Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent?

Posted by: Marieke

Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/09/21 04:31 PM

Hello everyone!

I’m relatively new to backpacking and doing hikes that are longer than a day tour. The last two summers, I went on short multi-day hikes and I enjoyed it a lot. Together with a friend and my dog, I want to do a slightly longer hiking trip this summer so I’m looking for a new tent.

I have been looking online a lot already, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with all the different companies. So what I’m looking for in a tent:

We’re two people (I’m 5,5 ft and my friend is a similar height) and a small dog (I’m talking half a golden retriever) so I think a two person tent will be too small for us.
I’d like the tent to have a vestibule that’s big enough to store at least one 50l backpack, I’m not planning on cooking inside the vestibule or spend much time sitting there.

The past years, I’ve been using a cheap tent that my parents bought 20 or so years ago. That tent weighted nearly 11 lbs so I’m looking for something much lighter now. I don’t want to buy a tent thats more than roughly 6,5 lbs.

I probably won’t go on winter trips anytime soon so a 3 season tent will probably be fine. I get cold easily though, so I’m hoping to find a tent that doesn’t have a inner that’s only made of mesh.
I’ll mainly use the tent for trips that won’t be longer than 10 days. Temperatures probably will range from around 40-90 degrees, rain is pretty common but I won’t be camping in high winds.

I can’t spend more than 300€ on the tent, thats 350$. It would be great to find a tent for less money, but also, if I find a „dream tent“ I’ll consider saving more money to buy the tent at a later time.

I’ve already looked at some of the Naturehike tents (cloud up 3), the MSR Elixir 3 and some German tents like Vaude Taurus 3, Jack Wolfskin Skyrocket 3 and Salewa Litetek 3, but I’m not sure about any of those tents yet.

Can you recommend other tents that fit those requirements or do you have experience with one of the tents I’ve mentioned? Thanks in advance!
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/09/21 05:34 PM

Well, before I actually reply, I've got to ask: How do you take half a Golden Retriever hiking? smile (I'm sure that's got to be a misstatement or spell-check error, but I couldn't resist having a bit of fun.)

Since I've always hiked and camped alone, using one-person tents or tarps, I really can't help with specific recommendations for 3-person tents. Also, I don't know what common American brands might be available in Europe.

However, I have had a lot of experience, almost all good, with MSR tents -particularly the Hubba series. So, that would be my recommendation.

One word of caution: you might want to avoid the MSR Carbon Reflex series. There's nothing particularly wrong with Carbon Fiber poles; I had the original solo version, and never had any problems.

However, last year, they replaced the zippered vestibule closures with velcro closures. I needed to replace my original one-person Carbon Reflex anyhow, so I bought one with the Velcro closures. It was horrible; the vestibule would not stay closed, and the noise from the velcro coming apart and then flapping kept me awake all night.

It sounds like you've done your homework to determine the features you need. The MSR would be a good fit, but go crawl in and out of them, and (if the store will let you) set them up and take them down so you can guess what it will be like to deal with them in a rain storm.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide.
Posted by: Marieke

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 10:22 AM

Oh well grin I’m only taking the front half of the golden retriever of course...what I actually wanted to say was that my dog is half the size of a golden retriever (it’s a bit hard to describe his size to people who don’t know him).

Thanks for your advice on the MSR carbon reflex tents, it’s great to know small things like that in advance, since usually I can’t make out details like velcros on the websites.
As far as I was able to see that yet, I would be able to get most American tents because they’re on amazon.

Shops will probably be closed for a long while longer because of lockdown, but I’ll try to visit a store that allows me to see the tents pitched. Is there anything I should pay closer attention to when I look at the tents in the store?

One thing that I’ve been wondering about is the tents‘ hydrostatic head. Some tents have a really low hydrostatic head for both the floor and the rainfly and other tents have a really high hydrostatic head. It doesn’t seem to be directly linked to the pricing though. Can a tent with a low hydrostatic head be just as waterproof as a tent with a higher hydrostatic head?

I’ll definitely tell you when I make a decision for a tent.
Posted by: Arizona

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 01:13 PM

We have used 3 person tents for decades. In general they fit two adult people with a little wiggle room. None of them we have used and I’m talking several brands and models, have ever been roomy enough to add a golden retriever mix. The REI halfdome 4 might be roomy enough. We fit our Cairn Terrier fine in that tent but really had to squeeze him into our Hilleberg Kaitum 3. A Cairn is much smaller than a Golden mix.

Some Tarptents are fairly roomy. I’d look at the specs especially the square footage and layout of the floors if you can’t view the tent in person.

Some models change from year to year.
Posted by: Marieke

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 02:19 PM

Hi Arizona!

I don’t have a Golden Retriever mix, my dog was a rescue so we don’t know what kind of mix he is, but his body is a bit weird. He has a really long back, big paws, but a small head and short legs. In conclusion, he just looks like someone did a bad job at „shrinking“ a Golden Retriever so thats why I described him that way. We’ve used a 3 person tent before, too, and he always fit in okay.

I took a look at the rei tents though and they look pretty good. I’m a bit worried about the big areas of mesh in the inner tent, I’m worried that it might become a little cold inside the tent. Have you ever had problems with the mesh when you used the tent?
The only tarptents I’ve found seem to need a hiking pole to set up. Since I don’t use hiking poles, thats not really an option for me.
Posted by: aimless

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 02:40 PM

I've used a variety of REI tents over the past four decades. On the whole they are good, reliable tents. The REI tent designers tend not to stray into cutting-edge designs, but let other makers experiment with new materials and designs. Then one or two seasons later they sort through the innovations that proved out and incorporate them. This strategy works well for them and I've been happy with the REI tents I've owned.

