ORSM ‘12 Tent Preview: Tall tales

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing the top new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake Aug. 1-5. Today, we look at some of latest tents for spring '13.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing the top new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, Aug. 1-5. All these stories also can be found in the print or digital flipbook edition of our Planning Guide.

Like a wave of suburbanites expanding their ranch-style homes upward, manufacturers are popping the top on tents for 2013.

It’s all in the name of “livability,” a word we heard from almost every brand. At Summer Market 2012, you’ll see more “spreader bars” being used to create steeper sidewalls for increased head and shoulder room.

Thanks to lighter tent fabric and pole technologies, there’s leeway for a little extra weight in expanded structures. Consumers have signaled their demand for more square footage recently with many couples opting for roomier three-person tents, even in the backcountry.

“Two people in a three-person tent has become the new fit because the weight of a three is what a two was several years ago,” said Phil Mesdag, product manager at Sierra Designs.

Now manufacturers are trying to make those two-person tents just as livable with increased interior space above, so consumers don’t have to opt for the full upgrade to a three-person version. Poles and structures are being tweaked to add more vestibule space and height for minimum weight.

Beyond lightweight fabrics and poles, manufacturers are saving weight with designs that maximize the fabric tension and pole relationship to pull weight out of the structure, but maintain durability and stability.

One aspect to the livability push to look for at the show: How tentmakers will communicate to consumers that increased upper space. Footprints and center heights provide some idea, but hardly tell the whole story. It’s a message companies are working on, we’re told.

>> Following its success with the ultralight Kilo tent series, Easton Mountain Products turns its focus to the general backpacker who wants more room at a lower price point. Enter the Rimrock 2 (MSRP $249), which features a classic cross-pole design, but uses two perpendicular spreader poles to create more head and shoulder room at both ends (not just the center) within 35 square feet and a 45-inch center height at less than 5 pounds.

>> To create steeper sidewalls and more room in a lightweight package, the new Sierra Designs Flash 2 (MSRP $340) external pitch tent utilizes spreader poles in two directions (side-to-side and front-to-back) in conjunction with a hybrid double-/single-wall design to come in at 3 pounds, 15 ounces.

>> Eureka revamps its backpacking tent collection in 2013, including the affordable Taron 2 (MSRP $159) with a spreader pole over the doors and new vestibule anchor points to increase space. A mix of mesh and more breathable fabric in the canopy cut down on moisture, with everything weighing in at 4 pounds, 13 ounces.

>> Alps Mountaineering makes improvements to its Vertex line with the introduction of the Morada 2 (MSRP $240), which replaces the former’s connected hub pole design with three separate poles to allow for a longer spreader bar that increases upper canopy and vestibule space. The tent and fly come in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces.

>> Exped expands its four-season Orion tent line with the new Orion 3 (MSRP $729), a two-door tent with a tunnel design, relying on a full-length ridge pole running perpendicular across the center to provide stability, plus expanded and supported vestibules.

>> Mountain Hardwear introduces its “Dry Pitch” concept in the redesign of several of its tents, including the Skyledge 3 (MSRP $550). The design, which has been common in Europe, allows users to pitch the fly of the tent first, then add the canopy underneath without getting it wet. More mesh and fewer poles also slim down the 2013 version to 4 pounds, 2 ounces.


>> Seeing a growing demand for car camping, Big Agnes builds upon a unique hybrid tent/shelter line in the Wyoming 4 (MSRP $495) with its spacious vestibule in the center (enough room for to set out some camp chairs or bikes), plus two, two-person tents on either side. Or go with one two-man tent and a massive vestibule.

--David Clucas

Be sure to check out many more new tent products and trends in the O.R. Daily, published live at the show Aug. 2-5, and available digital format the following day of print at SNEWS.