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  1. #1
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    A $95 Tent just taught me to trust US-made camping gear for ultralight bike touring.

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    I admit it, I was brand-loyal. I put Big Agnes on a pedestal that cottage companies like Mountain Laurel Designs or Zpacks just couldn't break down.

    Then I went with a budget tent, the Stoic Templum 2.1... and I couldn't tell the difference. It was almost identical, and only a few ounces heavier! Why did I ever pay $400?

    So, that’s why I’m kind of in two camps at the moment with ultralight gear(no pun intended):

    Option 1: Buy Cottage Gear. There are a ton of great manufacturers. Borah Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Revelate Designs are some of my favorites, and there are many more. Here’s a list. This stuff is going to be absolutely minimalist, ultralight, custom fit to purpose, and the price will be un-inflated. Plus, you get to support American and Canadian businesses.

    Option 2: Slash price by going with the lowest-common-denominator tent I’m comfortable with, and sacrifice some quality but maintain function. The Templum is functionally the same for me as a Big Agnes.

    I used to have an Option 3. Option 3 was to go with the highest quality shelter manufactured by the big-box companies as a combination of quality and light weight, but after seeing this tent come so close for a fraction of the price, I no longer think that’s a good idea. I end up paying a lot for something that still can’t match the weight and packability of a cottage-made product, and I pay through the nose for the brand.


    So, tourists... Do you pay out the megabucks for the big brands like Ortlieb or do you try and save with "imitation gear?"
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  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    some tents handle coastal gales better than others ..

    I got a Stevenson hoop tent, NH, poles Go in flat on the ground, its one piece double wall center,
    so no separate rain fly/spinnaker lost downwind..

    2 stakes on each end 2 set on the far end, pull it up when the other 2 are set and crawl in.

    maybe put in 4 more on the corners at the base of the pole sleeves for more security.

  3. #3
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    My only concern would be how long it lasts. If it works great now but breaks down quicker then maybe not such a great deal. Only time will tell.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Time will tell, but the lifetime of siliconized nylon is pretty standard. I'll be shocked if there's significant degradation with good habits like storing it dry.

    Obviously, I won't know that for a while, but there's tents out there that are going strong 15 years out, and they're not always expensive ones.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    Time will tell, but the lifetime of siliconized nylon is pretty standard. I'll be shocked if there's significant degradation with good habits like storing it dry.

    Obviously, I won't know that for a while, but there's tents out there that are going strong 15 years out, and they're not always expensive ones.
    Agreed. Fear makes us spend money until we are knowledgeable enough to know the difference.
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  6. #6
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    I buy whatever fits my needs. Sometimes big brands get my money (MSR, Big Agnes), other times its the smaller companies (Feather Friends)…. I do place a value on stuff that is Canadian made first and try to spend money with smaller companies whenever possible.

    Is there that big a difference in tents? It's the $200 a pound question.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by WonderMonkey View Post
    Agreed. Fear makes us spend money until we are knowledgeable enough to know the difference.
    so true.

    i've seen that tent design in the OP's first post from a number of different manufacturers. it's a good design, wish i would have bought one instead of the one i've got...

  8. #8
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
    so true.

    i've seen that tent design in the OP's first post from a number of different manufacturers. it's a good design, wish i would have bought one instead of the one i've got...
    I buy from fear when I first get into something. Camping gear, bikes, hookers.... wait skip that last one. You can read all the reviews in the world yet if they are not conclusive you have to make a choice. Often that choice is "Well if I go cheap I won't know I made the wrong choice until it is too late...." and sometimes it is "Well that worked well but my was that expensive..." and then you find a forum where you get educated (or confused) or you use your gear enough to be an old dog.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WonderMonkey View Post
    I buy from fear when I first get into something. Camping gear, bikes, hookers.... wait skip that last one. You can read all the reviews in the world yet if they are not conclusive you have to make a choice. Often that choice is "Well if I go cheap I won't know I made the wrong choice until it is too late...." and sometimes it is "Well that worked well but my was that expensive..." and then you find a forum where you get educated (or confused) or you use your gear enough to be an old dog.
    You're definitely right. Now that I've been out in the thick of things with every piece of gear imaginable, my priorities have changed pretty drastically. I now want cheaper stuff in a lot of places; I don't need $80 tires, some $30 ones will do. I don't need a pricy tent, a simple bivy or a cheap tent does great. My helmets are now $30 because a few grams lighter doesn't make me any more safe.

