The Marmot Catalyst 2 is a versatile, comfortable tent with a lot of space all around. It has excellent headroom and two side doors with two vestibules. It sort of comes with a 'front' side and a 'back' side, allowing for the possibility of privacy at a crowded campsite, even without the fly. Though we had some issues with ventilation and fly tensioning, this tent served us well throughout testing. The included footprint is a nice bonus that only a couple of other models in this review can match. We would take this tent on most outdoor adventures, but if you need even more headroom for both people, check out the award winners in this category.
Marmot Catalyst 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Roomy, two doors, included footprint
Cons: Smaller vestibules, small pockets, no top vents
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This tent is for the frequent car camper who feels the need to get out into the backcountry one or twice a year. It's a versatile model that offers a spacious interior. We have some questions about its vestibules and ventilation, but for the most part, it's a nice choice for those who need a single, inexpensive tent for all of their camping needs.
The Marmot Catalyst 2 delivers solid comfort and relatively easy setup. It has a slightly above average weight, but all-in-all maintains a spot toward the top of this review.
This tent is one of the more comfortable models in this review. It is generous in all three dimensions. The two side doors are large and open in opposite directions for head-to-toe sleeping. There is also plenty of headroom in this tent.
The two vestibules are asymmetrical, but both are on the smaller side. They can each fit a pack, but it might be pressed up against the inside of the fly. There is also sort of a 'front' and 'back' to the tent. One side is completely mesh (front), and the other side is completely solid fabric.
Ease of Set Up
There are three poles in this setup. The two main poles create a typical X-pole structure, each one connecting into grommets at the opposite corners of the tent. The last one creates a 'brow' that pulls out the top of the canopy a little bit further on the front side of the tent.
The fly has a color-coded red corner that matches with a similar red tab on the tent to ensure that it is lined up properly before you clip them together.
We have no major complaints, but we wish the Catalyst 2 offered just a little bit more in terms of protection. There are not enough stakes to pull out the head and foot ends of the fly, which is ultimately no big deal. The fly zipper also isn't watertight, which we do see on other budget models as well.
We aren't huge fans of the single-stake triangle vestibule. We find, especially on budget models, that one side of the triangle is a little too saggy and readjusting it takes time that we would rather not take at the end of a long day of hiking. We prefer the trapezoidal vestibules of some other models.
The 68D polyester fly and floor are fairly standard-issue fabrics for tents in our budget review. We find that both held up well during testing. Caring for your tent is always important, but it is much more abrasion-resistant than way more expensive backpacking tents with thinner nylon floors. One area that we wonder about is the pole that creates the 'brow' of the canopy. It appears to put the mesh in this area under higher stress than the rest of the tent, so we would watch those spots for increased wear and tear.
Though we wish that this tent came with enough of them, the six included hex stakes are a notch or two sturdier than typical hook stakes. Another nice plus is the included footprint. Most manufacturers will sell the footprint separately, but getting one in the bag is a nice add on that will prolong the life of your tent floor.
Weight & Packed Size
Coming in at 5 pounds, 3 ounces, this tent is slightly above average for this review. However, we think its versatility offsets some of that extra heft. There is plenty of room, so split between two hikers, the load is reasonable for short to moderate trips.
A packed size of 7" x 21" also puts this model on the bulky end of our review as well. It's another reason we wouldn't recommend it for a single person; it just takes up a ton of space in a backpack.
The Catalyst 2 is slightly above average for the cost of a tent in this budget review, but we still think it is a value purchase.
This tent combines comfort and versatility. There are a couple of key features, like the small vestibules and some issues with ventilation, that hold it back from being at the top of the list, but there is a lot to like about this model, and we think it can serve the right backpackers well for years of camping to come.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch