Steamboat Springs People in Steamboat Springs want a shelter they can carry on their back. Backpacking tents are getting ever lighter, and yet they must stand up to high country electrical storms, and even in some cases, to dense snowstorms.
Bryan Ayer of Matt and Bryan's Outdoor Shop in Steamboat says tent manufacturers can't afford to sacrifice strength as they pare ounces from their latest designs. He's a big fan of the new tents being marketed by Mountain Safety Research.
"You're going to live in it and when that storm blows in, you're not going to be worried about anything," Ayer said.
As much as lightweight tents are essential equipment for residents of Steamboat, nationally, the tent market has been flat, Ayer said.
MSR absorbed recently purchased to well-established tent manufacturers Moss and Walrus and put the best of both companies into a new line of tents.
Campers now get the innovation of Moss and the light weight and ease of setup of Walrus.
In the midst of this consolidation among manufacturers of tentmakers, a Steamboat Springs outdoor company, Big Agnes, is poised to release its first two tents ever.
Two local men, Brad Johnson and Bill Gamber, are partners in Big Agnes. They were recently featured in Inc. magazine for the launch of their new sleeping bags last year.
Now they're ready to take on the tent industry with Seedhouse, which they claim at 3 pounds, 15 ounces trail weight is the lightest freestanding two-man backpacking tent available. Big Agnes will also come out this summer with the Madhouse, the largest two-man (or of course, two-woman) four-season backpacking tent available.
The Madhouse shouldn't be confused with a full-on expedition tent, Johnson said. But it's capable of letting backcountry skiers spend a night out in the woods. And at $299 suggested retail, the tent offers just more than 36 square feet of floor space, plus another 22 square feet of vestibule to keep packs and pets out of the weather.
The Seedhouse is priced at $199 and features an innovative design that requires just one tent pole.
Ayer, who says he is a fan of Big Agnes' products, said he's also a fan of MSR's Zoid 2 two-person tent. It's a little heavier than the Seedhouse at 4 pounds, 12 ounces, but it offers a feature that most owners of minivans would be proud of. The Zoid has zippered entry doors on both sides of the tent. That makes it easier to slip out in the middle of the night in search of a bush.
The Velo by MSR makes no pretenses of being light it weighs 8 pounds. But it offers something that no other tent can. How about a tent vestibule that is big enough for two mountain bikes, or a bike and a camp chair?
Ayer said by splitting the tent into two bags (one for the tent itself and one for the poles and the tent fly), the tent can easily be divided between two bike panniers.
But that's not how most purchasers use the Velo.
"I'd say 75 percent of the people who buy that tent own big dogs," Ayer said.
And that brings us to the newest outdoor company on the Steamboat scene.
Marc Ladyga named his new company Uhlr after his late pooch. Ladyga is just abut to begin marketing a new line of backpacking tents and, yes, even sleeping bags made for dogs. They look just like human tents only smaller.
Check them out at www.uhlrgear.com.
But most importantly, put a tent on your back and get out there.