Three-season tents are ideal for lower-elevation summer and shoulder season use, but depending on the model and conditions, can be reliable in winter and above the bushline.
Access and vestibules
The most common three-season tent design has twin vestibules and entrances to provide easier tent living with your companions – you won’t be tripping over each other exiting the tent. These designs are usually freestanding.
Strong winds can blow at any time so sometimes the tent will need strengthening by staking out guy lines. Flys will usually have anchor points for these, which you might need to attach yourself. Check that they are supplied with the tent. Purchase extra if needed.
The tents shown here are all double wall, so include an inner and fly. The fly protects against wind and rain and will usually be made from waterproofed and seam-sealed nylon or polyester, the latter being more UV resistant. Flies with vents are preferable for wet and humid conditions.
Largely mesh for plenty of light and breathability. This also means they are cooler, but less weather- and dust-proof. Mesh coverage varies, so choose based on your expected range and type of use. Heavier zips on the inner doors will last longest.
A waterproof tub-style floor is standard, but there is great variance in waterproof ratings – from 1200mm to 12,000mm. The lightest floors should be used with a ‘footprint’ or groundsheet on anything but soft grass to protect from abrasion and punctures. Thin floors are more condensation prone, but save a lot of weight.
Weekend users might not be concerned with internal storage pockets but if you’re using the tent for longer trips, large or multiple pockets will help you stay organised day after day. Some tents will have a ‘washing line’ installed, or tabs to install one, or from which to attach a ‘gear loft’.
Aluminium pegs are usually supplied but they vary in strength and suitability for different ground types. Aftermarket pegs in different styles and for snow or sand are available. Extras might be needed to stake out guy lines and anchor points.
Most three-season tents are designed to be freestanding so once the poles are in, the tent will support itself and hold shape, which is useful if it’s pitched where pegs can’t be used, e.g. with the inner only inside a shelter. Multi-pitch tents allow the inner or fly to be pitched alone.
The weights shown in this feature are for the ‘packed weight’ of the tent when purchased and includes everything that comes with the tent. Manufacturers often list a ‘trail weight’, which is significantly lighter and includes only the weight of the tent, fly and poles.
While twin vestibules help with livability, other things to look for are vestibule and floor area and, for tall people in particular, the length of the inner tent. Steep walls make life less cramped but can make the tent more vulnerable to strong winds.
Poles provide the tent’s structure and wind resistance, with tunnel configurations generally being the strongest. Consideration should be given to how well the poles support the tent fabric, how many there are and their thickness.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX $999.99
Two vestibules with stay-dry entrances, unified pole and hub system maximises interior space, multiple pitch options when footprint is added, colour-coded adjustable stakeout loops, adjustable vestibule to increase ventilation, vented rainfly with Xtreme Shield waterproof coating. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 15D nylon micromesh, 20D ripstop nylon Floor 30D ripstop nylon, 3000mm Poles 1, Easton Syclone Ceiling height 100cm Area 2.7m², vestibules 1.62m² Weight 1760g. e.ampro.co.nz
Sierra Design High Side 2 $649
Pre-bent poles for steep walls and greater living space, dual doors and vestibules, poles sized to fit between bike handlebars, awning-style vestibule for shade and covered storage. Fly 20D nylon ripstop, 1200mm Floor 30D nylon ripstop, 1200mm Inner 15D nylon mesh Poles 2, DAC Featherlight NSL aluminum Ceiling height 96.5cm Area 2.88m2, vestibules 1.44m2 Weight 1500g. www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 $949.99
