It had been four years since my last new tent purchase, and despite its waterproof performance, I had begun to notice some failings in its design. In terms of its function for backcountry hiking, it worked well, but I was always substituting its heavy fiberglass poles for ones of near equal length from an aluminum set. This was a compromise that resulted in a light weight tent, but didn't rectify its the dark and sauna-like conditions.
Browsing through Kelty's vast array of tents, the Gunnison 2 drew my interest. It had traits I liked, that harked back to my old tent; a two pole dome design, with two doors and two vestibules. The weight (5lbs, 11 oz complete, 5 lbs, 3oz min) seemed appealing as well. (an improvement). It is 2 lbs heavier than MSR's lightest, but, it's much lighter on the pocketbook, so worthy of consideration.
For two people, the 54" by 92" space is great for two stuff sacks, and sleeping gear. Two vestibules offer 12.1 square feet each, which is plenty for your gear. We're not tall folks, (me at 5'6") so I might think that the 40" peak ceiling may make a taller person claustrophobic, especially with the gear loft installed. Yes, I said gear loft. The Gunnison comes with a mesh "shelf" that you can tie into the corner loops to stash items out of the way. It's a great idea, and will come in handy, especially once you bed down for the night. My only beef with it is that it gets in the way of a hanging tea-light lantern, and it cuts down on my available head room. I might retrofit the ties with light weight clasps, for quick removal. Right now, it's perminantly installed.
One difference that makes the Gunnison a huge step up from my old tent is the design of the tent canopy and the fly. This is designed to allow as much moving air to pass through the fly and canopy as possible. Notable details include near ground mesh panels on either ends of the canopy, a wrap-around mesh window that also integrates the doors, and finally, two hooped ceiling vents in the fly that can be zippered shut in the nastiest wind-driven downpour. All this mesh serves the purpose of venting, and also weight reduction. It's an airy feel inside.
As Feather-weights go...
On the range of ultra light tents, this one isn't pushing any boundaries, but when comparing my old tent with this one, I can see how they've engineered away ounces here and there. One way is by using as much mesh as possible. This improves breathability, and is a lighter material. The doors don't have zipped fabric to cover the window portions. Why bother when any desired privacy comes from closing the fly? The two-pole design uses 9mm DAC poles. Aluminum is the way!
I spoke about the dimensions already, within the canopy itself. It suits two medium sized people to spend a night. If you needed to spend more time, sitting up and reading a book / map to pass the time is certainly not a problem. I've always found that by opening the doors, one's sense of space, as it extends out into the vestibules, regains an airy feel. The Gunnison 2 brings a much brighter environment with the addition of two windows in the fly. These same windows may be a privacy issue for some, though the shiny material makes it hard to see in by day. Finally, the maroon / white color combination is a pleasant, livable motif. The siliconized tent floor is sticky on bare skin, but how often do you have a bare floor? The double vestibules are even in size, and come out 34 inches in the middle. It is larger than my old tent, and was easily large enough to fit my 60 lb pup for a space to sleep. The space is ample for a multi day packs, plus your boots and rain gear.
I've researched what others have said about the Gunnison, and many had qualms with closing the vestibules from inside. The zipper doesn't run the full length, but leaves a small gap followed by a snap closure. Notable is the adjustable anchor strap, and there in lies the technique for ease of closing the vestibule. Instead of trying to snap and zipper shut the vestibule under tension, you untension the strap, then fasten the snap and do the zipper. Finally, reach down and tension the anchor strap, and voila, it's taught. My only beef is there should be a couple of Velcro patches instead of the single one. Wind can easily raise the rain flap, potentially causing leaks. Double zippers would really be posh. Sometimes the snap, if the tension is too great, will fail, potentially opening the zipper.
Finish and assembly
One nice design feature is the clip system for the poles as opposed to fabric pole tubes. It reminds me of my 4 season tent. It makes for a quick and easy setup in a windy or rainy situation, and creates less contact between the tent and fly.
Reading the technical data on-line certainly raised some false concerns. Whenever I read about a "color-coded assembly", I have doubts on ease of setup. It gives me visions of weird asymmetrical designs that are counter intuitive. In the Gunnison's case, I think it was a marketing ploy. This tent is so simple to setup, the color coding is just a stupid feature. In fact I stumbled on the actual color coding scheme, long after I set the tent up for the first time sans instructions. There's no way to set up the fly on to the tent incorrectly, barring not matching the vestibule doors with the tent's doors. but who would do that?
Some features I question, both on a weight saving theme, as well as with wear and tear. The classic method for connecting poles to tent body is by means of grommets. Because there is a length-adjustable connector between the fly and the tent, the poles fit into plastic anchor plates, from which a rapid clip is modeled to connect to the fly. I think the plastic may add weight over a more traditional design. I do like the adjustability for the fly, but if that rapid clip breaks, then what? The improv may not be pretty.
I like the euro-styling of the wrap-around window in the canopy, but once the fly is on, the window's lines don't repeat, resulting in a bit of an untidy look, like the fly wasn't meant for that tent. Finally, the fit of the fly to the tent body could be neater. This is picky, because this system certainly works. The fly's corners cover the tent's corners, and with that, I could leave it. My style-beef is that the pole-anchors dish out under the pole / fly tension, and it just isn't a clean design. It should line up.
If you choose to get the accessory ground sheet, there's an added bonus. It has the ability to act as a floor, creating a single walled ultra light shelter. Grommets in the webbing anchor your poles, as well as pegs. I have found that by using an elastic where the two poles cross, as well as the Velcro to secure the poles to the fly, you have a shelter minus the tent body. The footprint is siliconized and thus waterproof, though lacking the inherent bathtub design of a full tent. I usually use a piece of TyPar house wrap construction material for a ground sheet, cutting it to add "door mats" within the vestibules. It helps keep gear clean.
I did an experiment the other day that made the ground sheet even more valuable. By using the footprint as an initial floor anchoring the poles, you can actually set up the tent body under the fly in a rain storm, and keep much of the ground sheet and tent body dry. The Gunnison's clip system for the poles makes this a reality. The reverse method makes breaking camp in the rain an equally successful means of keeping everything dry but the fly itself.
As is the standard these days, the tent comes seam taped with a bathtub-style floor. No seam sealing to do prior to your first outing. It is a waterproof and bombproof shelter, which is what one would expect from Kelty's experience designing quality tents. I should easily get four years-plus out of this one before I go looking for something new and lighter.
For a funny take on a tent setup, check this out. It's raining, now what? You'll see one of the advantages of the Gunnison's ground sheet when setting up in the rain.
NOTE: Trailpeak is drawing for one of these tents on July 15 2007, and all premium members are eligible. Trailpeak relies on premium memberships to fund new development of both free and premium features, which keeps trailpeak operating. To read more about becoming a premium member, click support us on the top of any page on trailpeak.
East Coast editor