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How to I find a good tent/gear?
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Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/05/2010 18:24:53 MDT Print View

I would like to start backpacking. So far I have done only day hikes. I am ready to start to buy my equipment. I would like to start with a tent. I might have seen somewhere on this website general info and some recommendations but I cannot find it anymore. So far I am finding only fragmented information.
Any help with finding overviews and comprehesive reviews of gear is greatly appreciated. It does not have to be only on this website either.
Thank you.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/05/2010 19:02:24 MDT Print View

Welcome to BPL. If you give us some more information we can help you out. Are you looking for a tent for just one person. Are you over 6' tall? Where do you plan on hiking? How much are you looking to spend? Are you familiar with the lightweight fabrics that I'm sure the majority of the tents suggested will be made of, such as silnylon?

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Some more info on 09/05/2010 19:16:09 MDT Print View

Hi Kent,
Thank you for your replay. The tent is for 2 people. We are both under 6 feet. In terms of where I would like to hike I am not sure yet. Mostly North America but later down the road I would like to try some other continents as well. More expensive gear as OK as long as it is worth the extra money.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/05/2010 19:24:37 MDT Print View

You can get a good survey of what is available from Mark Verber's excellent website. I don't know how he manages to keep all that info up-to-date, but he does! You'll find everything from the latest technology to low-budget alternatives. Here's the URL for his tent/shelter information:

Conditions vary so much in North America, from the arctic to the tropics, from the Pacific Northwest rain forest to the Southwest desert, from mostly flat Florida to the Rocky Mountains, that "North America" is really not enough to tell us under what conditions you'll be using the tent! Can you be a bit more specific? If you're going to be experiencing that wide a range of conditions, you may need 2 or 3 different shelters.

EDIT: I neglected to mention conditions in Canada and in Mexico, both of which are part of North America! Sorry, eh! Lo siento!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/05/2010 21:39:52 MDT.

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Re: How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/05/2010 22:12:07 MDT Print View

Thank you for the link, Mary. It looks great! I have been browsing backpackinglight for a while but I have not found the info that you have sent to me. Just bits and pieces. I love our website. There is ton of good information there but I have really hard times to find my way around it. I do not know if it is just me or some other members have the same problem. Maybe I am not “in tune” with it yet (LOL).
Mary, I wish that I could tell you where I would like to hike. To be honest I would like to do all the hikes! As a beginner, most likely I will start with “standard”, nothing too extreme hikes. I am in Ontario so probably for starters most of my hikes will be in north eastern part of North America. Although south USA is very pretty too. I guess I will be looking for as close to “do it all” gear as possible.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Tents on 09/05/2010 23:01:18 MDT Print View

There isn't really a good easy way to figure out which tent is for you. You can just take someones advice and likely get a decent tent, but you need to do quite a bit of research to understand all the trade-offs (ie. single wall vs. double wall, fabric durability vs. weight etc) if you want to get a tent that meets you wants, especially if you aren't too sure what your wants are.

If you want a traditional double wall tent that is light, but not cutting edge ultralight then you're probably looking at a product by a mainstream manufacturer like Mountain Hardware, MSR, REI, MEC, Big Agnes etc. If you want to go quite light and are willing to compromise more in terms of durability, maybe space, single wall etc, then you're looking more at products by Six Moon Designs, TarpTent etc. generally speaking. If you decide on single wall vs. double wall and give us a weight range that you'd like it to be in, then we'll be able to offer more specific suggestions.

Edited by dandydan on 09/05/2010 23:02:12 MDT.

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Should I get Tarptent Double Rainbow? on 09/08/2010 15:33:54 MDT Print View

I have looked at Mark Verber’s reviews and he seems to like Tarptent Double Rainbow as the best overall option for most people, most situations. I have been thinking of getting double walled tent before but from what I see they tend to be more heavy and less breathable. Although you can touch it on the inside. With the single walled tents you are not supposed to touch the wall which I do not understand. So if I touch the tent, even slightly then it is going to leak in that area? Why? Is it only a problem, if a touch the tent, when it is raining? Is it really a big drawback with the single walled tents?
When I did some more research on Tarptent Double Rainbow I found mostly positive reviews in the internet. Not perfect but reasonably good. Except for this one:
What is your opinion, experiences with this TDR guys? Do you recommend to buy it?
Some people were saying that the stakes that come with it are not too strong and that there is not enough of them. I am not sure if TDR has extra loops for extra stakes.
The seams in TDR need to be sealed. I know that with some tents you do not need to seal. Does the fact that I need to seal mean that the tent is of worse quality and maybe not so waterproof?
Would it be a good tent to use to prepare meals when it is raining? It has a vestibule but I think that it is highly flammable. What do you guys do when it is raining and you need to prepare a meal?