Most all "three-season" trekking tents that are double-walled (inner tent + rain fly) have large areas of mesh. Warmth is not a priority for such tents compared to weight and the ability to shed rain (not snow) and withstand moderate wind. If warmth is a high priority, look at a "four season" or "mountaineering" tent.
Posted by: Arizona

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 03:01 PM

Marieke, I don’t recall any problem with the REI mesh but I kind of spoil my dogs. I carry a insulating pad, their own blanket and a dog coat. We do live in the desert and most of our trips are not cold but in the high desert of Utah we have seen sub freezing temperatures. I can keep my dog warm.

The tarptent I had was horrible with mesh. Once we left it up on a long day hike and the wind filled it with fine silt a quarter inch thick. They do set up with trekking poles but there are super light poles they offer so you don’t have to use trekking poles.

So welcome! I have met Germans in some of the most remote places in the southwest. One solo woman walked out of nowhere and photographed my tent in an amazing setting. You folks are some great adventurers.
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/10/21 04:40 PM

Hi Marieke,

You might be able to get by with a roomy two-person tent for two plus a compact [half] dog, so don't limit yourself to strictly three-person models, because there are far fewer of those to choose from.

Something like the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV3 Expeidtion fits your criteria other than cost, but might be more than you actually need. They have a two-person model and also a lighter "three-season" version that's cheaper and lighter, but has more mesh in the canopy.

I would recommend a two side-door model over a single door in front for two plus a dog, and as close to free-standing as possible for ease of setup.

Alternate shelters like teepees are an interesting option but not necessarily best for beginners.

Good luck!
Posted by: Bill Kennedy

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/11/21 04:09 AM

For better or worse, all the "3-season" tents these days have an inner made of mesh, assuming they have an inner. Better ventilation, I suppose, and a bit lighter, but something in me longs for the old days when the inner was mostly light ripstop. I've had the same experience as Arizona, more than once, of having dirt blow into the tent through the mesh. In above-freezing conditions, they're generally not a lot colder, though, and there's less condensation.

Your location reminded me of this: A friend and I spent four days backpacking on Steens Mountain, which rises out of Eastern Oregon's high desert. We had a great trip, one highlight of which was seeing a small herd of Pronghorn Antelope.

As we ended our trip, we passed a log book in which people write their thoughts about the area. There were a few entries by people with German-sounding names, who apparently weren't familiar with the animals of the western U.S. One of their comments was, "We loved the gazelles!"

Well, me,too.
Posted by: Marieke

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/11/21 12:25 PM

Oh well, it seems like I have to put up with the mesh inner then. My parents' old tent had a inner tent made of cotton (way to heavy but I never had problems with condensation!).
I probably will survive being out in a tent that has a mesh inner. We did have low temperatures on our trip last year, but it never got below freezing.
I think I'm literally carrying more things for my dog than for me grin he has a small sleeping pad and a blanket, too. He also likes crawling inside my sleeping bag, but we can't fit inside together.

The Big Agnes Copper Spur tent looks great, I would buy it in a heartbeat if it wasn't so expensive. I'll try to see one of those tents when shops open again soon. If I like it, I could try to buy it second hand or get it on sale maybe.

I'm not really sure about teepee tents since they're harder to set up than freestanding tents or tunnel tents. I looked at this teepee tent before: but I'd definitely have to try it out somewhere to see wether I actually like camping in a teepee tent.

I was really curious about those gazelles in the High Desert so I did some quick wikipedia research and I imagine those German hikers probably saw a pronghorn (?) since those don't live in Europe as far as I know.
I first started going on longer hikes after I saw people on Youtube on those really long American trails like the PCT, so I can understand why so many Germans make trips to the US to hike.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/11/21 01:59 PM

Originally Posted By Marieke
The only tarptents I’ve found seem to need a hiking pole to set up. Since I don’t use hiking poles, thats not really an option for me.

None of the three person+ Tarptents require hiking poles to set up.

Rainshadow 3 can set up with a hiking pole, but you can purchase an optional pole to use instead. Even with the optional pole it is a roomy 3 person tent under 1.4 kgs.

The Cloudburst 3 and the 4-person Hogback do not require trekking poles to set up. I have a Hogback and it is my absolute favorite tent. I don't know how I could do backpacking with my family of 4 without it.
Posted by: Arizona

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/11/21 06:46 PM

Its not just someone from another country that mistakes pronghorn for something else. We see them on every backpacking trip we take into the Petrified Forest. Once an excited fellow wearing his sweater tied loosely around his neck Ivy League style exclaimed about the elk! I tried to tell him they were pronghorn with the unique antlers. He exclaimed yes, they are elk. Lol I let it go.
On one trip there we came over a ridge and got the amazing sight of three pronghorn moving south to north at 60 mph over the rough terrain. That was one of those moments you never forget. It seemed a beautiful impossibility.
Posted by: Bill Kennedy

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/12/21 05:22 AM

These are apparently antelope with afterburners. We saw a group of half a dozen running flat out across the (large) summit of Steens Mountain, going what seemed like as fast as an animal could possibly run, when the one in the lead shot out in front of the others like they were standing still. Unforgettable.

Sorry about hijacking the thread.
Posted by: the-gr8t-waldo

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 01/12/21 01:44 PM

Tarptent has an add on tent extention they call the "sidecar" looks perfect for a dog, or dog and 1or2 backpacks. that coupled with approiate two person tent seems like the ideal arragment. and all their tents have the option of a deicated carbon fiber pole(s) premade of course.
Posted by: StanR

Re: Advice on beginner friendly 3 person tent? - 02/19/21 03:47 PM

i have a mountainsmith 2 person tent that is a fair price bomb shelter,it a 2 pole freestanding tent with just some mesh panel ,i used it in snow,heavy wind ,and rain,they have 3=4 person also,i have several high end tent also ,but this tent is great