ULA Circuit Review
Hey John, looking for a hiking tent.
These days when I backpack I usually use a tarp (Ray Way Tarp– there is a pic of my tarp on page 7).
Especially when pack weight is an issue. I still use a tent when
basecamping or when privacy might be a concern.
I have a North Face Pebble tent that I use during these times. This tent has exceeded my expectations. Once, while camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I woke up in the morning after a night of heavy rain to find my tent in the middle of a large puddle. My boots were even floating in the vestibule. Despite this, inside the tent remained completely dry. Now, 12 years later the Pebble is still going strong.
Any of the major brand backpacking tents should at least keep you
dry. Eureka tents are a nice bargain as well as Kelty. On the lower end A Coleman will do the job also. As for the big box store name brand models things can get interesting. There is not any telling what you will get from my experience. Some of these tents will perform as well as some of the much more expensive models and I’ve seen some flopped over in a gentle breeze. If using a tent of questionable quality, a tarp rigged above to keep the rain out could be nice insurance.
With the huge selection available it is difficult for me to focus on individual models. but I can try to help you narrow the playing field. Here are a few things to consider:
1.) Freestanding or Non-Freestanding. A freestanding model is just as it sounds, no staking is required for the structure to stand. A non-freestanding tent requires the stakes to be anchored for the tent to have the necessary tension to stand.
Freestanding tents are great for camping in snow or on bedrock when staking is difficult. They still need to be anchored from blowing away of course. They are also easy to clean, just lift and shake out.
Non-freestanding tents are usually a little lighter in weight.
2.) Size. Reading through the specifications can be misleading. For example, A tent that sleeps one and is lighter than the others is lighter for a reason. There might not be enough room for your pack to be protected when it rains or maybe not even enough space to stretch out.
3.) Pole Material. Aluminum is lighter, stronger and more costly.
Fiberglass is cheaper, heavier and less durable. For a backpacking tent try to stick with aluminum. The weight difference alone will pay you back. Fiberglass poles are generally found on car camping tents.
4.) Number of poles. For three season backpacking, two is most
common. Three for light winter and storm hardy models. Four poles for mountaineering tents.
5.) Bathtub floor. This type of floor will join the floor to wall
with seams that do not sit flush to the ground. Helps to prevent
leaks. This is pretty much a standard feature but check for it on
lower end models.
6.) Taped seams. Keeps you from having to do the time consuming messy
job. A nice feature, again pretty standard on most models these
Another option you might be interested in are the Pyramid style
shelters. These are sort of a hybrid between tarps and tents. These are really light and also fast to set up. Condensation could be more of an issue than with the double wall tents. They can also be pricey, especially the cuben fiber models.
Here are a few links to check out pyramid style shelters:
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