Gear Trap: BassPro’s single-person tent

A $30 tent

Gear: Single person backpacking tent

Brand, make: BassPro Shops Eclipse

Price: $29 + tax

Advise: Do Not Buy; waste of money.

Everyone has that moment of weakness in a store when you see an item and instinctively buy it. The candy bar in the grocery store, the novelty shot glass on vacation, maybe a patch for your trail pack. Impulse buys, all of them.

You would think one would put more thought into purchasing a tent. But then the store hits you with the low, low price, and you think, “Why the hell not?” Usually the answer is: because you get what you pay for. This time was no exception. A classic low-price “gear trap.”

I went to BassPro Shop because it was the only store I knew would have a replacement cartridge for my water filter. They were sold-out. No big deal. The old filter would get me through one more weekend trip. But while I was there, I started looking at single-person backpacking tents. Top shelf brands all cost $100-plus for a single, and I was on a budget. No dice.

Then I saw it, the BassPro Shops brand “Eclipse” single-person tent. And then I saw the price: $29. This is too good to be true, I thought. I took it out of the box while chatting with guy managing the camping section. At less than a pound, it was certainly light enough and small enough to tuck into a pack for a weekend. And the price was about $15 less than what I was going to spend on a filter anyway.

I bought it. Impulse. And that car ride home was the last time I felt good about the purchase.

The problems started as soon as I got home. Unfurling the tent, I realized it was basically a redesign of a 1960s era pup-tent, except instead of 2 poles balanced at either end, you had one at the back and two poles at an angle in front for the triangle shape. No big deal. A little nostalgia with modern materials. However, the poles weren’t the thin flexible ones, but short, thick nearly inflexible fiberglass.

I quickly realized I couldn’t set up the tent in my living room because it had to be staked down at the corners and then guylined to have it stay up. But that wasn’t the worst problem. I couldn’t get the poles into the corner pouches, and I stressed the one pole so much I could hear the fiberglass creak, ready to snap if I bent it any further.

I stopped and rethought this. Clearly something was wrong if it just took me 45 minutes to get tent poles ready and was still unsuccessful at raising the tent. I can rig and adjust my hammock in a third of that time. I can set up my two-person Swiss tent in just 5 minutes. So, what the hell?

Turns out, both front poles were between 1 inch and 3 inches too long for the tent’s angled front sides. It’s like the tent was either cut short on the angle lengths or the poles were mismeasured. Either way, the poles were never going to fit and the tent would never be useful.

The tent poles marked for cutting to proper size because the factory apparently didn’t use measurements.

At this point I decided to make it work. If I ruined the tent in my “Modification Lab” then I was only out $30. I took the poles down to my basement and used a hacksaw to saw off the extra inches. Then I pulled the shock cord, cut the old knot, took off the excess pole pieces, and retied a knot on the shock cord. Problem solved.

But it wasn’t. I took the tent on my winter trip without thinking about it. The ground was frozen and there was no way to pound the stakes into it. Luckily, there was enough room in the my friends’ tent. My last act was to give the middle finger to my $30 tent.

It may still be useful for summer and spring, but I almost exclusively use a hammock in warm weather. I should’ve returned the tent and got my money back. Don’t waste yours.

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