Gear review: two person tents

Peter MacfarlaneThere’s no way for me to avoid clichés when talking about tents because they’re true you know, every word. Tents are a gateway to adventure, a passport to freedom, a ticket to ride and also something you’re going to have to carry up and down mountains as well as sit in while it’s raining or the midges are trying to strip you to the bone, so it pays to do a bit of research.

I love camping, I actually go out of my way to camp on mountains. I can drop Holly off at school, nip out and climb Ben Lomond and be back in time for Bargain Hunt on BBC1 in the afternoon. But where’s the fun in that when I can pitch a tent on the top of Ptarmigan Ridge, see the sun sink through the Cobbler’s fingers and wait for it to come up again while standing on the summit with a fresh cuppa and a still-warm sleeping bag waiting for me below to wrap up in and make my porridge before a wander back down to Rowardennan in the early morning light.

While browsing the internet might make it look like camping and backpacking in and around the mountains is an entirely solo endeavour, one of the greatest joys is to share those dusk and dawn moments with company.

“Wake up Brian!” as I stumbled out of the tent at 1000m above Glen Affric while an inversion formed as the sun just broke the horizon is a moment that’ll live with me. Watching surfers grabbing the best waves at dawn on Sandwood Bay while me and the missus cooked breakfast in the dunes beyond is another. Tents and camping put more of the hills and more possibilities within reach. Yes, you’ll need a bunch of gear, more than just a tent. But if you buy wisely your gear will last. When I’m not gear testing I carry my own core reliable kit, some of which is many years old now and probably wearing better than me.

With all these things in mind I’ve covered a bunch of 2 person tents for this review, all different styles, different prices, different weights and all with advantages and disadvantages.

The tents all worked well enough, they’re all waterproof but beyond that it might come down to what features you want and what you need the tent for most of all, campsite or mountain camping? Of course there’s always the cost, one useful scale to judge the value is to calculate how many nights in a B&B would pay for the tent you like the look of.

The weight notes are packed weights taken by me including repair kits, pegs and stuffsacks.

Fjallraven1Fjallraven Abisko View 2


The Abisko has the pitching instructions printed on the stuff sack which is always handy, I pitched all of the tents for the first time when we were out and about, there was no garden test-pitching for the review, you have to add a wee bit of pressure to see really how easy or frustrating it is to pitch a tent.

The two poles are chunky which is a pleasant change, they’re nice to handle and fit into colour coded sleeves. It’s straight forward enough to fit the poles. However the pole sleeves have gaps so you need to keep checking the colour coding all the way to the end to avoid swapping sides which is what happened the first time I tried it. Clip the poles into place and the Abisko takes shape. It pitches as-one so the inner is already attached. The guys are good quality and well-placed, the tent feels sturdy in the light winds I’ve had it in so far.

There are two doors with large porches for gear and cooking, the doors fold right back for a nice airy feeling in good weather. Inside there are excellent gear storage options with pockets and roof cords and hooks, venting is good, as is space for both sitting and lying down.

The Abisko has an excellent repair kit, the pegs are corded which makes removing them from the ground a happier experience for your fingers. Sturdy feeling and roomy, it’s a well thought out tent, but is the most expensive model in the review.


Nordisk1Nordisk Halland 2PU


My first though unpacking the Halland was “What on earth’s this?” when I pulled out a thick piece of paper with Don’t worry! printed on it. Turns out it’s a pre-glued repair patch you can cut pieces off of when you need them. Nice.

The Halland pitches as-one and does it easily, I didn’t need the supplied printed instruction book. It’s a tunnel design using two colour coded poles. The pegs are big and chunky, were secure and easy to pull out next day.

Inside is well vented and roomy, the tunnel shape giving decent sitting-up space for two. The porch is big enough for storage and cooking, but it’s also where you have to crawl in and out, entry design is something you’ll have to think about when assessing what will work best for you. There are light hooks in the roof, storage pockets and an excellent set of guys that keep the tent feeling secure.


Q1Quechua 2 Seconds


The 2 Seconds is a pop-up tent so comes in a pretty chunky package which I wouldn’t fancy taking up a hill but it’s just fine at a campsite. It does pitch fast, and the heavy steel pegs fasten it down well enough with sufficient guy lines to keep it steady in light winds.

The 2 Seconds is big inside, three short folk could kip in it and even sit up inside and play cards. There are two big fully-opening side windows/vents and the bottom end pulls open from inside for extra venting. There are internal pockets, the fly fabric has a black-out coating to shut out light which is good for camp sites near the road. The vital packing instructions are printed on the stuffsack which I folded away on my second attempt, a proud moment.

There’s no porch at all, so the extra internal room might be taken up by your gear and cooking is going have to be done elsewhere.

