Three-season tents are ideal for summer and shoulder season use and depending on the model and conditions, can also be reliable in winter and above the bushline.
While twin vestibules help with livability, other things to look for are ceiling height, 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 vulnerable in strong winds.
Most tents are double walled, meaning they 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. Single wall tents save weight by doing away with the fly, though they are still waterproof.
Access and vestibules
The most common three-season tent has twin vestibules and entrances providing easier 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 they are supplied with the tent. Purchase extra if needed.
Most three-season tents are designed to be freestanding so once the poles are in, th e 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.
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.
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.
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 use. Heavier zips on the inner doors will last longest.
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.
A waterproof tub-style floor is standard, but there is great variance in waterproof ratings – from 1200mm to 252,000mm. The lightest floors should be used with a ‘footprint’ or groundsheet to protect the floor 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 day-by-day organisation. Some tents will have a ‘washing line’ installed, or tabs to install one, or from which to attach a ‘gear loft’.
Mont Dragonfly (From) $1195.95
A three-to-four season tent featuring versatile ventilation, seam-sealed waterproof fly and tub floor, symmetrical design for attaching fly to inner at either end, two entrances and vestibules, full-width wall pockets, roof pockets and carabiner ceiling clips. Fly 30D ripstop nylon, 2000mm Inner 20D ripstop nylon, mesh Floor 70D nylon, 25,000mm Poles 3, DAC 9.6mm Ceiling height 110cm Area 3.08m² + vestibules Weight 2650g. www.mont.com.au
The North Face Tadpole SL 2 $1100
The Tadpole’s single wall design uses half the fabric of a traditional tent, resulting in it being light, yet still providing interior living space for comfort on ultralight trips. It has a single door and vestibule and high-low venting. Outer 20D waterproof/breathable three-layer polyester vestibule canopy 15D ripstop nylon, 20D mesh Floor 15D nylon ripstop Poles 2, Easton Syclone carbon fibre Ceiling height 104cm Area 4.96m² + 1.61m² vestibule Weight 924g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
MSR Hubba Hubba 2 $1099.99
MSR’s best-selling tent features a unified pole and hub system that maximises interior space and makes setup easy. There are two full vestibules with stay-dry entrances, multiple pitching options when a footprint is added, colour-coded stakeout loops, adjustable ventilation, and cable ports on all storage pockets. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 10D polyester micromesh, 20D ripstop nylon Floor 20D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Area 2.7m² + 1.4m² vestibules Ceiling height 101cm Poles 1 x Easton Syclone Weight 1470g. www.ampro.co.nz
Outer Space III $999.99
A multi-mode, take-anywhere tent with a massive pole-supported front vestibule that shelters three people in camp chairs, a lightweight table and backpacks. Inner and fly can be pitched together or separately, single hub pole makes pitching simple. Fly 40D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 40D ripstop nylon, micromesh Floor 68D polyester taffeta, 5000mm Area 3.2m² + 3.8m² vestibules Ceiling height 132cm Poles 1, DAC PF 9mm Weight 3300g. www.bivouac.co.nz
Mont Moondance 2 from $999.95
This multi-pitch tent has a 25,000mm rated floor which ensures performance in the harshest weather. Pitching is easy as poles and fly can be attached at either end. There are dual entrances and vestibules and an internal-access roof vent. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 2000mm Inner 20D ripstop nylon, mesh Floor 40D nylon, 25,000mm Poles 2, DAC Featherlite NSL 9.6mm Ceiling height 110cm Area 2.86m² + 1.22m² Weight 2010g. www.mont.com.au
MSR FreeLite 2 $899.99
This is MSR’s lightest freestanding double wall tent and features large doors and durability-enhancing no-curve zippers that provide easy access. A micromesh canopy offers maximum ventilation and moisture control along with bug-free protection. Fly 15D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 10D polyester micromesh Floor 15D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Area 2.7m² + 1.4m² vestibules Ceiling height 100cm Poles 2 x DAC NFL 8.7mm Weight 1060g. www.ampro.co.nz
