By: Blonde Two
Here’s a turnaround for you; we Blondes are used to giving outdoor advice but today we are seeking a few recommendations for outdoor gear ourselves. Our two man tent has finally given up after years of great service both here in the UK and on overseas expeditions and we are looking for a new, lightweight tent that will take two Blondes, their camping kit and a bag of Frazzles for first breakfast in the morning. We aren’t getting any younger and, as outdoor leaders, carry a fair amount of additional gear, so we are looking for a lightweight two man tent that will be waterproof and sturdy enough for Dartmoor winters. We know that you, our Blondees and Blondettes, do a lot of camping so we thought we would gather your advice and experiences before making a choice. Here are our lightweight camping specifications (not that we are fussy or anything). We would like a tent that is:
- Waterproof, preferably with a hydrostatic head of at least 2000mm
- Lightweight, we are hoping for around 1.5kg
- Able to withstand high-ish winds (I love geodesic tent design)
- Able to give us enough space to sleep with room for rucksacks either at the end or down the middle
- Strong enough to last for several years of four-season expedition work
Hopefully you will have some great ideas, we look forward to hearing them. If you are a tent manufacturer or marketing outdoor gear, we would be more than happy to field test (moor test) different lightweight tents. The more excuses we have for wild camping on Dartmoor, the better!
My Terra Nova Competition has dome me proud for well over a hundred nights and is still going strong. I know Terra Nova do two persons tents so I would recommend them wholeheartedly. I am also passing a link to my good friends Mick and Gayle who have done more lightweight backpacking than anybody else I know and Gayle is a highly practical individual whose judgement on such matters I would trust without doubt.
Hello Two Blondes! I’m the Gayle of whom Conrad speaks. I’m not sure how much use I can be, as two of our three tents are no longer available in the same design, and the other I wouldn’t recommend for UK use. Here’s a quick run-through of our collection and a few thoughts on them, just in case I can say something about their design features that may be useful:
Our 2-man tent comprises:
1) Terra Nova Voyager 2006 version. Three-pole semi-geodesic design, with end porch, weighing 2.3kg.
2) Terra Nova Voyager Superlite (2008 vintage?). Almost the same design as (1) above, but using lighter materials and coming in at 1.8kg.
3) Henry Shires Tarptent Double Rainbow. A single pole (hooped lengthways) single skin (kinda…), two-door (on both long sides), weighing in at 1.2kg.
The Voyagers both have an end porch, with a central porch door that unzips on both sides so it can be either opened upwards (to tie it out of the way to the side) or dropped downwards (for great flexibility in ventilation, depending on weather, as well as for entry/exit). There’s enough space in the porch to store two framed Osprey packs, one either side of the door, without impeding access to the door, which we can both access without any need to climb over each other. There’s also enough porch space to cook in the porch, and with the door unzipped from the top fumes can be vented. (I fear I’m not conveying very well the design features I’m describing here; some photos would do the job much better!)
The Voyagers between them have had hundreds of nights of use, so much so that a few years ago we had to declare the Superlite to be worn out – the fabric was no longer watertight.
The standard weight Voyager has withstood some extreme weather and even though it’s heavy by today’s standards, the thicker flysheet gives it sturdiness. That sturdiness and the comfort of the design has led us to choose to continue to use it (it crossed Scotland with us again this May) rather than replacing it with something lighter.
The problem with recommending the Voyagers (which I would do without hesitation) is that Terra Nova changed the design shortly after we bought the second one and in saving weight they introduced some modifications to the Superlite that, for us, ruined it (e.g. porch not big enough for our packs; door with a zip on only one side and across the top, smaller internal dimensions and removal of the convenient bit of overhanging fly at the back where we store our shoes). They also changed the standard weight Voyager to a substantially different design although I can’t now recall the specifics (and it’s quite possible the designs have changed again since I last looked).
As for the Double Rainbow, I wrote a ‘not a review’ of it here…
…which concluded that it’s the perfect tent for situations where you don’t really need a tent. Since I wrote that we’ve used it for six weeks across the Pyrenees as well as a few overnighters, and our opinion hasn’t changed. So, not suitable for four season use on Dartmoor! That said, if the porches were a bit deeper and it was double-skin, and the venting a bit different … well, then it’d be a lot heavier!
Eeeh, that was a bit long as comments go!
Hi Gayle. Thank you so much for your comment (not too long at all) and the review of the Henry Shires Tarptent (really interesting as it answered a lot of our questions). Camping all year round is great but finding the right tent for all conditions is proving tricky. Interesting to see Margaret’s comment below about Henry Shires… they are new to us and I have been enjoying browsing their website! Thanks again and happy camping!
Hi Two Blondes – may be worth you having a look at Henry Shires Scarp 2 tent. I have the Scarp 1 solo tent and absolutely love it. It has been used in some strong winds in lake district valleys and Scottish glens without using the additional cross over poles and it was very secure.
Hi Margaret. Thank you so much for your advice. As you can see above, you weren’t the only person to recommend Henry Shires. Their tents are new to us but we are now looking with interest at their website!
Hi, Interesting that Henry Shires gets two mentions as his shelters would get my recommendation, though I would recommend the Stratospire 2 in Cuben if budget allows. It is very liveable for two with large vestibules, two doors and excellent venting options while being extremely tough and weatherproof for under a kilo. Perfectly suited to the UK’s many varieties of wetness and windyness. It uses trekking poles instead of tent poles. Outdoorgearlab review: https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/ultralight-tent/tarptent-stratospire-li and Tarptent link: https://www.tarptent.com/product/stratospire-li/#tab-id-2
I own the 1 person ‘Notch Li’ which is absolutely what I need. I have owned other tents but wanted something with height and good covered storage. It took me two years to get to the Notch as my best option – no regrets! Good luck in your search.
It sounds as though you have done plenty of research! Thank you for your recommendation, we will take a look.