A Lot of Tent at a Reasonable Cost

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If replacing an aging tent is on your wish list and in your budget one of 2011’s best deals is still hard to beat in 2012.

The Mountainsmith Morrison, declared a “Killer Deal” by Backpacker Magazine in 2011, is still one of the best deals on the market. This free-standing, two-person, three-season, dome tent has a list of features that make it hard to ignore. It has 35 square ft. of living space, two (yes, two) large doors, two vestibules, and clips that attach it quickly to two crossing poles forming a dependable and familiar X-shaped frame.

Its 5 lb. weight includes a 92-inch x 56-inch interior space (plenty of room for tall campers to sleep comfortably) with 43-inches of headroom. The side vestibules are roomy enough to keep packs and boots dry or for use as a rain-free cooking area and allow easy access to the interior via large doors. Other features include two interior pockets, bathtub floor design, two adjustable vents on the rainfly, a small, detachable gear loft, and windows in the doors that can be zipped or left open for circulation. Mountainsmith even color-coded the tent poles and printed the set-up instructions on the stuff sack for you. Eight aluminum V stakes in a separate bag are included. This tent kept backpackers dry during an eight-hour August downpour on the West Coast Trail and performed just as well on several other wet, late season nights.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The Morrison’s gear loft is too small and with cold hands it’s frustrating to push the plastic tabs through the fabric loops that hold it in place. A suggested fix is to remove the tabs and install the loft permanently with zip-ties. The other two picayunish points are the guy-out loops on either end of the rainfly and the stuff sack size. The guy-out loops are just too high. To fix this you’ll need to replace the lines that come with the tent with lines that are six to seven feet long. If you’re using a footprint the stuff sack is just too small. Mountainsmith has added tent footprints as an accessory in 2012, but it won’t pack with the tent, and if you shove a homemade footprint into the bag, even one as compact as Tyvek, you’ll eventually split the stuff sack’s side seam.

On the cost-to-performance scale these are minor flaws that are easy and inexpensive to correct and should not keep this tent out of your backpack.

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