5 Trail-Tested Tents for3-Season PCT Camping
Whether you’re spending a weekend, a week, or several months on the trail, having your camp shelter can have a big impact on the comfort of journey. This summer, we hit the trail with five tents currently available from some of our favorite manufacturers. We smashed them into packs, exposed them to weeks of sun and rain, and spent a good amount of time lounging, napping or just hiding out from mosquitoes. Here’s our rundown.
1. Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Platinum
Last summer, we spent much of our trail time with the then-new Tiger Wall UL2. We loved this tent so much it made our Best of 2018 gear list. This summer, we took out the newer, “Crazylight” Tiger Wall UL2 Platinum. Essentially the same design, the Platinum model sheds a few ounces to bring the whole thing in under 2 pounds (trail weight), while maintaining all the features of the original.
OUT OF THE BAG: The Tiger Wall Platinum kit includes the freestanding, 3-season tent, rain fly, DAC single-pole structure, ultralight stakes, and guylines. The tent is constructed with a silicone-treated ripstop nylon floor and ripstop mesh walls and doors; the fly is constructed of waterproof, ripstop nylon. The nylon material is ridiculously thin and lightweight, with a slight bit of transparency. Similar to the original model, the Platinum tent has two large side doors with dual zippers and handy tie-backs. Inside are three large pockets: two on either side at the head, and one large overhead media pocket. The fly comes with color-coded clips and pre-attached guylines, and creates two large vestibules that are roomy enough for keeping packs and other gear out of the elements.
ON THE TRAIL: Repacked into our Hyperlite Pod, the Tiger Wall Platinum is so light and compact it barely took up any space in our pack. Setup in camp was a breeze, thanks to the color-coded, single-pole unit. While the 28-square-foot, tapered interior is a bit on the snug side for two adults, the peak crossbar creates near-vertical side walls so there’s suitable headroom, and the longer length provides a little extra space for stashing gear and clothing at the feet. We were initially concerned about the Platinum model’s ultra-thin material, and how it would stand up to poking and prodding, as well as the elements. Fully secured, it shed rain like a pro, keeping the interior completely dry, held fast and stable in high winds, and bounced back from plenty of internal moving about. While its mostly mesh structure kept the interior nicely ventilated, cracking the fly’s door zips helped minimize condensation.
SUMMARY: For ounce-counters, the Tiger Wall UL2 Platinum is a no-brainer—compact, lightweight, sturdy and dependable. Our favorite features were the versatile fly that allows for a variety of open/closed configurations, and the more muted color scheme, replacing the bright yellow of the original model, with a cool green for a more discreet outdoor appearance. We recommend using a tarp or footprint (sold separately) to protect the floor from rough surfaces. $550
Packed Weight: 2.2 lbs. | Packed Size: 18 x 5.5 in. | Floor Area: 86 x 52/42 in. | Peak Height: 39 in.
2. Hyperlite Dirigo UL2
There’s a lot to love about Hyperlite’s Dirigo 2P. It’s constructed of advanced, high-quality materials, is extremely durable, weighs in under 2 pounds, and it’s made in the USA. All this awesomeness comes with a hefty price tag however, which begs the question of how important it is to save a few ounces in the pack. Read on, and you decide.
OUT OF THE BAG: The Dirigo 2P is about as minimal a tent as you can get without getting into tarp territory. What you get is the single-wall tent and a stuff sack. There is no rain fly for this tent, and stakes and the footprint are sold separately. (Yes, stakes are sold separately!) There are no poles with this model, as it utilizes your own adjustable-length trekking poles (fixed-length will not work) for the support structure. It’s constructed of seam-sealed, waterproof Dyneema Composite Fabrics for the ultimate in outdoor durability. Under the two side gear vestibules are a couple of moderately-sized mesh doors for easy entry and exit. A single internal pocket provides a space for stashing phones, headlamps or other small items. Stake and guy-out tabs are reflective for nighttime visibility.
