Exped Mira II Hyperlite
$429, 2 lbs. 14 oz. (without the included stuff sack and eight sturdy stakes, at least six of which are needed to pitch the tent)
On the first of two nights backpacking with my 15-year-old son in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains, I got an immediate sense of what I liked about Exped’s sub-three-pound Mira II HL (besides its low weight): With darkness and rain rapidly approaching, we pitched the tent easily in a couple of minutes. We lived and slept comfortably inside, thanks to a design that maximizes space while minimizing weight. And when it rained through the night, we stayed dry despite keeping one vestibule door wide open to help ventilate the interior.
In the White Clouds, we also we had a clear, cold night just above freezing. I also used the Mira II HL camping alone one clear and calm September night, with lows in the 30s, at Redfish Lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains; and my family used it as one of our two tents for three calm, clear nights, with lows in the 40s, backpacking the Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park in August.
With a partly freestanding design—it needs staking for a taut pitch—space is good for the weight. A design that uses three DAC Featherlite NFL poles—one running the length of the tent, a ridge pole over the top, and an arched pole at the head end—plus a generous, 43-inch peak height, creates ample headroom (I could kneel in the middle of the tent) and a sense of the space being larger than its 29 square feet. Meanwhile, the 85-inch length accommodates tall people, and the 49-inch width is more than two sleeping pads. Three of us played cards inside one buggy evening in Kootenay, and my wife and I found the interior space perfectly adequate for two sleeping adults.
It’s quick to pitch and dismantle because the poles slide readily through their sleeves, and there are six points where the rainfly clips to the tent body. I found six stakes (including the two for the vestibules) enough for most situations, including winds up to about 20 mph, which did not cause the tent to bow inward or the rainfly to flap at all. The tent canopy, with a mix of mesh and solid fabric, and the two doors create good ventilation; still, we did get condensation (as we did in the other, double-wall tent we used in Kootenay) on some nights that were either rainy or clear with lows in the 30s to 40s Fahrenheit. But the taut pitch kept the rainfly off the canopy, so nothing inside got wet, except when wind blew a little rain in through one completely open vestibule doorway.
The two doors are large enough for easy entry and egress, and the rainfly overhangs the doors slightly, creating a drip line that prevents a straight-down rainfall from getting inside. We stored backpacks and boots in the two seven-square-foot vestibules and still had enough space to come and go without climbing over gear. This tent uses lightweight materials, like 15-denier ripstop nylon in the canopy and 20-denier in the floor and rainfly, requiring a little care to avoid tent sites with sharp rocks and sticks. The entire tent packs down to the size of the 20° down sleeping bag I used on some of the same trips.
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Overall, this tent provides a shelter sturdy enough for all but very exposed, windy campsites, with good space for under three pounds.
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NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.