Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent
Display Avatars Sort By:
John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent on 03/24/2011 13:06:36 MDT Print View

For those of you on a budget, I wanted to share my ultra-cheap, lightweight tent. It is an Ozark Trails Junior Scout Dome tent. It's 6' x 5' and weighs a total of 43 oz (30.848 oz for the body + fly, 12.176 oz for the poles). It's a free-standing tent, so I don't bother with stakes - I just put some rocks in the corners to keep it from flying away. I purchased it on e-bay for $1.60 + plus shipping. Here are some pics:



They used to sell new for $20 at Wal-Mart, but they stopped making them. Anyway, I wanted a free-standing tent because I can't always find non-rocky ground to use stakes with nor can I always find trees to guy-out a tent. And I want a tent over a tarp because I usually take my 50-lb dog with me who I like to keep inside with me. I'm only 5'7'', but I have plenty of room if I sleep diagonally. My dog can sleep on one side and I can store my gear on the other. It handles wind and rain pretty well, but sometimes drops get in underneath the small rain fly. One downside: no gear vestibule.

Are there any other cheap, light-weight, free-standing tents out there (or almost free-standing like the TarpTent Moment)?

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent on 03/24/2011 13:22:32 MDT Print View

I wonder what the Hydrostatic Head of the fabric is? (sorry, I couldn't resist)

I picked up one of these for my kids for $15 a couple of years ago and they love it. It condensates, but what doesn't in the PNW.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
re: Ozark Jr Tent on 03/24/2011 14:16:48 MDT Print View

Ha! I went on a last minute summer trip last year and didn't have a small shelter, so I picked one of these up at Walmart with the intention of throwing/giving it away after the trip. It worked out great, actually. It was a little short, even for my 5'5" stature but the weather was dry so touching the sides wasn't an issue.
I keep it around for the nieces/nephews to play with when they visit.

Carl Holt
(Sundown) - F
Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent on 03/25/2011 05:07:41 MDT Print View

I have a similar model (slightly larger, 4 poles / 3 people). I paid $29 for it since my kids didn't want to poncho camp like me (yes I started camping under a pitched army poncho).

I found they don't breath well but if you split the weight with even just 1 person it is good for short trips.

I would never trust it for a long hike (durability wise) but what a great bargain!

David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Poor man's BD Hilight on 03/28/2011 03:56:07 MDT Print View

John- I have been using one like yours as a cold weather tent for three winters now. I've thought about replacing it with something "better" but, frankly, I'm not sure what would work much better for me. The thing has been totally reliable and I have abused it shamelessly. I replaced the poles with some alloys from for about $50 and replaced the stakes with MSR groundhogs. It handles winds to maybe 30-40 mph with little drama but above that the lack of guylines shows and the poles start to flap around. I will sew tie outs on the next one.

This tent has little ventilation so condensation and damp can be vicious. There are a couple of solutions to condensation though, one being to add ventilation and another is to add heat. I have found a candle lantern can usually add enough heat to dry the air and keep a reasonably tolerable environment- at least in the arid rockies where I live. So I keep a candle going all night. I make 6-8 hour "tea" candles by replacing the wax part with K-Mart votive candles (they have straight sides)and wrapping with aluminum foil duct tape (my local Ace hardware). Make sure you get a good seal between the cup and foil or the wax will leak. These are about one oz each.

6 hour tea candles

A Coughlan's tea lantern works fine except it will drip wax when you bump it. So something needs to be wired on the bottom to catch the wax like maybe a foil cup-cake cup. If you replace heavy wire hanger these are about 2 oz. Heck take two of them its still way lighter than a wood stove.

BTW I am 6'-0" and I can sleep in this tent OK but I am mostly a side sleeper.

In the lonely places.

Lonely Places


David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent on 11/08/2011 02:12:59 MST Print View

My Ozark Trails 6'x5' is still going strong. No leaks, no tears, no zipper problems - just a bit of duct tape on the floor. My two dogs and I used it on the top of some hill in the Beartooths last weekend.

Ozark Jr in Beartooths

The view out the backyard
View to the rear

Kind of cheery really
Ozark Jr

It has 30 sq-ft, 2 lb 14 oz, free standing, no slippery floor, no drafts and cheap enough to burn down if you get careless cooking inside.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tents can still be found on 11/11/2011 19:35:08 MST Print View

My wife and I went out on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart and look what I found in the sporting goods section for $16.88 plus tax.

My New Ozark Trail Scout Junior Dome Tent

I got mine and left one on the shelf in Wal-Mart. I am tempted to go back and get the other one. ;-)

After setting it up in my our living room I noticed a few things.

I am 5' 9 1/2" tall. Lying down in this tent parallel with the front or rear wall my feet and head will touch the tent side walls. I seem to have just enough room to stretch out diagonally. Staking down the floor might extend the floor space out to its maximum and create the room for two that is advertised for this tent.