Marmot Tungsten UL 1 $849
A spacious freestanding tent with pre-bent poles that create vertical walls for greater headroom. The colour-coded poles and easy pitch clips allow quick set-up. There’s a seam-taped bathtub floor, seam-sealed fly with vents, and a lampshade pocket. Fly 68D polyester ripstop Inner Polyester ripstop, mesh Floor Nylon ripstop Area 1.8m² + 0.8m² vestibule Ceiling height 115cm Poles 2, DAC NFL Weight 1176g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Mont Moondance 1 from $829.95
This freestanding, multi-pitch tent takes one-person livability up a notch with 2.31m² internal area thanks to a triangular expansion opposite the doorway that provides waterproof internal space for clothes, pack and accessories. It has steep side walls, a seam-sealed tub floor, symmetrical design and internal-access roof vent. Fly 20D ripstop nylon, 2000mm Inner 20D ripstop nylon, mesh Floor 40D nylon, 25,000mm Poles 2, DAC Featherlite NSL 9mm Ceiling height 100cm Area 2.31m² + 0.71m² Weight 1485g. www.mont.com.au
Exped Lyra III $759.99
A freestanding tent that can be pitched in four modes – stargazer, optimist, breeze-way and privacy – depending on the conditions. Canopy clips to poles and it has two doors and vestibules, mesh pockets and a mesh overhead lamp pocket. Fly 68D polyester taffeta, 1200mm Inner 68D nylon taffeta, micromesh Floor 68D polyester taffeta, 5000mm Area 3.2m² + 1.35m² vestibules Ceiling height 115cm Poles 2, DAC PF 9mm Weight 2300g. www.bivouac.co.nz
Exped Mira II HL $749.99
This lightweight, freestanding, 2-door, 3-season tent offers a balanced combination of space, comfort and weight. It features a clip system and inter-connected pole set for quick set-up, solid fabric walls with large fine mesh panels and two vestibules. Fly 10D ripstop nylon, 1200mm Inner 15D ripstop nylon, micromesh Floor 20D ripstop nylon, 1500mm Area 2.7m² + 1.3m² vestibules Ceiling height 107cm Poles 2, DAC Featherlite NFL/NSL 9.3mm/8.5mm Weight 1300g. www.bivouac.co.nz
MSR Elixir 2 $699.99
The Elixir focuses on ‘livability’ with a unique pole geometry that optimises headroom. It has an adaptable rainfly for excellent views, built-in gear lofts and glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls. The included footprint also offers fast and light setup options. Fly 68D ripstop polyester, 1500mm Inner 40D ripstop nylon DWR, 20D Micromesh, Floor 70D taffeta nylon, 3000mm Area 2.69m² + 2.22m² vestibules Ceiling height 102cm Poles 2 x 7000 series aluminum Weight 2770g. www.ampro.co.nz
Marmot Limelight 2 $749
A freestanding tent with pre-bent poles that add space but not weight. Extra-wide doors, two vestibules with side wings for gear storage, seam-taped bathtub floor, laundry line on top of tent, interior pockets and lampshade pocket. Footprint included. Fly 68D polyester ripstop, 1500mm Inner Polyester ripstop, mesh Floor 70D polyester taffeta, 2000mm Area 3.2m² + 1.5m² vestibules Ceiling height 109cm Poles 3, DAC aluminium Weight 2550g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Salewa Micra II $499.90
A freestanding dome tent offering good stability in windy conditions and ventilation options on warm nights. It has a single entrance and vestibule, zipped side vents, rainproof entrance, gearloft, interior pockets and door storage pockets. Fly 50D polyester ripstop, 3000mm Inner 210T polyester ripstop, mesh Floor 70D nylon, 5000mm Poles 2, 8.5mm 7001 T6 aluminium Ceiling height 90cm Area 2.50m², vestibule 0.6 m² Weight 2500g. www.bobo.co.nz
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 3000 2 $399
A tunnel tent designed for spacious living with a full vestibule and extended footprint under a porch/awning. It features a light-weight all-mesh canopy, two pockets and a mesh lamp holder attached to the ceiling. Fly 68D Poly Taffeta, 3000mm Inner 68D Poly Taffeta, No-See-Um mesh Floor 68D Poly Taffeta 3000mm Pole 2, DAC Pressfit aluminium Ceiling height 107cm Area 2.79m² + 0.82m² vestibule Weight 1760g. www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Marmot Catalyst 2 $499
A freestanding tent with a largely mesh inner and two large D-shaped doors ensuring good airflow on summer camping trips. There’s a roll-up door, speedy pitching with easy pitch clips, a lampshade pocket for ambient light, and a fully seam-taped rain fly. Footprint included Fly 68D polyester ripstop, 1500mm Inner Polyester ripstop, mesh Floor 70D polyester taffeta, 2000mm Area 3.2m² + 1.3m² vestibules Ceiling height 115cm Poles 2, DAC aluminium Weight 2880g. www.marmotnz.co.nz