Marmot Bolt Ultralight 2 Person Review
Cons: Single door, small storage pockets
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This tent is one of the few that registers well under three pounds. It comes with two poles that pack down small and it stuffs easily into or around other gear in your pack.
After catching some zzzs, we think that this tent performs about as well as you would expect it to based on its dimensions. At 86" long, it is enough but still below average. This tent for two also has a width that starts at 52" at the head (plenty of room for two 20" wide sleeping pads) but quickly tapers to 42" at the foot, leaving it feeling cramped. The 42" peak height is somewhat generous for a model of its size and weight. We were actually pleasantly surprised that it is possible for two people to sit up somewhat comfortably at the same time; however, the peak height plane is narrow relative to other similar models that put the cross pole closer to the center.
The storage pockets aren't expansive, but they are sufficient for a pair of glasses, gloves, or a small journal. We do appreciate the opaque headlamp pocket overhead that allows you to read or play games with a nice, even diffuse light. The all-mesh canopy also makes for excellent stargazing if you can get away with leaving off the fly for the night.
The Bolt is slightly more stable in storms than some of its semi-freestanding counterparts. The pole that arches over the door provides decent stability for the head end, and the two additional stake loops midway down the length of the fly contribute additional support. Having said that, it isn't as rigid as a fully free-standing model.
We did find that the vestibule can sag under the weight of precipitation, especially since it comes to a single stake point far from the tent itself. The single fly vent is also doesn't allow moisture to escape effectively, and we did end up with some condensation accumulation on the tent mesh.
Ease of Set Up
This model can be easy to setup, but it has an atypical pole configuration, so it may not be entirely intuitive the first couple of times around. Two separate color-coded poles match the color of the grommets at each corner, so you know what goes where. The tricky part is that rather than having two peoples that cross each other in the middle, there is one that sets up arching over the doorway and another that connects to a hub at the pinnacle of the first pole and runs the length of the tent.
There are a couple of features that ended up diminishing our enjoyment of this shelter. The first is that the hub that connects the two poles doesn't do its job very well at all. No matter how we oriented it (facing up or facing down), the two poles always popped apart under the tension of the fly. The second issue is that the tent doesn't come with enough stakes. There are six pegs for seven spots (four corners, two fly sides, and the vestibule).
The 20D polyester fly and floor are slightly heavier-duty than comparable tents. Though we would still recommend protecting your investment with a footprint (either purchased or homemade), we weren't as concerned that we would end up with a tent floor peppered with holes if we chose to pitch it on sandy earth.
The small components seem noticeably cheaper, including the tent and fly clips, buckles, guy cord, and webbing. The stakes, however, are a nice sturdy shovel design that don't get bent out of shape easily.
Weight and Packed Size
This tent is one of the lightest dedicated pole models in the category. At under two and a half pounds, it is a reasonable load for one person to carry or a super light one for two people. It makes an excellent companion for anyone looking to minimize their load on a backpacking or bikepacking trip.
Even though it does have polyester fabric that is slightly heavier than its close competitors, it still packs down tighter than its stuff sack dimensions suggest. The plastic 'hardware' is minimal, so there aren't many chunky pieces to you from packing efficiently around other gear.
We aren't blown away by the value that this tent offers. Though it is less expensive than the highest-scoring tents, we think that there is notably better performance to be had in other models that are just slightly more expensive.
The Marmot Bolt Ultralight 2 is a lightweight tent that you can take deep into the backcountry. It lacks a couple of comfort features that would increase its livability, but if you want a sub-three-pound model for less than the very top contenders, this model could be the one.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch