Cheap Tent Ideas

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    john braun


    Locale: West Florida

    I'm hiking the AT for a week with a couple overnight practice trips before then.

    I've been getting a lot out of this board and have acquired some really cool gear over the past few weeks.

    So as far as a lightweight, cheap tent, what would be good?

    I've looked at the Knollwood Bivy Shelter Tent. It's three pounds.

    But another idea is purchasing a cheap pup tent that weighs 4 lbs. Is it possible to use my treking pole instead of the tent pole on these?

    Using the trekking pole would save a lot of weight I would think.

    Jim Sweeney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    What kind of budget are you looking at? For what it does, Henry Shire's tarptent sublite seems very reasonable at $175. Could you get by with a bivy and a tarp? The Equinox bivy is ~ $70, and perhaps you might make your own tarp from tyvek?

    The sublite is 17 oz, the tarp and bivy might be a little more, depending on how big a tarp you make. And yes, your hiking poles would work, and might even be more rigid than lightweight tent poles. You might want to check out Denis' report at:

    BPL Member


    Forget the Texsport Knollwood. The fabric's PU coating is so thin that water will seep through if it rains hard for more than a few hours. To Texsport's credit — at least they were honest on the packaging to describe the tent as "rain resistant" rather than rain proof.

    While there is no need to pay a premium for brand names — going super cheap is also wasteful (and stupid)!

    Go for a GOOD QUALITY tent by:

    1. shopping online for sales
    2. buying a lightly used one at this or other forum — or on Ebay.

    Some non-sexy but good quality brands that come to mind:

    1. Kelty
    2. Eureka
    3. Coleman Exponent (which is Coleman's higher quality line)
    4. REI

    Finally, avoid any tent that comes with fiberglass poles! Go for aluminum poles.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Rent from REI?

    john braun


    Locale: West Florida

    I need to spend less than $100.

    I saw a Eureka Zeus tent for $89, but from what I read it didn't get good ratings.

    The pup tents i've seen are $35-65. But they weight 4-5 lbs. That's why I wondered if using my trekking poles would work.

    Kyle Purcell


    Locale: North Texas

    depends if it has any guyout loops, and how creative you can get. I have no doubt you could pitch a pup tent without using the poles, but it might be tough to do. If it is a 2 person tent, you could use a pole in side for the peak support and guyout loops (or the old pebble anchor point trick) to get more room. At least I think this would work with the one I have (from Wal-Mart). But like I said, questionable.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    MYOG large silnylon tarp?


    Phil Barton
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oklahoma

    Eureka/Campmor 8'x10' silnylon tarp $65. It weighs 13 oz. With a little practice it's not hard to pitch. For one it's also large enough that you can stay dry even without a bivy.

    BPL Member



    Another non-sexy but solid brand I forgot to mention: Alps Mountaineering. Check out the Zephyr 1. This tent should serve you well for most all 3-season type camping.

    john braun


    Locale: West Florida

    Using a tarp sounds tempting.

    But to be honest, I'm scared of a snake or rodent crawling around my tent. So to make sure I get some sleep, I need a real tent.

    te – wa
    BPL Member


    Locale: Phoenix

    hehe.. even this one slipped past Ben
    the Cabela's XPG solo. more than $100, but rated high on list for solo tents. Looks like a 1/4 dome from REI in a way.

    Richard Scruggs
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    Perhaps the MSR Missing Link?

    An originally $200+ retail-priced shelter, fully enclosed for two (netting and floor), weighing about 3 pounds, and now being sold for about $100. Pitches with two hiking poles since no poles are included.

    The Missing Link is described at MSR's website:

    Recently, REI made the Missing Link available at a price below $100 (year end sale?). It is currently discounted elsewhere (might again find it near/below $100 somewhere as it appears to be on the trail to "discontinued").

    For example, on sale for $124 at Moontrail per this link: for the Link listed at about $125, plus more info and photos.

    Be sure to click the "here" link at the Moontrail site to see the "additional photos" provided there.

    Reviews & Awards —

    Editors' Choice Award 2004 – Backpacker Magazine

    "The ultralight shelter withstood a windy Rainier storm that dropped 5 inches of rain in 24 hours and proved so roomy and well ventilated that our 6'6" executive editor happily shared it with a 5'10" friend." – Backpacker Magazine 2005 Gear Guide

    "Best Buy." – Backpacker Magazine 2004 Gear Guide

    Rated four stars (out five) in a BPL reader review here at the following link:

    Thorough review by BPL staff in 2004, but BPL subscription required to read the whole review at the following link:

    Haven't used the Missing Link myself, but it looks real interesting — unique, too — and it seems to offer a lot of shelter (at a lighter weight) for the discounted price.


    john braun


    Locale: West Florida

    Funny, i was looking at the missing link yesterday. but then I found out the trekking poles I just got from REI are only 55". I think you have to have at least 56" poles for the tent to work. At least that's what was said on moontrail's site.

    Anyone else used it with 55" poles?

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee


    Eureka Spitfire $99 3lb 4oz packed

    Unknown abc


    This might be somewhat an overkill, but a nice discount for a nice tent!

    The Eureka Spitfire is also a very good option.


    Jared Cook


    Locale: Northwet

    10 yds sil nylon from noah lamport, (minimum purchase at $2.75 a yd)… $27.50 or buy else where 6-8 dollars a yd.
    use 3 yds for a solo tarp or 6yds for a large coverage tarp and 3 more for a bivy floor, and 3yds of momentum for the top of the bivy $41 from thru hiker… total not including shipping and noa lamports $5 cutting fee is $68.50… left overs for stuff sacks and random other small projects. throw in some noseeum mesh and protect yourself from the snakes.

    Richard Scruggs
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    Moontrail's recommended "best" pole height of 56" sounds about right from what I've read elsewhere, but Moontrail erred by stating that the height recommended by MSR is 64" since it has been reported elsewhere that the pole height actually recommended by MSR is 54" for the Link.

    Your 55" poles would work with the help of extender tubes that slip over hiking pole tips. Extenders are sold by GoLite & others for about $5 or $10/pr) but at the expense of a few ounces and a two pieces of extra gear.

    Maybe that's one of the reasons for MSR calling this tent the "missing" link. As well as the fact that it appears to be a one-of-a-kind tent that's perhaps soon to be extinct.


    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    I had my best luck getting my Missing Link set up with canoe paddles. The longer the pole, the easier it is to get a taut pitch, in my experience. Then you have to get a stick to hold the back vent open. I sold mine, there were easier options.

    Personally, I'd come up with a little more money, and buy the Contrail for sale in the Gear Swap section.

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