Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Difference between cheap tent and an expensive one?

Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Difference between cheap tent and an expensive one?

Old 02-15-10, 11:01 PM
  #1  
awesomejack
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 589
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Difference between cheap tent and an expensive one?

Like a $30 tent and a $200 from REI or any other multi hundred dollar tent.

Ruggedness? Waterproofness? ability to not form condensation?
awesomejack is offline  
Old 02-15-10, 11:07 PM
  #2  
kayakdiver
ah.... sure.
 
kayakdiver's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Whidbey Island WA
Posts: 4,107

Bikes: Specialized.... schwinn..... enough to fill my needs..

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by awesomejack View Post
Like a $30 tent and a $200 from REI or any other multi hundred dollar tent.

Ruggedness? Waterproofness? ability to not form condensation?
In general..... Yes.


In general you will end up with better quality poles.. Easton instead of fiberglass and better seam sealing and so forth. After sleeping in my BA Seedhouse for 100 plus nights and never getting wet.... money well spent in my book.
kayakdiver is offline  
Old 02-15-10, 11:23 PM
  #3  
StephenH
Uber Goober
 
StephenH's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Dallas area, Texas
Posts: 11,650
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 154 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 4 Times in 4 Posts
Possibly stronger, lighter, more waterproof, better vented, bigger vestibule, more rugged hardware, etc.

The cheap tents I've seen like that would have a very small overhang so that any blowing rain would blow right in, poles were fiberglass instead of aluminum (meaning heavier), etc.

Keep in mind that in nice weather, you don't need ANY tent.

And I have seen some nice high-dollar tents torn up in a thunderstorm on the plains in the middle of summer.
__________________
"be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."
StephenH is offline  
Old 02-15-10, 11:25 PM
  #4  
markf
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Wheat Ridge, CO
Posts: 1,076

Bikes: '93 Bridgestone MB-3, '88 Marinoni road bike, '00 Marinoni Piuma, '01 Riv A/R

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Durability of the fabric, poles, waterproofing and zippers to start with. Cheap tents will often have a fly that doesn't reach more than halfway to the ground, so you're dry as long as you don't have rain and wind together. Better tents will have more interior pockets, pockets that are attached more securely, and maybe attachment points for a gear loft. They'll also have better ventilation for a given level of foul weather resistance. Other features might include a second entrance or an integral vestibule to store gear.

If you want to save money, consider an A-frame tent like the Eureka Timberline. The A-frame construction is much simpler and cheaper to make than a dome tent, so you get features like real aluminum poles and sturdy fabric that you wouldn't find on a dome tent for a similar price. The downside is, A-frame tents aren't as roomy inside, and tend to weigh more for a given amount of interior space.
markf is offline  
Old 02-15-10, 11:35 PM
  #5  
Shifty
Sore saddle cyclist
 
Shifty's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Eugene, OR
Posts: 3,874

Bikes: Road, touring and mountain

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 36 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Warranty, a better tent maker will, fix or replace. To offer this the tent is made to higher standards of design and workmanship. This usually translates to better performance during use, where you don't want failure. Zippers are a high fail component, better tents use better zips.
Shifty is offline  
Old 02-15-10, 11:47 PM
  #6  
skijor
on by
 
skijor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 938

Bikes: Waterford RS-33, Salsa Vaya, Bacchetta Giro 20 ATT

Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 593 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 10 Times in 9 Posts
Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
Warranty, a better tent maker will, fix or replace. To offer this the tent is made to higher standards of design and workmanship. This usually translates to better performance during use, where you don't want failure. Zippers are a high fail component, better tents use better zips.
This, especially, is worth it.
My most recent tent purchase was an REI. It got flattened by strong winds. The only permanent damage was one of the poles, and the tent was still very usable for the remainder of the tour. I got a replacement with basically no questions asked. They practically didn't care.
skijor is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:01 AM
  #7  
prathmann
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Bay Area, Calif.
Posts: 7,252
Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 657 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
In addition to the points already made, I'd add that the better tents are shaped in such a way as to keep the fabric taut which means that it doesn't flap nearly as much when the wind blows. Makes for a more comfortable night's sleep and also reduces the chance of the fabric or seams failing as a result of the repeated flapping.

