It’s Date Night with the Stoic Templum 2.1!
Unfortunately, that’s a date between the tent and I… my girlfriend is in China for the week.
I knew I was going to need a two-person tent eventually. Love might be in the air, but it’s a cold, hard breakup between my beloved Big Ag Fly Creek 1 Platinum and I. I initially approached finding a 2-person tent as my only shelter, since I still have to budget around $300 for a tent and not much more. I wanted something big enough that it’d make for many romantic forest-bound evenings and group trips with friends or my brothers, but I needed it to be light enough that I could still strap it on the bike for an ultralight 200-mile overnight dash.
I failed. That tent doesn’t exist.
So, instead, I diversified my holdings. I bought the cheapest tent I could find (above the department store variety, which are a terrible investment) and bought a bivy bag for solo trips. I’ll tell you what I think of the Stoic in a minute.
My second shelter was a Borah Gear Snowyside Bivy.
The Borah Gear Snowyside Bivy was an equal bargain. This is a new offering from Borah Gear, a small ‘cottage’ company in the United States that makes ultralight tarps and bivy bags. Their Snowyside bivy is pretty customizeable, but it takes about 3 weeks to ship so they can actually sew it up for you. I added taped seams, a side zipper, and a full eVent floor instead of silnylon. What I got is a sub-2lb fully enclosed shelter from all weather when comfort is second to just sleeping dry and packing camp quick.
I’ll do a full review of the Borah Gear bivy later; I’ve only got one night in it, shown here at “The Top of the World” in Florida, MA, which is actually just a cell phone tower that happens to be near an overlook. I can do a lot of assuming with a tent because I’ve used ten just like it, but I can’t do the same with the bivy.
The Stoic Templum 2.1 is dirt-cheap (I got mine for $95 with a coupon from its flagship site, Backcountry). During times when they’re rotating old stock on camping gear, like just after the holidays or just after winter/summer ends, you can almost count on finding things marked far below their full retail value, and this tent was a moment like that. At $200 full price, it’s not exactly pricy either, especially considering that the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2, the luxurious ultralight equivalent, goes for $400, plus another $60 for the footprint and $30 for a gear loft, if you’re into those.
The first thing I did when I opened it was to toss aside all the optional stuff. The tent comes in a stuff sack, with a separate sack for stakes and another for poles. I stripped these off. Then, I set aside the gear loft and footprint, and took just the bare essentials—tent fly, tent body, poles, and stakes— onto my bathroom scale for an estimate. I expected 5 pounds, and got four and change. It ended up weighing 4lbs 6oz for me. This is consistent with the “trail weight” listed by Stoic, so I’ll trust it in lieu of a more accurate scale, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Next, I set it up in my room to get an idea of the floorspace. Since this tent is rectangular, the length x width gives me a square footage of 30.2ft. A Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 (sorry BA, you’re my comparison today) is 29 square feet, so there’s no skimping on space here. A length of 89 inches is plenty for my 6’1″ self.
First thing I did was replace the hook at the top:
As it was, the hook had a hard time getting over all three poles (or, adversely, I had a hard time using it right). At either rate, function was lacking, and I had a webbing loop there to work with. I took wire cutters and clipped right through the plastic hook.
I have to buy more guylines for stuff like this, but one of the silnylon straps they tied the tent up with during shipping worked perfectly. Any string at all can now be used to tie all three poles together with a really simple shoe-tying bow. Having the cross-pole above the two main poles ended up being really important.
Next, I checked out the zipper pulls.
Another cut corner to keep price down, but that’s fine; three feet of thin accessory cord will replace all six zipper pulls (two per door, plus the fly vestibules). It’ll be lighter, easier to grab, and won’t hold as much water, so it’s worth replacing.
The stitching was great; double stitched and bartacked everywhere it should be, with plenty of reinforcement at pull-points. It wasn’t immaculate like some considerably more expensive tents— you can see some reinforcement fabric that wasn’t cut quite right there at the pole grommet, but it was good enough. Function over form. The fabric itself was smooth and comparatively thick when up against Big Agnes fabrics, but it wasn’t unreasonable and the packed size of the tent was just as small as most other mid-sized tents I’ve used, including the Marmot Aura 2 and the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 3.
Packed size was also acceptable; about the size of a bowling ball. I’ll probably pack it with some clothes in this dry-bag so the tubular shape would fit better on a back rack when I take it touring.
The smaller ball there is the Snowyside Bivy, which is about the size of a small melon. It’s not actually that much smaller, but with no poles or setup, it’s much more convenient.
That isn’t to say the Stoic Templum wasn’t convenient; I had it up in the backyard in just a few minutes. Good thing, too, because it was pouring rain.
I put a tarp down to keep the tent from drowning in the 1-inch slush layer over my lawn. The weather here is just absolutely horrendous.
Once I had it all set up, it looked great! Very sturdy, very stable, and very simple- just the way I like it.
The Philosophy of a “cheap” tent is starting to hit me.
I know cost is a poor metric of measurement in quality or function, and I don’t want to purport that this Stoic Templum is somehow “better” than the tents that cost 3-4 times the price. It’s not.
However, it does make me wonder at the marketing that goes into free-standing tents as a modifier of price. Other than a slightly heavier set of poles, this tent is pretty nearly identical to a more expensive tent. You’re not paying for some brilliant engineering or impossibly rare materials; you’re paying for a DAC logo on your poles and the false security in having the “best” that your money can buy.
So, that’s why I’m kind of in two camps at the moment (no pun intended):
Option 1: Buy Cottage Gear. There are a ton of great manufacturers. Borah Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Revelate Designs are some of my favorites, and there are many more. Here’s a list. This stuff is going to be absolutely minimalist, ultralight, custom fit to purpose, and the price will be un-inflated. Plus, you get to support American and Canadian businesses.
Option 2: Slash price by going with the lowest-common-denominator tent I’m comfortable with, and sacrifice some quality but maintain function. The Templum is functionally the same for me as a Big Agnes.
I used to have an Option 3. Option 3 was to go with the highest quality shelter manufactured by the big-box companies as a combination of quality and light weight, but after seeing this tent come so close for a fraction of the price, I no longer think that’s a good idea. I end up paying a lot for something that still can’t match the weight and packability of a cottage-made product, and I pay through the nose for the brand.
Consider me reformed?
Maybe not yet, but saving money is definitely starting to outweigh having the “best” of everything. I want a product that will last and last, and in lieu of that, I want it cheap enough to be replaced.
Remember that overlook I mentioned with the bivy bag? Here it is:
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