Marmot Tungsten UL 2P
$299, 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Is weight the most important consideration when buying a backpacking tent? If it’s one of the first specs you look at, I suggest you give equal consideration to its space—and especially its space-to-weight ratio. In the interest of finding a tent that offers comfortable living quarters for a friend who’s over six feet tall and I to share on a 39-mile backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range—but still comes in at a reasonably low weight—I decided to try out Marmot’s well-priced Tungsten UL 2P. I found that it’s a solidly built and notably spacious shelter for its weight, at a price that’s hard to beat for this quality; but I found some nitpicks with it, too.
The interior footprint of 32 square feet provides measurably more space than many freestanding, three-season, two-person tents of comparable weight. Over and above that footprint area, though, the pre-bent poles and one short, eyebrow pole over the top create vertical walls and more headroom, which, along with the 42-inch peak height, enhances the sense of greater space. I shared the tent with a friend over six feet for three nights in the Winds, and found that, besides the bountiful headroom, it has adequate width for two pads without us constantly bumping into each other, and good length (88 inches).
But here’s the most compelling point: In a random online survey of freestanding, backpacking tents of similar weight (from just under three pounds to about three-and-a-half pounds, including only the interior tent, rainfly, and poles), I found many with between 27 and 30 square feet of space—most of them with less headroom—and all of those tents cost more than the Tungsten UL 2P.
This is a sturdy shelter for three-season backpacking. On our mid-September hike in the Wind River Range, we saw wind gusts over 25 mph one night and heavy rain for most of another night. The Tungsten UL 2P, with its seam-taped rainfly and bathtub floor, kept us dry inside and our gear dry in the vestibules. With DAC press-fit, hubbed poles, the tent pitches easily, thanks in part to color-coded clips to align the rainfly correctly. I’m not a fan of the plastic hooks securing the rainfly to the tent corners, because they can slip off before all are clipped; I think the plastic buckles used in many tents, while perhaps marginally heavier, just work better.
Ventilation was good on wet and windy nights with lows in the 40s Fahrenheit; we had no condensation inside in those conditions, and given the all-mesh walls and two opposing doors, plus one roof vent (which can be retracted), I expect condensation would not be a problem even in cooler temps.
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The combined 15 square feet of space in the two vestibules keeps boots and midsize packs out of the rain, and you could cook in one vestibule in a pinch. The two D-shaped doorways are huge, easing access and egress as well as the task of pulling gear out of the tent when packing up camp. Roll the doors back on a clear night and you get a broad view of the stars from each side, with just a strip of roof overhead.
Stick a headlamp or other compact light into the ceiling pocket made of translucent, white fabric for diffused, lantern-like interior lighting. Interior pockets provide storage space for small items like headlamps. Marmot achieves such a low weight for the tent’s size partly through lightweight fabrics—30-denier nylon in the floor, 20-denier in the rainfly—which aren’t uncommon, but also not as durable as some tents. We bent one of the six stakes too easily. The packed size of 18×7 inches is fairly compact and competitive with other tents in this category.
One demerit: The tent’s end walls lack guylines or loops for staking them out, both for better ventilation and to keep those walls from pressing against the inside, mesh walls in wind and raine. On our night of heavy rain, those walls, which are difficult to make taut, flapped a bit and made contact with the inner mesh walls, making them damp, and sleeping bags and other gear and clothing eventually brushed against those interior walls and picked up some dampness.
You can find lighter tents. But for tall people who will accept a few more pounds for more living space, the Marmot Tungsten UL 2P delivers that while keeping the weight within a half-pound or less of some of the best ultralight, freestanding tents. And it comes at a price that’s hard to beat.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.