Two Red Canoes

Camping and canoeing resources.

In general, I am willing to carry a couple of extra pounds for the added convenience of space. (Well, let's be honest, I am willing to carry a couple of extra pounds so that my wife has the added convenience of space.) That said, it is not practical on a typical back-country hiking/canoe trip to use a tent designed for more than 2-3 persons for various reasons: too heavy, requires too much real-estate, and takes up too much space in a pack, kayak or canoe. So far I have not found what I consider to be the perfect tent and I suspect one may not exist. Every feature is a trade-off between cost, weight, size, and durability. After lots of research we were able to find a tent that met our needs even if not the "perfect" tent.

Sierra Designs Meteor Light CD (2001)


  • lots (well, a reasonable amount) of room inside for 2
  • lengthy interior (93") allows for packs to be placed at our feet
  • a full door on each side
  • doors zip completely open (and open to the side) for easy access during cleanup and equipment packing
  • easy to setup
  • walls are almost vertical thereby providing a spacious interior
  • the fly fully covers the tent almost to the ground
  • ultra-light-weight aluminum poles have held up well - no breakage or problems after 8+ years of frequent use


  • only one full-size vestibule - 2 would be better (which of course would add weight)
  • rather than sliding poles through sleeves I would prefer clips to make setup even faster (newer models of the same tent now use clips)
  • a 3mm poly water barrier (for inside tent), poles, pegs, footprint, tent, and tent bag add up to more than 8 lbs

Update (2009-07-21): We bought a new tent! After many years of use, the Sierra Designs tent has started to leak and repeated attempts at applying waterproofing hasn't helped. The zippers are also starting to fail occasionally. Our requirements haven't changed so we used the same criteria that led us to the Sierra Designs tent. This time, though, we purchased a Big Agnes Gore Pass 2.

Big Agnes Gore Pass 2 (2009)


  • plenty of room inside for 2
  • lengthy interior
  • two full size vestibules
  • a full door on each side
  • easy to setup
  • walls are vertical - in fact a bit beyond - thereby providing a spacious interior
  • the fly provides full coverage


  • included bag just a bit too small
  • pole design uses two centre hubs and is bulky when folded up
  • difficult to reach out and unzip vestibule without snagging the outer storm flap that convers the zipper
  • included aluminum pegs (X-stakes) are effective and light weight but painful to press with bare skin (I've replaced them with a less painful design)

The Gore Pass tent has a fairly long footprint (90") and has two full size vestibules (15 sq. ft. each). It is also extremely roomy inside due to the way the door walls are actually more than vertical. Four adults can comfortably sit and play cards in this tent. Time will tell how it stands up to use in the back-country. Specifically, I will be taking notes on ease of setup, ability to stand up to wind, and quality and strength of materials. Thanks to Adventure Guide in Waterloo for special ordering the tent and asking that Big Agnes deliver it as fast as possible. Check back later for more comments about this new tent.

Update (2011): The year's half over and it's now 2 years since starting to use the Big Agnes Gore Pass 2. Still love this tent! Its best characteristics are: ease of setup, roominess (for 2), and two large vestibules. It's not without some cons though. For example, reaching out and unzipping the vestibule without snagging the zipper on the fabric overlap is almost impossible. The nylon bag provided for carrying the tent, poles, footprint, and pegs is just a bit too small. In fact, I leave it at home and use the bag that came with our old Sierra Designs tent.

I can't even find our tent - the Big Agnes Gore Pass - on the Big Agnes website anymore. I guess a discontinued name. We do like it and plenty of room for us. Although I'm not so sure it is as big as you may be leaning towards. I will tell you what we really like in terms of features and would definitely look for in any future tent purchase:
  1. Two full size vestibules - one each, room for full pack and still able to get in/out.
  2. Two side doors - can both work on setting up and rolling up sleeping bag, etc., easier to get in and out in the middle of the night without disrupting other person.
  3. Clips instead of sleeves - love the speed of setup not having to put poles through sleeves, much faster and easier.
The Gore Pass is arguably not as storm proof as an expedition tent but we really weren't looking for a expedition grade tent. The odds of us needing an expedition tent are fairly small and so we decided to purchase for the 95% of use.

I do really appreciate having the above mentioned 3 features.

Update (2017-08-15): We bought another new tent! After 8 years of use, the Big AGnes Gore Pass 2 tent has started to leak and the zippers are starting to fail. Our requirements haven't changed so we used the same criteria that led us to the Sierra Designs tent. This time, we purchased a Marmot Tungsten 2.

Marmot Tungsten 2 (2017)


  • light weight
  • two vestibules
  • D-zip doors on each side
  • easy to setup
  • the fly provides full coverage


  • vestibules on the small side

Maybe consider a hammock...

I've never used a hammock tent but have always wanted to. I've talked to people who have used them and they seem to like them but they do have a big disadvantage when the weather turns. Gear has to be stored outside and changing clothes, etc. is outside for the most part. Not a problem in nice weather but I can see it being a nuisance in rain. And sometimes it isn't as easy as you might think to find two convenient trees to hang it between.

If you are considering buying a hammock tent the following comments from a friend who has a hammock tent might help you in your decision.

Personally I would go with Hennessy Hammocks. I purchased mine online and it was at my door in days. Also, I have had good luck with their service department regarding warranty issues with the rainfly. You can find them at: Hennessy Hammock.

Hennessy has two basic types of hammocks:

  1. The Asym Classic (enter through the bottom)
  2. The Asym Zip (zipper side entry)

I have the Hennessy Explorer Ultralite A-Sym ZIP Hammock which I find much roomer than the classic version. The side entry zipper is great because you can pull back the bug mesh during the day and use hammock like a regular open hammock. For the classic model, you must come in from the bottom and there is far less room to move around. There are different models for different weight people. Personally I like the longer hammock and the extra weight of the hammock doesn't bother me.

Go with the Hennessy Hex Rainfly 70D Polyester.... It is a little heavier and cheaper than the 30D Silnylon material. The Silnylon is too light in my opinion and I have gone through a couple of replacements due to rip / seam failures.

I have purchased various length tree hugger's over and above what came with the hammock so that there are some for small diameter tree trunks and some for larger diameter tree trunks.

Hammocks can be winterized by purchasing insulated pads from the manufacturers. They would work okay for winter.... BUT you still must get in and out of the hammock and there is no place to put your boots but on the ground below the hammock. At least a tent offers you a place to put your boots that won't be as exposed. The same kind of problem occurs with your clothing. You can push your clothing you are wearing to one end of the hammock. However using a tent allows you to put all your clothing inside with space to spare. For people with hammocks, you pretty much store all things that you need to keep dry in your backpack.

Personally, I only use my hammock for the warmer months of the year. However, I have bumped into people who exclusively use their hammocks for spring, summer and fall. Of course the big advantage of a hammock is that you can set them up pretty much any where as long as there is two trees about 14 to 16 feet apart.... even set them up over big rocks.

Picking hammock campsites can sometimes be tricky especially on open sites that have a lot more by way of tent pads... You almost have to go further back into the bush to find suitable trees at the proper distance apart. However, for all the years I've been using a hammock, I find that I can usually find a great hammock site on very uneven ground where you would not think of putting a tent with ease.

With my side entry hammock, you can get into the hammock and into your sleeping bag easier than the hammocks where you come in from the underside. The other thing that you must keep in mind is that when you get into a side entry hammock things have a tendency of coming out when you are going in. It is a bit of a balancing act to keep your sleeping pad, sleeping bag, sleeping bag, toilet paper etc. from coming out as your getting in as the weight of your body pulls the opening down and things will roll out.

Also worth considering: