Gear trends: Tents of '17 are all about versatility

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Shape shifters: New tents have versatile designs that adjust to the demands of weather, season, or group size.

SAME SHELTER, MULTIPLE CONFIGURATIONS: Campers continue to press for tents that can adjust to different pursuits and conditions, allwhile providing ample space without added weight.

Two-in-one shelters that can pitch with the fly or body alone are increasingly popular among campers. That’s an essential option of the new Sierra Designs High Route tent, created in collaboration with adventurer and brand ambassador Andrew Skurka. “I wanted a single shelter that would be appropriate for friendly summer weather as well as moderate winter conditions,” Skurka said. “It needed to be light and well-ventilated, but spacious and storm-worthy.”

This year, tentmakers continue to deliver shelters with the social side of camping in mind, with some dome tent specs reading like apartment listings. Each brand has its own take on the trend, but common features include larger vestibules or awnings, which, like good mullets, are all business up top but let the party flow underneath.

Tents that offer a supplemental pitch with trekking poles have expanded beyond the world of ultralight shelters, becoming widespread among all styles and sizes. The feature saves weight and expands exterior porch/vestibule space, making the already-popular trekking pole a campsite essential.

Retailers will also be happy to see that several brands, such as NEMO (with the Hornet Elite) and Mountainsmith (the Morrison 2 EVO; below), have improved their bestselling designs by adding storage compartments and updating meshes and fabrics to cut weight—without higher price tags.

1. The three-season Nightfall 2 from Slumberjack (MSRP $149) allows for double-wall or fly-only configurations. In traditional tent mode, steep walls maximize breathing room. An external pitch option offers a dry setup. The vestibule rolls away or acts as a porch awning propped up by two trekking poles. It comes in two- and three-person options and starts at just over 5 pounds.

Slumberjack tent

2. The two-person Suite Dream (MSRP $250) by Eureka! is all about maximizing space—so you can bring all kinds of gear inside. Aimed at car campers, it fits one queen-size air bed, stashes electronics and muddy boots (separately), and dangles a bottle of wine (or a few beers) from a holder that hangs overhead. The 17-square-foot vestibule area is great for stashing gear.

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3. Inspired by pyramid tents, Sierra Designs’ two-door High Route (MSRP $300) is a one-person shelter intended to broaden the range of the typical three-season tent. Its steep side walls and vertical doors are two aspects design collaborator Andrew Skurka found lacking in other trekking pole shelters. The two poles are offset so they don’t block entries. The awning includes 5-inch vents and shelters the doors, which can open from the top. In balmy weather, campers canguy out the doors for better ventilation and deploy a bug net.

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4.Big Agnes hits a new sweet spot of price and performance with its Van Camp SL2 (MSRP $300). This 28-square-foot backpacking shelter sleeps two, weighs 4 pounds, 7 ounces, but still comes in $100 less than the brand’s other superlights. Its no-nonsense looks won’t generate features buzz, but will tempt frugal weight-watchers who previously sat on their wallets.

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5. Campers and hunters alike can use NEMO’s Dark Timber wall tents (MSRP $500) as a basecamp or a town hall. At just under 15 pounds, this two-door shelter provides 69 square feet of floor space, plus an overhanging tarp that acts as a roof and waterproof walls. The upper portions of the side walls (located under the overhanging tarp) allow heat to escape, reducing condensation problems. Despite its size, the tent is designed for easy one-person setup.

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6.Mountainsmith upgrades its feature-rich and affordable freestanding shelter as the Morrison 2 Evo (MSRP $200). The remodeling creates more head- and elbowroom by adding a brow pole and a roomier vestibule. New touches include reflective stake points, rain flaps on the fly windows,more storage space, and an included footprint. Rugged (68-denier polyester) and roomy (36 square feet), the shelter is targeted to car campers.

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