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Marmot Alpinist Review

   

Four Season Tents

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: April 8, 2014
Street Price:   $639 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Waterproof-breathable fabric, good ventilation, only single wall tent with vestibule.
Cons:  Vents catch wind, pole design is not as strong or as durable as other single wall tents.
Best Uses:  Alpine climbing, ski touring.
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Marmot
Review by: Max Neale ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 18, 2013  
Overview
The Marmot Alpinist 2 is a good quality and versatile single wall tent. The DAC Featherlite NSL Green poles and a strong three-layer ePTFE membrane fabric are high quality. As is the construction and some features. The shelter has average ventilation, a small vestibule, a spacious interior, and two functional pockets.

Though it excels in creating a comfortable space, we feel the Alpinist lacks strength and durability found in many other single wall tents. Guy points along the corners, stronger pole clips, and ditching the awnings would make the tent significantly more storm-worthy. Our favorite single wall tents are the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 and Nemo Tenshi.

Check out our complete Four Season Tent Review to compare all of the 24 models tested.Also consider a floorless tent—our testers’ favorite type of shelter for 99% of fast and light trips—found in our Ultralight Tent Review.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The Marmot Alpinist 2 is a well-rounded and versatile tent. Unlike most other single walled shelters, the Alpinist has a small vestibule (8 sq. ft.) that covers a pack and makes entry and exit more comfortable. The pole structure is similar to the Black Diamond Ahwahnee in that two poles cross corner-to-corner and a third half-length pole supports two ventilated awnings and serves to steepen the walls. This makes the tent more spacious and more comfortable to spend time in.

The Alpinist has two mesh pockets that hang down just below the two vents. This design is better than laminating the pockets to the wall (like many other single wall tents do) because it provides more support. The only downside to this design is you cant roll over in bed and reach the pocket; you have to sit up, at least partially. Overall, the pockets are better than those of most other single wall tents weve tested.

The Alpinists door is also unique in its construction because it has a partial mesh panel at the bottom that allows cool air to flow in from the bottom, forcing hot air out the top vents. This works well.

The Alpinists most similar competitor is the Black Diamond Ahwahnee. We prefer the Alpinist primarily because its pole pitch from the outside, making setup easier and faster, and youre also less likely to get snow or rain in the tent. The poles are better (DAC Featherlite NSL Green) and stronger, too. The fabrics are roughly equal, but the inclusion of a vestibule and significantly lower weight (by 23 ounces!) make the Alpinist a better shelter for light and fast missions. The Alpinist however is not as good for base camping (theres only one door).

The Alpinist 2 is $100 cheaper than similar single-walled shelters. This lower price, however, has tradeoffs (see below).

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The Marmot Alpinist's partial mesh door helps provide good ventilation.
Credit: Max Neale
Dislikes
While the Alpinist 2 is well rounded and well made, it occupies an odd niche in the four-season tent market. Its neither as strong nor as light as other single wall tents, but it is more versatile and more comfortable. Is the added comfort worth it? We think not.

Although the poles are high quality, the plastic clips that attach to them are not. Marmot uses a U-shaped clip that attaches to the pole in two places. This is the same clip thats used on their budget three-season Marmot Limelight 2 tent. We believe the Alpinist deserves stronger clips that alternate, left, right, left, right.

Another area of concern is the webbing strap that guys out the four corners. These attach to the poles with a thin metal ring and extend a foot or so to the ground. No other tent weve reviewed uses this design and were not impressed. While it didnt break during our test period we believe its considerably weaker and less durable than traditional grommets and the far superior partial pole sleeves used on the Hilleberg Tarra and Jannu. The tent guys out with reinforced points in the center of both walls and the rear wall, but not along the poles. This is a serious oversight because strong winds will put all of the force directly on the walls, not the pole structure. The points that exist are good, but adding one to each corner would make the tent much stronger.

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The Marmot Alpinist has three guy points on the walls, but none on the poles. This puts all of the tension on the walls: a bad thing.
Credit: Max Neale
The Alpinists two awnings are like a double-edged sword: they make the tent more livable, but also catch wind, thereby making the tent less capable of severe conditions. We prefer tents that ventilate without large awnings.

The combination of larger awnings, flimsy webbing corner guy points, and a lack of guy points higher up on the pole structure reduce the Alpinist 2 from a top quality tent to a less than bomber, but still versatile and well made shelter. We prefer other single wall shelters, namely the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 and Black Diamond Firstlight.

Best Application
Alpine climbing, ski touring.

Value
Reasonable.

