Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 Preview: Tents

New pole and tension technologies alter looks.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, SNEWS is previewing new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, July 30-Aug. 3. Today, we take a peek at tents. You can access all these articles and more in our digital edition of the O.R. Daily Day 0.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market preview is brought to you by Cordura.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market preview is brought to you by Cordura.

It’s a tale of two tent trends heading into Summer Market 2013.

At one end of the spectrum, manufacturers are pushing out the interior boundaries of tents, particularly increasing upper shoulder and headroom. They’re adding pole structure, but maintaining acceptable weights thanks to overall lighter materials.

At the opposite end, we’re seeing a rise in superlight tent/tarps hybrids — utilizing trekking poles and tension systems to shed even more weight, while using thoughtful design to make setup a breeze.

“We’ve got to get out of this world, where every tent looks the same,” said Jeff Blakely, general manager of Brooks-Range Mountaineering, and a proponent of more tension-system technologies. “Innovation will center around, ‘what else do you do to increase the strength of a tent with fewer or no poles.’”

That being said, consumers continue to demand more three- and even-four person backcountry tents with plenty of pole structure for the so-called “livability” factor. As long as a tent hits the sweet spot of between 4 and 5 pounds, many will carry it for the extra space, said Rich Packer, sales manager at Easton Mountain Products. And these larger tents will keep getting lighter, hinting that his company will debut a new pole technology at the show that is “the same weight as aluminum and the same cost, but 80 percent more resilient under wind loads and flex testing.”

Tent manufacturers also will debate at the show on how best to convey to the consumer all the extra space in tents, beyond just footprints and peak heights. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) put out the challenge to its stakeholders a year ago, and you’ll want to check out Nemo Equipment’s preliminary pitch for a “tent topographic” map to help guide consumers.

>> After seeing success with its Scout UL2 a year ago, Big Agnes increases its trekking pole tent lineup by adding vestibule space in the Scout Plus UL (MSRP $350) and Super Scout UL2 (MSRP $400). The latter has almost as much room in the vestibule as in the tent.


>> The Brooks-Range Tension 30 (MSRP $420) and Tension 40 (MSRP $460) rely on their namesake to maintain strength while reducing weight, with fewer poles. Plus, the unconventional structure still provides good space up top in the canopy.


>> Between two backpackers, there can be a total of four trekking poles, so why not use all of them for a more livable two-person tent? That’s the theory behind Nemo Equipment’s new Veda 2P (MSRP $430), which weighs in at just 2 pounds, 14 ounces, but features more vestibule and interior space than most trekking pole tents.


>> For customers who want versatility between a tent and a tarp, take a look at Sea to Summit’s Escapist Tarp (MRSPs $169, 9.5 ounces, medium/ $199, 12.3 ounces, large) made from the same 15-denier Ulta-Sil Nano material found in the brand’s drybags. The tarp can be coupled with the Escapist Mesh Inner Net or Tent (MSRPs $79/$199) for a more tent-like experience. Circular bar tacks, reinforced corners and cord-lock guy lines increase durability and ease of setup.


>> Customers will appreciate the simple, yet handy details of Kelty’s TraiLogic Tents (MSRPs $250, 2-person / $300 3-person), which feature oversized doors and footprints along with a “Stargazing Fly” that quickly can slide between halfway off to fully on, without the user exiting the tent. Also of note, the accompanying wider and thinner rectangle-shaped stuff sack allows the tent to fit better in one’s pack.


>> A fair share of returning servicemen and women are requesting the same durable and sturdy tents they had in the battlefield for the campground. Hence Eureka introduces its Down Range tents(MSRPs $189, solo / $299, 2-person), which are based on its U.S. Armed Forces and Marine combat tents.


>> The iconic MSR Hubba Hubba tentseries gets a redesign for 2014 with lighter materials to bring the 2-person Hubba Hubba NX (MSRP $390) down to 3 pounds, 7 ounces, plus a new 4-person version, the Papa Hubba (MSRP $600) at about 6 pounds. They all come with a signature unified pole and hub system that’s color-coded for fast and easy setup.


>> The fine details are what make Marmot’s new Stormlight seriesof tents stand out (MSRPs $299, 2-person; 4 pounds, 13 ounces / $349, 3-person; 5 pounds, 14 ounces). They are built light, but with heavy use in mind. The fly employs sonic welding at the seams to increase waterproofness, and a new solution dye polyurethane is blended into the filament to retain fabric strength over time.


>> Not only is Easton Mountain Products working on lighter and stronger poles, it’s also aiming to lighten and improve its tent fabrics. Its new Si2 Cuben Mountaineering Tent (MSRP $2,000) brings the brand into high-end niche market and employs cuben fibers. It innovates by blending the light and strong material with waterproof/breathable Event fabric in roof panels to help with climate control.


These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new products and trends in the O.R. Daily, Days 1-4, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.