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recommendations for 3 person backpacking tent

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  • recommendations for 3 person backpacking tent

    Planning a couple of short backpacks this summer, generally just 2-3 nights. I have a large 4 person MEC tent that over the last few years seems to somehow have gained weight so I am looking for something lighter, smaller, but still rugged enough for Canadian Rockies summer camping that will stand up to some wind and rain. What tents do you love? Any ones to stay away from?

  • #2
    Originally posted by mark g View Post
    Planning a couple of short backpacks this summer, generally just 2-3 nights. looking for something lighter, smaller, but still rugged enough for Canadian Rockies summer camping that will stand up to some wind and rain. What tents do you love? Any ones to stay away from?
    I purchased a Big Agnes Fly Creek "2-person" about two years ago and am pretty pleased with it thus far. It is really light weight (<4 lbs) and so far is holding up to a reasonable amount of use after two years. If you get a BA tent, I would highly recommend getting one of their "integrated" ground-cloths as well. These tents are not cheap, but they appear to be some of the lightest weight on the market. If you expect significant rain and wind, the Fly Creek might be too light in design. I have had several rainy nights in mine and we stayed dry, for the most part. The only annoying design aspect is when you open the fly, the slant of the roof is such that it dribbles a little water directly into the tent entrance. It looks like they have a new version of this tent, so perhaps they fixed this annoyance. Does fine in wind though - seems well designed with stakes and tie-lines.



    • #3
      Another vote for Big Agnes on the lightweight side. We have a Seedhouse SL3 3-person. Really light (4lb claimed pack weight). A lot of mesh - might be a bit on the cool-ish side during the shoulder seasons. Solid design - does well in high wind/rain. Super easy to set up.


      • #4
        I'm also a fan of Big Agnes tents, but one way they keep weight down is by making tents that tend to be the minimum size for the rated number of users. If you want to have three adults comfortable inside the tent during a storm that lasts a while or who want wiggle room while sleeping, test your candidate tent, or if that's not convenient, be very careful about the dimensions.


        • #5
          Thanks for the input. I was seriously considering one of the Big Agnes varieties. I was wondering about all the mesh though in rain. Where we will be using this there will be very few nights that will be hot enough where the mesh will be needed but we will certainly have rain. I have an old Sierra Designs with mesh inner that is just too wet if it really comes down. I guess if the fly is really great then that could be all you need.


          • #6
            The Big Agnes keeps the fly off the body really well, so moisture on the mesh wasn't an issue. I wouldn't want to try to "comfortably" hang out with 3 adults in the SL3, though. It would be tight, methinks.


            • #7
              A review I wrote for another forum:

              Product Tested: Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3

              Price paid, where purchased: $400 w/ free footprint,

              Size/Weight: 3 person/3lb 15oz

              Similar products tried: BA Slater UL2+

              Rating: 4.5/5

              I received this bad boy today and I am very happy with it. I didn't set it up outside yet because it looks as though it is going to storm and I will be using it tomorrow. Setup seems pretty straightforward.

              Design, fabric, feel, everything is the same as the Slater I tried. This is just a bit bigger. It is a roomy two person tent that can squeeze three in a pinch. Or two and a dog. The walls are near vertical thanks to cross support at the top of the tent. The poles and stakes are the same high quality DAC type that all BA's come with.

              I opted for the Seedhouse over the Fly Creek 3 for a couple reasons. First was the cost. The SH is $50 cheaper. The weight difference is in the ounce range and the SH has nice mesh all around and IMO a nicer clip system. The Fly Creek and Slater have a chinsy feeling pole clip system. It looks to be lighter but also feels like it could break easier.

              I'm packing up for a trip this weekend so I decided I would see what the volume and weight were.

              To minimize pack space I usually separate the poles from tent.

              Here is the tent, fly, stakes and footprint in the main bag compared to a 1L Nalgene:

              Not exactly tiny but not bad. Now to see the weight:

              That reads 3lbs and 9/10 oz. Lets call it 3lbs 1oz

              Then the poles. Some extra weight on this tent over the fly creek 3 person comes from the top spreader bar. The 3 person BA tents also are truly free standing and have support at all 4 corners. I suspect they are more resistant to wind loads as well.

              Here are the poles next to the Nalgene:

              Again a bit more bulk than the Slater but being able to sleep well will be worth it. I usually stash these vertically on the outside of my bag in the side pocket/compression straps.

              On the scale:

              That reads 1lb 1.75oz - lets call it 1lb 2oz.

              So the total weight with the footprint is 4lb 3oz.

              BA states the 3lb 15oz and 7oz for the footprint. I'm never really sure how they come up with these numbers but what I weighed is close enough for me.