The floor material is extremely noisy during set-up. It does however seem like it will be quite water proof/resistant without the need for a groundsheet.

The rainfly on top is not much bigger than one of my large bandannas.

It has a 4" high bathtub style floor which should make campsite selection a bit easier.

It has a gear loft and a small mesh pocket for "what-evers" sewn into the seam where the rear wall panel meets the top of the bathtub floor.

The 4 stakes that come with the tent are some strange shiny metal. When tapped together they give off a dull sound like aluminum. They are as shiny as stainless steel and seem to have the weight of steel. When I checked them with a magnet there was a slight attraction to the magnet but not as strong an attraction as a ferrous metal would have.

Setup for a tarp guy like me is challenging. The shockcorded tent poles were "fun" getting them into position the first time. While I was "raising the roof" I felt the need for a third hand. ;-)

On my scale it weighed in at 2 lbs 12.4 ozs including the shockcorded poles and 4 Ti shepherds hook stakes.

Overall I like the tent. I see it as a solo tent for sure and a two person tent in a pinch. I need more practice setting it up. Any of you guys using this tent have any tricks to making it easier to set up?

Party On,


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tents can still be found on 11/11/2011 19:51:22 MST Print View

Newton, take good care of that tent, at least until you can get it paid off.


John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tents can still be found on 11/11/2011 20:19:08 MST Print View


Next time I'm in Wal-Mart I'll pick up a job application for greeter or sporting goods associate.

I figure I can get another 10% off my tent! ;-)

Party On,


David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tents can still be found on 11/12/2011 00:36:49 MST Print View

Hey Newton that's a fine looking tent. Well, not really. The first thing you should do is try to get some of the ugly off. I originally had problems with girl scouts ridiculing mine until I spray painted it crazy survivalist olive green. Doesn't stay on that well though...and lately I've been hearing some snickers... I think some paint dabbed on with a texture sponge might look cool. No? How about some stencil work? Plenty of opportunities to be artsy here that you wouldn't take with an expensive tent.

Set up is fairly painless once you get the hang of it. If it's not too windy just layout the tent and push both poles all the way through before trying to erect anything. If it's windy stake the upwind side down first thing. If its real windy put a kite string on it before you even unroll it.

The tent does take a better shape once the corners are all pulled out. The additional spring of alloy poles helps a bunch in this regard too.

There are bunch of easy improvements such as guy-line attachments. Prefer a partially floorless tent? - no sweat!

As I mentioned above, a candle lantern is almost a necessity to keep things dry and encourage a controlled air exchange. Air flow can be regulated by opening the door zipper a couple inches. If its real cold I may use a Primus lantern for a while in the evening -but not while sleeping. I have used a canister stove inside during severe conditions. A Jetboil with hanging kit maybe a better approach.

IMHO one of the big pluses of this tent is that it is so cheap I don't feel guilty about pitching it in the middle of a bush patch or other such abuses.

btw I think the capacity of two refers to two 3rd graders.

Lots of fun for the money. Hope you enjoy yours.

Edited by DavidAdair on 11/12/2011 01:32:43 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Ozark Trail Junior Scout Dome tent on 11/12/2011 07:25:19 MST Print View

Thanks David,

This is what I currently use while out on the trail...

SUL Tarp with Zippered Beak

...with this underneath.

Meteor Bivy

For the price I paid for the Scout I really can't complain about the space or the set-up. The color doesn't bother me at all. I am fast approaching that time in my life where brown loafers, white tube socks and Bermuda shorts will be a fashion statement and not a faux pas . LOL

Besides, my last outing was during archery season, blaze orange was a necessity to avoid sprouting a plume of feathers. ;-)

I'm a MYOG type and I have been looking at other options like these below.

Bilgy tarptent

Lance Marshall's Twighlight Tent

Ron Moak's Night Wing tarptent

Due to the cost of materials none of these three would be considered "Ultra Cheap". They would however be ultralight and a lot simpler to pitch than my current setup. I'm looking for something that is one piece and less "fiddley" to pitch when the skies open up.

My weight goal would be somewhere around 1 to 1.5 pounds total with mesh walls, zippered entry and bathtub floor.

The Ozark Trails Junior Scout Dome tent has found a soft spot in my hiker's heart. I have another cheap tent purchased years ago that I just can't seem to let go.

$14.00 K-Mart Black Sheep Model # 5002OT

The blue one on the right is mine on the AT in 2008. It is quite old. My best guess is that it is somewhere around 25 years old and was bought on a whim with no real purpose in mind. Newer versions of this same tent are still available today for around $30.00.

What a difference in price a "few" years make!