I will be using a tent on a camping grounds as well. It might be a crazy question but if you have an expensive tent do you have to worry that it can be stolen while you are away for the day? Does theft of tents or other equipment happen?
Thank you.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Should I get Tarptent Double Rainbow? on 09/08/2010 16:17:39 MDT Print View

Welcome! My fiancee and I have used the Double Rainbow for almost 2 years now. We've used it in Wisconsin (all seasons), the mountains in Arizona, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It would have gone on our week-long hike through Glacier NP, but we were trying tarp camping that time. We ended up wishing for the DR!

The issue with single wall tents is condensation. You simply have higher chances to rub against the wet walls when condensation does form. This does NOT affect waterproofness at all!

I wouldn't worry about Tarptent's durability as long as you know how to take care of your gear. The guy's problems in the review you've posted seem like a fluke.

Many people do replace the stakes that come with the tarptent, but this isn't a "fault" of Tarptents. Just that there are many different stakes for different applications. I use MSR's Groundhog stakes as they hold very very well.

The DR has plenty of tie-outs for holding the shelter stable in strong winds. Plus, you can use the trekking poles to support the arch which makes it very stable.

Having to seam seal a tent is MOST DEFINITELY NOT an indication of a sub-quality product. Seam sealing is very time and space consuming for tent manufacturers and would increase the cost of production greatly. Think of it as a bonding moment between you and your new shelter! Yes, rain may leak through the unsealed seams, but that's a fact of life. You might ask Henry Shires from Tarptent if you could get one already seam-sealed, but I'm not sure if that is possible.

Preparing meals in a tent....many factors to consider. Food odors can attract animals--bears being the main concern. Yes, silnylon is flamable, so that's another concern. I've cooked in my vestibule during a light snowfall. All I do is boil water for my meals so food odors are minimized (plus it was winter and I didn't have to worry about animals as much). Generally, I try to never cook in my vestibules. I either try to wait out the rain/snow, or eat some non-cook food. If you must prepare a meal in a tent, you simply must be careful and know the risks--being careful of stove flare-ups, animals, tipping the stove over, etc...

All in all, I can't think of a better shelter for me and my fiancee considering its weight, space, ease of setup, features, and protection it offers. It's a fantastic shelter! However, if I were to go on a trip where I knew I'd encounter harsh winter conditions, or if I were spending a lot of time above treeline where winds can be brutal, then I might look for a more robust shelter. My winter camping has only been overnighters where there wasn't a chance of a very large storm coming through the area. But, Tarptents are strong and can withstand some snowload. I wouldn't hesitate to take it anywhere in the Midwest in any season.

In the backcountry, I've never heard of theft. I'm sure it could possibly happen, but everyone in the backcountry knows that you depend on your gear for survival. The types of people who would steal something aren't the types that take the time and effort to hike through the backcountry to do so. In more populated campgrounds, I'm sure the possibility is higher, but I simply wouldn't worry about it. Maybe put stuff inside your tent while you dayhike, but that's about it.

And remember, you can order a Tarptent and try it out in your backyard to see if you'd like it. As long as you didn't damage it, I think you can return it. Another option is Gear Swap here on BPL. Brand new items usually command a near-retail price, especially gear from the cottage manufacturers.

Edited by T.L. on 09/08/2010 16:45:10 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/08/2010 16:45:53 MDT Print View

If you are not in a big hurry and if you're near San Diego, you could attend the Annual PCT Kickoff and see a huge variety of tents there. There may be similar events at other times of the year and in other parts of the country. I'm only aware of the PCT event.

The Double Rainbow is a nice tent. The Lunar Duo is also very nice. I've used the Lunar Duo and only seen the Double Rainbow. I would suggest that if you get a choice of colors, pick gray. We've got a green Lunar Duo and it stains my vision hot pink and it's a tad gloomy on the inside. The best feature of both tents in my opinion is the double doors. Now I have my own door to exit in the middle of the night. No need to crawl over anybody else.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Re: How to I find a good tent/gear? on 09/08/2010 19:23:27 MDT Print View


Edited by kthompson on 09/08/2010 19:24:48 MDT.

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Re: Re: Should I get Tarptent Double Rainbow? on 09/08/2010 20:10:13 MDT Print View

Hi Travis,

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my post. I really appreciate it.
Some more questions if you do not mind:
DR is supposed to have extra two walls that you attach on the inside. Do you have them? Are they included in the price of the tent?
Also I read that you can get aluminum poles from the guy who makes the tents instead of using hiking poles. What do you use? I do not have hiking poles. I guess the aluminum poles are extra?
Do you find that when it is windy the air blows through the lower parts of the tent?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: Should I get Tarptent Double Rainbow? on 09/08/2010 20:22:31 MDT Print View

No problem Alina. I know how it is to be new to this!

