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Kelty Late Start 2 Review

A lighter tent with some innovative features that is easy to set up.
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Price:  $160 List | $119.96 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lighter weight, Easy to set up, lots of mesh for stargazing
Cons:  Single side door, pole structure pinches under fly tension
Manufacturer:   Kelty
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2019
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 10
  • Comfort - 25% 4
  • Weight - 25% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 5
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Packed Size - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Kelty Late Start 2 tries its best with what it has to offer comfort and convenience. It has some novel features, like the pole sleeves at the corners, that are meant to make setup easier. It is relatively lightweight for a budget tent and has a nice mesh canopy that allows for stargazing. We don't think it is the most comfortable tent out there — we had a real issue with compromised pole integrity when we tensioned the fly. It comes in at a respectable price though. If you want a tent that is quick to pitch, or offers a lot of headroom, we would recommend the The North Face Stormbreak 2.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This tent is quick to pitch and has a straightforward design. It cuts down a bit on weight, which is something that many budget tents miss out on. However, we have some concerns about the interior volume under the tension of the fly (or high wind for that matter).

Performance Comparison


The Kelty Late Start 2 misses out on comfort and weather resistance; two big metrics that leave it at the bottom of the pack.

This tent is good for light duty for one person.
This tent is good for light duty for one person.

Comfort


This tent has dimensions that are consistent with other budget models. Its 85" length is the shortest in this review, but it still provides enough room for a six-foot sleeper. The 54" width is actually more generous than most other models, and it doesn't taper either. The prevent poles make it easier to sit up, but there is no cross pole to expand the area around the head. The peak height is sufficient but didn't wow us.

The all-mesh canopy makes for excellent ventilation without the fly.
The all-mesh canopy makes for excellent ventilation without the fly.

We think that the single side door is just inconvenient with two people. If the person on the far side has to get out or access their pack (in the vestibule), they have to shuffle over or around the other person. The pockets are generally sufficient. There are personal pockets, one on each side and another one overhead. The vestibule offers just under 8 square feet of space, which as far as space for two goes, is pretty limiting.

The vestibule isn't large enough for two people's gear.
The vestibule isn't large enough for two people's gear.

We do like the mesh canopy that makes for relatively obstruction-free stargazing.

The side pockets make it easy to keep items at hand that you might need in the dark or early morning.
The side pockets make it easy to keep items at hand that you might need in the dark or early morning.

Ease of Set Up


We found the tent portion easy to set up with the fly offering a little more resistance to the perfect pitch. The Late Start 2 comes with sleeves at the corners to insert the pole ends into (as opposed to grommets or metal clasps). We found this feature was helpful when our fine motor skills were limited by cold (it may also be easier for children to set up) but generally its two-pole design was no more or less difficult than other budget models.

The basic two-pole structure is easy to set up with the orange easy insert sleeves.
The basic two-pole structure is easy to set up with the orange easy insert sleeves.

This tent loses some ground because of its rainfly. It is easy enough to orient correctly, but the single-stake triangle vestibule never quite seems to tension properly, leaving us frustrated and making the tent susceptible to pooling water.

The guy lines come with a little hideaway pocket so they aren't left dangling if you don't need to use them.
The guy lines come with a little hideaway pocket so they aren't left dangling if you don't need to use them.

Weather Resistance


Mostly owing to issues stemming from the fly, the Late Start 2 leaves us wanting more from its weather resistance. We found the fly challenging to fully tension. When it was taut in one area, it was loose in another. When we did manage to get it right, we noticed that it pinched the poles together, causing a significant amount of sag in the tent canopy and decreasing the livable space.

The fly is difficult to tension uniformly and it flaps and sags if it's not just right.
The fly is difficult to tension uniformly and it flaps and sags if it's not just right.

There are no additional external vents beyond the fly door, so if the vestibule has to be closed, it can get damp.

Durability


We have found in general that budget tent long term durability is lower than more expensive models. This is the case primarily because of polyurethane coated fabrics that degrade and stitching that doesn't quite seem to be as tight.

With the fly under tension  we often found that the tent mesh would compress and sag.
With the fly under tension, we often found that the tent mesh would compress and sag.

Here, the Late Start 2 is about as good as other tents like the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2. The nobendium hexagonal hook stakes are an improvement over standard hook stakes that come with the Big Agnes C Bar 2 or The North Face Stormbreak 2. As an additional high tension area beyond what most tents have, we could envision the easy pitch pole sleeves starting to come undone over time as well.

The pole sleeves and prebent pole structure. We think this high-tension area could be a durability concern down the road.
The pole sleeves and prebent pole structure. We think this high-tension area could be a durability concern down the road.

Weight & Packed Size


Coming in at 4 pounds, 8 ounces, the Late Start 2 keeps the rest of the pack honest. It is one of the lighter models in our review, and we found its 7" x 16" packed size to squeeze down better than behemoths like the Mountainsmith Morrison 2 or The North Face Stormbreak 2.

The Kelty Late Start 2 (right) compared to the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2  one of the more compact contenders in the budget tent category.
The Kelty Late Start 2 (right) compared to the Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2, one of the more compact contenders in the budget tent category.

It wouldn't be the most comfortable night's sleep, but the carry split between two people wouldn't be so bad.

Best Applications


The Late Start 2 is probably best as a solo car camping tent. It could be used in either the front- or backcountry. It is light enough to split and take on a longer adventure, but we think that the single side door and it's comfortable, but not overly generous dimensions, make it right for a single sleeper.

This tent could be fine for one person not looking to go too deep into the backcountry.
This tent could be fine for one person not looking to go too deep into the backcountry.

Value


This tent can be yours for $160. This makes it about average for this budget review in terms of its price. However, there are a handful of other award-winning models that cost the same amount and offer more comfort for two with increased weather resistance. With that in mind, we think that this tent is a fair price but not necessarily a high-value purchase.

Conclusion


The Kelty Late Start 2 is a relatively lightweight tent that is quick to pitch and has a straightforward design. It has some unique features that make life easier but sometimes misses out on the basics, like a sturdy pole structure. It could perform in the backcountry or as a car camping option, but we would opt for any of our award winners first.


Ben Applebaum-Bauch