A first-class 3-season shelter that combines quality, ultralight components with an innovative structure to create a 2-person backpacking tent of the highest calibre
Loads of headroom
Lightweight with load sharing capability
Gear loft sold separately
Not as weather resistant as the Alto TR2 Plus
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Sea to Summit Alto TR2: First impressions
The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 is one of the Aussie brand’s new lightweight backpacking tent series, a first foray into tents for a company who have garnered a reputation for quality outdoor kit. They’ve pulled the debut off with such aplomb that other great, game-changing debut’s spring to mind: think Radiohead’s Creep in 1992, Wayne Rooney’s hattrick against Fenerbahçe in 2004 or Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, also in 1992.
What is it is about Sea to Summit’s new tents (the Alto and Telos ranges) that make them such game changers? After all, lightweight backpacking tents featuring pole hub systems have been doing the rounds for years. What sets the Alto and Telos tents apart is their patent-pending Tension Ridge Architecture, which features a cross bar that cantilevers upwards, creating near vertical walls, a high ceiling and unrivalled roominess.
This unique and innovative architecture paves the way for myriad other benefits: high doors, large vestibules and good climate control. This all adds up to a superbly liveable tent space, especially for a 2-person tent designed for backpacking.
With the Tension Ridge at its core, there are five different setup options depending on what the weather is doing, including the option to pitch flysheet first to keep the inner dry. Assembly benefits from Quick Connect Tent Feet, which… er, connect quickly, surprisingly.
Weighing in with a minimum trail weight of 1.15 kg, this is also an exceedingly light tent, ideal for those who like to go fast and long in the backcountry. The low gram count is achieved thanks to ultralight alloy DAC poles and lightweight fabrics throughout. The components are stored in three separate compartments which clip together if required: two stuff sacks for the fly, inner and pegs and a long unit for the pole hub.
• RRP: $499 (US) / £430 (UK) • Sleeps: 2 • Weight: 1.15 kg / 40 oz • Packed size: 12 x 12 x 52 cm • Waterproofing: 15D Sil-PeU Coated Nylon Ripstop, 1,200 mm HH • Compatibility: 3-season wild camping and car camping in all but the worst conditions
There is a raft of other innovative little touches. Once assembled, the stuff sacks and pole hub storage are put to good use too. The stuff sacks can be clipped into the tent as additional storage, while the hub storage combines with your headlamp to create an illuminating Lightbar for a diffused reading light. There is a compatible gear loft available too, though this is sold separately.
The inner tent is crafted from a breathable mesh, which keeps insects out and allows you to take in the views when in Partial Fly or Inner Only mode. Airflow is achieved thanks to Apex and Baseline Vents, which can be easily tinkered with from inside the shelter.
In terms of weatherproofing, the Alto TR2’s flysheet has a hydrostatic head rating of 1,200 mm with fully taped seams. It will easily cope with most weather conditions through the warmer months. Those who often camp in the shoulder seasons and are no stranger to cold and wet conditions will be better served by the Alto TR2 Plus, which features a breathable Nylon fabric canopy with a seam-taped 2,500 mm waterhead. It’s only marginally pricier and around 120 grams heavier but is worth it for the additional protection against the elements.
There's also a one-person tent equivalent, the Alto TR1, for those want to travel even lighter.
In the field
I tested the Alto TR2 on a wild camping expedition in England’s Lake District, below the slopes of the country’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. My friend and I ventured deep into wild Upper Eskdale, a rugged and relatively remote region of the popular national park.
On the trail
A neat feature of the TR2 is that it packs away into three separate units: two stuff sacks and a longer container for the pole hub. These can be cinched together as one or left separate. This gives you the benefit of fitting it around the other contents in your backpack or sharing its weight with your camping buddy when hiking.
During the test, I carried all three sections of the tent myself, as my friend was eager to use his own tent anyway. This is a seriously lightweight 2-person tent and I was perfectly comfortable during both the 3-mile walk in to our base camp and the 4.5-mile walk out.
At Advnture, we’d recommend setting a new tent up in the garden first, so that when it comes to assembling it in the wild, you already know exactly what you are doing. Of course, I hadn’t decided to follow this advice and found myself learning how to pitch the Alto TR2 in situ. This would, however, be a good test of how intuitive its setup was.
Handily, step-by-step instructions, complete with visual aids, are included on both the side of one of the stuff sacks and in the manual, which is attached to the pole container. Armed with the instructions and my enthusiasm, the tent was up in no time. The pole hub springs into shape with a little encouragement and it’s a doddle to attach it to the inner.
One moment that gave me pause for thought was when inserting the Tension Ridge into the designated pockets on the fly, as at first it seemed too tight a fit. However, once I’d flexed the poles a little it all took shape and from there I was on the home stretch.
Of the five setup configurations, I stuck with Classic Mode for the majority of the expedition – the weather in Northern England is changeable, after all. However, converting from full flysheet coverage to half in Partial Fly Mode is easy: just unclip fly-foot, roll up to the Tension Ridge and secure it with the V-Toggles. This is a great setup for when the sun is shining and you want to bring the grandeur of the surrounding landscape into your tent.
Comfort and performance
When wild camping, a spacious vestibule is essential for your wet gear, muddy boots and as a little shelter for your camping stove when the wind gets excited. The Alto TR2 boasts two roomy porch areas, more than enough for all that. The inner boasts a great amount of headroom, feeling less claustrophobic than most backpacking tents, while the large zipper doors made for comfortable entry and exit, as well as great portals through which to view the surrounding scenery.
When night falls, the way the pole storage doubles up as a lightbar is a really nice touch, diffusing the light of my headlamp and giving me a pleasant ambience for a spot of reading. The oversized Apex Vent kept condensation at bay without losing too much heat. Spring nights in the Lake District can be a little on the nippy side, yet I was pretty cosy throughout.
I didn’t experience truly challenging conditions, just a smattering of rain here and there and the occasional gust of wind, which the Alto TR2 stood up to without an issue. With a hydrostatic head of 1,200 mm, which is standard for a lightweight 3-season backpacking tent, and fully taped seams, it should be able to stand up to all but the worst downpours.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com