After Testing Several Tents, I Have Settled on My Home for the PCT
Many non-hikers who I’ve talked with don’t understand my tent search struggles. A co-worker even suggested that the best way to camp is to stay at a hotel. Thankfully, modern advances in camping gear mean that I can enjoy the outdoors and be comfortable.
I’m fairly thrifty in my daily life, but let’s keep it real: hiking gear is not cheap. But in the beginning, I was looking for a top-quality tent that was also inexpensive.
The first tent I tested was a First Gear Cliff Hanger, which retails at roughly $50 USD. It met my top priority (price), and I was delighted. It also received fairly decent reviews on Amazon. I thought surely a four star ranked tent with nearly 57% positive reviews couldn’t be bad.
Well, I was wrong. And it wouldn’t be the first time during this search either.
I never considered the weight of the tent as a feature of importance. Silly me – here I thought a tent was simply a portable shelter with some waterproof material draped over the top.
While setting the Cliff Hanger, the support poles snapped. Yeah, I learned a supportive frame is of importance as well. I contacted the manufacturer to seek a replacement. Their customer service was lacking, I never once talked with an actual representative. That fact alone was enough for me to justify a return.
Having learned a valuable lesson about weight, I then tested the Eureka Solitaire. It had a slightly higher price tag of $75 USD, and like the Cliff Hanger, it also got good reviews on Amazon. Are you starting to notice an Amazon theme?
The Solitaire is a bivy-style tent; though lightweight, it is not ideal for anything other than sleeping. While this is the primary use of a tent, I like to sit upright at times. Feeling constrained wouldn’t be good for my mental health.
Although I had no issues with this tent otherwise, I couldn’t imagine spending five months in such a tiny space. It was around this time that I learned the various types of backpacking shelters (i.e. tent, freestanding tent, bivy, tarp, hammock). And so my search continued.
Next I tested the $140 USD Coleman Inyo. Though it has a rather cool sounding name, it too was poorly manufactured. It took me a while before I discovered that Amazon is not a replacement for an outdoor store. More than anything I needed to stop being cheap.
I made my way to REI, and after a lengthy discussion with a staff member, I purchased the Marmot Starlight. It was priced slightly higher than the Inyo at $180 USD. The Starlight was a tent-bivy hybrid. I loved the design. It was lightweight and fairly compact. I didn’t feel trapped, and the set-up was simple.
I was ecstatic and knew that I’d found the perfect tent. Again, I was wrong. I live in Georgia where the weather is regularly unpredictable. During the first night of a three-night hike, the temperature dropped drastically. I was too cold even after I put on every article of clothing that I packed and heated my water bottle for additional warmth.*
The very thought of being in the backcountry with a tent that wasn’t warm enough caused this native Floridan to reconsider the Starlight. The next morning, my sleeping bag was nearly soaked, and there was no need for further consideration. My search continued.
Thankfully, REI has an amazing return policy which I was extremely grateful for. Overall, despite the chill factor, I was impressed with the Marmot design and I wanted to check out other Marmot options.
One month later I purchased the Marmot EOS, retailing at $250 USD and knew without any doubts or reservations that I was home.
It rained the first night I took my EOS backpacking. The temperature dropped significantly to 39 F, yet I was warm and dry. My Marmot EOS has a nice size vestibule and is lightweight, warm, and sturdy. I can sit up inside of it, making reading fun again. It has a very quick setup and take down with color coded poles. This is beneficial because sometimes if I’m extremely tired, my ability to recall a simple detail such as which pole goes into which grommet becomes difficult. Did I mention it’s warm?
The EOS fulfilled my (revised) list of requirements. And I couldn’t be happier with my new home.
Drawbacks: The footprint is sold separately at $40 USD
Product feature list:
· One D Shaped Door, One Vestibule
· Seam Taped Full Coverage Fly with Vents
· Color Coded “Easy Pitch” Clips and Poles
· Free-Standing Design
· Seam Taped Catenary Cut Floor
· Can Be Used with Bare Bones Setup
· Interior Pockets for Small Gear Organization
· Light-Reflective Points
· Jingle-Free Nylon Zipper Pulls
· Optional Footprint Available
· DAC Featherlite NSL Poles
*Side note: Hypothermia is a life-threatening disease, caused by not being warm enough.
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