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Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R Review

   

Four Season Tents

  • Currently 3.8/5
Overall avg rating 3.8 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: October 5, 2014
Street Price:   $499
Pros:  Very light, very spacious, bomber wind protection.
Cons:  Questionable pole and construction quality, odd outdated features.
Best Uses:  Ski touring, multi-day winter adventure races
User Rating:     
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 (4.5 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (3/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Stephenson's Warmlite
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 19, 2013  
Overview
The Stephenson's Warmlite 2R is a cutting-edge ultralight tunnel tent that may have gone too far in its cutting-edginess. The tent uses high quality materials, provides lots of space for a mere 3 lb. 2 oz., and can handle ultra fierce winds. However, the tent only has one tieout point on the rear end and therefore requires an extremely solid stake, such as a buried ice axe, in order to achieve the very high lengthwise tension that's necessary to make the sidewalls drum tight. Many people have used this tent for phenomenal feats of athleticism all over the world. But we are relatively unimpressed by its outdated, odd features, fragile poles and sub par construction quality.

Nonetheless, due to its very fast setup, low weight and good performance in high wind we recommend this tent for select fast and light winter applications, such as multi-day adventure races.

Stephenson Tents are only sold direct from Stephenson via their website warmlite.com. If the tent is not in stock, production may take 6-8 weeks in Warmlite's Gilford, New Hampshire shop. If you need something faster consider our Editor's choice winner the Hilleberg Nammatj 2 which is available from major online retailers.

Warmlite has been around since the 1950s and is famous for its nudist images used in marketing material. We highly recommend requesting a free printed or PDF copy of their catalog. Laughter is guaranteed to occur while browsing its fine images and amusing text.

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

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Ease of Setup
The tent pitches with two custom poles that insert through sleeves. Oddly, and unlike all other tunnel tents tested, there is no mechanism to cinch the poles down once you insert them. Rather, you must push hard and slip the end of the pole into the end of the sleeve. It works, but it's not pretty.

Weather Resistance
With very high tension applied to the tent lengthwise it is possible to achieve a very taut pitch despite the fact that the tent only has three tie-out points. That's right, there are only three tiout points! And all of them are at ground level. Therefore, it's imperative that each be BOMBER. Think multiple stakes in ground or skis and ice axes in snow. Then the tent is capable of handling very high winds. We especially like that the poles go underneath the outer tent because it gives a very sheer, smooth look and might help the tent slice through wind even better.

Due to the tunnel design with the two poles rather far apart it's important to knock snow off the roof and clear it away from the sides with reasonable frequency. Resistance to snow loading is minimal.

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Three ultra compact, sub four pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: Brooks Range Invasion, Stephenson's Warmlite 2R, and Mountain Hardwear Direkt2.
Credit: Max Neale
Livability
Like the Mountain Hardwear EV 2 the Warmlite 2R has an integrated vestibule in the front of the tent. The inside is extremely spacious considering how light the tent it. The floor area is a massive 42 sq. ft. However, not all of that area is able to be utilized well by your body. The tent likely has less interior volume than the MSR Dragontail but far more than the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, at least when lying down. There is only enough room to sit upright, or partly upright depending on your height, in the front of the tent. But you can sprawl about and spray gear all over the place.

The middle portion of the tent uses two walls and each end is single wall. The middle portion helps reduce condensation and increase warmth.

Durability
The custom poles have very thin walls, perhaps 50 percent thinner than the average pole used in the winter tents tested here. They are very susceptible to damage and require extreme care when handling and packing. Seriously, they are very fragile; we would not want to take them on an expedition.

Click to enlarge
The Warmlite 2R poles are very delicate. As you can see here the walls can be bent very easily and, now, the two sections do not line up well.
Credit: Max Neale
Weight/Packed Size
The body and poles weigh a mere 3 lb. 2 oz., making this the fourth lightest winter tent we've tested.

Features
Some of the tent's features are ingenious because they are so simple and effective, like the rear vent that pulls open and closed with a small cord. Others, like the front door design, leave considerable room for improvement.

Construction quality is sub-par. We were unimpressed with the attention to detail in the cutting of fabrics and their stitching. See the photo below.

You can also choose from a host of custom features that increase strength and/or comfort.

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Sloppy cutting and stitching on the Stephenson's Warmlite 2R
Credit: Max Neale
Best Application
Winter adventure races, ski touring.

Value
See our Price Versus Value Chart.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 5, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.5)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 40%  (2)
4 star: 40%  (2)
3 star: 20%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Oct 5, 2014 - 03:19pm
Bryan Pressnall · Skier · Pinecrest
Light weight, stands up to strong winds. Lots of options, so you can order what you want.

Is not free standing, so it is not possible to move the tent around, or upside down, to dry out in sun. Also it needs to have very strong anchor points, which can be difficult in snow unless you use skis, etc. to tie down. That can be a problem when you want to leave the tent up while you go climbing or skiing. And if the tent is not super tightly anchored, you risk the tent tearing and poles breaking, which happened to me at one in the morning. The poles broke and the tent collapsed.

The company is quite arrogant, so if you do report having any problems, they will blame you for not setting the tent up properly. I do think that if the tent is set up perfectly with bomber anchor points, that it will withstand extremely high winds. The problem is, in the real world, the ground may be too hard to get a stake in deep or the snow warms up and loosens the stakes- then the wind proofness disappears. Anchoring the guy lines with big rocks works well-if they are available. You also have to be careful assembling the poles and don't step on them, as they are thin. Reported tent weights do not include stakes, which are not included.

I have the 3R, which is super roomy for two people and gear. If you want a two person tent, get the 3R and live in comfort.