Pitch a £400 mountain tent at a regular campsite and leave it there while you climb nearby mountains or pitch the 2 Seconds? It’s a thought isn’t it.


Snugpak1Snugpak Scorpion 2


The Scorpion is the only tent here which didn’t pitch as-one although you can do it that way if you leave the inner attached. The three poles are subtly colour coded and the fly goes up fast after which you can jump inside and start clipping on the inner out of the weather. It’s easy to attach and remove again so a good option if you’re splitting the tent between two rather than the usual method of one person carrying the tent and the other carrying the poles.

Inside the space is good, I can sit upright at the door end comfortably and length is okay for my six foot frame. Venting is good, there are internal side pockets and a light hook, the porch is big with plenty of room for gear and cooking. The repair kit is good and there are plenty of decent Y pegs for pegging the Scorpion out, just watch your fingers pulling them back out.

Snugpak’s military background shines through here in a very business-like tent which comes in at a pretty good weight.


Terra Nova1Terra Nova Southern Cross 2


A surprisingly roomy dome shaped tent, the Southern Cross pitches pretty easily with the two colour coded poles. The main dual-hubbed pole clips on externally with the other pole in a regular fabric sleeve. The resulting shape feels sturdy enough in light winds and the guying options tighten it up some more.

Inside is well vented with a lot of mesh, it’s also a very airy feeling tent with the white inner fabric. I can sit upright anywhere inside and with both side doors opened and rolled back it almost feels like you’re sitting outside, great for airing out and drying the tent off in the morning as well as just being nice to spend time in if the weather’s calm at camp.

The instructions are sewn into the stuffsack, there’s a repair kit and a nice set of crook-style pegs that are easy on the fingers.

Terra Nova3

Vango1Vango Zenith 200


The Zenith is on the list for the DoE and although that might make you think it’s just going to be engineering to resist the onslaught of teenagers it really just means that it’s a pretty practical performer.

The main pole was very tight to fit into place and remove but once in and pegged out with the short end poles in place the Zenith sits very well. It does feel a little tight for space for two folk my size, but sleeping head to toe helps make the best use of the space and with a door at each side this works just fine anyway. The porch on one side has good reasonable for cooking and storage.

The tension band system tightens the tent against the wind and works well. I’ve used this system in many tents over the years and it helps keep the tent stable when the winds shifts as you can keep adjusting as necessary.

Inside are hanging loops, pockets and decent vents. The instructions are sewn into the bag, always a good call.


Vaude1Vaude Power Lizard SUL 1-2P


The Power Lizard is the lightest tent in the test and has a rating of a 1-2 person. I’ve had trips with this solo where is actually feels a little big after so many years on tiny one person tents and also as a duo where is feels a little snug. I think if you’re going away a for a few nights in this tent you need to be on pretty good terms with your companion. Or maybe just be adventure racers or mountain marathoners who don’t care about such things.

The Power Lizard pitches as-one and quickly with the main central pole attached using big chunky clips. The two short end poles and the cat’s cradle-esque guying arrangement, which has been revised since the last time I tested a Power Lizard, then pull the tent into shape. The guys from the main pole are non-adjustable with no sliders attached, I thought it might have been an oversight at first but it works just fine.

The inside has great length, although it is a little narrow with two inside but you can sit up in the middle. It’s well vented, there are pockets, hanging loops and the porch has good room for one’s gear and just enough for two folks. Not quite enough space for cooking though.


The Last Word

Not really a bad tent amongst these. After a couple of pitches they all go up faster and each pitch gets more and more like the nice, tightly pitched review photo.

They all had an inner/outer construction which I prefer, it just keeps the draughts out better and catches condensation drops that form on the inside of the flysheet in the night which helps to keep your sleeping bag drier for longer.

Some models were out for me as a personal choice due to internal size, but we’re all different, just remember to sit on a sleepmat inside the tent if you’re trying it out in a shop, you’ll be the same height as you’ll be at camp then. Sometimes this can be the difference between hitting your head on the roof and missing it.

I had my favourites, the Terra Nova Southern Cross is very nice to spend time in, it’s specced as a four season tent and I’d like to find out and report back on how it does in winter. It could be a good all-rounder.

The Quechua 2 Seconds is brilliant, it’s practical and fun for campsite life, things that maybe get forgotten in the geeky world of backpacking equipment.

The Vaude Power Lizard would be my choice though. I do solo trips a lot and the weight is perfect for that, but it’s also fine for two if you’re prepared to bunch up a little at night. Not quite two tents for the price of one, but it does cover a lot of options and it is a very well made bit of kit.

If you haven’t done it, I hope I’ve made you think camping might be a bit more accessible and possible. Go out and sleep amongst the mountains. Both dusk and dawn will look better from your porch.

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