Monday, May 31, 2010

Tents for Tall People

I'm a tall guy at 6'5", which can make it challenging to find lightweight backpacking tents long enough to fit my Sasquatchian frame. If you're tall like me—or have a hiking/camping friend who is—here's some advice for finding a tent that fits.

Look for tents that are at least 90 inches long. 92 inches or more is even better. At these lengths, I can lie flat on my back and not quite touch the sides of the tent with my head or feet. You might be surprised how many tents fall short (hah) in this dimension, especially the lightest weight models. (One of the easiest ways for manufacturers to reduce weight in a tent is to shorten its overall length.)

Sure, I could squeeze into a tent that's only 84, 86, or 88 inches long, but my head and feet will push against the tent walls and risk dampness and wetness from condensation, especially if it's raining. That being said, if I'm using a shorter two-person tent as a solo shelter, it works quite well. I simply lie diagonally to gain the necessary extra inches.

Over the past year or two, a handful of manufacturers are making tents in both a regular and extra-length version—a much-welcome innovation. These include the REI Half Dome 2 Plus (length: 98" vs. 88" for regular version; 6 pounds, 5 ounces; $199) and Sierra Designs Vapor Light 2 XL (length: 93" vs. 83" for regular version; 4 pounds, 4 ounces; $319).

When it comes to one-person solo tents, very few come close to being long enough. I have lain down inside some shorter versions, pushed my feet against the back wall, and my head would hang completely out the door! One of the very few I've come across that fits is the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, which features a 90-inch length (2 pounds, 13 ounces; $249).

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.