UL Tent selection process

At the EOY gear review, I assumed that my UL backpacking tent from last year (REI Flash 1). After putting together a first pass at season hiking plans, and rethinking what it was like at Mt Jefferson end of September, I decided a new UL tent was merited.

Step 1 – define the criteria

Reaching back to old corporate life days, I brought out a ‘product selection’ process, and filled in the data. My objective was simple. A tent with these features: light, sturdy, waterproof (mostly), room to hang out if necessary, enough height to change clothes, and vestibules that would hold both a dog and my pack.

Before I started researching, I put tougher a table with criteria and scoring voids. I determined that weighing different variables made the process too complex. For scoring, I used a 1-4 scale that eliminated both 0 and a ‘middle’ score, forcing me to make a decision. I also scaled the scores consistently so the largest aggregate number was the ‘best’.

CostweightHeightFloor sq ftMaterialDesign (standalone)Warranty
The criteria: all will be scored 1-4 (4 = BEST, 1 = Worst)

Step 2 – preliminary research – ‘possibles’

With the criteria and scoring model in hand, I now needed a list of good possible tents to consider and compare. Rather than stumble around trying to find good tents and / or relying on anecdotal information, I turned to several other bloggers who have proven wise in their product discussions.

The Trek had 2 good resources. A survey from AT hikers and their gear was a good starting point, even though the sample size was small. The Trek also had a tent gear review titled, Best Thru Hiking Tents 2024. One of the other elements in The Trek, some smaller brands have their owners / founders responding to reader comments; this was fantastic and actually tipped the scale toward one gear source – Durston – a small cottage org founded by a thru hiker.

Section Hiker is another good source, and they had a review list titled, 10 Best 1P Backpacking Tents 2024. They put together a great list with specifications and a short review Pros / Cons for each tent. Here is their 10.

I also chatted with hiking buddies about their tents, and how they performed / didn’t and what the hikers would do differently if another tent selection. These conversations tipped toward the more expensive DCF material.

Step 3 – Accumulate the data

First, I needed to assemble a short list of top candidates that would span both ‘type’ (trekking pole, free standing, DCF or SiPoly), and prices but always keeping my criteria top of mind. Putting the list together took the most time. I read different reviews and producer directions to fully understand the products – as much as possible without camping in them.

My list boiled down to this:

Durston X-Mid Pro 1(DCF)
Hyperlite MID 1
Altaplex ZPacks
NEMO Hornet
Tarptent Notch Li
Tarptent “A” tent – Protrail Li
Gossamer Gear the “TWO”
BA Copper Spur HV

Eight tents to collect data on and review for a final decision.

Step 4 – Make decision

I learned last year that gear reviews with prices in them seldom get passed around – and platforms like GGG and REI will not use them w/ prices. Prices are blacked out, but the scale remains – prices were relative w/ logical breaks rather than preconceived price points.

Three tents were clustered at the top and hard to just numerically decide, so I poked through them again.

Hyperlite only had 1 vestibule and had small square footage inside though otherwise was top choice, and a bonus that only 1 trekking pole required. ZPacks was very similar and just not quite right. Durston X Mid had it all, and Dan Durston was both a hiker and somebody who participates in community reviews and comments. A double win.

The X Mid Pro 1 with DCF and a SiPoly washtub was the best answer. I went with the SiPoly bathtub rather than DCF to save $100, and to provide a stronger material for the ‘floor’. The weight add was manageable and the durability of the tent higher. I also went ahead w/ 2 poles from Durston so my trekking poles could be used for tarp, if needed in REALLY foul weather.

I made the choice, placed the order … in hindsight, without Dan Durston participating in the community, I may have had a different answer. https://durstongear.com/products/x-mid-1-tent-ultralight-backpacking

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