I do a lot of fly-out camping, both from a backpack and a car. When you’re flying to Yellowstone with a tent, especially if you also plan to backpack it in, weight is a premium. Unfortunately, a lot of the so-called “backpacker’s” tents are extremely expensive, and also often come with “special features” like inflatable ridges which are prone to failure and which have well-nigh irreplaceable parts.
There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. At the end of a long day on the road or trail or in the air, when you reach your campsite in the dark, sometimes you just want to be able to throw the tent up as quick as possible. For example, I once camped on the north side of Grand Teton National Park; we didn’t set camp until 9:30PM and it was about 25 degrees outside and falling fast. I needed to get in my bag and get some Zs, not worry about how to stick tent poles together. Thanks to my simple tent I was able to get in the dry and out of the wind in a hurry while my buddies were still getting organized.
I use a Marmot Titan 3P tent for all my two and three man camping. For comfort purposes, adding another person-rating (so a 3P for two men) makes sense. Most tents are sized for “sardine style” foot-to-head sleeping configurations. The 3P is about perfect for two adults and a child or a dog, but I wouldn’t want to sleep three in it very often. My older two man Kelty Zen is downright intimate; not always the best thing when you’re bedding down with a 6’4″ fishing buddy.
The Marmot Titan 3P has an interchangeable layout and footprint with the newer Limelight 3P. I prefer the Titan because it had an all-mesh top for maximum aeration and star-gazing. Try to find one on closeout if you can. Marmot, if you’re reading this, you need to go back to the all-mesh configuration for the Limelight series. It was better. If privacy is what you want, you can always set up the opaque rain fly.
Here’s an example of what you DON’T want:
REI makes perfectly good tents (in fact I am pretty sure all tents in this class are ultimately made by the same Far East manufacturers), but look at that pole configuration! What exactly does that design accomplish other than looking cool on a display floor? Would you want to put that together in the dark with shaking, freezing hands? What if you bent a pole?!
Stick with simplicity. It’s cheaper, more reliable, easier to use, and easier to replace. One word of caution: if you buy a Titan 3P on closeout like I did (or any tent for that matter), make sure you get the footprint/ground sheet. You need it, and having a ground sheet that is perfectly sized to your tent is a big help. With Marmot’s design the ground sheet clips right into the grommets which support the tent poles. Those grommets are on little tabs which flare out from each corner and which have slots for tent stakes. With only two poles your tent will be freestanding, with no need to stake out to stand up (important in rocky soil). Only two poles are needed to attach both the ground fly and the rain fly as well. Add one more short pole across the top of the tent to spread the rain fly and keep a little separation so you don’t get a shower in the morning from internal condensation. Overall set up time (solo) is only about 5 minutes.
One more tip. When you put the tent away, don’t just stuff it in your bag. Instead, fold the ground fly, rain fly, and tent body into nice long strips of fabric. Stack those strips on top of each other, then put the pole bag on one end and roll the whole bundle up like a burrito. It’s much more organized, easier on the tent fabric, and best of all it drops right into the tent bag with no need to stuff.
Rating (Marmot Titan 3P/Limelight 3P): 5 stars out of 5.
Purchase: From Marmot.com ($279) or on frequent closeout for ~$149.