1. The "extra wall" is a clip-in liner that is sold separately for $30 I think. It is one piece, not two, but I don't have it. It is supposed to help protect you from touching the condensation on the walls, and will help with insulating you a bit (a very small bit!). Remember, we'll talk of condensation with single-wall shelters a lot, but there are things you can do to minimize it. It's really not that big of a deal, in my opinion.

2. If you do not take trekking poles, I think you can order aluminum poles for extra support. Most of the time you'll not need it, but if you expect to hit bad weather, they may come in handy.

3. As with all tarps and tarptents, wind will find its way through the bottom of the tent. But that's not always a bad thing. This can help minimize condensation! On hot days and warm nights the breeze is welcome. The only time its really any of a problem is winter. There have been a few times where a full double walled tent would have been nice, but it was still managable. The weight savings was worth it to me.

Much of this comes from personal discovery, experience, and experimentation. You'll certainly have to go through some trial and error for yourself, but feel free to keep the questions coming!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Keep it simple on 09/08/2010 21:41:41 MDT Print View

You could start with a simple tarp, camping in your back yard (or a friend's), learning to pitch it and testing the waters without a big investment and gaining skills-- and it is UL too. You can always use the tarp later for quick overnights even if you have a "real" tent later.

You just might find that the tarp is all you ever need. Tarping is elemental, at one with the environment rather than cut off from it.

All the other items you need will work with any other shelter-- sleeping bag, pad, and cook kit.

Do try some trekking poles. You can share a pair if you like, with each taking one and still having enough for your shelter. My wife and I often share a pair on day hikes.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
allow for mistakes on 09/08/2010 22:28:05 MDT Print View

buy from somewhere with a good return policy ... a lot of people end up buying things on others recommendations that dont work for them

test as much out as you can

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: allow for mistakes on 09/09/2010 10:38:29 MDT Print View

Tarptent's return policy is pretty good. From the website:

Q: What is the Tarptent return and warranty policy?
A: Tarptents are fully guaranteed against fabric and workmanship failure and you may return one uninjured for a full refund within 90 days of purchase if not satisfied. That means you can set one up, even try it out overnight, and then decide if it's something that will work for you. Tarptents that have been used in the field will be evaluated for resale and partial credit returned to the original purchaser. Tarptents that have been seam-sealed with urethane or anything else other than silicone, applied as directed in the Tarptent product directions, will not be accepted. Lightweight stakes are designed to be inserted and removed by hand and not warrantied against breakage due to striking with feet or rocks. We stand behind every Tarptent and will make every effort to repair or replace products that fail due to defects in workmanship or materials. Normal wear and tear repairs will be done on a "non profit" basis and we will provide a price quote before beginning the work. In many cases, we charge only for the return shipping.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems you could even go for an overnighter instead of just your backyard. It usually isn't too hard to be really careful for a day and keep the tent in brand-new condition. Heck, if you bring a ground cloth, it could look like you never took it out of the box.

Edited by T.L. on 09/09/2010 10:40:59 MDT.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Tarptents on 09/09/2010 12:37:31 MDT Print View

As with other endeavors you should spend some time deciding where you would like to go and in what sort of conditions. I have been hiking for close to 40 years with friends, family and solo in all times of the year in many different parts of the USA and Canada. I have had different tents, a few different sleeping bags and many packs. Recently I purchased a Sublite Tarptent for solo hiking and I think very highly of it. I will probably replace my old double wall 8lb car camping tent with one of Henry's larger tents. Conditions will dictate the equipment you need. Rain, wind and bugs or maybe even snow should be considered. One shelter will probably not cover all these areas the best. Pick a place and time of year to start with and people here can give some great suggestions. I have certainly learned a great deal here but have also gone through different items to find what suited me best.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
Tarptent Double Rainbow. Impression from a newbie. on 09/10/2010 01:39:11 MDT Print View

I have a 2010 Tarptent Double Rainbow and I am relatively inexperienced. I had never used a single wall tent.

From my limited experience I just knew I didn't like feeling closed in, and stuffy. In short, the idea of an open tarp appealed to me, but I wanted netting.

I use a very light tent when sleeping solo, that basically feels like I'm sleeping outside (commune with nature.. yada yada yada). I bought the DB for my companions (which is most of the time).

I'm glad I did. I like it a lot. I've only had it a short time, and haven't camped when it was cold. But in the summer (15+ nights this summer) I have had virtually no condensation and it has worked superbly thus far (haven't had it in heavy winds/horizontal rain).

- 2 separate entrances
- big mesh doors that you can see very clearly out of to enjoy the view (very nice). Very airy and not stifling.
- very easy to set up.
- ample roomy for yourself and gear (very roomy for me and friend but we're around 5'4"-7", 115-155 lbs)
- easily fits two 72"X20"X2.5" blow up sleeping pads.
- we can both sit up together without touching walls/ceiling.
- 2 useable/functional vestibules/rainporch.
- don't need trekking poles to set-up.
- can be adjusted to "batten down the hatches" (not to be confused w/bombproof) or opened right up.

and this part is important to consider (at least for me) ...

it has a small footprint (doesn't take up much room, no one tripping over your guylines, can fit in smaller flat spots).

