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Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report
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Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 05:53:29 MDT Print View

I have zero interest in arguing why this report is written the way it is. With that said, here's the dilemma-

You guys want long-term test data delivered over short periods. If the review takes 6-9 months there are complaints about it taking too long. If it's delivered quickly, there are complaints about it not having enough depth.

The manufacturers want short term testing and a quick turn-around on publication of the review. This especially applies to the cottage guys since they tweak designs annually.

This article was delivered prior to Summer with hopes that it be published in time for you guys to see what was out there while making Seasonal gear decisions. We're now in to Fall with Winter quickly en route, and most of these shelters don't make sense for those conditions. I have the same issue with another SOTM that will be published soon, and for that primary reason I won't be doing any more testing myself. The conditions we face here in the Southern Appalachians are unlike the Rockies or the Sierras or the DSW or the PNW. Ideally we could get several of an item and test it in multiple locations, but the vendors (generally) aren't willing to play. Maybe that says more about the State of the Market than any of the reports ever will. I may get chastised for writing all of this, but this is me being transparent. I'm not offering it as justification, just a simple explanation and my one side of the story. If you want to chat about it more, feel free to PM me.

In addition, I see lots of opinions on how these should be written, yet no one stepping up to do the reviews. As the saying goes.... put up or shut up.

Edited by simplespirit on 09/19/2012 06:06:41 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:14:05 MDT Print View

Edited: Now I have a better understanding of the situation and how it works.

Edited by kthompson on 09/19/2012 21:30:46 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:22:37 MDT Print View

Are you volunteering Ken?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:26:56 MDT Print View

No I am not. I keep busy with the GGG and trips throughout the year with fellow BPL members.

It's a simple problem I bet. BPL has no resources and has no one willing to supply content other than Roger and David.

Wonder why that is? Bet RJ holds the key to that answer.

Edited by kthompson on 09/19/2012 21:34:05 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:31:49 MDT Print View

For the record, I am not an employee. I do have a title (which I volunteered for) but I'm more of a private contractor just like anyone else who submits articles.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:33:29 MDT Print View

Did you receive compensation for this article?

Edit. Thanks for the PM explaining.

Edited by kthompson on 09/19/2012 21:35:34 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:40:47 MDT Print View

I expect to, but haven't yet. The pay scale is published somewhere, and as any of the reviewers can tell you, it's pretty meager.

I bought my Life membership before I volunteered to do anything for BPL.

I'll PM you.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 06:49:38 MDT Print View

Well herein lies the problem..

Backpacking Light doesn't normally offer financial compensation for contributors, but we do offer complimentary memberships to all contributors, as well as complimentary Lifetime Memberships to regular contributors. And, we're eager to work with budding bloggers and authors to help promote your websites or social or environmental causes (assuming they are compatible with our own), and commercial services so long as they don't result in a conflict of interest with our gear review program.

So I guess we should not complain about getting what we paid for. Cuz' that just the lights around here.

RJ should give you your hundred back.

Thanks for your PM Chris. Not good RJ, not good.

Edited by kthompson on 09/19/2012 06:52:06 MDT.

Lee Fields
Shangri-La 1 discontinued on 09/19/2012 09:31:40 MDT Print View

Just saw on today that the Shangri-La 1 and 2 shelters are being discontinued.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
eh, not really on 09/19/2012 09:46:53 MDT Print View

I am going to go a bit sideways and agree that the SOTM report really didn't speak to me. I guess it is nice that he covered a niche segment of tents but I really don't carry trekking poles here in the plains where it is flat nor have close to $300 to spend on a tent that I have to provide the support for. I really was looking forward to this article but it did not speak to me as to what I need.

In addition the Golite is complete sold out of just about every place except one that has it at $250.

Edited by bpeugh on 09/19/2012 10:26:31 MDT.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 10:44:35 MDT Print View

Franco beat me to it but, yes, "spooning" is in no way required when sleeping two in the StratoSpire 1. The interior easily widens to fit two side-by-side 20" pads.

It is not true that the apex guyines are required to "get a taut pitch and full width across the top" but it does take some practice to correctly tension the doors to put sufficient tension on the apexes and ridgeline. Happy to help anyone with setup questions.

We now ship 6 x 8" stakes for both the SS1 and SS2. Earlier versions of the SS1 did ship with 4 x 6" plus 2 x 8" stakes.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Good update on 09/19/2012 12:24:26 MDT Print View

Thanks Chris for this update on solo tents.

BPL would do well to collect all the solo tent reviews (for tents still produced) and group them together and then write up a summary that could be changed as new tents came along.

For example the SMD Skyscape X in all its iterations including the Cuben tent is certainly worthy of a high rating. It is designs like this and the TT Stratospire and Notch that keep us grabbing for our wallets every few years.

So, BPL, let's set up a rating standard for tents (all tents) that give points (say 1 - 5) for categories like weight, ease of pitching, storage areas, design quality, wind-worthiness, quality of construction, etc. With a STANDARDIZED rating system, not one for each reviewing author, we can more readily compare tents from different reviews. If the reviewers do not have enough time for a full review and standardized rating then don't print it. We can wait a week or two get the best from a review.

And so, as well, we could use a STANDARDIZED rating system for all backpacking products. Much good work on rating standards has already been done by reviewers like Will Reitveld and his light down jackets review, for ex.. But, again, let's standardize it for ALL reviewers. Motor Trend has standardized ratings for their automotive reviews and so can we at BPL.

Just sayin'...

Edited by Danepacker on 09/19/2012 13:17:15 MDT.

