The Tent We Are Going To Live In For The Rest Of Our LivesPosted on Jul 31, 2011 | 15 comments
I doubt many have ever left suburban city life with their family and decided to go and live in a tent. As I write this, I am becoming even more aware of how wacko the idea of a "tent home" sounds, but that is what we are doing. And in truth one could make a very good argument that taking on a 30-year mortgage and sending our kids off to packed testing zones is just as crazy. I figure in a few years we will have done both and we can then determine who amongst us is the nuttiest!
For now, let's just pick a tent.
But what tent do we choose? What do we look for? What will make our new vinyl home a home?
Welcome to the world of vagabond real estate.
We know what we want out of our new home. A spacious, cozy, homey dwelling that folds up fast and fits snug in the trunk of our four-door. But specifically, here is what we need.
- All-season, weatherproof .
- It must never break. And if it does, the manufacturer must have the kind of extreme customer service that can ship replacement parts to the ends of the earth within days if necessary. Lifetime Warranty would give some assurance.
- Big enough for the four of us, and our gear.
- Lightweight enough to work for cycling, backpacking, or car camping, since we'll most likely be doing all of the above.
- Quick and Easy to set up by one person.
- It should pack up small.
We've begun a list of candidates and would love any feedback you all may have. The Hilleberg tents were highly recommended by our friends at Edventure Project and Family On Bikes. But there are others that seem like good options as well.
1. Hilleberg Keron 4
The first tent we looked at: The Hilleberg Keron 4, because of the word-of-mouth endorsements from people whose journeys we've read about and understand and whose needs were the same as ours. If it was their best option, wouldn't it be ours? (Note: the former model was the Combi, very similar to Keron).
We've tried it out, thanks to our friends at the Edventure Project. It is hardy and durable, with plenty of room for all of us to sleep comfortably and fit some of our gear in the tent with us, with the rest fitting in the vestibule. Not a whole lot of extra room, though. We didn't actually set it up, but we are assured it is quick and easy, and we believe them - it didn't take long. It's made up of an inner and outer tent, so if you have to pack it up in the rain, you can take down the inner tent dry and then the outer tent separately. It's pretty lightweight. Customer service is top notch, you can actually speak to the Hilleberg's themselves and they'll take care of you! As for passing the Mom-test, it heartily withstood frequent and reckless zippering and unzippering by a toddler with narry a snag or even slowing. All in all, we think this tent has everything we need and will be our fall-back if we aren't convinced that another is a better option. The price is a little daunting, but it will be our home, after all...
2. Black Diamond Bibler Bombshelter
With a name like Bombshelter, it has to be great.
You see why this one might just be 'Da-Bomb(shelter)? It's just a little bigger, lighter, and less expensive than the Keron 4. They are both All-season tents and this one gets great reviews at backcountry.com. We've never actually seen this one in person, but it is one we definitely want to check out. If you've had personal experience with this one, tell us about it. The two biggest unknowns for us: How easy is it to set up? and Will it withstand zippering and overall use by the hurricane we call our son? There's no such thing as "gently used"...
3. Asashi by NEMO
At nearly half the price of the Keron 4 and Bibler Bombshelter, we could never make a decision before seeing the Asashi by Nemo Equipment. Checking it out should be easy as it is manufactured right next door in New Hampshire. We'll be taking a trip up there shortly to check it out for ourselves, but let us know if you've used this tent and what you thought.
It's a little heavier than the Keron and Bombshelter, but comes with some extra space, too. That might be nice with two young kids on the road. It also boasts a height of 60" at its heighest, which is considerably more than the 44" offered by both the Keron and Bombshelter. I guess it comes down to whether we'll be traveling by car or by bike or foot. An extra 2 lbs. is negligible in the car, especially if it packs up just as small, but on the bikes or on the back? That could make a big difference. We also don't know if half the price = half the quality. But from the website, we get the impression it is a small business that takes pride in the quality of the product it delivers. And, it is locally made, which is a plus for us. We'll definitely need to check this one out in person before we consider it.
4. Stephenson's Warmlite
Found the Warmlite in a search for tents comparable with Hilleberg. Also manufactured in NH. The company is family-run and has been around since the 50's making ultralight backpacking equipment. If it can handle conditions like this, then sign me up. Definitely worth an in-person look at the tent to see how it compares to the other options.
If we're comparing this one to the Hilleberg and the Bibler, a big difference is that it is single-walled construction rather than double-walled. Although it doesn't seem to affect its ability to withstand sub-zero temperatures or stay dry, it doesn't give the option of dropping the interior tent dry. It is a whole lot bigger (the next size down is considered a 3-person tent, but maybe that one would be more our size?) and very light because of its single-wall design, a nice combination. This is another tent we haven't seen, and they come custom-made - down to picking your own color combination - so I'm not sure we'd be able to see one in person up front. They are also locally made next door in NH, so we wouldn't have far to go to check out their "model homes".
5. Coleman Helios
Here come the feet back down to earth. The options are moving away from All-Season expedition quality ultralight tents into 3-season car camping tents. We wanted to compare the Hillebergs and Biblers of the world with more moderate options like the Coleman Helios because maybe we don't need that much tent. Maybe a more moderate option would serve our purpose.
And, the price is right(er).
At over 12 lbs. and likely a pretty big packed size (since only with backpacker tents is this important enough to include in the specs), this would really only be an option for car travel. Even if it's not our first adventure, we will inevitably be cycling and backpacking eventually, and we hope to make this tent last us for years to come, so we're not convinced something like this is even an option, but we had to make sure a big purchase was worthwhile. Oh, and all of those lines leading from the fly scare me for setup...
6. Big Agnes Flying Diamond 4
We put the tent question out there on Facebook and one of our Facebook friends, Val in Real Life, told us about the Big Agnes Flying Diamond. Her family uses the Flying Diamond 6 and they love it so far.
As a car camping tent, it's pretty light at only 10 lbs, but it doesn't pack up very small. It also isn't a 4-Season tent and we just never know when we might find ourselves camping in Alaska or on top of a snowy mountain. If we're going to invest in a single tent as a home, it's going to have to be All-Season. But just because it doesn't meet our specifications doesn't mean it might not meet yours and, since we liked Val's review, we thought we'd include it here, even though we've sort eliminated this one as a real option for our family.
7. Marmot Limestone
We included this because for some reason the name Marmot rings a positive bell. It's in the lower price tier, but also doesn't seem to be a 4-season tent. Feel free to correct us if we're wrong and tell us why this should be our new home.
This looks like a great tent. One we should have been using over the past 5 years instead of the zipper disasters we dragged into the woods. But not the kind of tent we're looking for. Again, although it's difficult to tell from the website, this doesn't seem to be advertised as a 4-Season tent, and it's not included in their "expedition" group of tents. Nice size and weight, a little big packed up. We'll take a look at one in a store so that we can really understand the difference between tents like Hilleberg and tents like this.
Not exactly the criteria most people are looking for in a new home, but it suits us and our plans just fine. We love having this decision to make. We are on the brink and it feels good. The concrete preparations are beginning and we can really dig in. Sure, maybe this won't be our home for the rest of our lives, but you never know.
Let us know about your experiences with these or any other tents. We want this decision to be as informed as possible and who better to advise us than travelers like you!
If you'd like a quicker comparison of the tents, check out our comparison chart here.
All the Best in Your Adventures!