ON THE TRAIL: For as light and minimal as it is, the Dirigo was rather large packed up. This is due to the bulky ridge bar built into the peak of the tent. Setup requires the whole tent to be staked out, then propped up with trekking poles. This was easy enough, but not ideal for hard or rocky surfaces that you can’t get staked into. The pyramidal shape of the tent provides more than 32 square feet of floor space—more than most of the tents we tried—but minimal headspace, right in the center peak of the tent. We found this to significantly limit sitting space and interior movement when occupied by two adults. In inclement weather however, this tent is worth every penny. The angled walls shed rain easily, and wind is shunted aside from every angle. The interior mesh walls/doors did well to keep it ventilated and minimize condensation, and this was one of the fastest-drying tents we sampled.
SUMMARY: Despite its light weight, easy assembly and exceptional durability, it’s difficult to swallow the price of this tent when compared to other ultralight models. For a 2P, the large floorspace is really compromised by the minimal headspace—we actually feel this tent serves better as an extra-roomy 1P. Plus, the fact that stakes are sold separately is a real stinger. On the flipside, a bomber ultralight tent made in the USA probably deserves a premium tag. $795
Packed Weight: 1.8 lbs. | Packed Size: 12 x 8 in. | Floor Area: 90 x 52 in. | Peak Height: 45 in.
3. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2P
While just flirting with the ultralight category, the Hubba Hubba NX 2P is a dependable, spacious, easy-to-set-up tent that we felt was worth carrying the few extra ounces. This was especially true after spending an extended amount of time inside, waiting out summer thunderstorms, or hiding from swarms of voracious mosquitoes.
OUT OF THE BAG: Unpacked from its side-opening compression sack, the Hubba Hubba NX includes the 3-season tent, rain fly, composite poles, tent stakes, and guy-out cords; the footprint is sold separately. The tent is constructed with a 30D ripstop nylon floor, with 15D micro-mesh walls and doors; the rain fly is constructed with 20D ripstop nylon. Both the floor and fly are treated with the new Xtreme Shield DWR finish. The fly comes with attached cording for extra tie-down convenience (which definitely came in handy when the wind picked up). Inside the two moderately-sized side doors is a living space that includes four pockets for stashing essentials: two large ones for things like extra clothing, books and cell phones, and two smaller ones above the doors for headlamps.
ON THE TRAIL: Setting up the Hubba Hubba NX was a breeze with its single-pole structure that snaps together quickly. The rain fly goes on easily as well, with grommets that fit over the ends of the poles and straps that can be cinched to tighten the whole thing down. Its 29 square feet of living area felt quite spacious for its dimensions. This was due in part to the peak pole that extends from door to door to create a uniform head height that is as wide as the floor of the tent. We found it quite comfortable for two adults to sit up in the middle of the tent, with ample room to move around, change clothes and fiddle with gear. When the clouds opened up, it shed rain nicely and kept the interior completely dry. We found the extra tie-downs on the fly good for keeping it from flapping around in the wind.
SUMMARY: Weighing in right around 4 pounds, it’s not the lightest 2P tent you can find, but the Hubba Hubba NX was a great all-purpose tent that was very good at everything it needed to be. Our favorite feature was the front-packing stuff sack—much easier for packing than jamming a rolled-up wad into a snug sleeve sack. This tent will serve as a great option for casual treks where you don’t need to count every ounce, and want to enjoy a little more living space and convenience. $450
Packed Weight: 3.9 lbs. | Packed Size: 18 x 6 in. | Floor Area: 84 x 50 in. | Peak Height: 39 in.
4. NEMO Dragonfly 2P
Weighing in just over 3 pounds, the NEMO Dragonfly 2P is a nice, lightweight option for both short- and long-distance treks, and is suitable for backpackers of every stripe. We especially like this tent’s unique Divy Sack, which lets you divide the tent contents between two hikers—a nice touch for sharing the load.
