Advice on buying a tent?

I need a small tent (1 person plus gear). I’m getting a little confused about different spec tents out there. Can someone help me out?

My immediate need is a supported bike tour (they carry my gear for me) but gear allotment is very limited, and I also hope to use it on unsupported tours in the future, so weight is an important issue. The most severe condition I expect is high altitude in spring or fall, so lowest temperature may be a few degrees below freezing. Length of packaged tent isn’t too important, since my recumbent bike has a long frame section I can strap a tent to. Budget is somewhat flexible.

After gooling some FAQs, it looks like the Eureka Apex 2A might be close to what I need. Am I anywhere close to being on the right track? This won’t be my first tent, but I’m not sure about the specs of the one I had before (I left it in Japan). I remember it was labeled as a “2-person” tent but turned out to be too small for myself plus a duffel. I ended up having to leave the bag outside - under the fly, but still exposed to rain+wind.

Here are some really light 1-man tents from REI has an awesome selection of tents. If you click on “camping” on the lefthand side of the page, then click on “tent finder,” this is a good tool for finding a tent. Or you can just browse through their tents.

Kelty Crestone 1 3 lbs. 8 oz.

Kelty Quartz 1 5 lbs. 6 oz.

MSR Hubba 3 lbs. 7 oz.

Marmot Eclipse 1P 4 lbs. 11 oz.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 1 3 lbs. 12 oz.

REI Roadster Tent 3 lbs. 3 oz.

The North Face Canyonlands Tent 3 lbs. 14 oz.

Here is a tent finder from REI.
Personally I perfer a 2 person tent like this one . I tokk one similar to this on a 7 day supported tour of Northern Cal a few years back. If I was going unsupported, I would go back and buy a lighter single person tent.

I have a Eureka Timberline and I find it quite handy. Although much more tent than you will want to tote around. And you are right “2 person” tents are usually only good for 1 person. Always take the number it says it will sleep and divide by 2, especially if you have gear.
I also have a Kelty similar to this one . I lived in it for 3 weeks up in Utah while doing field camp. Kind of cramped with tons of stuff, but you don’t spend all day in there.

Anyway… If you will only be sleeping in it and not leaving it set up, go with one that packs down fairly small, I believe they give packed dimensions/weight. Look on or Or go to your local sporting goods store and look to see what they have set up on their display floor. Sorry I wasn’t more helpful. I would go with nothing less than a “2 person” if you want space for your duffel/shoes.

My boyfriend has this Eureka tent, the Solitaire :

I have taken it along camping twice as a gear holder, I think it is just a little too tiny for comfort. It does not have the “plastic” floor that the Apex 2A has, and it picked up a little bit of floor moisture on my last trip (but then again, 13 inches of rain might drown any tent.) However, it weighs under 3 pounds and can be set up in about 5 minutes (or less.) So if weight really, really matters…

The half dome 2 at REI makes a great, roomy one person tent and it is very affordable. It was the editor’s choice at Backpacker magazine a couple of years ago and since then they’ve impvoved on it.

You can also check out gear reviews at They have reviews from the magazines and a forum where users can chime in.

I can’t say enough good things abou this tent, it’s a little heavish (5-6 pounds) but there’s room for you and gear.

First off, do not go with a “one man” tent if you plan to put your gear inside. From my experience, the “number of men” rating is always about 1/2 a man shy on backpacking tents. So a “2-man” tent is really a 1 1/2 man sized space. That is, most 2 men tents (lightweight, for backpacking, etc.) are the right size for one person and some gear.

That said, I’d highly recommend looking into the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent (you can find it on the REI website). I can personally vouch for the earlier version of this tent (instead of the clips - which make it much faster to put up/take down - mine had the old style sleeves to put the poles into). This tent is one of the lightest, 3 season, “2 man” :wink: tents around. I took mine on many a backpacking trip and a good friend took his on a cross-country bicycle trip. It worked out perfectly for myself and my pack inside.
I did use it for two people on numerous occasions, but it does take some “choreography” for both to get in/out.
If you look at the pictures of this tent, you’ll see how they made it so light - there is a taller, wider compartment toward the front, and a much shorter, narrower area in the back. That is, the tent is assymetric from front to back. The idea is you extend your legs into the shorter, narrower area, and your head goes into the wider, taller area.

