There are numerous reputable tent manufacturers, including (but certainly not limited to) Big Agnes, The North Face, REI, Mountain Hardwear and MSR. The the tents I’ve most enjoyed backpacking with have been The North Face Tadpole 23 (good, moderate weight, 2-person), a Mountain Hardwear Sprite 1 (good, lightweight, 1-person) and my current shelter, a Tarptent Stratospire 2. The Stratospire 2 is an excellent, lightweight shelter with room for two.
You mention in your question wanting, “something durable.” I’d be interested in knowing why durability is a priority? I’ll also suggest rethinking your priorities by answering a few questions.
- Car camping, backpacking, mountaineering or other?
- How many people?
- Spring/summer/fall or winter?
- What readily available natural resources will you have user of as aids in securing your tent?
Suppose your answers are that you want a tent for car camping with a family of four. You’ll be staying in established campgrounds during the summer. In this scenario, the car is doing the work of lugging the tent from one campground to another (weight isn’t an issue), the kids are young enough that they’ll want to be in the tent with Mom & Dad so, to maintain some semblance of sanity, you’ll probably want something roomy (room for 5–6 with a partition). Something freestanding (has a frame allowing the tent to stand in place without being tired down) will probably be an advantage. Rugged and durable – to withstand the kids roughhousing – may also be a plus.
Suppose your answers are that you want a shelter for solo backpacking. You’ll be hiking rugged terrain in a wide range of environments (forests, mountains, canyons, etc.) during three seasons…but occasionally with a possibility of snow. This is a scenario where a heavy, rugged tent may be your worst option. You’ve got to carry this thing on your back every day of the trip. Something lightweight (3 lbs. or less) is probably a better option. Lightweight typically translates as being made of thin, light material. It won’t fall apart during a storm but it won’t respond well to rough, careless treatment. To save weight, the shelter may be designed to be supported at two points by trekking poles, to maintain its shape when tied off (no frame) and to be cozy (i.e. cramped) for one person. Rather than packing stakes, you may opt to use trees or rocks as tie-off points to secure the shelter.
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These are the kinds of scenarios that will help you identify the type of tent or shelter that best meets your needs. A heavy rugged tent isn’t always the best option. Often, something lighter and easier to pack through a national park will be.