    Wind jackets are another thing; I don't buy them anymore. I inevitably crash once or twice a tour, and they shred like paper. I'll just wear a shirt and a fleece if it's cold.
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  10. #10
    Clark W. Griswold
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    I ditched the tent and went with a ENO Hammock with bugnet and rain fly and couldn't be happier. Granted I know some places don't have trees or places to hang a hammock but in my few tours every place i stayed had a place to hang or I stayed with a friend. I sleep better and am carrying a little less weight compared with a tent and sleeping pad. I guess if I were to tent it up I would love to try the Bikamper from Topeak: Topeak® Cycling Accessories ? Products - Bikamper?. I have used other products from them to great satisfaction and this seems like a great design idea and a good way to prevent bike theft or tampering.

    Some cheaper gear can work just fine and some of it can be crap. Really if you pay for good gear to start with you will generally not have to buy new stuff as often saving money in the long run. Sometimes you can actually get good name stuff at thrift shops.

    Many of these cottage types seem to be pretty good. I got my rear panniers from Arkel and love them. I am looking at getting a Revelate Designs seat bag for longer trips and commuting on my fixed gear. The nice thing about the cottage types is they generally have a deep passion for what they are making and want to make the best thing they can. You find a lot of cool ideas on "crowd-funding" sites for bike stuff. These are people who see a need or a want or improvements and try and fill it.

    After saying all that I said to answer the original question: I am happy to shell out money for good quality, well reviewed gear. Sometimes you are paying for a logo and I try to avoid that in some circumstances but sometimes you are truly getting high quality to match that high price.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    Why did I ever pay $400?
    I'd be curious to know where your $95 tent was made and what the working conditions were like in the factory that produced it. Given how little you paid, I suspect the answers might not be pleasant...

  12. #12
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I'd be curious to know where your $95 tent was made and what the working conditions were like in the factory that produced it. Given how little you paid, I suspect the answers might not be pleasant...
    The $400 tents by Big Agnes are made overseas, same as the Stoic tents.

    I literally just wrote a blog post to thousands of viewers advocating supporting US and Canadian manufacturers, so I'm not sure why you're picking this fight. It seems like someone always has to.

    Unless you're Robert Redford in your cabin, you've probably supported foreign labor more than I have. I barely own anything I can't carry on a touring bike.
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  13. #13
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I agree that you've done a good job in finding a value tent. One third the price of a Big Agnes does make sense. My concern would be the quality of the poles, zippers, seam seals, and the longevity that you can expect from them. I did see that there is a lifetime warranty so that may cover it. Even with that, a collapsing and leaking tent is no fun.

    To be fair it does weigh more than a few ounces more than a Big Agnes. More like a pound plus.

    One other point: Ortliebs last forever are worth every penny.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    We picked up a Quechua tent from a Decathlon in Dunkerque for somewhere around 100 Euro.

    Camping - Tous les sports de A à Z - Decathlon

    I don't think it's still for sale because that was back in 2007, but it is something like this one ...
    Tente 3 places QuickHiker Ultralight QUECHUA - Tente Randonnée, Camping - Decathlon

    Even though we bought it on the spur of the moment, with just a few minutes comparison and debating (we travelled to Europe without a tent, planning to buy one when we got there ... and did exactly that), it has turned out to be a really good tent and we've spent a lot of nights in it.

  15. #15
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    Truly, the cheapest way to get best quality is to buy used or second-hand. It's amazing what it out there when you start trawling through eBay, Craigslist or its equivalents, the classified ads in newspapers, and even garage sales! Keep an eye on walking club newsletters, too.

    Every pastime has a litany of newbie enthusiasts who have to have the best equipment, and they either get a severe case of upgradeitis in short order, or they find the pastime just doesn't pan out the way they had hoped.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
    I ditched the tent and went with a ENO Hammock with bugnet and rain fly and couldn't be happier... ... I guess if I were to tent it up I would love to try the Bikamper from Topeak: Topeak® Cycling Accessories ? Products - Bikamper?.
    I'm a Hammock guy, too, but looking for a tent for the Southern Tier. I love the Bikamper idea, I just wonder how irritated I'd be after taking my front wheel off for the 60th night in a row?

