Cheap Tent Review: Wenzel Current Hiker
So your troop has been on several camping trips, and one or two hikes, and you’re ready to try backpacking. But backpacking gear is really expensive! Renting is a great option (REI), but not available in every area. Big 5 type brands like Wenzel and Coleman usually make solid, inexpensive tents, but they can be heavy. I try to aim for a girl pack weight of 20% of body weight - this means around 17 lb for many middle school girls - so the tent has gotta be light. I aim for 2 lb of pack weight or less per girl dedicated to tent gear; so a 2-girl tent needs to weigh 4 lb. One girl carries the poles and stakes; one girl carries the tent body. The Wenzel Current Hiker (without the case) comes in at 2.5 lb or a featherweight 1.25 lb per girl! Sadly, it is actually is no longer available at many standard retailers, but is available new on eBay for about $45. Some caveats. For $45 and 2.5 lb, you don’t get the world. First of all, the tent is small. It will fit 2 Cadettes fine, and probably 2 Seniors, but only 1 adult or Ambassador. Depends on their size and how good of friends they are. This particular tent doesn’t have the best ventilation, so you will need to wipe the condensation off the inside surfaces. Use a tiny pack towel for this or your dirty sock. You will also want to keep the door open as much as possible to increase ventilation. Finally, as a cheap tent, I would not trust this on an advanced trip - meaning a trip that is (a) in the Sierras, (b) where rain or high winds are forecast, or (c) more than a one day walk from the car - without a lot of testing first. Wenzel and Coleman tents offer many cheap options; make sure to do the math for per girl weight aiming for less than 2 lb per girl. Try the Coleman Sundome series (4 person); often under 10 lb and $100.
Marin leads Girl Scout backpacking trips and troop leader trainings for Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast.