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.
Kelty Late Start 2 Review
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
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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).
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 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.
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.
We do like the mesh canopy that makes for relatively obstruction-free stargazing.
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.
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.
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.
There are no additional external vents beyond the fly door, so if the vestibule has to be closed, it can get damp.
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.
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.
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.
It wouldn't be the most comfortable night's sleep, but the carry split between two people wouldn't be so bad.
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 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.
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