Oct 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm #1280456
Companion forum thread to:Oct 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm #1789291
I have a 5 yr old son. So naturally he doesn't go as much as I do. I end up doing trips with men who can stretch it out a little and also just me and my wife. We almost never stay in hotels on vacation, we camp in campgrounds or state parks so we have our 15lb tent for that( camping in Ft Wilderness at Disney World is way better than hotels…esp if you hate Disney world like me!). So we take 5 or less actual "backpacking" family trips a year. So for me to put a large amount of money into a family tent doesn't make sense for me. I found an Ozark Trail 2P tent at Wal-Mart for $25. It is 7×7 or 49sq ft and weighs 4lbs 3 oz. That's 2lbs a piece for me and my wife. It is single wall and has that hardware store style tarp material floor in it. Which is a plus for me, having a 5 yr old boy who plays with sticks and rocks and sometimes forgets to take off shoes before getting inside. The poles are the old cheap fiberglass. This tent won't last forever, but I can buy 6 of them for half the price of most other 49sq ft tents! And barely over 4lbs is lighter than most major market tents. And with the tarp type floor I won't cry when my son rips a whole in my $350 tent.Oct 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm #1789338
Thanks for a great article. I appreciate the topic (family camping) and the breadth of tents that you evaluated. Prices would be helpful in future articles, but not a necessity.
Sharing the simplicity of ultralight backpacking with friends and family is one of our goals. This article helps to reach that goal.Oct 12, 2011 at 9:00 am #1789534
@earlyliteLocale: New England
Great collection of shelters. Can you list the prices in the thread? All of the scout troops I'm working with are very focused on cost, far more than weight.Oct 12, 2011 at 9:35 am #1789546
Why there is no mention about Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4, Big Agnes Fly Creek UL4?Oct 12, 2011 at 9:45 am #1789556
Philip, I will see what I can put together for pricing. I probably won't be until a little later this evening.Oct 12, 2011 at 9:47 am #1789559
Those are listed as new, I don't remember seeing them the last time I was on the BA site. This article series has been a long time in the making (over a year), so I have no doubts that I may have missed something that was recently released.Oct 12, 2011 at 10:05 am #1789570
@fre49Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
now that we have a child we use a shangri la 5 as our main shelter
( the trailstar is when we want minimum weight and there is no bugs )
with a bearpaw cuben / nanoseeum inner for 3 ( to keep a vestibule) we get a 1300g shelter ( under 3lb) including stakes and velcro to join our hiking staff
its barely heavier than our 2 people paratipi + bug bivy, but i am afraid the added comfort with the height is at the cost of a loss in wind stability.Oct 12, 2011 at 10:18 am #1789576
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
I'd like to reemphasize the comment on weight/person with large tents.
I have a 2-p tarp, a 3-p tarp, and a 4-6 person pyramid, all homemade out of silnylon (plus an assortment of older traditional and winter tents). The weight/person is highest for 2 people in the 2-p tarp, lower with three in the 3-p tarp, and really low if I can squeeze 6 people into my large pyramid (around 13oz/person if I recall, including poles, floor, stakes and stuff sacks, and even less if I use hiking poles instead of about a pound of 3/4" aluminum tubing for the center pole).
It always seems odd to me to see a group of two or three each carrying their own shelter. The one disadvantage of large shelters is finding a large enough flat and open spot to camp on.Oct 12, 2011 at 10:25 am #1789580
@larrytullisLocale: Wasatch Mountains
Thanks for the basic descriptions of current UL Family tents. It was missing 2 things I require to make a buying decision, however. I would have liked current pricing and peak heights listed. I want something I can stand up in for cloths changing and stretching, including Charley-horse antics! also a $600 tent is way beyond my budget so I need to balance cost vs performance.Oct 12, 2011 at 10:40 am #1789587
Echoing Adam's post, we bought an Ozark Trail 4P tent at Walmart for $30. It is an 8×9 and weighs in at 6.5 lbs which is really not to bad considering… We have 2 yr old and 3.5 yr old boys that are tough on stuff. It has no guylines to trip over and the floor is tough as nails. It may not be all that storm worthy, but with the kids this young, I will be avoiding trips with storms anyway.