My 2 cents

A buddy of mine that has a tent just like the one the OP posted. It is probably the same exact one. He is very happy with it. If you are just one person in the tent, you can do very well with one of those little light ones.

However, you might also want to look into a hammock tent. I have the Hennessy Hammock. It is far more comfortable than any tent. You sleep in a hammock, between two trees. Or a car and a tree, or whatever. It’s easy to set up an very comfortable. You lay on the hammock on a slight diagonal, which allows you to lay on your side. They are also extremely light. Much lighter than tents. Only a few pounds for my hammock, because there aren’t any poles. Only problem is the cold. It isn’t a cold weather tent. They do fine in the rain, though.

Another brand to check out is the Clark Jungle Hammock. I don’t own one of these. From the reviews that I read, it seems that these are much better in the cold. They have lots more features, but are more expensive. However, they are not as comfortable as the Hennessy Hammock because you cannot lay on your side. They don’t have the same clever design.

Thanks for all the advice. I’m still overwhelmed by the number of choices out there. The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight looks neat, but I understand it’s not a free-standing tent? How big a deal is this in actual use?

I don’t think a 1-person tent or hammock tent would work for me. I need room for some gear, and I can’t count on trees being available (a hammock tent needs at least one, I presume?)

The one drawback of the clip flashlight is that it is not a freestanding tent (done to minimize pole length, and therefore weight). It only really requires 4 stakes for the tent (the two side ones aren’t really necessary unless it’s really windy). And if you use the rainfly, you can get by with just two more (as I recall, there were loops to hold the fly further off the tent, but I rarely used them. 4 of the 6 corners of the fly are simply tied to where the poles end).
For the pre-clip version (the sleeve version I mentioned), one of their advertising claims was “up in 90 seconds”. And to be honest, I am sure I was able to match, if not beat, that mark on most occasions (especially if it was raining at the time ;-).
I’m sure the clip version could go up in less than a minute.

If you do go with the tent, assuming they’re using the same stakes, I’d recommend chucking the stakes that come with the tent, and buying some beefier ones. I bent almost all of the standard stakes the first time out (they were way too thin). I found some real nice aluminum stakes that lasted for years.

Since you’re interested in the Flashlight (and I still recommend it highly), one of the “cons” to the tent is that with the fly on, the ventilation isn’t the greatest. So unless it was raining at the time, or rain was imminent, a lot of times I would sort of “half hookup” the fly and drape it over the side. This would allow for better ventilation and would still be plenty warm. If it did start to rain, I could easily flip the fly into place and tie it down. The fly does work really well in the rain/wind. And provided you’ve seam sealed the bottom, you’ll be warm and dry.

BTW, I would imagine it is from Sierra Designs, but it could be a third party as well, but a groundcloth is available with the Flashlight footprint for an exact fit. Pretty cool (wasn’t available when I got my tent).

If you have an REI nearby, I’d go down and see if you could check the tent out in person. I’ve seen them set up at my local store on occasion. But even if it wasn’t, I’m sure they could set one up for you. It might be worth it to see how it “fits” you.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks cormac262. The Clip Flashlight still sounds good. Unfortunately there’s no REI in my town, or even my state, so I’ll need to mail-order without seeing it. (I hope REI has a good return policy?)

About the rainfly - is it only used when it’s actually raining, or should I set it up every night to prevent dew? How wet do tents get if I don’t use a rainfly and it starts raining in the middle of the night?

REI has a great return policy, just save the recipt.

IMHO getting a free standing tent is VERY important. Free standing tents give you much more versatility allowing you to set up in rocky or sandy areas and won’t force you to get out of your sleeping bag in the middle of the night to re-stake your tent.

I bought a non-free standing bivy sack a couple of years ago and really regret the purchase.

For what it’s worth, REI’s front page today reads “Break the 10 pound barrier! Cut the total weight for your tent, pack and bag to under 10 pounds and you’ll be on your way to light-and-fast hiking bliss. Assemble a sub-10-pound kit right here:” I can’t help you too much on a specific lightweight tent, since the SuperWife and I usually ride on a tour with a 50 lb per person baggage allowance. We tend to share a larger tent so we can bring our gear in with us at night.

