- Side by side doors opens up a bigger “window”
- Nice large doors
- Plenty of room for two and gear
- Good ventilation
- With vestibules open rain drips into tent
This is a cool tent with a truly new layout idea that works, with lots of room for two people and tons of gear and great weatherproofing. But, and this is a big one for us, the vestibule design doesn't protect the inside of the tent when climbing in and out. If that wasn't the case this would be a winner. As is it's a decent tent best suited to dry climates.
The 2.5 in the name refers to Mountain Hardwear’s effort to make this tent roomy for two. Indeed, compared to most two person tents there does feel like there's almost enough room to squeeze a third into the mix. At 58 inches wide that's similar to some lightweight three-man tents! For two guys on a road trip it was ideal, providing us both plenty of room to store our gear and lounge with elbow room to spare. Perfect for bringing Fido. Height wise we could sit up at the same time.
Aimed at people who value livable space over light weight the Optic is no featherweight at almost six pounds—three pounds per person. And so it's no surprise it doesn't pack down particularly small either.
A simple pole set up and color-coded tags made set up a breeze, even on the first try. Even figuring out how to drape the fly is simple, with a two-tone asymmetric design that lines up with the doors.
As mentioned in The Verdict, the drawback to this tent is that an open vestibule exposes a big chunk of the interior of the tent to the elements. Climbing in and out in a rainstorm allowed drips from the tent and rain from the clouds to land on the mesh body when the door was closed and right inside the tent when the door was open. This oversight contrasts with when the vestibule is closed. All battened down this tent had no problem with a night of downpour. The fly runs right to the ground and the slight A-frame design sheds water nicely. The bathtub style floor kept us dry from below. Lots of guyout points kept the fly from touching the tent and ensured little wind flap when it got breezy.
The doors stand out. As far as we know this is the first tent to stick the doors side by side on the narrow and long side of the tent. It maintains personal entrances with big doors for easy in and out. It also creates the opportunity to tent al fresco. Roll both vestibules back and they reveal a huge view, uncovering almost half the tent. Just a slip of fly remains over the corner. It’s pretty cool and a nice feature in dry weather. As a comfort camping tent MH added other features like multiple pockets, door storage options, two way zips and an optional gear loft.
Loaded with features, but still at a backpackable weight and lots of room, the Optic could be your only tent—a quiver of one—for everything from backpacking to car camping. If it was just a backpacking tent, the $250 price tag would be good, but with the quiver of one in mind it represents hard to beat value.
How We Tested It
A small army of testers used and abused the shelters for a minimum of seven nights (and some much longer) on trips that ranged from car camping to a rain forest hike to a month long Baja sea kayak expedition. Then we set them up on our lawn and turned the hose on them, left them standing during a 40 mile per hour windstorm and released a pack of kids to test the zippers and run through them with their shoes on.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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