Party On,


Cesar Garcia
(crgowo) - F

Locale: Desert SW
Failed on 11/12/2011 08:05:29 MST Print View

I wouldn't trust the kids ozark tent if a lot of rain is in the forecast. A trip got cut short a few years back when a friends tent leaked in an all night storm. It wasn't windy just rained constantly all night. In the morning he said everything was soaked. We were a bit bummed since he didn't say anything till the morning and he could of fit in my two man tent. He had used it before but it was the first time in the rain.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
wow, seems great for winter only tenting on 11/12/2011 08:48:05 MST Print View

As a person who does zero technical climbing, and won't be parking their tent on a narrow knife ledge anytime soon...I'm wondering why I even own a BD firstlight when this would have easily sufficed. Screw rain...use this puppy as your exclusive winter tent. Less than $20 to add another specialized tent into your arsenal. 10 minutes on the sewing machine, and 4 tie outs later, I'm pretty sure this can handle the majority of conditions I see on my winter backpacking trips. Size looks very comparable to a BD tent. I already have to sleep diagonally in my Firstlight to avoid touching the sides.


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Failed on 11/12/2011 08:57:43 MST Print View

Yes, leakage would probably be the problem with the ozark trails tent. The poles are fiberglass I think.

Back in about 2004 a ranger walked into a winter storm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He died after the temps plummeted with ice fog. He was rumored to be using a similar tent, though any tent might not have lasted through that winter storm. (notice where his friend mentions his 30 dollar tent, thought to have been used on the trip)

Page 4 of the above post gives an account of the weather change. Very impressive what can happen in winter.

Edited by jshann on 11/12/2011 09:46:04 MST.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Ozark Trail Junior Scout Dome tent on 11/12/2011 16:24:54 MST Print View

It's called a Junior Scout tent for a reason - to fit 2 junior Scouts. :) Not many men won't hit the walls unless there is just one laying diagonally. The stakes are not Ti.

Poles are fiberglass (and do break). Rainfly is worthless but you could easily make a bigger one with some scraps. My son has the same tent in the Wenzel brand I think. He doesn't use it anymore since he's now 14 and can no longer fit with his buddy. He now has the 7x7 from Ozark Trails. That fly is slightly better.

Wow, and reading about the NH storm of 2004 - I don't think any tent would have mattered one bit. To have such a wicked drop in temps AND still 100% humidity at the same time - I never would have thought possible.

David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Re: Re: Ozark Trail Junior 6 x5 Dome tent on 11/12/2011 17:31:16 MST Print View

Ok wal-mart has made a lot of Junior kids tents over the years and many of them are dogs. The one you want is the one shown in all the pictures above. It is 6' x 5' feet and made by Ozark Trail. Not the ones with the poles crossing twice, not the 6' x 4.2', not the Wenzel ones, not the Barbi version because they all suck. And get the orange one because it is more cheerful during those 14 hour winter nights.

If you are short enough you can lay in it diagonally. If it works for you throw away the cheezy poles and order a set of alloys. If you are the nervous type order some big diameter poles just like the Hillebergs have. Sew a couple guy loops on each pole sleeve and put some decent guy-lines on. Seam seal it. Spend the pile of money you saved on a good down air mat and snow shoes. Go hike.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
cheap on 11/12/2011 19:39:54 MST Print View

as much as i like cheap gear ... id be wary myself of any tent that has a small rain fly like that ... i remember using 1/4 rain fly tents as a kid ... and i was swimming in them after a good PNW rain storm

as to the links posted about that tragedy ... sometimes shiet happens sadly

David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: cheap on 11/12/2011 21:21:07 MST Print View


You mean like this one?


or this one?


John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Ozark Trails Tent on 11/13/2011 19:24:07 MST Print View

I just got back from a two night trip in Gila NF where I used this tent again. Even though I have a Contrail, I still really like this thing - it's simple to set up and the floor is so tough. As for the rain fly being small, I feel it would be pretty easy to rig my poncho over it if necessary. I'm not sure I would trust the poles in a big storm though. I camped maybe 100 feet from a river with everything zipped up and only had minor condensation from my dog and I.

I've been experimenting with using my trekking pole to support the center of the tent and angling it off center so I can lie diagonally. The main plus would be no poles to carry. It seems to work well enough in my living room but I need to do a backyard test one of these days...

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Ultra-cheap, lightweight, free-standing tent on 11/13/2011 20:07:28 MST Print View

I've been making tents, as a hobby, for about 40 years. The thing that strikes me about these economy tents is that they can make and sell them at a price that is less than the material cost of myog tents.

I would love it if I could submit my specs to one of these companies and have them make me the tent I want for, say, $100 per tent.

I hate sewing and they do a much better job than I.

I'm also curious. Why don't some of these companies (e.g. Wenzel) make a tent that meets the specs of serious backpackers? They obviously have the skill and wherewithall to put out a tent under $100 that would compete with some of the $300 tents currently on the market.

Edited by lyrad1 on 11/14/2011 20:15:52 MST.