If you want the light weight, and are willing to be extra meticulous in setting up the tent and getting bomber anchor points, this could be a good 4 season tent for you. When you are carrying it on your back over that pass, you will welcome the light weight. If you don't mind carrying a few extra pounds and don't want to fidget with it, then get something else.
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   Oct 29, 2013 - 06:36pm
oldgear · Climber · Olympia, WA
I've owned a Warmlite 3X model since 1978. It's hugely spacious, considerably more so than the 2R model reviewed by the testers, and it doesn't taper front to back. Even so, it only weighs 3 1/2 pounds! It's a totally single-wall tent, made from an exotic laminate of polyester and a gold mylar. Mine has the option of the enormous side wall windows, which zip open and closed. When opened, they provide a sort of awning space where additional gear can be protected from light rains or dew. Anyway, I find this tent easy to set up; I've never had problems with the stakes pulling out in either winter or summer camping; I do not find the poles fragile; and, the sewing quality on mine is superb, tight and even no mismatched fabric whatsoever. But then it was sewn by Jack Stephenson's own daughter, Beverly. Her name is on the label. I will address the concerns about pole fragility-- but first I will note that standard Easton 4-season poles can be damaged by abuse easily enough, and I once bought a Sierra Designs Tiros with no fewer than four damaged/cracked poles! Stephenson poles can be damaged by stepping on them in heavy mountain boots, but mainly two things to watch out for are inserting a pole with a joint not fully engaged and then subjecting it to high wind loads; the second thing is carelessly assembling the pole and letting the shock cord snap the pole ends against each other, in which circumstance you can put a chip in the pole end, which later can enlarge under stress into an actual crack in the pole. I have an extra pole section which I carry with me if going into high and windy locations where my tent is crucial to my survival. Otherwise, I leave it at home. Finally, many seem to complain about these tent condensing on the inside: answer, carry a small sponge. My single wall 3X should be especially prone to condensation, but with its end vents and huge side windows it's never a problem--- HOWEVER, please note, I have other tents, and I don't use the single wall 3X as a tent for being out for days and days in heavy rain situations. Finally, quality control: since Stephenson's uses a cottage industry model of production, I suppose some of the sewers may be better than others; that's just a guess.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 3, 2013 - 02:10pm
tinh · Backpacker · Tucson Arizona
I have owned and used a Warmlite 2R and 2X for almost 30 years now. I still use the original 2R. It has repairs from wear and tear around the pole sleeve entrance but otherwise still works great. I have pitched on the sides and tops of mountains all over the world. The 2R is nice and warm with two walls (one reflective)and a smaller inside volume. The 2X is better for 3 seasons because I have the large opening windows. These tents were designed for the humid US. I typically use them in dryer parts of the world. I have never had any problems with condensation when used as recommended. Leave vents open, don't take wet clothing or gear inside and keep your body cool.

This tent holds up to very strong winds. In my case 70 mph. I have never had a bent tent pole or torn seam. Never had an anchor pull out. I use 8" Easton or carbon stakes or in soft snow our ice axes. Large rocks also work easily by holding down the long anchor straps.

Heavy snow is not a problem as long as you wake up every couple hours and shake the snow off from the inside. I often do this with my legs banging against the tent. The snow slides off. In a heavy snow with no wind, you may need to get out in the morning and remove snow from the lower sides of the tent.

I dry the tent completely when I return from every trip. The older tent has been retreated with waterproofing once. I lightly sponge off dirt with a damp cloth.

In my opinion, there is no competitor to the Warmlite 2 series tent for weight combined with storm worthiness. I find the inside very comfortable for two even on long tent confinement and indoor (not recommended) cooking and melting snow for water. It is also great for summer camping.

I have read many negative comments about this tent. These have all come from writers who have not used the tent very much. Take it from me, one who is very picky about climbing and camping gear. I have staked my life on the Warmlite and it has always delivered beyond my expectations.

Forget the comments about stitching not being straight and too thin walls for tent pole, not enough stake out points, etc. If you are not someone who takes reasonable care of your tents this may not be a good choice for you. If you do or can, go for it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 27, 2013 - 01:26pm
This is my second 4-season tent. The first was a Holubar that I sewed myself from a kit. It was absolutely bomber in high wind but it weighed nine pounds. My first requirement for shopping for a second tent, as anyone that has survived a night of high wind will attest, is that the tent can withstand winds over 100 mph. This tent is less than half the weight and seems just as durable, though I have yet to test it in anything higher than 30 mph wind yet - knock on wood. I have the following comments re. the editor's remark that construction is sub-par.
1) I think the editors have overstated the fragility of the poles. Yes they appear somewhat delicate, but they are pre-bent and wider where it counts, than poles on competing tents. If you stepped on one under the right conditions, it would bend. So, in that sense, you can't throw it around like an ice axe, crampons, pickets, etc. And while this is true for any lightweight tent, it is probably more true for this one, but not to the point that I would be afraid to take it on an "expedition", as the editor stated. So far I've used it on trips in the North Cascades and Patagonia that have totaled about 14 days of repeated setting up and tearing down. I've had no problems keeping the poles from being damaged and I haven't given any special care to packing and handling other than I'm not an idiot and I don't step on my tent poles.
2) Construction on my tent appears fine with one exception. The little velcro tie that is intended to hold the front door open is sewn in the wrong location, making it useless. No problem for me as I've never needed it - I just throw the door back over the tent and it stays there on its own. If it is windy it won't, but when it's windy I want the door closed anyway.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Stephenson's Warmlite 2 R
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