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Marmot Bolt Ultralight 2 Person Review

An ultralight semi-freestanding tent with a couple of features that keep it from the top
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Price:  $360 List
Pros:  Lightweight, color-coded poles
Cons:  Single door, small storage pockets
Manufacturer:   Marmot
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 26, 2020
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 6
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Packed Size - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Marmot Bolt UL2 is a sub three-pound tent that can go the distance in the backcountry. Its semi-freestanding structure means that it has fewer poles than a traditional fully free-standing model and its thin tent and fly materials are meant to reduce weight even more. This tent is for the long-distance backpacker who isn't quite ready to go for a full-on tarp shelter just yet. The drawbacks of going all-in on weight are noticeable; the tent just isn't that comfortable for two people and it lacks the vestibule area to accommodate two bags and sets of boots.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


This ultralight tent is appropriate for two campers who don't mind sleeping really  really close to each other.
This ultralight tent is appropriate for two campers who don't mind sleeping really, really close to each other.

Comfort


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 single  head-end door and narrow width make maneuvering in this tent challenging with two people.
The single, head-end door and narrow width make maneuvering in this tent challenging with two people.

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 vestibule is long enough and large enough to hold one person's pack and footwear but a second set is difficult to accommodate  especially if you need to get out of the tent.
The vestibule is long enough and large enough to hold one person's pack and footwear but a second set is difficult to accommodate, especially if you need to get out of the tent.

Weather Resistance


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.

The zippers are not waterproof but the fly has a velcro flap that covers them up to prevent rain from trickling through.
The zippers are not waterproof but the fly has a velcro flap that covers them up to prevent rain from trickling through.

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.

The fly runs long and low around the tent  protecting is well from rain that might otherwise seep in at the floor and sides.
The fly runs long and low around the tent, protecting is well from rain that might otherwise seep in at the floor and sides.

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.

The plastic hub doesn't keep the two poles connected.
The plastic hub doesn't keep the two poles connected.

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 tent has two stake points at the sides that pull the fly nice and far away from the tent but you will have to find an additional stake to actually take advantage of the feature.
The tent has two stake points at the sides that pull the fly nice and far away from the tent but you will have to find an additional stake to actually take advantage of the feature.

Durability


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 plastic parts (hooks  clips  and hubs)  as well as the stake loop cord and webbing  are all cheaper looking parts.
The plastic parts (hooks, clips, and hubs), as well as the stake loop cord and webbing, are all cheaper looking parts.

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.

This tent is lightweight because of its skinny dimensions and more delicate materials.
This tent is lightweight because of its skinny dimensions and more delicate materials.

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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Taking this tent out solo is ultimately a better choice than trying to cram two people in.
Taking this tent out solo is ultimately a better choice than trying to cram two people in.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch