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Stevenson Warmlite tent review


Ladieu's backpacking gear review inspired me to do my tent review here. +1 from me Ladieu.   I wrote this review a while back, but it still is all accurate.

Stevenson Warmlite 3R Tent review

I bought this tent in 1995. At the time, the backpacking industry was ramping up to mainstream, but wasn't yet widespread. I had just landed a job out of college, still living at home, and thus had disposable income. Up until that time, my backpacking tent was an octagonal dome tent bought from a sporting goods store. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly long enough for me, and I continually had my head and feet touching the edges through the night. This would cause moisture to wick in through the fabric and saturate my sleeping bag. I decided a new tent was in order.

Being 6'3", there were really only 2 options at the time: The North Face Adventure 25, or a tent from a little known company called Stevenson Warmlite. The Adventure 25 (abbreviated TNF-A25) was a whopping 10 pounds minimum, and was about $400. It was about 96" long, and met my desire to have a good quality 4 season tent. The Warmlite was 108" long, nearly $700, but was a mere 3 pounds 10 ounces. I'd be saving SEVEN POUNDS with this thing.

Back in these days, you couldn't Google things up to get a review, so I went online to bulletin boards and found everything I could. I got the impression that TNF-A25 was a bulletproof tent, and the few things about the Stevenson were a bit eccentric but the product was good.

In the end, the seven pounds of savings sold me. I wanted my pack weight to go down, not up, so gave the Stevenson a chance. They had a satisfaction guarantee and I assumed I would use it if needed. Bottom line, I never had to.

The tent itself is a hoop-frame tent. There are 2 or 3 semi-circular hoops which create the structure of the tent, while the tension of the tent pulled taut holds it all up. This is NOT a freestanding tent. The outer shell is a nylon, and there is an interior layer that resembles a space blanket. Once the tent is pulled taut, these two layers separate and create a dead air zone between them. In most tents this would be similar to a rainfly and the tent. With the Warmlite, this function is essentially built in.

The tent is set up by running the poles through the sleeves, and staking the ends down. I generally had a hard time keeping the poles rotated correctly so there was a semi-circular hoop, rather than some wild shaped pole snake, but you get the hang of it after a while. I think Stevenson should consider building some type of guide or channel into each pole segment to prevent it from rotating. Once the poles are properly sleeved, you stake down the two points near the door, and pull the other side of the tent as far away from that as possible. Once you have it standing, you can then stake down the 4 corners of the tent. After that, you use the nylon webbing straps at each end by the doors and tighten each side. As seen in the photo, this essentially pulls the top of the tent tight to each side, and creates the structure of the set up tent.

Warmlite calls their vestibules "floored", which is really a fancy way of saying it's inside the tent and there is no vestibule. There is a door on each end.

Inside the tent, there is easily enough room for 3 people, as advertised, as well as their gear. It's a backpacking tent, so it's not so spacious you'd want to entertain guests, and some of the space near the edges is "unoccupy-able" because of the shape, whereas a dome does make better use of its floor space. But, in backpacking, the tent is where you go to sleep at night, not really where you hang out and socialize.

The only real luxury inside are two mesh pockets, one on each end. No gear shelf or anything hanging in the rafters. There are 4 vents. Two are under each door, and two are over each door. This gives the tent the ability to draw in cool air from the ground, and allow hotter, moist air to vacate through the top. Now, any gear provider will talk this sort of thing up, making the reader think it actually keeps things cool. It does not. It isn't an air conditioner! But, it does do what its supposed to, and does help evacuate some of the damp air to minimize condensation.

I have used my tent in the Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky area. It has seen very high wind, very heavy rain, snow, and hot summers. Not all my campsites were groomed, and has seen a lot of backcountry sites that we had to clear ourselves. The tent itself has held up admirably to everything I've put it through. Admittedly, my adventures have been somewhat tame. I have not taken it to the Arctic, just to Michigan's Upper Peninsula a few times.

Like all tents, it is hot in the summer, but no more so than others. There are now options for removable sidewalls and mesh sidewalls, so you can get the tent that's right for you. In very heavy rain I have never had a leak, and with proper location you'll never have a problem with water run-off getting in at the ground.

On one winter overnighter, I set my propane heater up inside and closed the upper windows, and it was actually quite warm in the tent. I was easily able to tell there was about a 20-30 degree F difference at the bottom of the tent compared to the top of the tent. Bottom line, it held in the heat. With it being about 15 F outside, I'd say my tent was 40 F inside.

In conclusion on this tent, it was easily the right choice at the time, and I'm glad I still have it. These days there are a lot more tents to choose from, so shop carefully, but if you are interested in the Warmlite, don't be put off by the eccentricities of the owners: it is a top notch piece of gear and will perform well for you.


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