  17. #17
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Truly, the cheapest way to get best quality is to buy used or second-hand. It's amazing what it out there when you start trawling through eBay, Craigslist or its equivalents, the classified ads in newspapers, and even garage sales! Keep an eye on walking club newsletters, too.

    Every pastime has a litany of newbie enthusiasts who have to have the best equipment, and they either get a severe case of upgradeitis in short order, or they find the pastime just doesn't pan out the way they had hoped.
    +1. I buy most of my bicycles this way and have bought a used-but-new Big Anges SL1 tent this way too.

    EDIT: I paid $150 for the SL1 used it for a one month tour, plus a few backpacking trips and then resold it $95. Quality brands do hold their value.
    Last edited by BigAura; 03-13-14 at 07:34 AM. Reason: addendum

  18. #18
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
    I ditched the tent and went with a ENO Hammock with bugnet and rain fly and couldn't be happier. Granted I know some places don't have trees or places to hang a hammock but in my few tours every place i stayed had a place to hang or I stayed with a friend. I sleep better and am carrying a little less weight compared with a tent and sleeping pad. I guess if I were to tent it up I would love to try the Bikamper from Topeak: Topeak® Cycling Accessories ? Products - Bikamper?. I have used other products from them to great satisfaction and this seems like a great design idea and a good way to prevent bike theft or tampering.
    I'm a hammock camper as well. Have you added as structured ridgeline to that ENO yet?
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  19. #19
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    Time will tell, but the lifetime of siliconized nylon is pretty standard. I'll be shocked if there's significant degradation with good habits like storing it dry.

    Obviously, I won't know that for a while, but there's tents out there that are going strong 15 years out, and they're not always expensive ones.
    Your statement would be correct if the Stoic were made of nylon. It isn't. It's made of taffeta which is an entirely different animal than nylon. Taffeta is rayon which isn't nearly as tough as nylon. Think Prom and bridemaid dresses. It's silky and pretty but not really durable. It's also has a 30% higher density than nylon. You end up with a heavier, less durable tent. Not a whole lot of economy there.

    Quote Originally Posted by WonderMonkey View Post
    Agreed. Fear makes us spend money until we are knowledgeable enough to know the difference.
    Not really. Lack of funds makes us spend money twice. Fear has little to do with choices in camping gear. I bought cheap tents when I was younger because I couldn't buy better (and there really wasn't anything better at the time). My old tents worked but were way too heavy. As I got older, and more knowledgeable and had more funds, I could afford better equipment. Someone elsewhere on the forums put it better: "A wealthy man can afford to buy cheap tools." It's not cheaper if you pay twice.
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  20. #20
    Touring Enthusiast
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    Over the last 30 years or so of backpacking, etc., I've had "big box" tents/packs/sleeping bags/etc and I've bought "cottage industry" and custom/high-end gear as well. I'm more pleased and satisfied with my non-"big-box" gear generally speaking.

    My tents of preference are a highly customized Integral Designs "MK1 XL" (when they were made in Calgary) and a Henry Shires Tarptent "Cloudburst II". My sleeping bag preference is singularly Western Mountaineering for my or my family's use (granted, Western Mountaineering is BIG business, it's still locally made and of the absolute highest quality).

    I'd love to spring for a Dan McHale backpack, but my Gregory Denali Pro still has a lot of life in it (even after 15 years...).
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  21. #21
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Your statement would be correct if the Stoic were made of nylon. It isn't. It's made of taffeta which is an entirely different animal than nylon. Taffeta is rayon which isn't nearly as tough as nylon. Think Prom and bridemaid dresses. It's silky and pretty but not really durable. It's also has a 30% higher density than nylon. You end up with a heavier, less durable tent. Not a whole lot of economy there.



