Tents aren’t just shelters anymore, they’re social hubs—and brands are paying attention.
For car- and basecampers, premium tentmakers are offering lifestyle upgrades without watering down their reputations. Look for three-season designs that blend larger doors with lighter fabrics to make gains in both livability and weight savings. Exterior space is also growing with awnings, porches, and add-on wings all part of this year’s lineup. Organization also gets an upgrade with mesh storage pockets and hangers in a variety of new configurations.
Bring a friend: Tents are getting bigger. Several brands are adding space to proven models to fit an extra person. That’s the up-size trend, and then there’s the super-sized trend of shelters built to act as a community hubs at big outings. Options range from NEMO’s Dark Timber, a field tent behemoth, to Big Agnes’s Mint Saloon, designed to be fun and loud, like the festivals where it is most likely to appear. That was the intent behind the circus-tent style of the project, according to Len Zanni, co-owner and marketing director at Big Agnes. “The result is a giant yurt-like structure with a wild aspen tree print complete with carvings on it designed by one of our team members.”
Back for seconds
Performance tents play the weight-and-cost game, too. Several second-takes on popular models add a little leg- or headroom or drop ounces and prices. Marmot changed up fabrics on its Tungsten UL two-person tent: “We wanted to make an ultralight tent that didn’t sacrifice space or comfort, but rather provided more,” said Wade Woodfill, hardgoods merchandising manager at Marmot. Not all improvements will replace their namesakes, either: Mountainsmith will sell its second-generation Morrison tent alongside the original. The new “Evo” version includes a footprint and waterproofed vestibule fly among other design updates.
Specialized users have different demands, and as we’ve seen in every other sector, the backcountry traveler is a standout. MSR’s Shelter Project Manager Terry Breaux said the market for premium specialty tents is healthy, with dollar sales up despite a drop in volume. Breaux said rather than trying to accommodate everyone with a three-in-one tent, MSR is building new tents for technical pursuits. “The worst thing we could do is put the customer in the wrong tent,” he says.
Sierra Designs updated its flagship shelter, adding space without weight at a lower price. The Clip Flashlight 2 (MSRP $200) is a two-pole, non-freestanding tent with a big drop door. The mesh body keeps things light and breezy, and helps keep the tent's total packed weight under 4 pounds. The Lightyear 1 (MSRP $170) is the one-person version.
Social camping gets a nod from NEMO with the Front Porch 2P (MSRP $390), which looks like an awning with an attached tent. That provides 43 square feet of gathering space to cook, play games, or, as the name implies, share front porch stories with friends. The back door opens to a small vestibule for gear storage.
MSR positions its Access 2 (MSRP $600) as a winter backcountry tent that’s lighter than a mountaineering tent and warmer than a backpacking tent. MSR uses a modified A-frame design and Easton Syclone poles that flex under high winds.
Therm-a-Rest enters the tent market with new solutions to old problems. The Tranquility 4 (MSRP $480), little sibling of the Tranquility 6, offers basecamp luxury options like power cord ports and storage nooks. The attached vestibule has mud mats and a hitch for hanging wet jackets. Add-on Wings (MSRP $130) can replace the rainfly or act as a separate awning.
The North Face reached back nearly four decades to refresh its VE-23 geodesic tent with a few more features. The resulting Domey 3 (MSRP $250) isn't much lighter or bigger, but features three D-shaped doors, something that would have weighed down its ancestor. Available in modern patterns.
Vertical walls aren't for every occasion. Hilleberg adds a larger version of its popular tunnel-shaped line with the Kaitum 4 GT (MSRP $1,195). The GT version includes an extended vestibule on one of the two entrances for better livability in bad weather. It measures more than 50 square feet inside and 37 square feet in the vestibule.
The Marmot Tungsten UL 2P (MSRP $300) is a good example of designers shaving weight from a popular tent without losing space. Lighter-denier fabrics helped bring down the Tungsten's minimum weight by more than a pound, to 3 pounds 8.5 ounces.
This story first appeared in the Day 2 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.