Tents are one of those things that have so many entry points of failure that it's hard to find one that leaves you totally satisfied. If a tent successfully wards off a storm, then it's too damn heavy. If it's nice and light, then it has the room of a holding cell at Guantanamo. Easy to set up? Watch it crumple as you read a book by headlamp, effectively turning you into the filling of a 9x9 nylon quesadilla. Which is why we were so surprised when Brooks-Range's Foray – the company's newest two-person, three-season tent – left us scratching our heads as we tried to figure out what was wrong with it.
Indeed, once we'd already lashed the Foray onto the outside of our pack, we realized that we could just as easily have stuffed the tent into a main pocket. Oh well, because on the trail we totally forgot that it was there the entire time, bobbing behind us – thanks to its 3-pound, 2-ounce weight for the favor (some have reported that the tent actually weighs 3 ounces less than that).
Then came the make-or-break test: the setup. Before setting up a tent, we typically crack a cold one as a preemptive strike against the does-this-pole-go-here, what-the-hell-is-that-piece-for headache that's sure to come. Beer in hand, we laid the tent's contents onto the hardpack. Then we started snapping its surprisingly strong poles together, then we put that end into this flap, then we hooked that clip over this pole, and, just a few minutes later, the tent was up – and extremely sturdy at that! We didn't have to read the instructions, nor did we even have enough time to sip our beer. We can't say enough about a portable shelter that doesn't require an engineering degree from M.I.T. to construct.
Inside, we were surprised to find that the tent felt more spacious than its 30 square feet – we fit a couple of small backpacks and two people tightly yet not uncomfortably. And even though we pitched the thing on a warm mountain day, we threw the rainfly on just to test it out. It proved to provide full coverage and excellent ventilation, and its 6-foot vestibule would give even a lanky guy enough room to take off his boots or to cook dinner while protected from inclement weather. What's more, Brooks-Range fully taped the seams of the Foray, making the entire rig super water resistant.
In short, the Brooks Range Foray is a bomber option for any backpacker or mountaineer looking for a two-person, three-season tent that's light, packable, durable, good in bad weather, and – perhaps most important – not a hassle to set up. [$425; brooks-range.com]