Choosing a tent for our backpacking and canoe adventures in Western Canada was always going to be difficult. I had researched extensively and narrowed it down to three different varieties. Then we went to Vancouver’s Outdoor Adventure Show and came home with a ‘Spitfire Duo’ made by Eureka, a tent I had never even heard of before.
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Over the last year, we have used this for 40 nights in the backcountry in a variety of locations including coastal rainforest, Arctic tundra and sand banks in the middle of the Yukon River. It has held up well in every situation, protecting us (and our gear) from the elements. The Spitfire has excellent headroom (though we are not tall people by any means) and is surprisingly spacious for two people. Set-up is ridiculously easy, around three to four minutes from start to finish if you’re on a mission.
price vs. weight
During my exhaustive tent search, my main considerations were weight, two doors, ventilation and price. We prefer to hike as light as possible but the lighter a tent, the more expensive it usually is. Finding the Spitfire in a display at the Outdoor Show was a pleasant surprise. It weighs 4 lb total, at the time cost us $160 and has two big doors.
For the price, it is an exceptionally light tent compared to the others in the market. Eureka is a brand we were familiar with – for the last 18 months we had been borrowing a Eureka Apex tent from our neighbour for canoe trips and had loved it. The ventilation, in particular, was excellent.
downside no. 1: lack of vestibules
The Eureka Spitfire satisfied my expectations but then fell short in unexpected areas. What neither of us had considered at the time of purchase was the lack of vestibules. As in, there literally weren’t any. I guess it wasn’t really a consideration back then since we had not been on many overnight trips with bad weather. It wasn’t as big of a problem on paddling trips since we had the canoe to store some items under, but it was much more apparent when backpacking. Without vestibules, all of the wonderful roominess inside the tent was lost.
downside no. 2: not freestanding
The second problem is that the Spitfire is not a freestanding tent. Again, this is not something that was really ever a consideration for me before (there’s that lack of experience!) but it has caused a few issues. For one thing, it’s a bit awkward to put the Spitfire up on tent pads in provincial/national parks. It is even more difficult on very hard/soft surfaces due to the staking requirement. Maybe we just give up too easily, but I can’t help thinking that a freestanding tent would just make everything a lot more straightforward.
great, but not amazing
For an initial purchase of $160, we have made good use of the Spitfire Duo over the last year. However, it is not our ideal tent. We like the size, weight and price, but the lack of vestibules and freestanding structure are sticking points for us. An even lighter tent would also be welcome since we are trying to downsize and go as ultralight as comfortably possible. The plan is to upgrade with the frontrunners currently being Big Agnes’ Copper Spur UL, the North Face’s Mica FL and MSR’s Hubba Hubba NX. If you have used any of these tents, please share your thoughts in the comments below!