Click to enlarge
Marmot Alpinist in a well protected forest
Credit: Max Neale

Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 8, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Apr 8, 2014 - 06:22pm
Ascender4S · Skier · Seattle, WA
The Marmot Alpinist tent has a number of very attractive features and design elements, including the fact that its spacious/capacious (LWH), for a tent in this class, its stronger than OGL's reviewers give it credit for, and it generally performs very well over all.

I agree with pretty much all of bykyrb's criticisms of the OGL review of this tent. For example, there is nothing cheap or flimsy about the pole clips used on this tent. They are to be preferred to the clips used on the EV2 in my view. Alternating them? OK, fine. Its a positive design feature of Hilleberg's Jannu tent, etc., which Marmot could adopt. Yet, it would take a mighty big blow for the poles on this tent to come lose from those clips, as a point of fact, as opposed to the reviewer's opinion.

Similarly, there is nothing about the webbing corner guy points that are notably flimsy for their purpose, and as bykyrb notes, you can guy this tent from the poles up the ying yang using the clip system as guy points.

I do agree however that there really is no value to the unnecessarily elaborate "bat wing" awning that couldnt be met with a smaller, adustable cover that Marmot pioneered in its early 4 season tent designs. As it is, the awning catches way more air than is necessary to ventilate the tent or will efficiently funnel through the openings without imparting excessive force to the structure of the tent.

But, as a practical matter, this criticism of the awning design is more quibble than an issue one will typically have to deal with in the field. There are those who will be in situations where it can be a factor, such are when you are perched on a tight rock ledge with heavy air flow coming from below, or on an unprotected portion of a glacier, etc.

The fact is that this tent design has been wind tunnel tested and it holds up under 70 mph winds. When you take that data into account, you realize that there are only a very few single wall tents that will out perform the Alpinist under those conditions, all of which cost a LOT more money.

Looking at the OGL review, one gets the sense that the reviewers just have a visceral dislike of this particular tent design starting with the awnings, but no real experience with the tent in the field to back up what are to a greater or lesser degree, more often than not rather niggling or unwarranted criticisms.

That having been said, there are aspects of this tent,(and its near identical design twin the Sierra Designs Hercules Assault) that were touched on by the reviewers, which could be improved from the standpoint of its target purpose. These include (a) relieving the vent flaps from their tether to the brow pole and making them smaller and adjustable from inside (not a problem on the SD model), (b) having at least the option for a larger vestibule (the SD model's vestibule design is sufficiently large), and (c) having a brow shield over the entrance to limit the chance of water and snow from falling into the tent when the door is zipped open.

Stepping back and evaluating this tent overall, these criticisms are relatively minor and do not overshadow the ability of the tent to perform really well in its intended operating environment. (Yet, it is also true that other tents in this class handle these minor issues better than the Alpinist (at substantially higher cost), and that has a bearing on how one rates the tent overall.)

There is one aspect of the design of the Alpinist that, in my judgment, is a notable weakness (design flaw?). Bykyrb's review touched on the problem. In my view, the "hipped" pole design is not an asset to this tent. It has the effect of reducing the tension across the tent floor imparted by the poles compared to the standard two pole criss-cross dome configuration. To be properly set up, this tent must be tautly staked out. According to my standards, therefore, this tent just barely qualifies as a "free standing" tent.

The weakness of the Alpinist's hipped pole design is further exposed by the absence of the usual tensioners on the corner tabs. Usually, these tensioners tighten up the canopy of the tent while the additional tension imparted to the poles keeps the floor relatively taut if the poles are properly positioned. But this is not possible with the hipped pole arrangement. The upright section of the poles all tend to curl inward under the tent if the tips are not firmly planted out beyond the perimeter of the tent floor in free standing mode. This means that the floor of this tent can only be made taut by securely staking it out. That can sometimes can be a difficult proposition in emergencies or when one is dealing with extreme conditions and circumstances. In these situations, it is desireable to have the maximum tension of bending the poles being imparted outward to the corners to make the tent floor as taut as possible. The issue is not insignificant. As bykyrb pointed out, the inability to get this tent floor taut means that wind will get under the tent and buffet its occupants if it has been set up in an exposed area.

I changed out the hipped pole sections with straight sections and this tightened the floor up very nicely (though the trade off was a slightly less taut lower tent wall; a minor issue which goes away once the tent was guyed out).

The SD tent has a similar, and what seems to me to be an unnecessary complication in its pole design which uses the Jakes corners as the last pole section. Such "innovations" just add to the problems of setting up the tent in extreme conditions, have a notable weight penalty, and don't adequately compensate you with a meaningful benefit. (I do not own the SD tent so I can't comment on whether the Jake's corner pole extensions featured on that tent create the same issues as Marmot's design. From other reviews I have read, it apparently does not).