I also have a MLD Supermid with bug-netting that I tried using once and I couldn't keep the boys off of the center pole when they were in the tent and then couldn't keep them from tripping over the guy wires on the outside. They also seem to like swinging sticks at everything including the Supermid. Fortunately, no damage was done, but I don't want to have that kind of anxiety and stress of watching the boys potentially ruining a $370 tarp. In the meantime, this will be going on Gear Swap as I can't justify keeping it around…
When the boys are older, I will re-evaluate what is available on the market and get something that is more storm-worthy and lighter.Oct 12, 2011 at 11:18 am #1789608
@gabe_joyesLocale: Lander, WY
I appreciate this article, thanks.Oct 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm #1789678
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
"a $600 tent is way beyond my budget"
Ever consider making your own? Making a large family-size pyramid is fairly easy, and inexpensive, especially if you can find fabric on sale. Lots of discussion about this on MYOG forum. My guess is it would cost less than $100 in materials, depending on what you do for poles.Oct 13, 2011 at 5:07 am #1789908
I want to say (for those people who would possibly look for) that there are also Big Sky Revolution 4p and Big Sky Convertible 4p tents(last tent was mentioned in some BPL article, but there is no info about it on BSI site).Oct 13, 2011 at 8:45 am #1789994
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
Could you add the fly weight? Currently some shelters weights include a alloy pole, some a carbon pole and some no pole at all. Since you can buy separate poles or leave behind the supplied one it would be nice to compare weight and weight/area without the pole. Same with stakes.Oct 13, 2011 at 8:52 am #1789998
I did a quick lookup of the pricing for the shelters in the article. Here is a quick rundown.
GoLite Shangri-La 5: $350 (outer), $175 (inner)
Hilleberg Nallo 4: $695 (regular), $795 (GT)
ID SilTunnel: $400
Kifaru 6 Man Tipi: $991
MLD Circus Tent: $445
MSR Twin Brothers: $400
Nemo Pentalite: $370 (outer), $140 (wedge)
Oware 11×11 Pyramid: $400 (silnylon)
Seek Outside Versa Shelter 6: $750
Tarptent Hogback: $375
Ti Goat Vertex 6.5: $650 (aluminum pole), $700 (carbon pole)
Stephenson Warmlite 5R: $850
Be aware that many of these tents have options that could make them a little more or less expensive.Oct 13, 2011 at 10:07 am #1790022
It would be great to know what kind of central poles for pyramidtipi shelters we can get. For example is there some carbon lightweight options?Oct 13, 2011 at 10:50 am #1790047
Since most people who need a family tent are raising a family and money is scarce to say the least, I would like to have seen a "state of the economy/market" report. Haha… being serious though, the average price of those 12 shelters was $590. One of the reasons we backpack as a family is because it is cheaper than conventional trips. Gas plus food and that's it other than the initial investment. I would have love to have seen some shelters like the Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 3 on this review. Its a double wall 3P tent that weighs just over 5lbs that can usually be picked up for abou $125 online. I have been looking at this tent for a while now for winter camping in the south. If someone has one of these , I would love to get some feedback/review. Or if someone has some money burning a hole in their pocket and just loves to review products , purchase one, review it and I'll buy it from you half price :O)Oct 14, 2011 at 9:38 am #1790472
@timalanLocale: Mid Atlantic
I think there is a HUGE difference between "family" and "group" tents and though they need to be similar sizes, I think the considerations are rather profound.
I'm guessing most people here are not going to take their small children out on mid-winter trips. Just a guess, but I suspect the floorless tents with minimal ventilation are pretty much out for that group. I'd also guess that anything too fragile is probably a poor idea as well.
In most cases, traveling with kids is also going to mean less mileage, which means that heavier weights are not as big a deal. I could carry 30-40lbs if I need to for a trip with young kids, especially knowing that it's highly unlikely that I'm going to travel more than 4-5 miles a day. I'm not saying that's the BEST idea, but I'm saying it's realistic for a lot of families.
The cheapest tent on this list that is viable for a 3-season family tent is the TarpTent Hogback, at $375. And being a smaller manufacturer, there aren't going to be any discounts on it; the price is great for what it is.
However, in the interest of making this more family friendly, it would be great to see some more budget friendly options listed for comparison… An ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 4 is ~7.5#, 64-sq-ft, fully double wall with vestibules, and can be found readily for ~$150 (or less). The similar Edge 4 is $105 at REI Outlet right now…
Ozark Trail and Wenzel make some family tents in the $50 range that are roughly the same size, though without the full-fly, so no-vestibules; possibly a slight weight penalty, but as someone pointed out above, the freedom from worry when letting small kids attack a $50 tent is a lot different than having those same kids throw themselves against the walls of your $400 tent because they like how it feels to bounce off them (I've had this happen camping with friends).
