Hands-on Gear Review

Stephenson's Warmlite 2R Review

Stephenson's Warmlite 2R
Top Pick Award
Price:  $800 List
Pros:  Super lightweight, spacious interior, made in the USA, bomber wind protection, only requires three stakes to pitch, custom features and colors
Cons:  Questionably thin diameter pole and its subsequent durability, all three stakes need to be bomber for the tent to be bomber
Bottom line:  A strong, spacious, and exceptionally light non-freestanding tunnel tent.
Editors' Rating:   
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Floor Dimensions (inches):  134" x 48-60 in.
Peak Height (inches):  41 in.
Measured Weight (tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag):  3.31 lbs
Manufacturer:   Stephenson's Warmlite

Our Verdict

The Stephenson's Warmlite Two-Person Tent (formerly the 2R) is a robust, spacious, and very light non-freestanding tunnel tent that is still made in the USA in Fort Collins, Colorado. This model uses high-quality materials (though skinny diameter poles) and provides lots of space for a mere 3 lb. 4 oz. The Warmlite can handle fierce winds as long as it's pitched solidly. It only has three tie-down points and no guy-out points (guy-out points are an optional addition). This means it requires a substantial stake, such as a ski or buried ice axe, to achieve the very high lengthwise tension that's necessary to make the sidewalls drum tight if you expect to be in 50+ mph winds.

Nevertheless, due to its quick set-up, low weight and decent performance in high wind, we recommend this tent for select fast and light winter applications, such as multi-day backpacking, ski touring, or adventure races. Our testers love the Warmlite for multi-day backcountry ski tours, and it won our Top Pick Award for these applications because of its low weight and impressive packed size. Even though small in size, it still provided a comfortable amount of interior space for the loftier sleeping bags and additional clothes often taken on such tours. While ski touring, we usually camped on snow and rarely found it hard to stake it tautly with our skis or poles.

Stephenson Tents are 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 Fort Collins Colorado shop. If you're going light and fast, 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 REVIEW: The Best Four Season Tents of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson

Last Updated:
Monday
April 9, 2018

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The Stephenson's Warmlite is a specialty tent that is made in the USA and offers tons of customs options. The Warmlite has tons of interior space for hanging out in and storing your gear — at an exceptionally low weight. Its tunnel-shaped design is super durable and is easy to pitch on snow, sand, or in more-established sites, but can be a little trickier in tight, rocky areas.

Performance Comparison


While this is our Top Pick for Backcountry Touring  it also works well in established campsites where there are enough options for good staking.
While this is our Top Pick for Backcountry Touring, it also works well in established campsites where there are enough options for good staking.

Ease of Set-Up


The Warmlite Two-Person Tent uses a bomber non-freestanding tunnel design with two custom-made pre-curved poles. They insert into full-length sleeves with a unique system of holding the poles in place. Unlike most tents, there isn't a mechanism or grommet to cinch the poles down once inserted. Instead, you must push hard and slip the end of the pole into a pocket reinforced by webbing at the end of the sleeve.


This design is bomber, although it did require a little bit of a learning curve, and remained slightly more challenging than most models. This tent uses only three stakes, and because there aren't any guylines, they must be bomber to get the whole thing taut. This was easy to achieve on snow when using skis or an ice axe, but it was occasionally challenging on firmer or rockier tent sites.

Weather Resistance


With very high tension applied to the tent lengthwise, it is possible to achieve a very taut and bomber pitch despite the fact that the tent only has three tie-out points. Yep, you heard it, that's right, there are only three tie-out points, and all of them are at ground level. Therefore, it's imperative that each one be BOMBER when using very sturdy ground anchors like skis or ice axes in the snow.

This tent is easier to stake out properly in snow than in dirt and rocks.
This tent is easier to stake out properly in snow than in dirt and rocks.

Then the tent is capable of handling very high winds; in fact, we know several people whose Warmlite Two-Person tents have withstood 50mph winds like a champion. We especially like that the poles go underneath the outer tent because it gives a very sheer, smooth look, perhaps helping the tent slice through wind even better. Full-length pole sleeves support the poles very well once inserted. With its relatively low peak height, it is quite bomber when well-anchored, which is easy to achieve in the snow.


However, if it's windy out, you must plan or take the appropriate time to pile rocks on top of the stakes to keep this tent bomber. It's worth noting that for $15, Stephenson will add "Wind Stabilizers," which would undoubtedly make the Warmlite Two-Person Tent even more bomber.

Three ultra compact  sub four-pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: the Invasion  Warmlite 2R  and Direkt2.
Three ultra compact, sub four-pound tents embrace the high alpine sunshine. From left to right: the Invasion, Warmlite 2R, and Direkt2.

Livability


The Warmlite Two-Person Tent has an integrated vestibule (with a connected floor) in the front of the tent. The interior is extremely spacious considering how light the tent it. Floor area is a massive 42 sq. ft., but unfortunately you can't sit up in all of it. The tent tapers both in peak height and in width towards where most people's feet will be. As a result, while there is plenty of room for your gear and the tent feels spacious, it's hard for two people to sit up and face each other. On the higher front end, one person should be able to sit straight up as long as they're not too tall.