I'll second the comment about REI's customer service. Bought a tent from them 25 years ago and recently had a problem with the end piece on one of the poles. No longer have any receipt or other proof of purchase but when I took it into the nearest REI store they quickly repaired it free of charge.
prathmann is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:39 AM
  #8  
Weasel9
Dumpster cyclist
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Durango, CO
Posts: 275
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I work in the outdoor equipment industry, and I've been selling tents for years. When you look at two different tents, and one is $200 and the other is $400, there's a good chance that there's no quantifiable difference between the two. Tents have different features that will randomly affect the price. A $40 tent will probably just suck. Fiberglass poles, cheap fabric, and shoddy design will add up to a heavy, bulky tent that's hard to pitch. However, a $600 tent isn't going to save you from nuclear fallout, it's still just a nylon bubble held up by some poles.

As with anything you spend a couple hundred dollars on, the main thing you should approach a retailer with is a list of things you want. The tent with really great stitching, a giant vestibule, and packs down to the size of a churro may end up costing less(or more) than the one with a great footprint, double doors, and poles made of recycled space shuttles. If you ask a clerk which tent is the "best" he'll usually show you his personal favorite, or the one his manager told him he needs to move 60 of in the next week or they(along with him) will end up in the yard sale.

If you don't know what you want out of a tent, buy the cheapest tent in the "backpacking" category and you'll probably be happier than a clam.
Weasel9 is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:58 AM
  #9  
NeilGunton
Crazyguyonabike
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Albany, OR
Posts: 689

Bikes: Co-Motion Divide

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 31 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I've been doing quite a lot of research on tents lately. If you want a good read, request a catalog from Hilleberg (it's more than a list of tents - it's more like a tent handbook, erm, tent porn more like), or check out some of the information pages on their website, e.g.

http://www.hilleberg.com/BuildingtheBest.htm
http://www.hilleberg.com/FabricsandMaterials.htm

Look down the right side of either of those pages for more info links. Yes, these are ads for Hilleberg, but they are also eye opening because of the attention to detail. One tent may look much like another, but it's the little things that probably matter, such as how the seams are sewn, what materials are used, what type of zippers, etc.

They are way out of my price range right now, but when I can afford it, I'm getting one of these! Probably something like the Allak.

Neil
NeilGunton is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 01:09 AM
  #10  
spyro1123
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 40
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by skijor View Post
This, especially, is worth it.
My most recent tent purchase was an REI. It got flattened by strong winds. The only permanent damage was one of the poles, and the tent was still very usable for the remainder of the tour. I got a replacement with basically no questions asked. They practically didn't care.
We don't, we have had all the caring about returns beaten out of us by people returning things that 1. Sat in the closet for 15 years until they dry rotted 2. Look like they were dragged behind a car 3. they just don't need and they heard REI would give them their money back.

Honestly not too many people abuse the policy, but if you let it they can really bug you.

I am an REI employee, any views expressed here are my own and should be taken as such, they in no way represent the company.
spyro1123 is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 04:12 AM
  #11  
mattbicycle
Senior Member
 
mattbicycle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Barossa Valley, South Aust.
Posts: 136

Bikes: Walmart supermarket bike in China, and a Schwinn Frontier GS 1999 in Australia

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I bought a supermarket tent for my first tour. I'd never been inside a tent, let alone owned one. I was quite impressed with mine but the only experience I have sleeping in it was the test-run night spent outside in the rain; and by putting newspaper on the floor inside and turning the sprinkler on. It cost $12.50 - on sale from $25!

The weather was much colder than I had anticipated and I ended-up sleeping in abandoned buildings & using the tent to wrap around my sleeping bag to keep warm So I really wouldn't know the difference; except to say that if you haven't toured before you'll probably end-up getting the cheap tent, getting your money's worth from it, realising its limitations and then buying something high quality for the second tour.

Mine *seems* to be reasonably good quality and waterproof. But as for durability and use in the field, I cannot say. It weighs about 1.5kg, but it's the bulk/size (about 24 inches long, 5 inches wide & deep) that I cannot accept. I wouldn't tour with it again for that reason. Too big, too heavy. There is probably a good argument for buying a good tent in the first place. In my case, perhaps some lessons need to be learnt the hard way!
mattbicycle is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 05:16 AM
  #12  
John Bailey
Senior Member
 
John Bailey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: East Jordan, MI
Posts: 219

Bikes: Trek FX 7.3

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I've gone through many, many tents in my day. I've had very good and expensive tents, and discount store tents. In general, you get what you pay for. That being said, I've spent many good and comfortable nights in a cheap tent. They don't last as long, they are heavier, and, in the long run, are more expensive. But, you can have a great time in a cheap tent. It's all a matter of your outlook and the reason you camp.

