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State of the Market Report: Family/Group Backpacking Tents
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
State of the Market Report: Family/Group Backpacking Tents on 10/11/2011 14:04:05 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

State of the Market Report: Family/Group Backpacking Tents

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
family tent on 10/11/2011 16:45:53 MDT Print View

I have a 5 yr old son. So naturally he doesn't go as much as I do. I end up doing trips with men who can stretch it out a little and also just me and my wife. We almost never stay in hotels on vacation, we camp in campgrounds or state parks so we have our 15lb tent for that( camping in Ft Wilderness at Disney World is way better than hotels...esp if you hate Disney world like me!). So we take 5 or less actual "backpacking" family trips a year. So for me to put a large amount of money into a family tent doesn't make sense for me. I found an Ozark Trail 2P tent at Wal-Mart for $25. It is 7x7 or 49sq ft and weighs 4lbs 3 oz. That's 2lbs a piece for me and my wife. It is single wall and has that hardware store style tarp material floor in it. Which is a plus for me, having a 5 yr old boy who plays with sticks and rocks and sometimes forgets to take off shoes before getting inside. The poles are the old cheap fiberglass. This tent won't last forever, but I can buy 6 of them for half the price of most other 49sq ft tents! And barely over 4lbs is lighter than most major market tents. And with the tarp type floor I won't cry when my son rips a whole in my $350 tent.

Michael Johnstone
(mjohnstone) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Great Article on 10/11/2011 19:05:03 MDT Print View

Thanks for a great article. I appreciate the topic (family camping) and the breadth of tents that you evaluated. Prices would be helpful in future articles, but not a necessity.

Sharing the simplicity of ultralight backpacking with friends and family is one of our goals. This article helps to reach that goal.

Philip Werner
(earlylite) - F - MLife

Locale: New England
Prices for Scouts? on 10/12/2011 10:00:59 MDT Print View

Great collection of shelters. Can you list the prices in the thread? All of the scout troops I'm working with are very focused on cost, far more than weight.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Big Agnes on 10/12/2011 10:35:56 MDT Print View

Why there is no mention about Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4, Big Agnes Fly Creek UL4?

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Prices for Scouts? on 10/12/2011 10:45:28 MDT Print View

Philip, I will see what I can put together for pricing. I probably won't be until a little later this evening.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Big Agnes on 10/12/2011 10:47:53 MDT Print View

Those are listed as new, I don't remember seeing them the last time I was on the BA site. This article series has been a long time in the making (over a year), so I have no doubts that I may have missed something that was recently released.

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
shangri la 5 on 10/12/2011 11:05:28 MDT Print View

now that we have a child we use a shangri la 5 as our main shelter

( the trailstar is when we want minimum weight and there is no bugs )

with a bearpaw cuben / nanoseeum inner for 3 ( to keep a vestibule) we get a 1300g shelter ( under 3lb) including stakes and velcro to join our hiking staff

its barely heavier than our 2 people paratipi + bug bivy, but i am afraid the added comfort with the height is at the cost of a loss in wind stability.

inner in sl5inner sl5

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: State of the Market Report: Family/Group Backpacking Tents on 10/12/2011 11:18:17 MDT Print View

I'd like to reemphasize the comment on weight/person with large tents.

I have a 2-p tarp, a 3-p tarp, and a 4-6 person pyramid, all homemade out of silnylon (plus an assortment of older traditional and winter tents). The weight/person is highest for 2 people in the 2-p tarp, lower with three in the 3-p tarp, and really low if I can squeeze 6 people into my large pyramid (around 13oz/person if I recall, including poles, floor, stakes and stuff sacks, and even less if I use hiking poles instead of about a pound of 3/4" aluminum tubing for the center pole).

It always seems odd to me to see a group of two or three each carrying their own shelter. The one disadvantage of large shelters is finding a large enough flat and open spot to camp on.

Larry Tullis
(Larrytullis) - F - M

Locale: Wasatch Mountains
UL Family Tents on 10/12/2011 11:25:18 MDT Print View

Thanks for the basic descriptions of current UL Family tents. It was missing 2 things I require to make a buying decision, however. I would have liked current pricing and peak heights listed. I want something I can stand up in for cloths changing and stretching, including Charley-horse antics! also a $600 tent is way beyond my budget so I need to balance cost vs performance.

Jeremy Gus
(gustafsj) - MLife

Locale: Minneapolis
Re: family tent on 10/12/2011 11:40:47 MDT Print View

Echoing Adam's post, we bought an Ozark Trail 4P tent at Walmart for $30. It is an 8x9 and weighs in at 6.5 lbs which is really not to bad considering... We have 2 yr old and 3.5 yr old boys that are tough on stuff. It has no guylines to trip over and the floor is tough as nails. It may not be all that storm worthy, but with the kids this young, I will be avoiding trips with storms anyway.

I also have a MLD Supermid with bug-netting that I tried using once and I couldn't keep the boys off of the center pole when they were in the tent and then couldn't keep them from tripping over the guy wires on the outside. They also seem to like swinging sticks at everything including the Supermid. Fortunately, no damage was done, but I don't want to have that kind of anxiety and stress of watching the boys potentially ruining a $370 tarp. In the meantime, this will be going on Gear Swap as I can't justify keeping it around...

When the boys are older, I will re-evaluate what is available on the market and get something that is more storm-worthy and lighter.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
cool article on 10/12/2011 12:18:53 MDT Print View

I appreciate this article, thanks.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: State of the Market Report: Family/Group Backpacking Tents on 10/12/2011 15:26:09 MDT Print View

"a $600 tent is way beyond my budget"

Ever consider making your own? Making a large family-size pyramid is fairly easy, and inexpensive, especially if you can find fabric on sale. Lots of discussion about this on MYOG forum. My guess is it would cost less than $100 in materials, depending on what you do for poles.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Big Sky on 10/13/2011 06:07:03 MDT Print View

I want to say (for those people who would possibly look for) that there are also Big Sky Revolution 4p and Big Sky Convertible 4p tents(last tent was mentioned in some BPL article, but there is no info about it on BSI site).