    Not really. Lack of funds makes us spend money twice. Fear has little to do with choices in camping gear. I bought cheap tents when I was younger because I couldn't buy better (and there really wasn't anything better at the time). My old tents worked but were way too heavy. As I got older, and more knowledgeable and had more funds, I could afford better equipment. Someone elsewhere on the forums put it better: "A wealthy man can afford to buy cheap tools." It's not cheaper if you pay twice.
    I agree with that as well. I still think fear-buying is a factor for some. I've bought like you mentioned though.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    People are saying fear DOESN'T factor in, but almost everyone in the thread is saying "What if X Y Z breaks?"

    The quality appears right on par with every other tent I've owned (5+).

    So, you tell me- is my visual appreciation for seams, zippers, mesh, silnylon, and pole connections enough? Or do you still have the fear?

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  23. #23
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    People are saying fear DOESN'T factor in, but almost everyone in the thread is saying "What if X Y Z breaks?"

    The quality appears right on par with every other tent I've owned (5+).

    So, you tell me- is my visual appreciation for seams, zippers, mesh, silnylon, and pole connections enough? Or do you still have the fear?

    Fear has nothing to do with it. I have seen no one in this thread say "What if X Y Z breaks?" Only WonderMonkey has brought up "fear" with respect to choosing equipment. "Fear" is way to strong a word when talking about camping equipment and how to choose it. Personally, I try to balance weight, durability and cost (in that order) when choosing equipment. I'm willing to carry a bit more weight if I get a bit more durability but there is a limit.

    You are still mistaken on the material for the Stoic tent. It is not made of siliconize nylon. According to Backcountry.com, it is taffeta. That is a very different fabric from nylon. Nylon is a manmade fiber produced from polyamide that is highly abrasion resistant and very strong. Taffeta is made from regenerated cellulose (think cotton or paper) that is only moderately abrasion resistant and not nearly as strong. It readily absorbs water (~11%) and the strength falls off greatly when it gets wet. Nylon absorbs water as well (~4%) but it doesn't lose as much strength. Strength of fabrics is measured in tensile strength and expressed as grams per denier or gpd. For comparison, nylon has a 5.5 gpd strength while rayon is in the 2.5 gpd range. When nylon gets wet, it can lose around 20% of its strength while rayon loses 40%. The rayon starts out at 1/3 the strength of the nylon and gets much worse when it gets wet.

    Rayon also doesn't spring back as well when placed under stress...and tents put a lot of stress on the fabric. Nylon is rather elastic so you can stretch it and it will spring back (~90% after 5% elongation). Put the same strain on rayon and it stays deformed (~30%). Essentially, the material will get floppy over time and the seams will start to let go. There are a few other properties that you can compare here but, overall, nylon is a better fabric for long term use.

    Visual "appreciation" for the tent really means nothing. It can look good but if the material absorbs water, loses strength, is prone to seam rupture, etc., it's not that good a bargain.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    The $400 tents by Big Agnes are made overseas, same as the Stoic tents.
    Big Agnes at least claims to care about overseas labor practices. Stoic?

    I literally just wrote a blog post to thousands of viewers advocating supporting US and Canadian manufacturers, so I'm not sure why you're picking this fight.
    Because you seemed to be asking how other manufacturers could justify charging significantly higher prices than you paid, while subtly chiding the rest of us who pay more. Now you know two possible answers: cheaper labor and cheaper materials.

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    Taffeta is a style/type of woven thread/fabric.....It has nothing to do with what it's woven out of......Taffeta was first woven out of silk.It really has more to do with the way the yarn is spun than anything else.....if you want to get all picky and stuff.

    Nylon taffeta is SO bad,many many tent makers still use it for the floor of their tents......It is more abrasion resistant than ripstop.Smoother and less likely to grab a (double) thread that sticks out.

    And they do make nylon taffeta......along with rayon,silk,poly,cotton,wool ect. ect.

    Rip stop is taffeta with a bigger (double) thread every 1/4 inch or whatever.Hmmmm....I wonder if that's why it stretches less?....

    All nylon/poly tents were made from taffeta material before rip-stop came along.It does have some issues compaired to rip-stop but it isn't the end of the world.

    Most of the commercial tents are sewn with bonded nylon thread,poly thread is much better for outdoor use but doesn't run thru high speed machines well.I'd be more worried about that then rip-stop vs taffeta.
    Last edited by Booger1; 03-13-14 at 12:39 PM.
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