If you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain…

Two Marmot-brand tents set up in the temperate rainforest.
By coincidence, our guide had the two-person Limelight and we had the four-person version. Photo by Kendall Whitney.

For years, my husband and I have done a quick little calculation in which we compare the purchase price of our tent to the cost of an average motel room.

With our previous tent, a two-person backpacking tent from Cabela’s XPG line (about a decade old and much loved), the cost of the motel room was inevitably a fair bit higher and we could pat ourselves on the back for once again choosing the more frugal option of sleeping under the stars alongside a random logging road in the middle of nowhere. It also made us feel a little better about our propensity to choose burger runs over camp cooking.

Last summer, we invested in a four-person backpacking tent from Marmot to have room for the dogs to sleep in the tent with us. We used it multiple times last year, primarily in dry conditions in British Columbia and Eastern Washington. We haven’t used it yet for actual backpacking (although we’re hoping to squeeze in a fall trip to see larches in full autumn colors), but it’s been perfect for car camping.

As impressed as we were last season, we really put the tent through its paces during our recent outing in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. We packed it into a 40-liter dry bag to stow in the kayak (and plan to use that set-up in the canoe in the future). On our first night, we camped in a wooded patch high up on a tiny island that became two islands at high tide. With so little room to spare, we staked the rain shell around trees and shrubs and four of the five humans in our group cozied up for a windy night.

Since we’d previously only used the tent with two people and two dogs, we weren’t sure how four adults and all our stuff would fit. It was a bonding experience, but four average-sized adults fit just fine, with extra room along our feet and heads to store clothes (in our haste to get the tent set up, we forgot to install the gear loft). Sleeping close together undoubtedly kept us much warmer, and we changed clothes in shifts.

On the second night, we camped in a truly lovely spot with huge old hemlock and Sitka spruce trees above a verdant understory carpeted in soft moss. The weather was as rainy as the spot was lovely, however. So wet, in fact, that when we pulled up the tent’s footprint tarp as we were packing up the next morning, we realized that we’d been sleeping on a puddle of water that had collected as rain collected in the mossy duff compressed beneath us. Inside the tent, though, we’d been as snug and warm as could be.

My favorite feature about this tent, aside from whatever impervious rain shield magic it has going on, is the way the outer shell creates a porch effect (Marmot calls this a “vestibule”). With doors on two sides, entrance and exit is much easier, and the shell extends several feet beyond the tent itself. Although this extends the overall footprint of the tent, we were able to store our piles of wet gear, dry bags, and boots outside the tent itself, saving space inside and keeping us that much drier.

We’re hoping for drier conditions on the larch trip, but it’s good to know that the tent is a champ in windy, soggy conditions.

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