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Backpacking Tent

Updated: Sep 20, 2021


My first tent memory was an early one, I wasn’t older than 7, and it was with a 1980’s orange tarp-bottomed dome style I dug out of my parents crawl space. The musty smell of dry-rot and the fiberglass slivers embedded into the meat of my thumb were a distraction, and this front yard show was enough to entice a neighbor kid to come help with the setup. We quickly became entrapped and claustrophobic – and he bit the back of my arm in his haste to exit. It’s a curious thing why I’m still drawn to tents at all, but I remain fascinated, nonetheless. Tents are just…cool.

Fast forward 25 years, and today’s tents are not only stronger & lighter, but better suited to keeping us dry, and thus more comfortable when we’re out there Combatting the Deficit.

Kelty is a staple brand when it comes to pursuing adventures, and they’ve built a longstanding following with their trusted backpacking & camping gear. If you heard “Full Throttle down the Rio Grande” where Bruce Matthews talks about his trip-of-a-lifetime while paddling, riding, and fishing the full length of the mighty river with his son and a friend, then you heard him praise the Kelty Gunnison series. We picked up a Gunnison 1 for this review.

Design: Kelty’s one-person version of the Gunnison is made for holing up solo. It starts with a smartly designed cube-style carry bag, which is suitable for real-world repeated stashing of imperfectly folded contents i.e. multi-day backpacking environments. The skeleton is a simple design, with no separate poles, everything’s connected via shock-cord, and the sections quickly & easily fit into a center socket to form a big “X”. Clips are designed to attach with a simple ¼ turn. The four aluminum cleats at the corners lock the poles firmly at ground level, and feature integrated attachment slots for the rainfly. The Gunnison features a color-coded system so the footprint, poles, tent and rainfly line up red-to-red, black-to-black. There’s plenty of guy line points to attach to, in case of heavy winds. More cool features include an awning, designed to work with trekking poles for some nice added overhead cover, and two rigid tabs to prop open the top if added ventilation is desired.

Setup: Tent setup per usual, is a little choppy at first, but quickly makes sense, becoming second nature with practice. At the time of the third go-around, my setup time improved to less than 5 mins. (You should always do a test-run with your equipment prior to hitting the trail, just to familiarize yourself). The instructions are plainly written on the carry bag, and there are plenty of online resources to help too, including a video with the helpful gal from the factory walking through the setup.

Weight & Size: Minimum – 3 lbs, 14 oz, Packaged – 4 lbs, 13oz. The length is big enough for me to comfortably lay down in at 6’2, and I can sit up to read or adjust my sleeping bag. For more specs, visit

Weather resistance & Breathability: 68 Denier Polyester is used on the footprint, tent, and rainfly. This translates into years of use on the trail, provided it’s properly cared for. All seams are taped (see photo) for water resistance. The no-see-um mesh coupled with the vent tabs make this a very comfortable three-season-tent.

What’s Unique? The color coding, the roll-top carry bag, the slotted corner cleats for the poles/rainfly. The awning feature.

Price: $159.95

Anything left to be desired? If you’re looking for a classic one-man tent that will do it all, this is a good option. It’s not ultra-light, but the Gunnison 1 is where high-quality meets affordability. Kelty’s been in the game long enough to know what works.

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