All season long, we camped, backpacked, paddle boarded, and hiked our way through the Pacific Northwest to find the best new outdoor gear for the first annual Digital Trends Outdoor Awards. After pushing each contender to the limit, we crowned our favorite products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!
When you’re camping, a tent is your literal home away from home. It keeps out the rain, sun, and bugs, and gives you a comfy place to lay your head at the end of the day. A proper tent should be easy to set up and break down, provide enough space for your crew and your gear, and do it all without weighing you down.
Modern fabrics and smarter construction have made today’s sleeping gear vastly lighter and connected to your tech lifestyle — think smart tents to pair with today’s smarthomes, smartphones, and smart apartments. As tent makers continue to innovate the construction and design of their portable abodes, some have found new and inventive ways to make setup take a mere matter of minutes while others have piled tents with built-in tech. But why choose? Big Agnes makes a tent that does both with flying colors.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 mtnGLO Tent
At just over 3 pounds, the three-season Copper Spur HV UL2 mtnGLO not only works for weight-conscious backpackers, it’s also an easy-to-set-up car camping tent for those nights you roll into camp late and just want to catch some Zs. That part isn’t a marketing gimmick; we were able to put the Copper Spur up in no more than four or five minutes — rain fly included.
Saving time is nice, but the literal stars here are the LED lights strung across the interior roof like a constellation. Unlike the harsh focus of a flashlight or headlamp, the LEDs softly illuminate the entire tent, providing the perfect amount of light for a late night game of poker or when you just can’t find the zipper on your sleeping bag. With a control located near the entrance, turning on the lights is as easy as flicking on the lights when you enter a room. Don’t worry about it bothering a neighbor, either, as the lights are hardly noticeable from outside and feature three brightness settings.
The Tech: Big Agnes built the Copper Spur from its proprietary 120mm waterproof double ripstop nylon fabric, which is capable of taking an utter beating on the trail while remaining completely breathable and lightweight. High-tenacity yarn on the fly and tent floor improve tear strength by 25 percent over last year’s model, to help shrug off that pointy stick you didn’t see when you were setting up. The efficient LED light strip in the roof only takes two AAA batteries and runs for hours.
Our tests hardly scratched the surface in terms of wear and tear, even though it joined us on rafting trips, weekends spent camping, and a week-long getaway on Mt. Hood. Backed by its durable ripstop nylon, the Copper Spur seems built to last, and even if you manage to break it, Big Agnes has a solid warranty that we’ve put to the test before with other products.
Inside, the tent features a large, mesh ceiling pocket we used for storing the next day’s clothes (sometimes the current day’s dirty clothes), and the smaller side pockets near where we laid our head proved perfect for stashing a smartphone. It’s admittedly snug for two people, but we were able to really sprawl out camping solo. Once it was time to pack up, the tent rolled up nicely, fitting into a small companion bag that was easy to transport whether we camped right off a trail or hiked into our spot.
Big Agnes’ $450 Copper Spur HV UL 2 let us spend less time fumbling with tent poles and rain flys and more time enjoying the great outdoors.
The North Face’s Hyper Kazoo sleeping bag is down comfort done right. North Face’s patented 800-fill ProDown keeps its loft even when it’s wet outside, which is a quality we appreciated in the soggy Pacific Northwest. With a rating of 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the three-season Hyper Kazoo never left us wanting more insulation. Even chillier nights along Oregon’s Deschutes River left us a touch too warm in the bag — thanks to its patented ThermoBaffle weave technology — though it wasn’t hard to recognize its competence during the winter months. Capable of packing into its own small stuff sack, the Hyper Kazoo is a worthy backpacking companion for those who tend to sleep cold.
Lined with Patagonia’s own featherweight Houdini fabric, and stuffed with absurdly fluffy 850-fill-power Traceable Down, this bag scores high in terms of warmth, comfort, and portability — even if it does tote a $500 price tag. Constructed out of Patagonia’s ripstop Pertex Quantum fabric, it stayed extremely lightweight yet proved to be one of the most durable bags we tested, capable of remaining unscathed even if we slept directly on the ground. Like the Hyper Kazoo, it tended to keep us a bit too warm during Oregon’s summer months, though this just means it figures to really shine once the temperature drops — it is rated at 19 degrees Fahrenheit, after all.
MSR’s Access 2 had us daydreaming of setting up this four-season tent in the snowy backcountry this winter. We couldn’t summon the snow for our summer testing, but the $600 Access 2 still proved easy to set up, lightweight, and surprisingly spacious. MSR’s decision to limit the amount of see-through mesh made this one we enjoyed using without a rain fly, ultimately allowing for greater airflow without sacrificing privacy. MSR deserves heaps of credit for not just the Access 2’s design but for its manufacturing process which allowed it remain lighter than a mountaineering tent without forgoing the warmth found in backpacking tents — that’s innovation.
Yakima’s entry into the rooftop tent industry shows that this latest camping trend is hardly a fad. With the SkyRise rooftop tent series, the rack maker leaned on all of its own materials, designing and manufacturing a high-quality rooftop abode that we found incredibly easy to pitch. An included foam mattress reminded us of our bed at home, making the SkyRise a glamping experience that goes wherever your car does. At $1,350, though, it’s a large investment for car campers and it’s worth pointing out that it does require mostly even ground to set up properly. These crazy contraptions are all the rage these days, and Yakima’s SkyRise is one of the best rooftop tents you’ll find.
Make sure to check out all the winning products for Cooking, Sleeping, Trekking, Recreation, Unwinding, and a special award for Innovation. And we’re giving away one of every winning product, so enter our contest!
Videos and photography by Dan Baker/Digitaltrends