              Overall I am happy with the tent. Is it as compact as the Slater? No way! That things packs TINY and was truly feather light.

              This is still 2/3 of what most other 2 person tents weigh. I wish BA would make a true 2 person tent that had the floor space of the 2+ with the spreader bar like this. That would be ideal. But I'm glad I errored on the side of comfort. It also looks like I picked up a little sturdiness as well. All the fabric coatings are the same though, so I'm not expecting any difference in durability from this tent. The other good news is it was only $10 more than the Slater!

              Last edited by MikeK; 9 June 2014, 08:32 PM.


              • #8
                Update after use.

                This tent continues to impress. The roominess, lightness, and compactness are the best I have ever experienced.

                The tent is a breeze to set up and is incredibly stable. One person can set this tent up no problem. Here is photo of it setup in the field:

                I used it two nights this weekend and I only have a couple small issues with this tent:

                1) The guy wires are easy to trip on. You have to be mindful of these when walking around the camp because they are hard to see. They have reflective material on the rope so at night with your headlamp on it is no issue though.

                2) The fly catches the wind. It isn't a big deal but it was windy this weekend and it does make a lot of noise and move the structure around a bit. Staked down I don't think it would blow down but you never know. As a plus the cross ventilation is excellent.

                I found the floor with the footprint to be adequate at keeping moisture out. Both places I set up the ground was wet and the inside stayed dry. No rain yet so I can't say how dry it really is but I have no worries.

                Overall an excellent tent. Well worth the money.

                Long term update:

                More of long term update on this tent. I don't think I have a decent picture of it setup in the field so you will have to take my word.

                It's true test was wet weather, which it hadn't encountered in the previous outings, occurred when it was taken to the Adirondacks. We encountered a good solid 5 or 6 hours of continuous rain one night (I know because it kept waking me up). It stayed bone dry inside. Also due to the way the fly is pulled tight out and away from the floor, the puddling and underside leakage was minimal. This can sometimes be an issue in a heavy downpour and provide rivers under the tent floor.

                It's yet to see a true Adirondack 'Thunderbusrt' wind and rain shower yet but I feel confident it will be worthy of the task. At this point I'd be more concerned of a tree blowing down on us than the shelter failing to keep us dry.

                Update as of now:

                The best tent I've ever owned, hands down. Light, weatherproof, and reasonably tough. It isn't really a 3 person tent IMO - it's a 2+ but you can squeeze three teenage girls in there I bet. Or a guy and two girls

                My wife switched to a hammock so I may get rid of this. If you are interested in one, hang tight and mine might be for sale. Hate to get rid of it but it's bulky to carry for just one person. I would buy the one person version if it were the same design, but it's not. This is by far the best in terms interior volume, the other BA tents are all saggy and claustrophobic in the smaller versions (no spreader bar).

                I would estimate I have over 20 nights in it so far and it's only scar has been a slight pin hole on the fly in the vesti where a spark got it. Easy to plug up with some sealant and you'd never know it was there unless I pointed it out.
                Last edited by MikeK; 9 June 2014, 08:34 PM.


                • #9
                  I would be another huge fan of the Big Agnes tents. Hard to go wrong with either the Seedhouse SL3 or the Copper Spur UL3 (which gives you 2 doors for the same
                  weight). The canopies of both of those have a lot of mesh. I also like the Marmot Limelight 3, which at $279 (including the footprint!) seems like at that price it would be
                  cheap and cheezy but is actually a very nice tent for a bit more of a weight penalty. Less mesh in the canopy, too, so perhaps slightly warmer.

                  I have both the Limelight 3 and a Seedhouse SL2, which incidentally came through a horrendous Colorado windstorm a couple of years ago with a few bent pole sections.
                  Big Agnes repaired them for a very reasonable cost and had the poles back within a week. Excellent customer service! I certainly would have taken a different tent
                  had I known that winds were going to be gusting 70-80 mph, but it was impressive that the Seedhouse wasn't a total writeoff. They earned my loyalty on that one.

                  Most of the tent companies are doing some great things and doing them somewhat similarly. Lots of great choices, just depends on how much you are willing to pay for saving a few ounces. If I had the bucks, I would probably opt for


                  • #10
                    Stephenson 3R or 'mid = best weight/space ratio for a 3-person tent. 3R is very stormproof, a true mountaineering tent. 'Mids are quite stormproof if you learn how to pitch them. BD Megalight and Oware are affordable 'mids; cuben fiber 'mid (e.g., Mountain Laurel Designs) are lighter yet but very expensive.
                    Last edited by Big Steve; 10 June 2014, 11:25 AM.


                    • #11

                      Good 3 person tent cleaning crew currently working in western Canada.

                      Click image for larger version

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