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Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R Review


Four Season Tent

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  • Currently 3.7/5
Overall avg rating 3.7 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: March 10, 2016
Price:   $499 List
Pros:  Very light, very spacious, construction quality and made in the USA, bomber wind protection.
Cons:  Questionable thin diameter pole durability, odd outdated features.
Manufacturer:   Stephenson's Warmlite

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 But we are relatively unimpressed by its outdated, odd features, fragile poles and sub par construction quality.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.

RELATED: Our complete review of four season tents

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday

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.

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.

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

Best Application


Winter adventure races, ski touring.

Value


See our Price Versus Value Chart.
Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 10, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.3)

75% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 40%  (2)
4 star: 20%  (1)
3 star: 40%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Mar 10, 2016 - 12:02am
FortMental · Climber · Albuquerque, NM
Why would you bury a perfectly useful ice axe as an anchor point? Fill a couple of stuff sacks with snow, and bury them deep…

…or is that "obsolete technology"?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 9, 2016 - 04:25pm
karl wilcox · Climber · Greely Hill, California
In my view, Outdoor Gear Lab got it wrong with this tent: frankly, after some 30 years of use, I have yet to find a better tent. First off, this is the perfect tent for long-distance ski tours in Norway or the Sierra; it is light, very warm, and able to withstand El Nino snow loads and strong winds with aplomb. It is also ideal for mountaineering trips as long as you do not need to pitch it on small platforms. We use ours for summer backpacking, as well-- no condensation ever and it is so light for the amount of space it offers.

On Denali it did very well, indeed. The 3r version holds 3 persons with room to spare, and while you can't cook in a Warmlite, you have room to move around in it and no worries in terms of breaking poles, interior ice, or a 15 pound wad of nylon to pack in the morning.

It is very easy to set up in all weathers… sure, you only have 3 anchor points, but that is a testimony to the design-- no more web of lines, tangles, and 15 snow stakes (skis, screws, deaden, shovels, etc.).

As for the poles: in 30 years I yet to break one. I do have a dent in a single oole section, but that was due to a falling chunk of ice! The poles are simply very good and they do not bend in use from wind or snow loads.

If you get the reflective interior walls this tent will get as warm as a snow cave! The tent actually dries out clothes at a rate of about 5x faster than any other tent I have used.

You can also purchase a 3rd pole for the 3 man, but we have never needed it. In my view, the 2 man Warmlite tent is perfect for 2 but no more than that; it is very nice for a solo tent, as well,

The 3r easily holds 3 adults.

Finally, this is the only tent I have ever owned that does not end up with sticky PU coatings or dry-flaking of the coatings… after 30 years, it still smells good and is completely waterproof.

As for the quality of the construction; the new ones I have seen are just fine. I could care less about how straight the seam might be, as long as it does not come apart. My Warmlite tent has never suffered any construction flaws. To be sure, I treat it carefully, but I certainly do not baby the thing.

Buy one.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 12, 2015 - 01:16am
Cougar43 · Backpacker · Lexington NC
Well I have this tent and bought it way back 12 years ago before ultra light became the big thing. I bought it for an appalachian trail threw hike in which my wife and I had planned on using it unless it got to hot. back then it was only a pound and a half per person so the weight for protection was not bad at all for the two of us. Not long after I bought this tent my father died and I had to cancel my trip to take care of my mother. My wife and I however were able to use this tent many times threw fall and winter in North Carolina before he died. We even tryed it out in the snow. We had planned on setting out for the trail the first of march.
I will have to say though we loved this tent and still do. We have started back up now backpacking agian. I agree that the poles are a bit flimsy but so far I havent had truble with them yet. The best part about this tent is we love the room it gives for a tent of this weight. Most other tents this light just dont have enough room for 2 people. We also have plenty of room in the vestibule for our packs I love this as I dont like leaving my pack outside. If the condensation gets to be heavy well we just open the vents so we havent had much truble with that. You do need some really good tent stakes though I agree. you have to plant a good stake in the back then swing the tent around untilll you get a good hold with the front stakes. I agree a couple of guy lines from the sides would help but I havent really needed them so far.
Bottom line is if you are looking for a really good ultralight 4 seasons tent with lots of room at 3 lbs I would still recommend this tent. May be I have missed it but I still havent found a 3 lb or less 4 seasons tent out there with this much room and for us more room with less weight means a lot. My wife and I both hate being cramed up on top of each other with our sleeping bags rubbing the sides of the tent getting wet from condensation. We also hate lugging around 2 or 3 extra pounds for a 4 season tent when we dont have to. I will say though the big agnes Slater UL2 + looks good for this, however Im not sure if its a 4 season tent kinda dought it with the single pole over the top and down the back but that is proably what we will replace this tent with once it wears out.Its a tad bit lighter and much cheeper. I will also have to say winters in North Carolina are really not that bad. No blizzards here lol

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 29, 2015 - 09:08pm
After using a 5R, I"m going to extrapolate a bit here about the 2R. For the money you'll spend, you can do better. The aluminum poles used in these tent systems were definitely the wrong material for the job back in the 1960's, and why they still keep using it is beyond me. They are brittle and if you do not handle them with extreme care, you're going to be in trouble. And as the temperature falls, watch out.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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