Fear of the Unknown (or The Process By Which I Came to Own Three Tents: Part 1)


Calm, collected hiking Heather says ‘Everything is A-Okay.’

My pack sits in the corner with items scattered around. I am diligently scaling down and weeding items out in order to keep my pack weight down. The thru-hiker in me says “Be brave, minimalistic, and realistic. Do you really need that item or is it only useful in a worst-case scenario?” My overly-anxious and fearful personality wants to make sure I am comfortable and prepared for everything.  I try and remind myself that total preparation is neither practical nor possible when carrying all of the items on your back.

Like a good thru-hiker, when presented with two gear choices, I typically opted for the lighter weight option. Wayyyyyy back in the spring of 2016, Philip and I debated what type of tent to take. Initially, he was convinced we could take his REI Camp Dome 2 (note: please don’t do this. The tent is both too heavy and too small for two backpackers). Realizing the error of our ways, we looked into hammocks, tarp tents, and ultralight freestanding tents.

Trying Something New

In an effort to slash weight and not compromise on interior volume, we opted for the Six Moons Designs Lunar Duo. This tent is great, with a few quirks. It is also VERY different than any tent I have used before. It is single-walled, non-freestanding, and it can’t be found at REI. I love how lightweight it is and how much room there is for two people (plus a dog). I don’t love that Philip and I can’t split the weight, we can’t stargaze, and the bottom of the tent sometimes migrates because it isn’t actually staked down.

You know the way your favorite old sweatshirt makes you feel so cozy and secure? That is how a tent with poles and a fly makes me feel. The Lunar Duo feels more like trying on a trendy top with cutouts on the side…daring, different, and breezy. In general, the pros of the Lunar Duo outweighed the quirks, so we stuck with it. Until we didn’t…which happened a week ago.

Old Habits Die Hard

As a Type-A, ESTJ individual, I crave control, order, and predictability. I know what I know, and I am wary of the unfamiliar. I am going on the trail to expand my horizons and push my comfort limits, but that has to happen in gradual increments.


Type-A, worrisome Heather always feels like something is amiss.

For some reason, a non-freestanding tent just seems to push my limits a bit too far. It is different and a bit space-agey. I don’t ‘know’ this style of tent (despite taking it on three hikes), and it makes me uneasy. And I had to decide that 34 days before my husband and I leave home.

Fortunately, January is a great time to be fearful and indecisive! End-of-season clearance is in full swing, so tents that were once a bit too rich for my blood are now more obtainable. Enter the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and the REI Quarter Dome 3.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

Going to a freestanding tent means taking extra weight, but the benefit is that it can be split between two hikers. This means my pack will be a little heavier and Philip’s pack will be a little lighter. I don’t want a heavier pack, but I do want a double-walled tent, so I ordered a favorite of lightweight hikers. This tent is slightly heavier and smaller than the SMD Lunar Duo, but it has two doors and all the features of a tent that are familiar to me. The fabric is thin, but most reviews state that it is rugged enough as long as you treat it with care.

I was sure that this tent would be perfect, but then, I got afraid about space. I would like to keep my pack inside my tent to protect it from mice, thieves, and sasquatch, and I am not convinced that can happen in 29 square feet.

REI Quarter Dome 3

The day after I ordered the BA tent, I ordered the REI Quarter Dome 3 tent. The Quarter Dome is similar in design to the Copper Spur, but it is larger, heavier, and appears to have more durable floor fabric. There is definitely enough room in this tent for us plus our stuff, but I still have questions. Will the space justify the weight? Will it be easy to find large enough spots to pitch the tent?

Worried…and waiting.

I was afraid of weight to begin with, so I got a lightweight non-freestanding tent. Then, I was afraid of using an unfamiliar tent, so I ordered a smaller, heavier freestanding tent. Lastly, I was afraid of not having enough space, so I ordered a bigger, heavier freestanding tent. Now, I am waiting for my packages to arrive so I can pitch the tents and compare them side-by-side. I am hoping to find my “Goldilocks” tent… one that is just right. Reviews and final thoughts to follow!

Is anyone else out there making last-minute changes? Any hiking couples have advice for whether a 2- or 3- person tent would be best?

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Comments 9

  • Chris : Jan 28th

    I got a super light not free standing tent from zpacks, then decided I liked not sleeping on the ground after a few nights in a hammock completely changed my mind so now i have BA fly creek UL2(I really like their tents, the best freestanding for the weight I have tried), a zpacks soloplex, and a hammock with a all 3 season tarp that is great. I never thought of setting them all up beside each other but that may be an option. As of now its gonna be hammock to start with but both tents will be on deck in case I make any last minute decisions….the struggle is real Good luck with your tent struggles, I would tell you to look at zpacks duplex since ive seen several thru hikers swear by them but i feel like that would be pouring gasoline on the fire!

    • Heather P : Jan 29th


      The struggle is so real! I have definitely eyed those cuben fiber tents…they weight next to nothing. My husband wasn’t thrilled by the idea that theyou are translucent, but I hear that they still offer a good deal of privacy. We have actually never tried hammocking, mostly because I like to sleep on flat and firm surfaces…but all I ever hear is good things. I guess once you go off the ground, your never go back!

      I am glad that I am not the only one with an embarassment of riches in regards to the shelter situation. It’s a fortunate problem to have, but I know making my mind up won’t be easy!

  • Shani : Jan 28th

    I was going back and forth between the Quarter Dome and Copper Spur too – ended up with the Copper Spur but both seem like great choices. I really liked the easy clips on the BA rainfly, random quirk I decided was important to me. 🙂 Looking forward to seeing which you choose!

    • Heather P : Jan 29th


      Are you going solo? Are you using a footprint? I want to avoid it if I can, but that floor on the BA seems pretty thin!

      • Shani : Jan 29th

        Yeah, I’m using the footprint.

    • KENNETH CALHOUN : Jan 29th


  • Gary Stell : Jan 29th

    I hear ya! I’m in a mental battle with myself over those very same things! Should I stay with the Paris Bryce2P tent, very conventional, a stake down w/fly. Or should I be bold and brace and go the tarp route. At this point, mostly because I like to see stars, I’m leaning towards a hybrid sleep system combining the two, or rather parts of the two.
    Good luck! Happy hiking!

  • Ruth Morley : Jan 29th

    I don’t start my “official” hike till July, so I’m only up to one tent and one tarp. But there’s still time to get a couple more….


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