Tenting with the Kelty TN2
By Everett Potter
I have a messy relationship with tents. It dates back to college years, when my friend Frank and I would drive his yellow VW van on fishing trips through New England and the Maritimes, tenting along the way. He had bought the tent second hand, from a friend of a friend. It was an Army surplus tent that the military, in their considerable wisdom, had gotten rid of. But it had lived other lives beyond a bivouac or two.
“This tent has been to Woodstock,” he proudly told me. Neither of us could make that claim, so the tent was clearly more accomplished than we were. It was also made of canvas and could sleep four people comfortably, with a lofty ceiling that made it easy to stand in. It was also exceptionally heavy, like a rolled up living room carpet. It leaked a lot, and when it was sodden, it was even heavier. The inside was hot as hell the moment the temperature rose above 50 and it always seemed to be damp and smelled pretty rank. But over the years, it took us in pursuit of trout and salmon through Vermont and Quebec, across New Brunswick to Nova Scotia and even to Newfoundland, where it witnessed the Northern Lights in Gros Morne National Park. We should have given it a military funeral when it finally gave up the ghost, redolent of mold with a crazy quilt of stains that were never coming out.
As time went on, there were other tents in my life. I remember a canoe camping trip in Wisconsin with my girlfriend at the time, using a borrowed nylon tent. It was far lighter than the canvas beast but it dramatically failed the rain test during a multi-day north woods deluge that saturated our sleeping bags and basically everything else that we had brought along. It was like sleeping in a river bed.
The years passed and there were lean-to tents in the Alberta Rockies and spacious tents in the Moroccan desert, tents in Tanzania with a private toilet attached and a one man tent in Big Sur that almost made me decide that I was claustrophobic.
After years of swearing off tents, I decided to take the plunge last summer and experience 21st century technology. After all, it has utterly transformed the sports that I love, like skiing, biking and sea kayaking, and all the attendant gear. So I tried out the Kelty TN2, which has already been widely praised for hitting the value/smart tech point. Kelty makes a wide range of packs, sleeping bags, hiking poles and yes, tents. Lots of tents, it turns out. They currently have about 20 models.
The two person TN2 is part of their TrailLogic Collection (it comes in larger sizes for three and even four people). I like to hike but I haven’t done much backpacking for a while, so I was eager to put it to the test in the Maine woods this past summer.
The key attraction of this tent for me was the weight, just over four pounds, which makes it perfect for backpacking. Four pounds for a home for two is pretty good indeed. The fact that the tent, fly, stakes and poles come in four separate sacks means you can split the weight with a companion.
It’s a three season tent, which suits me fine since winter camping isn’t on the agenda. The interior height is 42 inches, enough headroom to make it comfortable to sit up. It also has a rather unique feature, a Stargazing Fly that’s easily rolled back and allows you to gaze up at the stars. One night, that worked in Maine, The other night? Let’s just say the fly was useful in keeping me dry. It also has No-See-Um Mesh that kept out at least nine million mosquitoes, which can turn a lovely Maine night into a night of living hell if you’re not prepared.
The TN2 also has things that no one had thought of years ago, liked taped floor seams, interior storage pockets, and color coded clips that made it a breeze to set up. The doors are oversized, the zippers pretty much noiseless, and the nylon was akin to space age technology compared to the tents of my youth. It also feels very roomy, thanks in part to those mesh walls.
Bottom line: a breeze to set up (after the proverbial indoor test run), easily carried and it quickly brought back the singular joy of sleeping outdoors. Yes, it rained, it always does when I’m paired with a tent. But there were no leaks. None. That’s my kind of tent.
The Kelty TN2 is the middle of the Kelty tent price range, with a $249.95 list.