Reviews You Can Rely On

Marmot Catalyst 2 Review

A value-driven, durable choice for car-camping and the occasional short-distance backpacking trip
Marmot Catalyst 2
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Price:  $183 List
Pros:  Good headroom, good organization, easy to set-up, durable
Cons:  Heavy, short in length
Manufacturer:   Marmot
By Chris McNamara and Jess McGlothlin  ⋅  May 20, 2017
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  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9
  • Weight - 25% 4
  • Packed Size - 10% 4

Our Verdict

Marmot's Catalyst 2-person tent is a roomy free-standing tent boasting 32.5 square feet of interior space and roomy vestibules. While we were disappointed in the tent's hefty 5 lb. 3 oz. weight and bulky packed size, it makes a comfortable choice for campers seeking a tent comfortable and roomy enough for casual car-camping but also (when split between two people) suited to short-to-moderate length backcountry trips.

Our Analysis and Test Results

We enjoyed the Catalyst 2's roomy headspace; its peak height of 44 inches was among the tallest we tested, second only to the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx. The Catalyst comes in a full 10 oz. lighter than the Lynx, however, and is noticeably higher-quality for those seeking a performance tent. A 3-season, 2-person tent, the Catalyst features a seam-taped catenary cut floor, Velocity/Velocity HD poles, and an included footprint.

Performance Comparison


We enjoyed the roomy 88" x 53" floor dimensions of the Catalyst, and the peak height of 44 inches was the second-highest in the review. We wished the tent itself were a little longer — while tall campers will enjoy the additional headroom, the 88" length falls far short of the REI Half Dome 2 Plus 96", and we wished for the additional room when two people were settling in for the night.

The Catalyst 2's  interior view.
The Catalyst 2's interior view.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

The tent's two vestibules — 9.5 square feet at the main entrance and 6.7 square feet at the rear entrance — were well-protected and kept our packs dry during a spring drizzle. We wished the fly would reach a little closer to the ground; in a driving, windy rain we could foresee items stored near the periphery of the vestibules becoming damp. Inside, the tent is comfy, but at times, a little snug width wise for two adults.

Two mesh pockets provide out-of-the-way storage options to maximize available floor space, and the gear loft fits headlamps and cell phones comfortably. While we used the gear loft for gear, Marmot markets it as a "Lamp Shade pocket" to hold your headlamp and diffuse the light for a soft, ambient light. Another tent we reviewed offered unique lighting options; the Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2 mtnGLO Tent featured LED lighting within the tent.

Ease of Set-Up

We were huge fans of Marmot's color-coded poles; they made set-up easy and breezy. The three Velocity/Velocity HD poles came tougher quickly, and integrated clips teamed with a single sleeved brow pole were intuitive and easy to assemble even in windy conditions.

An interior overhead hook is convenient in the Catalyst 2.
An interior overhead hook is convenient in the Catalyst 2.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

The inner tent attached easily and securely to the poles with Marmot's clip system.

The Catalyst 2 pictured without fly.
The Catalyst 2 pictured without fly.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

We felt the REI Half Dome 2 Plus and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 were both slightly more intuitive in their assembly, but the Catalyst should not present any trouble for modernly-experienced campers.

Weather Resistance

We'd feel confident taking the Catalyst into a damp weekend of shoulder-season camping. The fly, 8D polyester taffeta 190T 1500mm held up to spring drizzles and felt very sturdy to hand. The tent floor and bathtubs wells kept out damp grass when we pitched in a low-slung camping spot, and we spent the night comfortably dry.

The Catalyst's stakes.
The Catalyst's stakes.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

Another favorite tent in drizzly conditions was the Hilleberg Anjan GT, which was our top pick for truly foul conditions. The Anjan's tank-like structure, low-slung profile, and integrated outer wall feel like it could take on the toughest weather the mountains can throw our way. We also enjoyed the minimal margin between the bathtub walls and the low-reaching fly on the Rattlesnake SL2 mtnGLO.


The highest mark the Catalyst received was a 9 for durability — though this tent is heavy, we're willing to sacrifice a little weight for a tent we believe will take a beating in rough conditions. The HD Velocity 7000 series aluminum poles felt sturdy and the 68D polyester taffeta 190T 2000mm floor stood up to dog nails skritch-scratching across it numerous times.

Dog lovers should also check out the NEMO Galaxi 2, whose 70-denier coated nylon floor fabric resists scratches and tears from claws and paws alike. The NEMO Dagger 2 also held up well to the "dog test" — NEMO knows dog lovers!

Marmot Catalyst 2P backpacking tent.
Marmot Catalyst 2P backpacking tent.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin Media.

Weight and Packed Size

At 5 lbs. 3 oz., the Catalyst was one of the heaviest tents in our review, topped only by the REI Half Dome 2 Plus at 5 lbs. 7 oz., the NEMO Galaxi 2 at 5 lbs. 8 oz., and the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2 at 5 lb. 13 oz. We'd like a lighter tent for backcountry packing, but split between two hikers, this is manageable.

A few of our contenders; from left to right: NEMO Galaxi (now...
A few of our contenders; from left to right: NEMO Galaxi (now discontinued), Alps Lynx, REI Half Dome 2 Plus, Eureka Midori, Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV, Hilleberg Anjan, NEMO Dagger, Tarptent Double Rainbow, Kelty Salida 2, and Marmot Catalyst.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Catalyst packed down to a rather large 21" x 7" — too large for what we normally consider a backpacking tent. Due to the weight and large stuff sack dimensions, we'd prefer the Catalyst as a car-camping tent.

Best Applications

We recommend the Catalyst 2P as a comfortable choice for campers seeking a tent comfortable and roomy enough for casual car-camping but also (when split between two people) suited to short-to-moderate length backcountry trips.


After setting up the tent, we were impressed to learn the retail cost was sub-$200! With a sturdy build and comfortable interior, we'd expect the price range to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $250. This tent offers plenty of creature comfort for the price, and we'd recommend it to friends seeking a comfortable car-camping tent with the ability for the occasional short-distance backpacking trip.

The Catalyst 2 offers a competitive price-point with trail-ready...
The Catalyst 2 offers a competitive price-point with trail-ready details.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

The Kelty Salida 2 came in at $150, cheaper than the Catalyst, but scored a full 13 points lower in our test, largely due to durability and weather-resistance concerns. We see the Catalyst as well worth the additional cost. The Eureka Midori 2 is $159, and also offers a good value for campers looking for their first tent.

The Marmot Catalyst 2P backpacking tent packs nicely into the stuff...
The Marmot Catalyst 2P backpacking tent packs nicely into the stuff sack.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin Media.


A roomy, livable tent the freestanding Catalyst 2 is well-suited for a casual camping trip or very occasional backpacking. We liked the easy set-up and were impressed with the durability, but wish it weighed a bit less than its 5 lb. 3 oz. Good square footage and interior organizational options make this an easy choice for someone getting into camping.

The Catalyst with fly zipped.
The Catalyst with fly zipped.
Photo: Jess McGlothlin

Chris McNamara and Jess McGlothlin

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