As you know, our gear reviews aren’t sponsored. We get a lot of gear and, quite frankly, we test the hell out of stuff. This year was no exception: we took gear on a camping trips in Northern Ontario, as well as a multi-day canoe trip in the Kawartha Lakes, leading to Petroglyphs Provincial Park and Curve Lake First Nation. We also tested some gear at a rustic cabin (meaning no water or loo, folks). And while it’s true that some of the gear just didn’t make it, we found some things that we absolutely love — items that we know will be with you for a long, long time and many wild adventures.
We tested out a bunch of tents, which were scored based on functionality, design, space, and innovation. Here are the best tents of 2015 that we tested:
Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 6 Tent ($450)
Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 6 is a great option for families. It’s airy and spacious, comfortably fitting four people. Six adults is stretching it – unless you’re coolio sleeping like sardines.
What’s great is the tent has multiple, adjoining full-sized doors on each side. So you don’t have to climb over bodies to get to the loo! There are also handy canopy pockets and vestibules to keep your gear covered and dry overnight. When packed, it’s a bit bulky and heavy (15 lbs) for trekking, so this is an ideal tent for car and canoe camping.
What we loved: With the exception of the rain cover, the Optic was super easy to set up. Instructions weren’t necessary and we had the entire thing erected in under 15 minutes.
If we could change one thing: We tried and failed at setting up the rain cover. We improvised instead, but it still looked wonky. User-friendly instructions would have helped.
Ideal for: families; car camping; canoe camping.
Rating: 4/5 stars
MSR’s Elixir 3 Lightweight Backpacking Tent ($300)
Weighing only 5lbs packed, this was the lightest and most compact of the tents we tested. It’s great for backcountry camping and easily storable in a large backpack. Despite our initial doubts, the tent is roomy enough at 29 square feet for two adults, with ample head and foot space. Three adults may be a crowd.
What we loved: The Elixir’s airiness was the bomb diggity, with two large doors for easy exit and ventilation that extends to the ceiling. One night, we left the rain cover off the tent and enjoyed balmy breezes wafting in the tent.
If we could change one thing: It was a comedy of errors trying to decode the set up instructions. Yes, the colour-coding system was helpful, but what the hell is a grommet?! We couldn’t make out the minuscule pictures in the directions, and eventually YouTubed the visual instructions in the middle of the woods. Once we determined what was what, the tent was snap to set up.
Ideal for: backcountry camping; hiking; canoe camping; anything!
Rating: 4/5 stars
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