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 boots, and makes for a marginally more comfortable entry and exit. 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. We thought both of these tents were far nicer to log time in than Nemo Tenshi, Hilleberg Unna, Direkt 2, Rab Latok Ultra or the Black Diamond First light or Eldorado.
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 door under the vestibule is part mesh adding yet another large and covered vent helping to circulate air and move moisture to help the user stay dry in even the rainiest of conditions.
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.
Although the poles are high quality, the plastic clips that attach to them are just okay and a little bulky. Marmot uses a U-shaped clip that attaches to the pole in two places. This is the same clip that's used on their budget three-season Marmot Limelight 2 tent. We believe the Alpinist deserves stronger, lighter 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 and Mountain 25. 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.
The Alpinists two awnings are like a double-edged sword: they make the tent more livable and versatile, but also catch wind, thereby making the tent less capable of severe conditions. In stormier weather we prefer tents that ventilate without large awnings.
One other small bummer was that when we pulled the side guy lines really tight it would pull up the floor quite a bit and reduce the amount of floor space inside the tent.
Ease of set up
The Marmot Alpinist is easy to set up and was one of the best scoring tents in this category. It uses basic external clips that while a little heavy and bulky were very easy to use. Compared with some of the Alpinist's main competitors the Black Diamond Ahwahnee and the Eldorado it is way quicker and easier to set up. We did think the Alpinist was around the same speed and ease to set up as the Mountain Hardwear EV2.
Marmot Alpinist in a well protected forest
Another highlight of the Alpinist is its adaptability and it can be used from fairly stormy 4 season weather (we would use this tent anywhere in the lower 48) to even rainy and wet three season beach hikes. Part of it's adaptability comes from is the fabric which after testing these tent over three weeks on eight desperate trips was as breathable as any of the tests we tested. The other thing is how many vents the Alpinist has. The Alpinists door sports a unique 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 two large vents while they can be a little wind catching in severe storms did do a great job at helping to manage the moisture.
The Marmot Alpinist's partial mesh door helps provide good ventilation.
The Alpinists most similar competitor is the Black Diamond Ahwahnee. The Alpinist is easier to set up with the pole pitch from the outside and your also less likely to get snow or rain in the tent. The poles are better (DAC Featherlite NSL Green) on the Alpinist and stronger, too. The fabrics are roughly equal, but the Ahwahnee is a little tougher and feels a touch nicer to hang out in, but the inclusion of the Alpinist's 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 (there's only one door).
The Alpinist weighs in at 5 lb 8 oz, slightly heavier than the smaller Eldorado or or the similar sized Mountain Hardwear EV2 which weighs 4 lbs 14 oz. It is more than twice the weight of the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 or the Black Dimaond Firstlight. But the Alpinist is lighter than many other tents that are as versatile like the Black Diamond Ahwahnee or the Mountain Hardwear Trango 2.
Value and the Bottom Line
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 in that it can be used for backpacking and wetter three season trips and a fair bit more comfortable to hang out in. It can certainly be used on most 4 season trips including Cascade Volcano climbs but may not be burly enough for a West Buttress Trip and the thought of all the snow blowing through the vents is unpleasant. If you like the idea of the Marmot Alpinist check out the Black Diamond Ahwahnee or the Mountain Hardwear EV2