While at Outdoor Retailer this year, I ran into a slew of new, innovative and otherwise notable tents and shelters. Upon going through my press materials after the show, I realized that a full tent feature was in order. So, without any more introductory BS, here's some of the coolest tents that I got a chance to see...
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2
I have mixed emotions about the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL tents. As a fan of both Big Agnes and ultralight gear, and as a former resident of the small town of Steamboat Springs, CO where Big Agnes is HQed, I have to love them. But as someone who purchased the Seedhouse SL 2 just two years ago, I'm a little peeved that Big Agnes came out with something even lighter and more awesome so quickly.
Regardless of my own envy, it's good to see the Fly Creek grow into a line. Introduced last year, the Fly Creek UL 1 is Big Agnes' lightest tent. The new two-person version extends the badge to those that like to travel (and sleep) in pairs. At 2 lb. 2 oz. (trail weight), the Fly Creek UL 2 is only marginally heavier than Easton's slick Kilo tent. Like that tent, it's a double-walled model with plenty of mesh. The packed weight is 2 lb. 10 oz. and the floor size is 28 sq. ft. Retail price is $350 and it'll be here in October.
Blue Ridge Camping Hammock
Camping hammocks are really a can't miss, but Lawson Hammock does more than just not miss here, it offers a rather roomy hanging tent that can double as a bivy when you don't have the luxury of perfectly spaced trees. Unlike other hammock tents I've seen, the Blue Ridge uses a pole system, which appears to offer a little extra headroom. No-see-um keeps the bugs out and a separate rain fly offers weather protection. It packs down to 22" by 6" and weighs 4.25 lbs. According to Lawson, both Backpacker and Outside rated it "#1", but the company doesn't get bogged down with any details about what that designation was for. Retail price is $140.
Hyperlite Echo Ultralight Shelters
There comes a time when unspecific prefixes like "ultra" become meaningless and fail drastically to differentiate products. That's when new, unspecific prefixes like "hyper" are there to step in and carry the torch.
Hyperlite's Echo I Ultralight Shelter weighs a scant 1 lb. 8.4 oz. (tarp, mesh shelter insert and vestibule) thanks to the lightweight cuben fiber fabric that it's made of--a similar sailcloth fabric to that used in the Brookes-Range Rocket Tent. If that's a little too heavy, you can opt for the 8-ounce Echo Tarp only. The full set-up with Echo I Tarp, Echo I Insert and Echo Beak vestibule costs $490, and each piece is available separately. There's also an Echo II two-person set-up, which weighs 1 lb. 13.5 oz. and retails for $595. Find them here.
QuickPitch Pop-Up Tent
Ever find yourself staring at a pile of tangled pole segments and tent fabric just wishing that a genie would pop out of nowhere and grant your wish to have the tent set itself up? Consider it granted. The Quick-Pitch tent is a spring-loaded, pop-up two-man that takes two seconds to set up. You basically just throw it and watch it pitch itself. All you really need to do is stake it out. According to the company, it takes only a minute to break down and pack up--they even had a contest at OR to prove it. I have my doubts about how durable this tent is, but at $90, it's cheap enough to find out.
A different take on fast set-up, Lightspeed tents feature preinstalled, jointed poles that require you simply pulling the hub and secure the poles in place. The company compares the system to that used in an umbrella and claims that set-up takes mere seconds. Lightspeed offers a variety of models in different sizes and configurations. Some models include an integrated rain fly for faster set-up. The fiberglass poles seemed a little flimsy when I got hands on, but for light, family camping these are an interesting option. The tents are available through Costco. Here's Lightspeed's website.