I was recently approached by a friend looking for a recommendation on an entry level backpacking tent that would be used most often for car camping or pack camping. This is a deviation from my usual ultra-light backpacking tents that I know well, and I admittedly asked for more time to research and find options with a more reasonable price point. Camping isn’t always about having the most expensive gear—but it should be about having the best gear that works well for your needs.
The Mountainsmith Morrison Evo 2 tent fits this category well as a plush and roomy tent that packs surprisingly well for its size. The Evo 2 adds an additional inch in length and 2 inches in height over its previous design, and the interior feels noticeably more spacious in height and width (with the added help of the brow pole design). The added height is roomier than comparably-priced tents from competitors like Marmot, The North Face, REI and Kelty. The 5 pound, 9 ounce trail weight is higher than these particular competitors, but it is still very manageable for beginner backpacking and pack camping use. At 17 inches by 8 inches when packed, the tent fits well into most backpacking packs. I typically remove poles and stakes from the stuff sack, which allows for the added freedom to pack these wherever fits best within my pack.
The tent sets up extremely quickly, with poles that feed into tent and footprint corner strap grommets. Do note that the two main tent poles feed underneath the "brow" pole, which gives the tent structure its rigidity. This necessitated a quick reorganization for someone like me who prefers to assemble without the use of instructions.
The footprint and fly can be set up to stand alone (with the two main poles) as a cozy rain and shade structure. It would be great if future designs could also allow for tent assembly after the fly is established… a handy trick for assembling tents in rainy or snowy conditions. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Mountainsmith makes this setup available in the future.
The zippers felt big at first for a backpacking tent, but they glide smoothly and feel plenty durable to use. Since the zippers have been the first failure on many of my past tents, the experience of robust zippers was a nice surprise.
The tent feels durable with plenty of nylon to keep you cozy. But I’d like to see more use of mesh across the expanded head of the tent to allow for lazy mosquito-free stargazing, and a little less weight.
Ultimately, the challenge of specifying the right gear is always in juggling price, weight, durability, and comfort. The Morrison Evo 2 scores high marks in all four categories, making it a great tent for those looking to expand their horizons and spend more time on trail.
Marmot Catalyst 2P Tent ($169 from REI)
The North Face Stormbreak 2 Tent ($118.99 from REI)
REI Co-Op Passage 2 Tent ($159 from REI)
Kelty Gunnison 2 Tent ($189.95 from REI)
Mountainsmith was founded in 1979 by legendary outdoorsman Patrick Smith and was born of a need for seriously durable gear that could withstand the rigors of backcountry pursuits in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. His initial product innovation was the world’s first fully rigid backcountry ski sled to haul massive loads of gear efficiently through the harsh Colorado winter wilderness. Soon after, Patrick came up with the iconic lumbar waist pack to effectively carry gear while backcountry skiing and secured the first patent for a lumbar pack. As a company, Mountainsmith continues it’s commitment to building the best made, most durable and functional packs on the market; unmatched by anyone for their comfort, stability, value and performance in the backcountry. This tradition of legendary quality continues with a full line of outdoor products for today’s active lifestyle consumer.