In the case of the SD Hercules, despite its added merits, it is the weight penalty the additional design elements contribute that make that tent un-competitive in this field of fast and light elite mountaineering tents. That is, if a tent weighs in the 6 lb or above range (for some, its more like above the 2, or the 3,…. or the 4 lb range, take your pick), most performance oriented mountaineering types are simply not going to consider putting the tent into their pack. For my part, I am willing to take some amount of additional weight if the reward is a little more internal sq footage, an increased level of strength and durability, and a little more versatility. But, in my view, a tent in this class that is over 6 lbs has to be discounted and considered to be competing with some fairly stout double wall 4 season tents.

In contrast to the Hercules, the Marmot Alpinist is at least competitive in this segment coming in with a trail weight just under 5.5 lbs. As such, it will meet the needs of most people in the market for a single wall high alpine mountaineering tent.

The Alpinist makes some trade offs including taking a substantial weight penalty a for a more spacious, burlier, and more feature rich shelter compared to the very light weight MH Direkt tent. But, you pitch the Direckt in an exposed location in a 70 mph gale you will be wearing it like a tattered prayer flag. In my view, the Nemo Tenshi and the EV2 are higher performers generally than the Alpinist, but they too have some draw backs that keep the Alpinist a serious competitive alternative, in my view.

So, when it comes to the bottom line, with the huge price discount of this tent compared to the Direkt, EV2 and the Tenshi, (and for that matter, the excellent Hillebergs), you will not go wrong with the Alpinist for 99% of what most advanced and committed mountaineering folks, (other than elite climbers like Ueli Steck), will actually require in a tent like this. That is, despite the quibbles, and given its price, its an outstanding tent.

If you buy the tent, at the very least you can feel confident knowing that when you head out into the cold to make your way through to the upper cloud layers, you will be carrying a very stout tent, one that will stand up to inclement weather with the best of them, and has enough room in it so that your sleeping bag won't be in constant contact with the tent walls and your partner's elbows wont be constantly jabbing you in the side. (BTW, generoous in this class of tent does not mean palatial! But a few extra square feet and a gear loft can count for a lot when you are tent bound through in a blizzard. And, of course, if you are going to run into big wind, well, you will be well served to pitch the tent in a way that limits the chance that the awnings will catch excessive air flow, (even to the point of disconnecting the awnings from the brow pole). For that, you save $250-$450. That would seem to be an attractive trade off for the majority of buyers for these tents.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 23, 2013 - 10:26am
bykyrb · Skier · Provo, Utah
I just spent a night in the Alpinist 2 in 40-50mph winds. The OGL review makes some assumptions on the strength of this tent based on its structure - I'm not sure if they ever used it in high winds. The Alpinist proved to be very stable in high winds in my experience. The "knees" pole system acts like guy lines to stabilize the corners, and it gives the walls a lot of vertical area for more livable volume. Plus, I easily added a guy line higher up on one of the poles by tying it around a clip / pole joint. I also put loops of elastic cord between the mid panel tie outs and guy line to reduce the load on them. This tent really needs stake out points in the middle of the two long sides though - wind easily gets under the tent and flaps the floor and bathtub corners against you. While the tent held up well, I didn't sleep at all being on the windward side and getting flapped all night.

Another nuisance is that the vestibule lets water drip into the tent when you open it, since the zipper is right above the sloping tent door. The vestibule is really just a cover for the door vent. It is nice to be able to open the big door vent in bad weather though - something you can't do on the MHW EV2. The vestibule is only big enough for two pairs of boots, or maybe one empty pack. It's not big enough to allow you to exit the tent without opening the vestibule and tent door at the same time, which lets water and snow fall into the tent from the roof.

OGL didn't like the double-wide pole clips because they thought they were flimsy. But the wide clips distribute load to the tent seams better than single clips. I don't know how well the plastic holds up in extreme cold though. I didn't have any problem with clips breaking in high wind yet.

I have experienced bad condensation with one person in the tent on a calm night. No problem when it's windy though. I think this is typical of single wall tents. The awnings over the roof vents are too close to the tent body to allow much air flow into the vents - there isn't much of a gap between the awnings and vents.

The tent body fabric is super burly. It's like a hard shell jacket. Much better than thin PU coated nylon. And I imagine it breathes better, although with the vents closed it isn't nearly enough to prevent condensation.

In the end, I think this tent stands up to severe weather much better than the OGL review indicates. But if it's really windy, build up a bank around the tent to keep wind from underneath it or you might not sleep well.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Marmot Alpinist
Credit: Marmot
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