OUT OF THE BAG: The Dragonfly 2 includes the 3-season tent, rain fly, DAC Featherlite poles, eight stakes, and a repair kit; the footprint is sold separately. The 29-square-foot tent is constructed of black and white mesh panels, with a 20D nylon bathtub floor; the weatherproof fly is made of silicone-treated 15D ripstop nylon. Reflective tape on the stake tie-downs helps ensure you don’t trip over them while walking around the tent after dark. The tent has two large side entrances with a number of options for tying back the tent doors and rain fly. Inside are several storage pockets: a larger one for stashing lightweight clothing or small gear items, and two smaller overhead pockets for holding headlamps—one on each side, right where you want them.
ON THE TRAIL: Setting up the freestanding Dragonfly was quick and easy thanks to the pre-bent, color-coded poles and rain fly tabs; the overhead pole clips easily into 2 ball-joint attachments. Inside the tent, there’s generous headroom for sitting up and moving around, yet we found the tapered head-to-foot design to be just a bit snug for 2 adults. Under the fly, the two large side vestibules are roomy for gear storage right outside each door; these are secured by multiple tie-down points that keep it from flapping around in windy weather. Vents are built directly into the door opening zips, which worked well, and were necessary to keep it from getting swampy inside. We found the Dragonfly to hold up admirably in both wind and rain, and kept us comfy and dry inside.
SUMMARY: Overall, we found the Dragonfly 2P to be a durable tent selection that incorporates some thoughtful features in a very lightweight and convenient package. The snug size suggests that this may not be the ideal option for larger/taller occupants—unless you like to cuddle. Alternatively, we found it to perform quite luxuriously as a 1P shelter, while still being light enough for a solo hiker to carry. $390
Packed Weight: 3.1 lbs. | Packed Size: 19.5 x 4.5 in. | Floor Area: 88 x 50/45 in. | Peak Height: 41 in.
5. Sierra Designs High Side 1P
Bridging the gap—if there was one—between a bivy sack and a full-size 1P tent, Sierra Designs’ High Side 1 is a minimalist shelter with a few cool perks that provides complete coverage and protection from the bugs and weather—yet not ideal for the claustrophobic.
OUT OF THE BAG: Dumping out the front-loading compression sack, the High Side consists of the 3-season, 1P tent, rain fly, two poles, and stakes. The tent is constructed with a silicone-treated, 30D ripstop nylon floor, and 15D nylon no-see-um mesh; the fly is made of silicone-treated, 20D ripstop nylon, and has pre-attached guy lines. The tent has one extra-large side door that grants access to the 17-square-foot living space. The asymmetrical rain fly creates an extra-large vestibule on the door side that can be configured in a variety in of ways, including a patio awning by employing trekking poles. The two DAC Featherlite poles are made with shorter-than-average segments for smaller folding—a nice feature that creates a smaller packed size—and stow in a 2-part sleeve that also holds the stakes.
ON THE TRAIL: Setting up the High Side was fairly effortless and intuitive for a non-freestanding tent. The tent does need to be staked out completely. This wasn’t a problem in the duffy terrain we camped, but in rocky terrain it could be challenging. The fly goes on easy and attaches with clips; it also needs to be staked out to achieve the appropriate structure. The interior living space is snug, and the sloped design offers only minimal hunched headspace for sitting up. This made changing clothes inside a bit of a struggle, and most of our non-sleeping time spent propped up on our elbow. Under dry conditions, the High Side performed fine, with minimal condensation buildup. But after several days of steady rain, the fly began soaking-through and sagging some, and condensation buildup was more noticeable—especially at the head and foot where the high-cut fly design did not cover the tent body.
SUMMARY: While this one didn’t win us over, there are aspects of the High Side that we really liked—its big vestibule awning, its front-load stuff sack, and its smaller packed size—we found the cramped interior space a little too confining for our comfort. Its water repellency and ability to resist condensation also left us wanting—something that’s pretty vital here in the wet Northwest. But for those who don’t prioritize elbow room, and just want a sturdy 1P shelter, it’s worth checking out. $280
Packed Weight: 2.4 lbs. | Packed Size: 13.5 x 5.3 in. | Floor Area: 88 x 34/26 in. | Peak Height: 32 in.
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