Although it’s a bit snug for four sleepers, this is our top pick of the category if you want a model that can go from overnight wilderness escapades to complete comfort in a commercial campsite.
Great space for a backpacking tent
Standalone mesh inner tent
Lower waterproof rating than others on test
Tight for four
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Dreaming of four-man tent that you can still take backpacking? Meet the Kelty Dirt Motel, well-named as it’s happy to go adventuring far from the madding crowds but still offers a comfy nights sleep when you pitch it in the wild.
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We wouldn’t recommend sleeping four adults in the bedroom, but there’s a good amount of room for three and it’s positively palatial for two people.
Weighing in at just 3.12kg/6lbs 14 oz, the deliciously named Dirt Motel is every bit as lightweight as many backpacking-dedicated tents on the market, but provides an extra bit of comfort wherever you’re camping.
• RRP: $380 (US)/£370 (UK)
• Style: Dome
• Weight: 3.12kg/6lbs 14 oz•
• Waterproofing: 1500mm
• Rooms: One bedroom, two porches
• Pack size: 40x19cm/ 16 x 7.5in
• Compatibility: Sleeps three in comfort on dry weather backpacking and bikepacking adventures
If you’re taking it on the trail, it can either be carried alone in a backpack or very easily be split up and transported by two or more people. We wouldn’t recommend sleeping four adults in the bedroom unless you have to, but there’s a generous allowance of room for three and it’s very comfortable indeed for two people – if you find most two-man backpacking tents too claustrophobic, this model gives you tons more space without adding on the pounds (both in weight and in price).
Two doors, each with their own wide porch, make it easy to pop in and out of the tent when sharing it, and to store your bag and boots next to you without them getting wet.
We took the Dirt Motel wild camping in heavy rain and were pleased to find it waterproof enough to deal with a shower on test, and the dome design proved wind-resistant enough to take higher into the mountains. While 1,500mm of waterproofing is certainly lower than other tents reviewed in this category, anything with a hydrostatic head of 800mm or more is classed as waterproof by the Ministry of Defence, and it didn’t fail on test.
Like the MSR Zoic, the Dirt Motel has an inner tent made of ‘No-See-Um’ insect-stopping mesh that can be used alone on the hot summer nights, providing a bug-proof sleeping shelter that still lets you lay and look up at the stars.
A lot of the four-person tents in our round-up aim to strike the perfect balance of backpacking tent and weekend tent but don’t quite make it – but the Dirt Motel really is just as happy in the mountains as it is in a camping meadow.
An award-winning travel and outdoors journalist, presenter and blogger, Sian regularly writes for The Independent, Evening Standard, BBC Countryfile, Coast, Outdoor Enthusiast and Sunday Times Travel. Life as a hiking, camping, wild-swimming adventure-writer has taken her around the world, exploring Bolivian jungles, kayaking in Greenland, diving with turtles in Australia, climbing mountains in Africa and, in Thailand, learning the hard way that peeing on a jellyfish sting doesn’t help. Her blog, thegirloutdoors.co.uk, champions accessible adventures.
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