Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $499
Pros: Very light, very spacious, construction quality and made in the USA, bomber wind protection.
Cons: Questionable thin diameter pole durability, odd outdated features.
Best Uses: Ski touring, multi-day winter adventure races
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 But we are relatively unimpressed by its outdated, odd features, fragile poles and sub par construction quality.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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The body and poles weigh a mere 3 lb. 2 oz., making this the fourth lightest winter tent we've tested.
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.
Winter adventure races, ski touring.
See our Price Versus Value Chart.
— Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: November 5, 2014
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