Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012: Tents

Check out the top tent products and trends for 2013 that we encountered at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

Truth in advertising has proven elusive when it comes to world of lightweight “two-person” tents.

Can you fit two people in there? Sure, if they both lie perfectly straight and skip that second helping of s’mores. The tight quarters have led many couples to opt for three- or even four-person tents, especially as the average weights of shelters dropped.

Tentmakers have gotten the message, and beyond debuting more three- and four-person backpacking tents (a trend we noted last year), they’re also redesigning those two-person tents to create a little more livability.

“It’s not a two-person tent, if all they can do is lay flat,” said Dale Karacostas, director of tents and shelters at MSR parent Cascade Designs. “I think most consumers expect that they’ll both be able to sit up in a tent to play a game of cards.”

Thanks to lighter tent fabric and pole technologies, manufacturers are taking back some of those weight savings, adding larger spreader bars to create steeper sidewalls and more room up top.

The new Sierra Designs Flash 2 (MSRP $340) external pitch tent saves weight with a hybrid double-/single-wall design, while utilizing spreader poles in two directions (side-to-side and front-to-back) to increase shoulder and head room. It’s a roomy, yet light package at 3 pounds 15 ounces. Easton Mountain Products also employs two spreader poles in its new Rimrock 2 (MSRP $249). The brand, which spent the past two years wooing ultralight campers with its Kilo series, puts back some weight to create a spacious 35-square-foot tent with a 45-inch center height at less than 5 pounds.

Sierra Designs Flash 2

Easton Rimrock 2


Marmot’s new 3-pound, 8 ounce Eclipse 2p (MSRP $369) single-entry tent uses a spreader pole up top and expands room at the bottom by pulling out the tent with its clip points to create a cubby for the feet without increasing adding more material. “If you’re 6-foot-6, it makes a big difference,” said Marmot’s Jordan Campbell.

Marmot Eclipse 2p

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 weighs in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces. And The North Face debuts the Kings Canyon 2 (4 pounds, 10 ounces, MSRP $359), 3 (5 pounds, 14 ounces, MSRP $429) and 4 (7 pounds, MSRP $499) tents, which create steeper sidewalls with four points of contact up top through two pole hubs.

Alps Mountaineering Morada 2

All the extra interior room raises the question of how tent manufacturers can best express those space gains to consumers. Floor footprints and center heights don’t provide a complete picture, and there is no set standard on total tent volume. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and its outdoor industry stakeholders will discuss the topic during their meetings at Summer Market, officials said.

Vestibule space also is on the rise, giving campers more room to store their gear. Eureka’s new line of backpacking tents, including the Taron 2 (MSRP $159) not only includes a spreader bar, but also employs a small strut and nifty anchor points to prop up the bottom side ends of the fly. Exped’s new Orion 3 (MSRP $729) uses a full-length ridge pole arching perpendicular across the center of the tent to provide stability, plus expanded and supported vestibules.

Eureka Taron 2

Exped Orion 3


Hilleberg updates last year’s debut of its first three-season tent series, the Anjan, with the Anjan GT 2 and 3 (MSRPs N/A), which feature expanded vestibules on the entry end of the tent almost as large as the meshed area. The vestibule addition ups the weight by a little more than a pound to 4 pounds, 3 ounces for the Anjan GT 2 and 4 pounds 10 ounces for the Anjan GT 3.

Hilleberg Anjan GT

Look at the Big Agnes Wyoming 4 (MSRP $495), and you’ll realize the designers flipped tent philosophy 180 degrees. The large vestibule takes up the center (with enough room for camping chairs or bikes) while two, two-person meshed sleeping quarters are situated on the ends.

Big Agnes Wyoming 4

MSR doubles the storage space on last year’s Nook tents by introducing the Nook Gear Shed (MSRP $170), an add-on vestibule with an integrated partial floor to keep gear clean. It makes one tent do double duty, officials said, effective as a minimalist tent alone, or a more spacious setup at base camp with the add-on, negating the need to buy two tents.

MSR Nook Gear Shed

Other new tents to check out on the Summer Market show floor or out in Tent City include the redesigned Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3, with its “Dry Pitch” system allowing 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. Kelty looks to changeup tent setup with two new AirPitch tents, which replace traditional poles with inflatable poles. The tents can be set up in less than a minute, and the air-filled poles resist bending or breaking in the wind. The AirPitch Mach 4 (MSRP $389) and Mach 6 (MSRP $499) are intended for car camping, featuring 50 and more than 100 square feet of internal and vestibule space, respectively, with center heights of 74 and 76 inches.

Kelty AirPitch Mach 4

Wild Country by Terra Nova, borrows its ultralight parent brand’s single-walled tent design, but substitutes the expensive Cuban fiber fabric for an affordable ripstop nylon in the Zephyros 1 and 2 Lite (MSRPs $150-$190). The tents remain relatively light at 2 pounds, 8 ounces for the 1-person, and 2 pounds, 14 ounces for the two-person.

--David Clucas

Big Agnes debuts zipperless tent

Zippers can be the bane of a tentmaker's existence.

They weigh a lot. They break. They’re expensive. They’re noisy. For all those reasons, Big Anges co-owner Bill Gamber doesn’t like them on tents. So for a while, his team in Steamboat Springs, Colo. has been thinking about how to make a zipperless tent.

Of course, many minimalist shelters and tarps are zipperless, but Gamber wanted a tent — fly, mesh, poles and all — sans zipper.

Big Agnes debuts its first stab at the idea this Summer Market with its Fishhook SL 1- and 2-person (3 pounds, 7 ounces) tents (MSRPs $350-$400). At the fly, the tents use a crossover design to create seal, negating the need for a zipper — simple enough. The mesh entry proved harder to figure out, Gamber said.

For starters, Big Agnes had to design the tent structure to tension throughout. Zippers may have many faults, but they perform well in this regard. After resolving that issue, the challenge turned to creating a bug-proof barrier. The designers settled on small magnets — several beaded ones placed along the entry, allowing the door to open easily, then snap back into place quickly. Extra material placed along the opening like storm flaps keeps most insects out.

Is it 100 percent bug proof? “Not yet,” Gamber admits. “But we’re getting there.”

--David Clucas