I read a lot of reviews regarding this tent and it seems to generate very divergent opinions that center around the “water resistant” Epic fabric. There seemed to be a group of folks that said the tent was fine in anything less than a monsoon, and others that swore it was raining in the tent after an hour of steady rain. Despite the potential negatives I was very drawn to the tent because of the layout, and relatively light weight. I was also interested in its ability to be sealed up under colder conditions. I live near the AT in Pennsylvania where our weather is very “East Coast” (read – humid and very rainy in the spring), so the claims that the tent leaked like a sieve definitely concerned me.
I decided to take plunge and purchased one two weeks ago. I performed thorough seam sealing job from the outside of the tent as recommended by the manufacturer. I also whipped up my own batch of thinned silicon to create friction lines on the bottom of the silnylon floor and to perform a thin thread-seal on the internal seams. One thing I also did was to coat the areas of the tent body where the Velcro pole tethers make contact. (Some folks had reported this to be an area of increased leakage)
Before a field trial I setup the tent in the yard, carefully staking out the corners to keep the sidewalls taught, and opening the small rear window in the tent. (My reasoning being that taught fabric would allow water to bead off the tent easier than loose fabric) I let the tent sit in the yard through a night where we had continuous rain totally 1”. The next morning I eagerly awoke to see the results of my testing. The outside fabric was covered in beaded water, but appeared to be “dry” in areas where beads did not lie. To my delight the tent was extremely dry on the inside, and I did not detect any condensation on the inside of the tent body. The poles did exhibit some condensation, but not enough to cause drips on the floor by any means. I was very encouraged by this and eagerly awaited a two night trip we had planned for the next week.
The trip was fairly typical of PA in the spring. You always have these mental pictures of sunny warm weather, but invariably April=40’s in the rain. (Despite that I plan at least one trip every year – call me a slow learner) In any case the first night we experienced no precipitation, but we did have frost. Our tent was setup in a patch of land between two waterfalls, and the air was obviously very moist because of this. We closed the front door and window entirely to keep the inside of the tent warm. We awoke to moderate condensation on the tent walls (you could feel it, but not see it on the fabric), but did not encounter any dripping or issues with it getting our gear wet. I think not having the tent ventilated and the very humid – near freezing temps exceeded Epic’s ability to pass all to water vapor.
The second night was continuous rain from 8:30pm to 7:30am. The rain was never a deluge, but it was pretty heavy at times and didn’t stop at any point through the night. Having read numerous stories about the water resistance of Epic breaking down after X hours I was very concerned that we were going to get wet. We slept with the rear window open and the from door partially opened (down to the point where the awning would stop rain from entering). The next morning yielded walls with moderate condensation with absolutely no leakage. I might have felt one or two drips of condensation from collected condensations on the poles, but it was extremely minimal. Some of the other double wall tents on the trip had much heavier, dripping condensation on their flys, although the occupants also stayed dry.
Overall I am very pleased with the tent to this point. The design is fantastic. The large door lets two people get in and out very easily, and sit side by side for morning cooking. Setup is pretty simple, but takes some practice to get the hang of it. The tent dries extremely quickly, and after a few shakes of the fabric most of the water is gone. I have since built a larger awning (3.5 oz) for the tent that is supported by a trekking pole, and attaches to the tent via the factory supplied loops beneath the awning. This provides a nice “porch” to stow gear and cook under conditions with light precipitation. It also lets you keep the front door open 75% of the way in the rain for even greater ventilation. I will report back more findings if I run into any leaking/extreme condensation problems. Based on my experiences I can only speculate that some of the poor reviews of the tent were derived from tents with a lesser “batch” of Epic, or that I haven’t experienced severe enough rain to this point.