Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ultralight Tent - BearPaw Wilderness Designs

A couple months ago I got the idea that I wanted a super-light, super-compact two-person backpacking tent.  I did a lot of research, as I like to do when I get a hankering like this, and looked into virtually all of the ultralight makers that I could find, such as TarpTent, Go Lite, BearPaw and many more.  Any of those would have likely been good choices, but I chose Bear Paw Wilderness Designs for the following reasons: a) it is priced very reasonable especially compared to some of the others, b) it seemed to be the most compact design, and c) my correspondence with the owner John Stultz gave me the impression that they take great pride in their work and would do an excellent job.

Initially I was indecisive about which BearPaw model to get, so John patiently went over the different options with me.  I finally decided on the 2-person version of his AT tent, called the AT 2.  This tent is the ultimate in compact size and minimum weight, requiring just two trekking poles to put up - one at the front and one at the back.  (The other BearPaw tent I thought about getting was the PyraNet/PyraTent.  The PyraTent would have offered more ventilation with its removable canopy, but is basically two separate tents - mesh + nylon - requiring more space in your pack, and the pyramid design with one pole in the middle of the tent could cause problems from tossing and turning while sleeping.)

Back to the AT 2.  With two people it's very easy to set up.  My wife and I put it up in under five minutes the first time trying, just by looking at a picture of it...no instructions needed.  I won't always be in a situation where I'll have trekking poles when using it, so I special ordered two poles from BearPaw for setup when trekking poles aren't handy.  (If you are a bicyclist for example, you will need these poles).  You can also tie the front and back top of the tent to overhanging tree limbs to hold it up without using poles at all.

The AT 2 packs down to a size of about 12x4 inches, or 8x8.  Maybe even smaller.  It weighs between 30 and 35 ounces (that's two pounds!).  It's wide enough to sleep two people comfortably, and unless you are 6'6" you should have extra room at the head or foot of it.

Now, with an ultralight tent like this you do sacrifice some things.  For example, I wouldn't want to be in this tent in a high wind because with just two poles holding it up it may not be as stable as a normal tent.  Also, the mesh around the bottom, while necessary for ventilation, could cause water to flood the inside of the tent during a heavy rainstorm because it didn't really seem to form a "bathtub" when we tried it out (this could be due to how we had it staked out).  The design could also present some challenges for beach camping; it seems like the poles would need a hard surface to keep the tent upright.  I'm also curious about the ventilation, as in how much condensation will build up in it.  I will know better after having actually spent a night in it. 

Here's a picture:

BearPaw Wilderness Designs AT 2 tent.
All in all I'm very pleased with the tent and BearPaw is a company that stands behind their product and is a pleasure to work with.  I intend to camp in the tent  by the end of July, if not sooner, and will post a followup after doing so.

1 comment:

  1. During campings or hikings, it is important to bring a portable canopy that is durable and will serve as protection to rain and sunlight.