Some UL shelters require a lot of space for the guylines.

Another thing you might want to consider is if you want a freestanding tent, or just rely on being able to stake to ground to hold up your tent. This may not be a problem where you are/plan to camp, but it can be a pain (re: wooden tent platforms, mountains)

This is where, the double wall (ultralight) offerings by MSR, Big Agnes (SL2), REI (quarterdome) may be advantageous, and it's double walled. Though, correct me if I'm wrong, these tents have less interior space and are heavier/bulkier but offer more robust fabric.

Though, I've never felt I needed to "baby" my ultalight shelters, or treat them any different than other tents. I am just careful about clearing the ground because I don't use a ground sheet. I wouldn't worry about the durablility. Once you feel the fabric of UL gear, being even a reasonably thoughtful person, you'll know how to handle it appropriately.

The double rainbow can be set up freestanding. I've never done it and I suspect the pitch may not be as tight in this configuration. As it is, it's virtually freestanding anyways.

For light single wall, it seems the favorites are:

- Tarptent Double Rainbow
- Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo
- MLD Duomid (w/optional mesh liner)

If you want to go very very light though, look at the Zpacks Hexamid Twin...among others. Cuben fiber is nice to sleep under, won't sag (like silnylon) when wet and duct tape will stick to it. Not freestanding and requires space for guylines.. more in the way of set-up compromises/convenience... but under 11 oz, and if the solo is any indication, it should be big enough for 2 smaller/medium sized people who really like each other. The large mesh wall is awesome. However, this shelter is definitely more on the "tarp" side of the spectrum, whereas the DB is definitely a tent.

I don't have a ton of experience, so take the above with that caveat, but the above was what I gleaned from my research. And I chose the Double Rainbow for a 2 person shelter.

BTW- the supplied stakes work very well so far but I bought some MSR groundhogs, like Travis, to suit conditions. You want to be able to hammer in your stakes with a rock.

And you can get the manufacturer to seal seam for $20 extra. From what I read, don't bother with the liner.

For $260 it's a pretty good deal.

Also, unless it was under extreme circumstances, I would never have food near my tent, leave along cook in it. I figure developing good habits with food scents, even where there are no bears nearby, is a very good thing.

PS: this young couple are doing a 2 year global backpacking
trip, they chose the DB and their reasons. It's a good read:


A trip to consider (I figure low risk, originally my pick for first solo trip):

Sleeping pads I like because I'm a side sleeper, don't like 3/4 length or bulk, and don't want multiple pads (one pad, warm, higher "R" value):

- Big Agnes Insulated Air Core (nice fabric) $60-75
- Pacific Outdoor Equipment Elite 6 (14 oz!) $65

I like lightweight merino wool for tops because they don't stink, breathes well, feels good against skin after sweat dries and are warm.,, moontrail, altrec, moosejaw among others sell good gear, are fast, and usually have a 60+ day (liberal) return policy.

If given a choice, ship USPS to Canada or find a place in states to ship to and take advantage of free shipping. UPS and FEdEx ground charge a hideous "handling fee". Check out the "gear deals" section often for sales.... patience.. everything goes on sale...

And think seriously about a quilt, especially in hot Ontario. They're nice for sleeping. The newer version Golite 3 season quilt is going for $150. They'll probably be discounted in the winter.

Hope this helps.

Edited by elf773 on 09/10/2010 02:58:13 MDT.

kevin smith
tent/gear on 09/19/2010 07:49:32 MDT Print View

if you want to read reviews this place has some good information


Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
How do I find a good tent/gear? on 10/12/2010 23:52:58 MDT Print View

Thank you everyone for your responses.
I am going for the Tarptent Double rainbow. It seems like a good start. I was just wondering if I should get the liner that can come with the tent. Does anyone has any experience with that. Scott mentioned that I should not bother. Does everyone agree?
BTW thank you very much Scott for your extensive and thoughtful replay to my post.
Now, if you excuse me (LOL), I have to search for a sleeping bag.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
TarpTent on 10/13/2010 06:55:17 MDT Print View

You can email or call Henry at Tarptent to get his recommendations on the tent and inner wall. You could probably buy it later if needed. In my experience his customer service is excellent as well as his products. My practice is to cook away from the tent so as not to attract animals. Mice can chew a hole in fabric and bears can just about get into anything they want. If there is no food odor to attrach them then you decrease the chance animals will visit your site. It is a bit harder to do this in campgrounds but I still do not cook close the tent. I don't generally go hiking in conditions where I might be confined to the tent for more than a few hours.