Enjoy whatever you get.

John
John Bailey is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 05:39 AM
  #13  
Metzinger
Primate
 
Metzinger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: gone
Posts: 2,579

Bikes: Concorde Columbus SL, Rocky Mountain Edge, Sparta stadfiets

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Depending on the circumstances, a good tent can be the difference between happy slumber and a nightmarish situation.
$30 tents are great until it matters.
Metzinger is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 06:25 AM
  #14  
kayakdiver
ah.... sure.
 
kayakdiver's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Whidbey Island WA
Posts: 4,107

Bikes: Specialized.... schwinn..... enough to fill my needs..

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by spyro1123 View Post
We don't, we have had all the caring about returns beaten out of us by people returning things that 1. Sat in the closet for 15 years until they dry rotted 2. Look like they were dragged behind a car 3. they just don't need and they heard REI would give them their money back.

Honestly not too many people abuse the policy, but if you let it they can really bug you.

I am an REI employee, any views expressed here are my own and should be taken as such, they in no way represent the company.

And as a consumer I often overpay at REI for this exact return policy. Not to abuse it but for piece of mind.
kayakdiver is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 06:44 AM
  #15  
Cyclesafe
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: San Diego
Posts: 1,435

Bikes: IF steel deluxe 29er tourer

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
IMHO in mild conditions and/or a limited number of nights, a cheap tent is fine. In fact, if it irrepairably tears, zippers fail, or gets stolen it's not a big deal. As you experience your shelter's limitations (if any) you can then upgrade to meet your new-found needs. Nothing focuses the mind so much as being miserable. YMMV.
Cyclesafe is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 07:03 AM
  #16  
staehpj1 
Senior Member
 
staehpj1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 9,250
Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 155 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 3 Posts
Personally I think that $30 tents are likely to be junk and very expensive ones are likely to be overbuilt 4 season affairs that are more rugged than required for 3 season camping. As a result some of them will be heavier than needed. Often something in the $80-120 is really a pretty nice compromise.

Lots of different compromises are possible, but remember no matter what you spent it will still be a compromise.

Personally the really high dollar ones seem like overkill. I don't need a tent to last until my grand children are grown, in fact there is some benefit to replacing them every several years.

In a more general sense... It is nice to be able to afford to replace all of your gear without too much pain in the case of theft or loss. As a result I tend to not ride expensive bikes or use expensive gear. In some items I actually like the cheaper stuff better any way. This is especially true where the more expensive stuff is overbuilt and as a result heavier some of it much heavier (Surly Nice Racks and Arkel Panniers come to mind as examples of overbuilt gear, that I personally avoid).
staehpj1 is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 08:32 AM
  #17  
Cyclesafe
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: San Diego
Posts: 1,435

Bikes: IF steel deluxe 29er tourer

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Oh, another point always overlooked in this kind of debate is that if your tent is comfortable, you spend less time in motels. This is huge. $30 to $70+ times 10 or so soon upgrades you to the best tent money can buy.

What is over-built (thus heavy?) and uneeded for some is a downright necessity for others. It depends on both the individual's weight / comfort balance and the conditions likely to be faced. Tubus cro-moly racks, Arkel 1000 denier Cordura panniers, and Hilleberg tents are not needed for occassional casual summer touring.
Cyclesafe is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 08:54 AM
  #18  
tarwheel 
Senior Member
 
tarwheel's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 8,902

Bikes: Waterford RST-22, Bob Jackson World Tour, Ritchey Breakaway Cross, Soma Saga, De Bernardi SL, Specialized Sequoia

Mentioned: 36 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 194 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
REI has a very good summary sheet on tents that you should be able to pick up at any of their stores. In fact, I just got one yesterday. It lists all of the tents they carry, their capacity (# of people), footprint size, dimensions, weight, price, etc. For touring, weight is obviously a big issue. However, from experience using various tents, pay close attention to the height and interior dimensions as the amount of space you have to move around can make a big difference in comfort. Venting is another big issue, depending on where you live and/or ride. I live in the South, so I want a tent with lots of ventilation but a good rain fly. However, someone camping in colder climates might be more concerned about warmth and want less ventilation.

