What Tent Should I Buy?
August 21, 2006 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I need a new 1-2 person tent for Burning Man. Any ideas?

I've been to Burning Man in the high desert, four times so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect: Hot (95+) during the day, cold during the night (~45 degrees F) and windy and dusty all the time. I have a 3-4 person tent but want to downsize and though I know a lot about Burning Man I know very little about tents.

This tent will be primarily for me (5'2", 120 lbs) though you never know: it's Burning Man and there's an off chance I'll meet someone. Plus, I'd like to think I'll use this tent for more than just Burning Man so it would be nice to be able to accommodate someone else on a more permanent basis, should that lucky day ever happen for me.

I'd like to spend less than $150 and am interested not only in recommended models and brands but also in specific features that I should be seeking.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
Coleman's Exponent line is hip and deserving of its reputation. I have the Oryx 2 Tent and recommend it ($115, 2 people comfortably, very simple).
posted by deep_sea_diving_suit at 11:02 AM on August 21, 2006

REI Half Dome 2. I've had mine since 2004, and have used the hell out of it--three two-month archaeological seasons in France, a month in the Egyptian high desert--and it's held up completely. Several of my archaeological colleagues have the same model. It kicks ass.
posted by The Michael The at 11:13 AM on August 21, 2006

You generally want a two-person or more tent, even for yourself, as your gear takes up a surprising amount of space and you may not want to go outside to change clothes.

Anyway, Coleman makes decent tents that are certainly good value for the money. A fancier tent from somewhere like REI will generally be lighter, a wee bit tougher, easier to set up but more expensive.

So here's my suggestions: Coleman 7x5 Sundome or the 7x7 Sundome. Both of these tents are dirt cheap - under $50. Cheap enough that if they got messed up you wouldn't lose any sleep (well, unless you were sleeping in the tent at the time).

REI has a decent small tent, the REI Camp Dome 2. Coleman doesn't list their tent weights, but I would guess they weight more due to fiberglass poles as opposed to aluminium on the REI. The REI is about $100 though.

In general, aluminium poles are lighter than fiberglass but more expensive. If you're planning to carry the tent around a lot, get aluminium. If you're only going to carry it from your car to the campsite (i.e. 20 feet) then fiberglass is fine.
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on August 21, 2006

The REI halfdome 2 is indeed a great tent, but I'm also partial to my Kelty Gunnison 2. It's just as sturdy, and a bit larger, while being about $25 cheaper than the Halfdome. It's SUPER easy to set up, too. Unless you're into ultralight backpacking, you can't really go wrong with either tent.
posted by dersins at 11:20 AM on August 21, 2006

I'm in love with Sierra Designs tents. I have one from the 70s, & it certainly saw a hell of a lot of use by the previous owner around Yosemite. Still works fine, although its a little heavy. The thing is indestructable though. I'd be tempted to get something along those lines, so you don't trash a new expensive lightweight backpacking tent with the dust/drunk/high/generally out of it people, but still have something that'll stand up to the environment.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:27 AM on August 21, 2006

Kelty, Eureka! or MSR are your best bets, trundle off to someplace like Gander Mountain and they will have many of these set up in store so you can look at them. I have two tents a small MSR Zoid >3lbs which is great, and an external frame 2 person Eureka!. Having said all of that, REIs and North Face are also good.

Some Coleman's are fine, but they are heavier, I think it is more than just the poles (heavier does not always = better).

Go look at tents locally, and if need be order online.
posted by edgeways at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2006

The halfdome is a good value, but is has trouble in high wind situations in my experience. I would suggest something a little shorter and more low-slung.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 11:56 AM on August 21, 2006

I have a Eureka Apex 2XT that I've been real happy with. A couple of features that you might find important in a smaller tent are:

* doors on both sides. Helpful if you do make a friend on a campout. He/she won't have to step on you to get out for a 3 AM nature call.

* vestibules are nice too - gives you place to store potentially wet gear without bringing inside the tent.

However, be aware that when tent companies say two man tent- they mean two people sleeping very close together, with their gear not in the tent with them.

But really, any of the major brands mentioned above will be fine.
posted by COD at 12:00 PM on August 21, 2006

I second the Half Dome 2, but get a couple of those cheap space blankets to drape over it to reflect the sunlight in the morning. It's a great tent, but it gets hot as all hell in the mornings, especially if you use the rainfly.
posted by electroboy at 12:13 PM on August 21, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, it doesn't have to be ultra-light at all. I guess now that I think about it, it would be great if the mesh panels had zip-up nylon panels that could be raised and lowered as conditions and dust levels rise and fall. And since my tent will be one of about 15-20 all in one camp (and therefore pretty well protected by other tents, cars, Rvs, art projects, and such) I'm hopeful that high winds will have some built-in buffers.

I guess I should go look at some models at REI or something.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:16 PM on August 21, 2006

The halfdome is a good value, but is has trouble in high wind situations in my experience. I would suggest something a little shorter and more low-slung.

In my experience, this was never a problem. I've weathered some nasty thunderstorms in France (Charente-Maritimes and Dordogne), and slept through all of them. Moreover, in the Egyptian high desert, we were camped in a wadi that essentially funneled the wind to us. I tied the guy lines to some big ol' rocks and it was fine.

The one issue, though, was sand blown in... a tent with zip-up panels for the mesh would be better for the desert. It wasn't enough of a problem that I'm going to replace the tent when I go back, though.
posted by The Michael The at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2006

Another vote for the REI Half-Dome. The new version I just got (after forgetting my poles before a long trip) has more mesh and stands up really well to wind. Had some blustery nights in the Rockies and it stood plenty solid.
posted by ontic at 12:39 PM on August 21, 2006

If you don't have to, don't go to REI. Since you're in San Francisco, go to Sports Basement. They have much of the same gear, but you won't pay REI prices.

I have some "Greatland Outdoors" tent from Sears that I've taken up there for the past 5+ years. No, I don't go *to* Burning Man, just a few miles away. The tent has held up just fine during an average of 3 trips up to the Black Rock Desert each year. Spring/Summer/Winter, too.

Lemme tell ya, that area is a lot different during the dead of winter. But you don't need to spend too much on a tent.
posted by drstein at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2006

Even cheaper than Sports Basement, go to Wilderness Exchange in Berkeley for used gear. It's across the street from REI and is always worth checking before you throw down the big bucks at the "co-op".
posted by harkin banks at 6:23 PM on August 21, 2006

My Sierra Designs has gone to six Burning Mans, and it has been awesome (it's also been awesome in 3 days straight rain in Oregon). As you pointed out, the one crappy issue is the open mesh panels- by day eight, I would be basically sleeping in dust. I highly recommend the brand, however, and the Omega convertible 3/4 season has a "stash door that reveals a mesh panel".
posted by oneirodynia at 8:42 PM on August 21, 2006

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