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Mountain Hardwear AC 2 Review

A tent for those who need reliable protection from intense weather while keeping weight to a minimum
mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review
Credit: Mountain Hardwear
Price:  $750 List
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 20, 2022
68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 25% 6.0
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 9.0
  • Weight - 20% 6.0
  • Durability - 10% 9.0
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 4.0
  • Packed Size - 10% 5.0

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear AC 2 is a mountaineering tent that cuts as much weight as possible while maintaining its durability. This single-wall shelter is designed to keep in the heat and keep out precipitation. It has a simple two-pole structure design and an array of guy points to secure the shelter in adverse conditions. Though it is on the pricey side relative to most tents, it is on par with other extreme-weather models. Even with all of these features, this tent doesn't carry a weight penalty. Though it's a little cozy on the inside for two, at four pounds, it's not much heavier than the average 3-season tent.
REASONS TO BUY
Durable
Waterproof
Double-layer door
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Single door
Difficult to set up

Our Analysis and Test Results

This tent stands out for its weather resistance and durability, all while maintaining a relatively low weight. Its thick ripstop nylon exterior and thorough seals — from door zippers to vents, ensure that the weather stays outside.

Performance Comparison


mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - the mountain hardwear ac 2 stands as one of the top four-season...
The Mountain Hardwear AC 2 stands as one of the top four-season models for backpacking tents.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Comfort


Comfort is not a strength of the AC 2. At just 81" in length, it is short compared to the competition, and its 45-inch width is also one of the narrowest. This makes sense, given that it is primarily a winter-weather tent, but no matter how you choose to use it, expect to be cuddling close to your tent partner. Having said that, it is possible to sit up with head clearance to spare.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - the interior is tight for two people and not much additional storage...
The interior is tight for two people and not much additional storage space at all.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The single front door requires some shuffling to get in and out. We found it challenging to exit without disturbing the other person. Interestingly, we found it was a little too easy to sleep in; the lack of mesh made it feel darker in this tent for longer. The single storage pocket leaves something to be desired. It's removable, which is nice, but if you need an item really close at hand, it'll have to stay on the floor next to you.

Weather Resistance


This tent is made for poor weather. From the thick, 50D ripstop nylon fabric to the robust pole sleeves, ample guy points, and included guyline, it is designed to withstand a beating from the elements. It has a narrow profile that protects it from the wind when the door-end is pitched leeward. The two layers of the door provide some flexibility if the temperature does warm up. The inner mesh offers ventilation, while the outer ripstop nylon provides protection from rain and snow.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - the black mesh door is great for keeping out bugs but facilitating...
The black mesh door is great for keeping out bugs but facilitating airflow. If the weather turns really bad, you can zip up the second door (with the red zipper) that will really keep out precipitation.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

One word of caution here is that this model is heavily sealed so it's important to stay mindful of ventilation. It's a single-wall tent so if the outer door is closed and the top vents are zipped shut, there is nowhere for condensation (and carbon dioxide) to go. It is imperative that the tent is vented periodically to allow for sufficient oxygen exchange. There is no built-in vestibule, but an attachment can be purchased separately.

Weight


On the face of it, this tent doesn't stand out in this metric. However, at an even four pounds, it is comparable to, if not lighter than many other four-season options. Plus, that weight includes the tent, poles, stakes, and guyline.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - with just a single ripstop nylon wall (and no mesh interior), the ac...
With just a single ripstop nylon wall (and no mesh interior), the AC 2 cuts down on weight as much as possible for a four-season tent.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Because of the nature of a single-wall tent, there isn't really a way to reduce weight. There's no fast pitch mode, there's no ditching the fly, or leaving behind the extras. What's in the bag is what you need.

Durability


Hand-in-hand with weather resistance, the AC 2 has solid durability. We didn't experience any issues during testing. The main body of the tent is a thicker 50D ripstop, which is meant to hold up to the added abuse of cold temperatures.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - the walls of the ac 2 are thick 50d ripstop nylon.
The walls of the AC 2 are thick 50D ripstop nylon.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

The pole sleeves are a stiff and durable material that protects the poles themselves. Even if a pole did snap mid-trip, the design of the sleeve would probably make it possible to continue to pitch the tent. The poles themselves are also a slightly wider-than-average 9 mm. Lastly, the shovel stakes look pretty standard, but they are extra long and thick for added staying power.

Ease of Set-up


The pole architecture of this model is very simple, but the materials make it a bit difficult to execute the setup. The design is just a basic X configuration; two large poles that cross in the middle at the apex. The tent pitches by sliding each pole through a sleeve on the exterior of the tent. Unfortunately, it is very challenging to get the poles through the stiff sleeves.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - the white pole sleeves are very stiff and it is challenging to feed...
The white pole sleeves are very stiff and it is challenging to feed the poles through quickly.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

We ran into a similar problem during takedown where the pole segments kept detaching in the middle of the sleeve as we tried to slide them out. It's definitely not the smoothest system.

Packed Size


Because of the thickness of the wall material and the stiffness of the pole sleeves, the AC 2 is bulky. The tent stuff sack has some elastic cord to store the poles, but no one would carry the whole tent and pole unit that way.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - ten extra-long stakes, a pole repair sleeve, and lots of extra guy...
Ten extra-long stakes, a pole repair sleeve, and lots of extra guy line are included with the tent.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Similar to its weight, this tent takes up more space than average but less than other four-season models.

Should You Buy the Mountain Hardwear AC 2?


This tent is great for winter weather adventures when you know you need a shelter than can stand up to the elements. It is durable and lightweight. It is definitely not for summer hikes, so no need to pick up this model if that is your primary outdoor adventure season (the single wall just makes it incredibly hot). However, if you need cold weather protection, it's a great choice.

What Other Backpacking Tents Should You Consider?


If the AC 2 looks good to you, we would also recommend the Hilleberg Anjan 2 GT. It's pricey, but has great weather resistance as well and comes with a very generous vestibule. For warm weather shelters, we think the NEMO Dragonfly or NEMO Dagger offer protection along with much better ventilation options.

mountain hardwear ac 2 backpacking tent review - for four-season adventures, the mountain hardwear ac 2 is a sold...
For four-season adventures, the Mountain Hardwear AC 2 is a sold weatherproof option.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Ben Applebaum-Bauch
 
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