The Stephensons Warmlite 2R is a tapered two-pole two-man double-skin tunnel. First, the specifications.
|Fly Fabric||30d ripstop nylon, silicone|
|Listed Weight||? – see below|
|Tent Weight||1.41 kg (3 lb 2 oz)|
|Pole Weight||268 g (9.5 oz)|
|Stakes, Weight||not supplied|
|Stuff Sacks||19 g (0.7 oz)|
The web site lists the weight of the 2R as 2.75 lbs (1.25 kg), but that is considerably less than the weight of the tent tested. It may refer to the weight of the tent without the poles, or it may be that the zips on the tent tested were extra.
This is a rather small tapered two-pole two-man double-skin tunnel tent deriving from the mid-2000s. The brand was created by Jack Stephenson, and the company is now run by his son Bill. The brand was famous (legendary? notorious?) for the scantily clad ladies in the early catalogs. Stephensons were very early users of lightweight materials and VBL materials. This tent would seem to be made from standard silnylon – in almost any of the wide range of colours available.
The interior of the tent has reasonable floor space for two as shown here.
The sides are moderately wide, so you have plenty of storage space for gear at your sides. However, the rear end of the tent both tapers in and slopes down, so that it is only useful for your feet while sleeping.
There is an entry end bell, but it does not provide any vestibule space.
The rear end, of course, has none either. That means you have no space to store your packs or shoes, and no space to cook during bad weather. We list the sitting space in Part 2 – that area where there is at least 80 cm of head room as being a scant 70 cm x 40 cm. One person might sit at the entrance, but the second person (and this is a two-man tent) will have to lie down the whole time.
Can one fit shoes outside the groundsheet but under the fly? No, because that narrow gap is covered in mesh to keep all the insects out. This mesh is visible in the photo here.
The entrance to the tent is a little strange. There is a single door on the end bell (no inner mesh door to keep out insects), but this door is secured by two sets of zips. There is an inner zip that runs from the pole arch down the side and across the bottom, making a sharp turn at the corner. It meets another zip coming down the other side. These are visible in the photo. But then there is a second zip running all the way down from the pole arch, in parallel with the first. It may be that this is meant to serve as a rain-flap over the first, but the design is extremely complex.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. The outer zip then extends beyond the end bell to form part of the ground anchor system for this tent. Just how strong the zipper is would be questionable. In addition, the zipper leaves the end bell at a bit of an angle, putting a very high load on the silnylon fabric at the point of departure. Fortunately, there is also a webbing anchor in parallel with the zipper. It is possible to tighten the webbing so it takes most of the load. However, half that tension goes to the groundsheet, which is also a strange decision. I find allowing a little slack in the groundsheet is essential on rough ground. The design also means that only half the tension in the webbing is applied to the roof of the tunnel, and this tension is crucial to the tent staying erect in bad weather.
The tent poles are totally custom. The small rear pole is 9.5 mm OD and has a very high curvature built in. There is no way you could get this curvature in the field. The larger pole has a nominal OD of 16 mm – huge! It too has most of the curvature built in. These poles are quite short and very stiff: they will not buckle in the field.
By way of comparison, the vertical yellow tube is an Easton 344 (8.50 mm) pole. There are only two poles: Stephenson asserts that you don’t need a middle pole, although they will fit mid-point guy rope anchors to the fly at an extra cost.
However, considerable care needs to be taken with these poles as the walls are very, very thin, and the ferrules are very thin-walled. I measured the larger pole as having a 0.3 mm wall thickness; the Easton 344 pole has a wall thickness of 0.48 mm. What this means is that although the poles will be very stiff in the field, they will also be very susceptible to damage: dents will easily occur, and inadequate insertion will be disastrous.
The ends of the poles are captured inside the sleeves at both ends. You insert the pole all the way into the sleeve and push the near end inside as shown here.
It’s a rather ingenious arrangement. It is also a bit hard to find the first time you pitch the tent! There is no provision with this sort of design for tensioning the sleeve, but the sleeves seem to come out reasonably tensioned by design.
Now, guy ropes and anchoring. Well, there is no provision for guy ropes. None at all (unless you opt for the extra-cost mid-point ‘Wind Stabilisers’). Saves weight I guess. In truth, the rear end is probably small enough that it simply does not need any guy ropes, and the pole at the entry end is huge, so maybe it does not need any guy ropes either. Maybe. But that means the tent must be staked out with a very high lengthwise tension: far higher than normal. All that tension, plus the wind loading from the rear end, goes on one solitary staking point, shown here. Do you feel lucky? You may note that I chose to put two stakes (orange Ti wires) into the ground in the photo, and I had reservations about how well they would hold tension. I imagine a well-sunk ice axe might be a good idea in the mountains.
For a small tent like this ventilation can be very important.
The rear end of the tent is blocked by mesh, with an ingenious silnylon cover flap. You pull the top end of the string and the flap comes up to block the mesh. No zip at the sides, but I think the idea is that the wind will push the silnylon flap against the mesh and block it that way. To get inwards ventilation, you pull the lower end of the cord. The main door has a mesh-covered vent as well. It can be zipped shut to keep the rain out. When open there is a bit of light elastic that keep the silnylon cover away from the mesh, to let the air through. However, there is no hood over the vent, so in bad weather you won’t get much ventilation.
The inner tent (if specified) is aluminised silnylon, not a breathable fabric. Not a lot of ventilation (or even fresh air) there. However, for extra cost you can have one or two awnings put in the side of your tent, as shown here. They supply guy ropes for the corners of the awning and you get mesh screens as well. Yes, you can open the mesh screen to shut the awning in the fly from inside, but you have to deal with the guy ropes somehow. Alternately, you can specify the tent with no inner lining. I find the concept of the side openings a little strange in a tent designed for the mountains, but if you also want to use this tent in the lowlands in fine weather, the openings are probably essential for comfort.
I must express considerable dissatisfaction over the quality of manufacture.
The sewing is rough and very amateur, and so are some design features. Seen here is a major seam: it is single-stitched, with no hemming at all. Now it may be that a single line of stitches is strong enough in this position, but it looks terrible. This style of construction was found all over the tent. See also my comments about the main door zippers for instance, and look at the photos of the pole sleeve end and the loose bungee cord sticking out of the pole end cap. In our previous review of the Warmlite down air mat, the same problems with construction were found and commented on. For a tent priced at over $500, this is just not good enough. It pains me to say so, but the Chinese tents I own show a much higher quality of manufacture.
If you are looking for an ultralight survival tent for two people in the mountains, this might be just the thing. Expect it to function as a reasonable bivy bag for two and it will do that. Mind you, I would skip the side awnings and add the ‘wind stabilisers’ to the order. But if you want a bit more comfort, room for getting changed, sheltering for your gear, and room for cooking in bad weather, plus the ability to sit up in the tent, look elsewhere.
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and the author/BPL has returned or will return this product to the manufacturer upon completion of the review. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to the manufacturer to review this product under the terms of this agreement.