the same kit. But, the gear I take has been tested for durability and reliability as well as light weight. Cheap gear has just as high a fuss factor as the super ultra light gear with the added issues of low quality materials and construction. Savings are largely illusory if you are having to sit out a severe summer storm. Testing a cheap tent on a clear, starry night is not really a test. For years, I used a WW-II surplus poncho as shelter. I got pretty good at staying dry but not on exposed alpine ridges. When reasonably light, double wall tents came along, I gladly bought one and never used the poncho again.

The main point here, I guess, is that you don't get equipment reports from the folks who die of hypothermia because of equipment failure.
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#96572 - 05/25/08 11:21 AM Re: New Post: Cheap Tents [Re: phat]
kat Offline
member

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 63
Quote:
I have a knollwood/texsport and had it out in heavy rain - after nikwaxing and seam sealing it, it's main problem is the door design is retarded - if you use a small tarp over the door, it's just fine, but the design of the front of the tent is idiotic and no amount of seam sealing will keep it from leaking.


Absolutely correct phat. Guide Gear did come out with a version of the Knollwood with a rain flap over the zipper, but they somehow managed to bulk the weight up to almost 4lbs with heavier material.

So I pondered how this tent would do in silnylon, with zipper rain flap - here it is. Tent 24oz (with guyline attached) plus Fibraplex CF poles 4.8 oz.

OK end of my thread drift, I promise <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />


Ancient Lakes, WA 4/07

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