Overall, the Warmlite has far more room than the comparable in weight MSR Advance Pro or Black Diamond Firstlight, at least when lying down. The middle portion of the tent uses two walls, while each end is a single wall; the central portion helps reduce condensation and increase warmth. The standard door is somewhat small, and in wintery conditions, partly due to its design, is slightly more challenging to use than other models. For $15, Stephenson offers a larger door; we'd recommend it unless you're out to save every ounce possible.

There is a lot of interior space  but it tapers at the end  and you can't really sit up back there.
There is a lot of interior space, but it tapers at the end, and you can't really sit up back there.

Durability


Overall, we think the Warmlite Two-Person Tent is a very long-lasting tent but it does have some durability issues.


Take note that the custom poles have very thin walls (.3mm), perhaps 30-40 percent thinner than the average pole used in the winter tents tested here (mostly .45mm-.55mm). They are susceptible to damage and require some care when handling and packing. Once inserted into their sleeves (which support the poles extremely well), they have proven to be quite strong, but again you'll want to be careful when inserting and tensioning the poles while pitching the tent. The 30D silicon-coated ripstop nylon fabric is above average for UV resistance and will hold its water-resistance for a long time.

The poles are very delicate. The walls bend easily  and then the two sections do not line up well.
The poles are very delicate. The walls bend easily, and then the two sections do not line up well.

We were slightly let down by the quality of construction on the Warmlite Two-Person Tent. There seemed to be a lack of attention to detail in the cutting of fabrics and their stitching; a handful of the seams weren't straight, several of what we consider critical seams were only single stitched, and there were places where we were surprised there was no hemming at all. See the photo below.

Sloppy cutting and stitching.
Sloppy cutting and stitching.


Weight/Packed Size


The body and poles weigh a mere 3 lb 4 oz, making this one of the lightest tents we tested. Its minimal weight wasn't as low as the MSR Advance Pro or Black Diamond Firstlight (which featured a minimum weight of 2 lbs 13 oz), but its packed weight was very comparable and offered a lot more interior space than either of these tents.


This is also one of the most packable tents; it could not compact down quite as small as the Firstlight but it offered more than 25% extra floor space.

Three of the smaller packed size options in our review pictured here (in their included stuff sacks)  from left to right: the Direkt2  Invasion  and Warmlite 2R. Note the crampons for size comparison.
Three of the smaller packed size options in our review pictured here (in their included stuff sacks), from left to right: the Direkt2, Invasion, and Warmlite 2R. Note the crampons for size comparison.

Versatility


The Warmlite Two-Person Tent has certain advantages, primarily being that its light and packs down small. It also offers a pretty significant amount of floor space, but it is not very versatile. It doesn't come with a bug mesh door but does offer decent ventilation. It isn't that great when set up in rocky campsites or other places where it might be difficult to stake its three anchor points out securely. However, for camping on snow or more designated spots, it will work for a variety of applications where weight and a low packed volume are high on your priority list.


We do think if you sprung for some of the extra features, like the more massive door and side windows, this tent would be more versatile.

The vent is small and didn't provide the best ventilation.
The vent is small and didn't provide the best ventilation.

On the Stephenson's website, you can also choose from a host of custom features that increase strength and/or comfort.

Options:
$44: Side Windows, suitable for viewing and cooling in a summer breeze
$15: Large Door, more accessible entry into the tent, comes with one door
$85: Endliner, which is rarely needed, except for in extreme conditions
$15: Wind Stabilizers, helpful if the wind is higher than 60mph

Features


Some of this tent's features are ingenious because they are so simple and effective. The rear vent pulls open and closed with a small cord, though the front door design leaves considerable room for improvement.

We liked the rear vent on this tent. It is also highly customizable depending on your needs.
We liked the rear vent on this tent. It is also highly customizable depending on your needs.

Best Applications


The Warmlite Two-Person Tent is our favorite tent for backcountry ski touring and works well for backpacking because of its above average amount of interior space and its tunnel design. These designs make it bomber when anchored with skis, shovels, or poles (in snow). Considering this, we do think that overall, the Warmlite is best for winter adventure races, ski touring, or summer alpine climbing. While it is indeed lightweight, it does not have any bug netting, and there could be more ventilation, making it a poor option for low-elevation and potentially humid thru-hiking or lightweight backpacking. If you're looking for a tent that does it all and you do not mind throwing down some money, check out our Editors' Choice award-winning model, the Hilleberg Jannu.

The Warmlite in its preferred habitat  a big snowfield. This was our Top Pick for Ski Touring.
The Warmlite in its preferred habitat, a big snowfield. This was our Top Pick for Ski Touring.

Value


At $800, this made-in-USA tent is quite customizable. We do think the bigger door, and mid-point wind stabilizers are worth the extra dollars. If you want a tent for more than just ski touring and mountaineering, you should consider adding the side door. Even if you're dropping close to $800, the Warmlite Two-Person Tent remains a respectable price and only a little more expensive compared to its competition. The only things we are down on are its minimal versatility and its potentially fragile poles, as we felt like we truly had to be careful with them.

Conclusion


The Stephenson's Warmlite is a cool, albeit specialized, 4 season tent. It provides the most interior space for the weight. It's best for camping on snow or backpacking in established sites, where it pitches easily with three anchors points. We have used it on an extended alpine traverse while camping exclusively on rocky alpine and sub-alpine terrain in less established sites. While it works in those situations, it takes more effort. It's worth noting that with this tent, you get a lot of space for that effort compared to the bivy-style models in our review that are of similar weights.
Ian Nicholson

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