With the weather turning cooler and leaves beginning to change color, early Autumn always reminds me of those formative experiences. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also when our family starts looking to the North Georgia mountains for our outdoor recreation fix. So lately we’ve been checking out new camping gear for the season.
Eddie Bauer Stargazer Tent
Our old 8-man tent is a little too big (and heavy) for anything other than drive-up campsites. So we were intrigued by the Eddie Bauer Stargazer 2 Person Tent, which was named “Best of the Best” by Field & Stream in the Hunting Gear category last year. We loved the color-coded poles (which make set-up a breeze), light weight (under 5 pounds), and the full flysheet with two vestibules to protect your gear in harsh weather conditions. At 43″ in height and around 100″ in length, the Stargazer is a bit more spacious than most 2-person tents. But as a burly, broad-shouldered, 6’2″ guy, I’d still find it somewhat confining for any extended period of time. Overall a great tent for normal-sized folk, but since we rarely go camping without my kiddo, the Stargazer wasn’t the best fit for us.
Kelty Mach 4 Tent
The Kelty Mach 4 AirPitch Tent, is an innovative 4-man tent with inflatable AirPoles that are rigid, but flexible– they’ll never break! It’s a little tricky to set up at first and cannot be moved once inflated, but we had an easier time once we tried inflating from the inside. At 74 x 120 x 108 inches, the interior feels luxuriously expansive, with enough space in the removable sleep room for a queen-sized air mattress. The 50.5 square foot vestibule area offers great storage space, but you’ll need to buy an optional “footprint” to protect your gear from the ground if it rains. Weighing in at over 20 pounds, this one won’t appeal to the backpacking set. But, once you get the hang of setting up the AirPoles, it’s a spacious tent that’s perfectly suited for families.
Sierra Designs Flash 3 Tent
The Sierra Designs Flash 3 is an ultralight 3-man backpacking tent that offers a great compromise between spaciousness and portability. Using their patented ExoFusion technology, Sierra Designs combines external pitch poles, steep walls, and an integrated fly to produce a tent that’s almost ridiculously easy to set up, surprisingly roomy and well-ventilated. The 2-man version of this tent (which weighs in at under 5 pounds) was listed as a 2013 Editor’s Choice by Backpacker Magazine. But, for us, the 3-man version proved just right, offering excellent ease of use and protection from the elements. –Bret Love
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