I’m a big fan of using the rainfly in all but the warmest (and clearest) nights. Waking up in the middle of the night to rainshowers sucks; by the time you wake up, drag yourself out of the tent, put up the rainfly in the dark and rain, and get back into the tent, your sleeping bag will be cold and wet. You’ll burn lots of calories you were planning to use on the next day’s ride warming up all the water in your sleeping bag. And on cooler nights, it’s nice to have the frost on the outside of the rainfly, where you can shake it off before packing up the tent. If it’s warm, you can leave the rainfly doors rolled open for a cross breeze. The rainfly also provides more privacy in a crowded campsite.

** Unrelated tip: put your cycling shorts in the bottom of your sleeping bag when you go to bed. Warm shorts are so much more pleasant than a cold chamois on your parts first thing in the morning. **

REI’s return policy is excellent. So if you don’t like it (or anything), they’ll take it back no questions asked.

As to the rainfly, if it is raining you will definitely need it. The front door is all screen and is slightly off vertical, so water would easily come through. There is also a small screen window in the back. (BTW, the screen material they use is called “no see-um proof”, and it really is ! This is partially why the ventilation isn’t the best, but to avoid no see-ums it is a good tradeoff). And the nylon that is used for the rest of the tent would leak like a sieve. Adding to your pain would be that the floor (if properly seam sealed) is waterproof, so the leaked water would be stuck in your tent !

You could probably get by if you’re just dealing with dew. But the drawback there is that it would soak into the nylon and that might take some time to dry. One of the advantages of the rainfly is that you can get most of the water off with a good shake and draping it on some branches to dry.

The other thing to consider is that the rainfly does make a difference with retaining heat. Since it forms kind of a vapor lock, that combined with the reduced ventilation does add for a warmer inside. Using the tent without the rainfly would be a little warmer than just sleeping outside, but it would mostly be due to removing airflow (wind chill). So even if it doesn’t look like rain, but you’re at elevation, you’ll still want to put up the rainfly. Those instances when I only put the fly on halfway were in warmer areas. And if it was dewey, I might not be concerned as I would know the tent would dry by the time I’d finished breakfast.
The downside, of course, is when it looks like rain or is raining, and it’s relatively warm. But you would deal with this with any tent.

With regard to Madmonk’s comments, there are definitely some ease-of-placement issues with a free-standing tent. And you’ll have to consider that vs. the tent weight. I will admit that there some times that took some searching for a good spot, where a free-standing tent did not. This was mostly with rocky or hard ground. The tent did fine in sand or soft ground, though. Even though the stakes didn’t feel like they were doing much, if you just put a decent rock on top of each stake, the tent will be fine (unless there’s really high winds).
As I said, I was very happy with mine for 10+ years. And my friend who cycled cross country loved his.

Does anyone know if tents like the REI Half Dome go on sale at the end of the season? I need a tent for a class I’m taking this fall, and last spring when I learned I had to camp I went to REI and I swear the Half Dome tent was only $109. I should have bought it then, but now I’ll have to pay more unless they mark them down at the end of the summer. I won’t need a tent until October, so I can wait if they do go on sale.

REI has a big camping sale around April or May and maybe another one in late fall. I remember REI outlet had some of the old style Hald Dome 2 on sale, you can follow the link from to the outlet. For some reason I couldn’t access REI tonight.

Even with all the specific tent reccomendations, keep three things in mind:

  1. Test it out at home. Make sure it has all the required parts and sets up as you would expect. Don’t forget to sleep in it with all the gear you plan to take with you on your trip(s).

  2. Consider taking a few spare parts with you, such as a ripstop nylon repair kit, a few extra stakes, etc.

  3. Test it out at home a week later with your eyes blindfolded the whole time, preferably in the rain with the wind blowing. (I kid you not!) You may not have optimum conditions and it pays to know how to set up your tent in the dark, alone and no available light to see by.

Hint: Buy some water-proofing spray, and spray all the seams, especially around the bottom. Wetness in tents is just the worst. :confused:

Use SeamSealer, which should come with your tent. It paints on, rather than sprays, and is more effective.

I prefer free standing tents but the Clip Flashlight is a standard out there, many people have used it for years and love it. It’s not hard to set up the stakes with this tent as the lines aren’t very long and it does allow you to save weight.

I set up my rainfly every night, you never know when the rain will fall or a particularly heavy dew will thud.