Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 Preview: Tents

Consumers opting to buy both backpacking and car camping tents. Get a preview of camping tents to hit retail shelves in 2015.
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Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and Open Air Demo in Salt Lake City, Aug. 5-9. You can access all these articles and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 edition.

Tent manufacturers are staking out their presence in an increasingly divergent category.

On one side, there are the backpackers, who are gravitating toward ultralight tents, with a notable comeback in non free-standing/trekking pole models.

And then there are the car/base campers, who are demanding more space and more creature comforts, including integrated technology, front-porch-like settings or versatile privacy and storage.

It’s good news for most tent brands and retailers, as they see customers buying two tents instead of one to satisfy needs on both ends of the spectrum.

While the middle ground is shrinking, there is common ground for the two segments, the biggest being the push to open up head and shoulder room for increased livability — no more crouching to play cards. It’s spurring new designs beyond the x-pole and challenging brands and retailers to educate customers beyond footprints sizes.

“More tents are being sold online these days,” said Wade Woodfill, category manager for equipment at Marmot. “How can the industry better explain the living space?” Videos and engaging graphics will play an important role, he said.

We’re also seeing a lot more tension in tents as designers figure out new ways to create structure and space with less poles, plus the use of more gray or white mesh, which does a better job reflecting light and keeping things more private inside.

>>Alps Mountaineering tents have tended to provide roomier footprints. Now the brand is expanding things up top, too, with steeper walls in its new Gradient series (MSRP $229; 2p). The design also creates a taller side door for easier entry. On the opposite side, the second door (in the two-person version) is replaced with a small zippered entry to the vestibule for quick access to gear.

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>> At first glance, the NemoBlaze (MSRP $450) looks like a typical x-pole design, until you realize there’s just a single main pole for two corners, while the other two are staked out to complete the structure in this non-freestanding design. The result: A two-person tent at 2 pounds without compromising space and luxuries, like two doors. Plus it’s a much easier set-up than trekking pole tents.

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>> Integrated bug protection has proven popular in apparel, so why no bring the technology to tents? Wenzel does just that in its Insect Armour, 3-, 5- and 10-person Ridgeline models that employ permethrin in the fabrics to repel mosquitoes, chiggers and other biting insects at camp.

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>> Non-freestanding, trekking pole tents are making a nice resurgence among backpackers looking to save weight and pack small. MSR shaves some more ounces with the single-walled FlyLite (MSRP $350) for one to two people, weighing in at a scant 1 pound, 9 ounces. Four awning-covered vents promote airflow and the vertical-wall design provides ample head and elbow room.

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>> Whether it’s pockets to hold tablets, cord management or lighting reflection, tent designers are increasingly aware that more campers are bringing along their gadgets. Big Agnes takes a stab at providing some of that gadgetry with its MtnGlo technology — a string of rechargeable led lights built into some of its new tents or separately sold with others. No more fumbling for the headlamp, just hit the switch. The Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 (MSRP $600) showcases the tech, and comes with a lightweight Joey portable power device for recharging.

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>> As many taller campers know, a tent’s footprint might seem to give them a few inches of extra room at the head and toes. But ultimately, the encroaching pyramid structure of the sidewalls squeezes Paul Bunyan in. Marmot targets that 12 inches above the sleeping area as the most important in its new Tungsten tents (MSRP $199; 2p), giving its poles a new bend to expand the space out before pitching back in. It’s just one of the zone-mapped features of the series, including varying mesh/fabric mixes on each wall and unevenly spaced clips to maximize space.

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>>Sierra Designs not only uses “tensional integrity” to provide structure and strength at a lower weight in its new Tensegrity Elite tents, it also creates more space with a configuration that is wider at the top than the bottom, alleviating the typical cramped quarters of trekking pole tents. Large drop down doors open up the view and remain uncluttered with vestibules on the ends. Two trekking poles, an extra spreader pole and seven stakes are all it takes to set up — the 2-person (MSRP $490) comes in at 2 pounds, 2 ounces.

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--David Clucas

These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out much more new 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.

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