Other options — I saw the Big Agnes Copper Spur 4 and Fly Creek 4 have already been mentioned, but for reference, the CS4 is 57-sq-ft+vestibules, fully double wall, two doors, etc… and clocks in at 6#; the FC4 is a little smaller at ~50sq-ft and has only one door, but shaves it down to ~4.5#, and you can trim it almost to 4#-even if you use titanium hook stakes and leave the stuff sacks at home.
Admittedly, the Big Agnes tents don't save any money, with list prices at $600 and $500, respectively, but folks here have been able to get the CS4 for as little as half price lately on SAC.
I appreciate the work you did in putting this article together — I think it has value, particularly for "group backpacking," especially for people looking for alternative shelter options, but for the family side of things, I think a broader article that showed some budget-friendly options would have been appreciated.
It would have had value, too, to show what you're really getting when you spend 5-10X as much money. Sure, $50-$100 tents aren't what most people here are going to carry up a mountain, but on a short hike, I'll gladly take the extra couple of pounds to keep the extra $300-$600 in my wallet, and also have the piece of mind that I don't have to worry about my gear if it gets damaged by children. When you'll be carrying gear for 4-5 people, there are plenty of other places to save back that same weight.Oct 14, 2011 at 9:49 am #1790478
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
When I was hiking with young ones, I made a large bug bivy to contain everybody.
Like you said, we weren't winter camping, but we did
go out early season. We just used a tarp for rain. Since it was a DIYS project it
was cheap and light and we were able to use a tarp we already had.
Oct 14, 2011 at 10:08 am #1790483
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
My family used a cheap tent when I was a little kid. It worked okay but it did have some issues. I would be leery of taking a cheap tent into an area with a lot of wind for example. My favorite big group shelter is still a big tarp, its cheap and simple but obviously it has its own limitations.Oct 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm #1790520
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Considering the short period that most families will be using a large tent before the kids prefer having their own tent, I also question the large dollar amounts. (The exception would be families like mine in which the kids arrived 5 years apart!)
There is also the issue of footprint size. With my Tarptent Rainshadow (3-person), it's often difficult to find a good place to pitch it. A 4 or 5 person tent would be worse. That's why my son's family of 5 have decided to go with a 2-person tent plus the Rainshadow. Of their three children (6, 9, 11), only the youngest insists on sleeping with a parent, and he has developmental issues. The other two want their own space and have for several years.
Of course getting two smaller tents (probably a better long-term investment) means that Mom has to sleep in one tent and Dad in the other while the children are young enough to want an adult with them.
The alternative is a cheaper (but heavier) big tent. The short life doesn't matter if you're using it for only a few years.Oct 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm #1790535
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
As far as cheap tents go its not just an issue of how long it lasts but how well it handles wind, rain and possibly snow. If I was doing a trip where there was a strong chance of high winds or really bad weather I'd want something good quality. If not I'd just avoid trips like that. A good tent is still way cheaper than a camper or RV for example.
For a while I was looking for a good 3-4 man sized pyramid tent. I like to go hiking at Grayson Highlands often with little brothers and friends along and it gets windy up there. I never found anythign I could afford. As they get bigger they just cost a lot more.Oct 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm #1790543
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
I'm finding most of the kvetching here a bit specious.
Growing up my parents, sister and I used a VE-24 as a family tent for over a decade. Even when we were three we knew to be nice to the tent. That level of consideration is not too much to ask of young kids, nor is the expectation of using a family shelter for far longer than most here hang on to personal shelters. Little kids do fine on ambitious trips with mixed weather with only modest additonal planning.
And as for floorless use, why not inculcate kids against creepy-crawly paranoia from an early age?Oct 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm #1790606
I've had a Zephyr 3 now for three years and been very generally happy with it. Used it for both family and Scout camping. It's light enough to carry and big enough to actually hold three people.
Two issues. The zipper seam on the doors didn't come sealed from the factory, allowing drips to get inside not just the vestibule, but through the netting into the tent proper. Since I sealed those seams it has done well in some really nasty weather.
Second issue is the short cross-member pole at the head of the tent. The grommets holding this pole will blow out if not set up correctly. If you know what you are doing, it works fine, if not (see Scout camping), you may need to replace a grommet. Practice setting it up home and you will be fine.
Again, I really like this tent. I have smaller,lighter and more expensive tents but this is my tent of choice for 3 people. Relatively low weight, plenty of room, good ventilation, two doors and a very reasonable price.
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