I posted a while back about repairing a 20yr old Sierra Designs tent and putting it back into service. I used that tent at Lake Nitnaht for most of last summer’s kiteboarding season. It probably saw nearly 60 days of action which is more than an average camping tent sees in a few years. Everything went well until a particularly vicious wind storm [this is a lake we kiteboard at after all!] broke one of the main poles…=-( Not the tent’s fault. The wind was strong and it wasn’t guyed out particularly well. The great thing about this tent is that the design is a simple “X” with two main poles of equal length crossing over to give it it’s shape. That meant that I could walk into MEC and buy a new pole section for $5, cut it to length and have the tent back in action with minimal muss or fuss. Sweet!…=-)
Compared that with the Marmot Hypno tent I used in Baja a few years back. It was a lightly used [less than 15 days use before that trip] modern tent with a cool shape that provided a lot of vertical interior living area for its size & weight. That was made possible by a bunch of special custom bent poles that you can see above. Trouble was after several weeks of daily wind camped on the beach the center pole broke. I went back to REI where I bought it and inquired about getting a replacement. Since the tent was 3yrs old Marmot didn’t make that design any longer and they had no spares. Without the ability to easily custom bend a replacement pole REI just gave me a brand new Marmot tent. That was very generous of them and I appreciate it, but if I had bought that same tent from another store I would have been out of luck.
Now I’m not posting this as a suggestion to only buy simple old school tent designs. There are benefits to the new ultralight designs with custom bent poles, but there are also downsides. These very light materials are not as robust as heavier fabrics and lightweight custom poles will likely not be replaceable when they get damaged. I have a few tents on the go at any one time and I wear through tents faster than most simply because of the many days I have them setup in a given year. So what I do is I save my ultra lightweight tents for trips like bike tours where the compact size and low weight really matter. For base camping I use heavier more robust tents that are easily repairable since these tents see far more UV and wind being setup day after day.
I’m happy to have my SD tent ready to rock for this summer’s camping missions at the lake. I expect it will see at least 4 or 5 more years of use before I wear out the zippers and/or the tent fabric is destroyed by UV. I may have to replace a few more broken poles in that time, but I’m okay with that…=-)