UV-resistant solution-dyed fabric, seam taped, 30.5cm poles fit between bike handlebars, dual doors and vestibules, 3D shelf for oversized gear, oversized ceiling pocket, media pockets, fly vent and low door vent for airflow. Fly Nylon ripstop, 1200mm Floor Nylon ripstop, 1200mm Inner Ripstop polyester mesh Poles DAC Featherlite NFL hub pole Ceiling height 99cm Area 2.6m2, vestibules 1.40m2 Weight 1330g. www.gearshop.co.nz
Big Agnes Blacktail 2 Hotel Bikepack $699.99
Seam taped, 30.5cm poles fit between bike handlebars, elastic webbing for bike helmets, two doors and vestibules, pre-bent poles for headroom, awning-style main vestibule, media pockets, reflective guylines and webbing, oversized ceiling pocket. Fly Polyester ripstop, 1500mm Floor Polyester ripstop, 1500mm Inner Ripstop polyester mesh Poles Aluminium Ceiling height 107cm Area 3.1m2, vestibules 3.3m2 Weight 3030g. www.gearshop.co.nz
MSR Elixir 2 $599.99
Pole geometry optimises headroom, dual doors and vestibules, freestanding, colour-coded poles, skylight, dual rainfly vents, multiple pockets, easy-to-find red doors, vertical sidewalls, footprint included. Fly 68D ripstop polyester, 1500mm Inner 40D ripstop nylon, 20D micromesh Floor 70D taffeta nylon, 3000mm Poles 2, 7000 Series Aluminum Ceiling height 102cm Area 2.69m², vestibules 2.22m² Weight 2770g. e.ampro.co.nz
Salewa Litetrek II $599.90
Single-entrance, semi-geodesic shape, freestanding, door storage pockets, extendable and replaceable anchor points, extended guyline webbing, extendable vestibule. Fly 50D polyester ripstop, 3000mm Floor 70D nylon, 5000mm Inner 20D nylon ripstop, mesh Poles 3, 8.5mm 7001 T6 aluminium Ceiling height 100cm Area 2.52m², vestibule 0.56m2 Weight 2470g. www.bobo.co.nz
Marmot Tungsten 2P $549
Pre-bent poles for vertical walls, D-shaped doors, Dual entry and vestibules, free-standing, lampshade pocket, seam taped full-coverage fly with vents, seam-taped catenary-cut floor, colour-coded poles, interior pockets, jingle-free zipper pulls, footprint included. Fly 68D ripstop polyester, 1800mm Floor 68D ripstop polyester, 2000mm Poles 3, HD Velocity 7000 series aluminium Ceiling height 107cm Area 3m2, vestibules 1.63m2 Weight 2381g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Six Moon Designs Haven Bundle $559.95
Multi-pitch with extended coverage tarp, pitches with two walking poles, dual side entry, high vent, internal fly tension adjustment, floating canopy can be set to different heights, colour coded attachment points to join inner to tarp. Fly 30D silicone-coated nylon Floor 30D silicone-coated nylon Inner Mesh Poles None Ceiling height 114cm Area 4.9m2 including vestibules Weight 964g. www.packgeargo.co.nz
Marmot Catalyst 2P $499
Full coverage seam-taped vented fly, seam-taped catenary cut floor, colour-coded poles, D-shaped doors, dual entry and vestibules, interior pockets, lampshade pocket, footprint included. Fly 68D ripstop polyester, 1800mm Floor 68D ripstop polyester, 2000mm Poles 3, HD Velocity 7000 series aluminium Ceiling height 110cm Area 3m2, vestibules 1.5m2 Weight 2360g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
The North Face Stormbreak 2 $400
Two doors and vestibules, extra-large doors for easy entry/exit, multi-configuration vestibules, freestanding, high-low ventilation, seam-taped canopy and floor. Fly 75D polyester, 1200mm Floor 68D polyester, 3000mm Inner 75D polyester, 40D polyester mesh Poles 4, 8.5mm aluminium Ceiling height 109cm Area 2.84m2, vestibules, 1.82m2 Weight 2670g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Salewa Micra II $399.90
Freestanding dome tent with single entrance and vestibule, side vents, rapid set-up, rainproof entrance, gearloft, interior pockets and door storage pockets. Fly 50D polyester ripstop, 3000mm Floor 70D nylon, 5000mm Inner 210T polyester ripstop, mesh Poles 2, 8.5mm 7001 T6 aluminium Ceiling height 90cm Area 2.50m², vestibule 0.6 m² Weight 2500g. www.bobo.co.nz