Edited by joarr on 10/13/2011 06:07:56 MDT.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Could you add fly weight? on 10/13/2011 09:45:14 MDT Print View

Could you add the fly weight? Currently some shelters weights include a alloy pole, some a carbon pole and some no pole at all. Since you can buy separate poles or leave behind the supplied one it would be nice to compare weight and weight/area without the pole. Same with stakes.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Pricing on 10/13/2011 09:52:09 MDT Print View

I did a quick lookup of the pricing for the shelters in the article. Here is a quick rundown.

GoLite Shangri-La 5: $350 (outer), $175 (inner)
Hilleberg Nallo 4: $695 (regular), $795 (GT)
ID SilTunnel: $400
Kifaru 6 Man Tipi: $991
MLD Circus Tent: $445
MSR Twin Brothers: $400
Nemo Pentalite: $370 (outer), $140 (wedge)
Oware 11x11 Pyramid: $400 (silnylon)
Seek Outside Versa Shelter 6: $750
Tarptent Hogback: $375
Ti Goat Vertex 6.5: $650 (aluminum pole), $700 (carbon pole)
Stephenson Warmlite 5R: $850

Be aware that many of these tents have options that could make them a little more or less expensive.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
central pole on 10/13/2011 11:07:52 MDT Print View

It would be great to know what kind of central poles for pyramid\tipi shelters we can get. For example is there some carbon lightweight options?

adam spates
(adamspates) - F

Locale: southeast
price on 10/13/2011 11:50:45 MDT Print View

Since most people who need a family tent are raising a family and money is scarce to say the least, I would like to have seen a "state of the economy/market" report. Haha... being serious though, the average price of those 12 shelters was $590. One of the reasons we backpack as a family is because it is cheaper than conventional trips. Gas plus food and that's it other than the initial investment. I would have love to have seen some shelters like the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 3 on this review. Its a double wall 3P tent that weighs just over 5lbs that can usually be picked up for abou $125 online. I have been looking at this tent for a while now for winter camping in the south. If someone has one of these , I would love to get some feedback/review. Or if someone has some money burning a hole in their pocket and just loves to review products , purchase one, review it and I'll buy it from you half price :O)

Tim Haynes

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Family Backpacking tents on 10/14/2011 10:38:26 MDT Print View

I think there is a HUGE difference between "family" and "group" tents and though they need to be similar sizes, I think the considerations are rather profound.

I'm guessing most people here are not going to take their small children out on mid-winter trips. Just a guess, but I suspect the floorless tents with minimal ventilation are pretty much out for that group. I'd also guess that anything too fragile is probably a poor idea as well.

In most cases, traveling with kids is also going to mean less mileage, which means that heavier weights are not as big a deal. I could carry 30-40lbs if I need to for a trip with young kids, especially knowing that it's highly unlikely that I'm going to travel more than 4-5 miles a day. I'm not saying that's the BEST idea, but I'm saying it's realistic for a lot of families.

The cheapest tent on this list that is viable for a 3-season family tent is the TarpTent Hogback, at $375. And being a smaller manufacturer, there aren't going to be any discounts on it; the price is great for what it is.

However, in the interest of making this more family friendly, it would be great to see some more budget friendly options listed for comparison... An ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4 is ~7.5#, 64-sq-ft, fully double wall with vestibules, and can be found readily for ~$150 (or less). The similar Edge 4 is $105 at REI Outlet right now...

Ozark Trail and Wenzel make some family tents in the $50 range that are roughly the same size, though without the full-fly, so no-vestibules; possibly a slight weight penalty, but as someone pointed out above, the freedom from worry when letting small kids attack a $50 tent is a lot different than having those same kids throw themselves against the walls of your $400 tent because they like how it feels to bounce off them (I've had this happen camping with friends).

Other options -- I saw the Big Agnes Copper Spur 4 and Fly Creek 4 have already been mentioned, but for reference, the CS4 is 57-sq-ft+vestibules, fully double wall, two doors, etc... and clocks in at 6#; the FC4 is a little smaller at ~50sq-ft and has only one door, but shaves it down to ~4.5#, and you can trim it almost to 4#-even if you use titanium hook stakes and leave the stuff sacks at home.

Admittedly, the Big Agnes tents don't save any money, with list prices at $600 and $500, respectively, but folks here have been able to get the CS4 for as little as half price lately on SAC.

I appreciate the work you did in putting this article together -- I think it has value, particularly for "group backpacking," especially for people looking for alternative shelter options, but for the family side of things, I think a broader article that showed some budget-friendly options would have been appreciated.

It would have had value, too, to show what you're really getting when you spend 5-10X as much money. Sure, $50-$100 tents aren't what most people here are going to carry up a mountain, but on a short hike, I'll gladly take the extra couple of pounds to keep the extra $300-$600 in my wallet, and also have the piece of mind that I don't have to worry about my gear if it gets damaged by children. When you'll be carrying gear for 4-5 people, there are plenty of other places to save back that same weight.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Tent alternatives on 10/14/2011 10:49:29 MDT Print View

When I was hiking with young ones, I made a large bug bivy to contain everybody.
Like you said, we weren't winter camping, but we did
go out early season. We just used a tarp for rain. Since it was a DIYS project it
was cheap and light and we were able to use a tarp we already had.
babybivy 3.0