BTW, I have used very cheap and moderately expensive tents. As with anything, you get what you pay for to some degree. However, if you are willing to spend over $100 you can get a very nicely made tent that is somewhat heavy. If can spend over $200, you can get a nicely made tent that is pretty light. Over $300, very light weight.
tarwheel is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 11:06 AM
  #19  
erckdotorg
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 10
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
More expensive tents are usually much lighter/smaller when packed up, which might be worth the extra money on a longer tour.
erckdotorg is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:05 PM
  #20  
MadMabel
Crazy ole cat lady
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 134

Bikes: One built up on a Nashbar frame, one built up from a Paramount frame

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
I'll second the comment about REI's customer service. Bought a tent from them 25 years ago and recently had a problem with the end piece on one of the poles. No longer have any receipt or other proof of purchase but when I took it into the nearest REI store they quickly repaired it free of charge.
Add another vote for REI service. I had a Thermarest mattress that developed a slow leak after years of use. Took it into REI and they swapped it out with absolutely no hassle.

They are not the absolute cheapest place to buy but the way they back up what they sell is well worth the price difference.
MadMabel is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:29 PM
  #21  
Chris!
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: upstate NY
Posts: 46

Bikes: Surly CrossCheck

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 8 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
i got a nice tent on sale at the end of the season at the REI outlet store online steapandcheap.com also sometimes has nice tents on sale
Chris! is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 12:39 PM
  #22  
Cyclebum
Senior Member
 
Cyclebum's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: NE Tx
Posts: 2,766

Bikes: Tour Easy, Linear USS, Lightening Thunderbolt, custom DF, Raleigh hybrid, Felt time trial

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
When years of potential use are factored, a REI half or quarter dome is probably the most bang for the buck. This only because of REI's liberal return policy. Otherwise, a Hilleberg.

There are $100 tents that will work just fine for the non-addicted tourer. After all, rain is really not a big factor on most tours, and a laundermat to dry damp things out is never far. Besides, if rain is serious, most seem to end up in a motel anyway.
Cyclebum is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 02:29 PM
  #23  
MichaelW
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: England
Posts: 12,949
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 17 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
The tent I use for touring is not very expensive, but it is small, lightweight, waterproof and well made.
The fibre-glass poles split and had to be repaired with duct-tape but the company sent me a replacement set that were new and improved. This was top-class customer service that you might expect from much more expensive models.

I replaced the heavy steel pegs with aluminium so the weight is close to 1.3kg
The cons of this model are that it is tricky to get the tension correct for both ventilation and waterproofing, it goes up inner first so you don't have a quick shelter in the rain. The material is not as strong as premium grade tents and it does tear and Ive made a few running repairs (repair kit included).

Im really happy that for the cost of one cheap hotel night, I've had 4 weeks of camping shelter.

The cosy and bijou nature of the tent is just in the nature of small solo designs. Id like more space but I wouln't like more tent in my panniers.
MichaelW is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 07:57 PM
  #24  
gpsblake
Walmart bike rider
 
gpsblake's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 2,014
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 63 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 3 Times in 2 Posts
Any tent with a 3 dollar tube of seam sealer will keep you dry in the rain. Any tent on a clear night with the tarp off will act just like an expensive tent. The difference I have found, the quality of the poles is better on a expensive tent, it will "generally" weigh less, come with much better stakes, but most important, it will withstand winds much better.

I generally use a 7x5 Coleman tent now. It's a tank to carry around but it also acts like one. I previously used a good quality bivy tent which did the job well but I wanted more space.
gpsblake is offline  
Old 02-16-10, 10:15 PM
  #25  
avatarworf
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: The Hague, Netherlands
Posts: 549

Bikes: Two Robin Mather custom built tourers

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Just to add one point - a lot depends on the type of trip you are planning. If you are going touring for 2-3 weeks every summer, then something expensive like a Hilleberg doesn't make nearly as much sense as it does for a tour of 1+ years, where you know you're going to get your money out of the tent AND you won't necessarily be able to replace it easily, so you need it to last (cycling away from developed countries and camping stores).

I was told by a NOLS leader once that the average mid-range tent is designed to last about 75 days before UV damage starts to become a real problem and you need to replace it. Our Hilleberg went for 400 days before we opted to replace it for UV damage reasons. I never could back up the stat from the NOLS leader, but if she was right, the Hilleberg gives 4-5 times the longevity than the average tent.
avatarworf is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.