Michael Arambula
Re: Good update on 09/19/2012 14:22:42 MDT Print View

I agree with Eric. BPL has a history of wonderful user data and gear reviews that rivals some of the best car, stereo, or digital camera reviews. BPL has been a leading force for scientific objectivity in outdoors gear while serving as community driven quality control.

A living gear review tool on BPL's homepage would be great, it could be periodically updated to provide a standardized rating for gear on the market. Tents/Shelter, Backpacks, Sleeping Pads, etc. could be given an ordinal Rank for different categories based on standardized ratings.

BPL ought to set standards for objective review of gear and provide the internet's best tool for gear comparison. Consolidation of gear reviews, and an easy navigable interface with gear ranks would be something worth paying for.

Much of the Content is already here.

**Edit: Additionally BPL has some of the best product photos/images with the reviews. I am certain this community could also produce excellent video reviews, which could be a valuable direction for the future of product reviews here at BPL.

Edited by marambula on 09/19/2012 14:30:25 MDT.

Gabriel Rhoads

Locale: Wasatch Range
Thanks for the review on 09/19/2012 15:06:44 MDT Print View


Don't lose any sleep over the complaints. A very high, and perhaps exhaustive standard has been set by BPL for SOTM reports. They are the usually the most useful reviews out there. Perhaps this is not as field tested or comprehensive as many of the prior SOTM reports, but that does not mean it lacks value. Such a review certainly does not merit the threats to abandon BPL. What is easy to see is the amount of passion, high expectations, and how well educated BPL forum members are. You are speaking to a core audience that lacks an appreciation for backyard "tests".

Given the consistently errant measurements of many shelter manufacturers, just knowing what the REAL weights of these shelters was useful. This article has served to solidify my love of my SMD Skyscape Trekker that I bought last year in Ron's first run of them. Thanks for letting us know their real weights and for your personal annotations about pitching them and their usable space.

Another useful review of lightweight single plus fully enclosed shelters can be found on John did a great job with this one as well.


Brett Ayer

Locale: Virginia
Re: Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 15:09:30 MDT Print View

"I have zero interest in arguing why this report is written the way it is. With that said..."

I guess I jumped the gun on renewing my subscription. I really like you guys, but if I wanted an attitude like that I'd go hang out at an AT shelter and talk to people with attitudes (for free) who have actually used the tents.

So far about all I can see is a $500+ Cuben Fiber tent weighs less than a sub $300 silnylon tent and they are both easy to set up in your back yard.

I will keep my hopes up and see what comes up next.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 15:49:20 MDT Print View

Reviews are hard. I can understand the problems with it. By the time you manage to compare all of the tents, the market has changed. I get that.

So, don't focus on the reviews. To me, a "State of the Market" report should list as many products as possible. It should also give as much technical information about the product as possible. Much of this is objective. For example, list all of the tents that you think fill the bill. Put asterisks by the ones that you didn't include. Now, with the ones that you did include (and maybe some of the ones you didn't) give a clickable floor layout. In other words, list the total floor space, but with each one, you should be able to click on it, and then see the layout, with distances from one corner to the other, etc. So many of these tents aren't rectacles, but trapezoids, pentagons, etc. Do the same thing with the third dimension. How does the tent slope up? One of the advantages of a typical dome tent is that the sides are steep. I can easily make a tent that is the opposite (plenty of "floor space" but the angles are so shallow that you wouldn't want to be under it).

Reviews are hard. You may not be able to review everything, in every condition. But give a calculated guess. You did this with previous market reports. You suggested that one tent might not be that good in a storm, but you didn't do any sort of real calculations (putting each tent on a rotating platform on top of a pickup and then driving until something broke). But a calculated guess is better than none. It means folks can argue about that, but we are all used to that.

In this case, everyone is wondering why some tents (Refuge X, for example) weren't included. Does it not meet the arbitrary "one plus" limit? If the Cuben version wasn't available, why didn't you get the other (cheaper) version? Are they that different (other than the material)? If you bent on the objective measurement (36 ounces) why didn't you bend on the "one plus" limit? List it, point out its objective limitations and then, if you have time, review it.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 15:59:07 MDT Print View

This is b.s. How come you didn't review the REI Kingdom 6? Lame.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 16:10:59 MDT Print View

I feel for Chris and know exactly where he comes from.
To be blunt what he did was a labour of love not a paid report and as such there is only so much you can do if you are not the only son of Bill Gates and therefore don't need to work for a living...
When I did my article on weatherproof cameras (I offered to do that...) I was contacted about six months after it had been handed in to let me know BPL was ready to publish it.
By then of course a lot of the data was obsolete so I had to ,quickly, re-do most of it.
At the time I was working in the photo trade and part of my job was reviewing cameras so it was not a big deal however the delay in publishing put me off doing another one.
So Chris, yes we do expect more thorough reviews , the frustration expressed above is towards BPL not you.
Nevertheless thank you for your effort , much better than your "pay".

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Solo-Plus Tent State of the Market Report on 09/19/2012 16:35:41 MDT Print View

Perhaps the "staff" moniker is throwing us off. I don't blame Chris at all given the constraints he had to work under, but do blame Ryan for a completely messed up business model.

Hey, Sam is back. And as Staff again. Does this mean we can expect a righting of the ship? Or is there a Sam article in the works that will have all of the constraints associated with this one?

Daniel Gruber
Re: Solo plus tent SOTMR on 09/19/2012 16:36:10 MDT Print View

I subscribed to BPL (and dropped Backpacker) because of its detailed gear reviews and comparison reports. The number of SOTM reports seems to be increasing while in-depth reviews and especially comparisons with ratings seem to be decreasing. For us gearheads, this is not a welcome trend. Please don't let lifestyle stories, trip reports, and general overviews replace what's been unique about this website.