Good Old Fashioned Tent-Off

A short time ago, two worthy and stalwart opponents dropped by to participate in a much heralded ‘tent-off’, organized to showcase a head-to-head competition between our home-team’s Hilleberg Staika and the away-team’s “Moss Stardome II“.  The tension was palpable as the rivals rapidly erected their tents, each striving for victory!

Actually, the two ‘shelter-athletes’ were none other than our friends Sasha and Chris, and the “tent-off” no more than a quick get-together to compare and contrast a couple of expedition quality tents and to learn and reminisce about what was, until quite recently, a proud tradition of tent making in this country.

A lot of research went into deciding which tent to purchase in preparation for our global cycling adventure.  Our search ultimately focused on the rugged offerings of the designed-in-Sweden and sewn-in-Estonia Hilleberg family of tents, but it was not for our wanting of a comparable domestic alternative.  Although there are some high quality tents still being produced in this country, namely Stephenson’s Warmlite, Tarptents, a free-standing option, and, in Canada, Integral Designs, none incorporated all of the features we were looking for.

Features We Wanted:

  • Double wall
  • Twin vestibules
  • Good ventilation
  • Muted color
  • Multi-pitch (ability to pitch the rain fly, ground cloth, and tent together, or the fly or tent separately)
  • Four season
  • Extreme durability
  • Waterproof’ness


Moss Tents : Of the Past

I was sad to learn that tents sporting many of the features we’d searched for were once produced right here in New England, in Camden, Maine.  Moss Tents were adored by legions of fans and supporters, many of whom to this day hold on tight to their nylon-coated dwellings.  Our friends had even managed to retain a couple copies of original catalogs and so it was a melancholy experience to peruse their pages, getting caught up in the skillful marketing, only to be reminded that these innovative tents are no longer manufactured, even though their patents are retained by a large outdoor retailer.  Not so long ago, Moss Tents became another casualty of our “global” economy that serves to uproot local manufacturing while depressing wages worldwide, ultimately driving down the standard of living for all.  I shudder to contemplate the carbon footprint of our Hilleberg tent compared to a comparable tent that could have been produced two States away.  If only Stephenson’s produced a free standing model!

Hilleberg Staika Tent

More photos of our tents, as well as a brief homage to the recent past (Moss catalog pics toward the end):

6 comments to Good Old Fashioned Tent-Off

  • et

    Does shipping one small tent across the Atlantic really have that much of a carbon footprint? Especially when considering shipping of materials to either country to make each tent. How much carbon is produced in sending a smallish package by boat from Europe?

    I miss my Moss tent, too. It started delaminating and became a play tent.

    • Kai

      Hmmm. Using commons sense logic (we’re certainly not specialists), be it a single smallish package or a whole bunch of smallish packages, the answer most certainly is yes – especially when one takes into account the massively unsustainable transportation system necessary to move stuff around. Plus, I’d say that at the root it depends where the material comes from and where the oil that makes up that material originates. If we assume that the oil was mined domestically and the nylon material created here as well (and the tent fabricated locally), then the footprint is most certainly smaller than the current way of doing things (oil likely from Africa, shipped to somewhere for refinement, processed oil shipped again to China, fabric manufactured in China, tent sewn in China, tent shipped to distribution center in North America, tent shipped to retailer, tent shipped to buyer). Plus, a narrow carbon footprint analysis misses the social costs (to all of us) born of cheap labor and poor environmental regulation and the fact that nylon is not biodegradable.

      Unfortunately for us, there are no four-season, double-wall, free-standing tents manufactured in North America – hence our decision to go with the Hilleberg Staika. We weighed our needs with all of the factors we could and arrived at the Staika. Were we only planning a local weekend trip we’d have gone with the Tarp Tent; a two week trip in the Maritimes, a Warmlite. However, our worldwide, all-climate itinerary kind of forced the issue. Admittedly, the Hilleberg was far from a perfect choice. Hilleberg’s production chain supports a cheap labor ethic which we wholly disagree with. However, we look forward to someday visiting the Hilleberg factory in Rapla, Estonia, when we pass through that part of the world. We want to see for ourselves the conditions folks work under as they create these tents for Hilleberg.

      Thanks for your question – any discussion which examines how all of us make decisions around purchasing is helpful and important to us. We really appreciate it!

  • et

    Very interesting to see your reasoning. If you are concerned about labor why not sew your own tent? If you are concerned about carbon footprint why not buy a used tent or refrain from using one at all?

    In a world of (difficult) choices I think we tend to rationalize our own choices as good, reasonable or insignificant – I know I do. Difficult trade offs all the time.

    All the best,


    • Hi Eva,

      Thanks for continuing the conversation and for the very appropriate questions.

      If we had the proper materials and equipment to make a tent of the quality that Hilleberg offers, we would make our own tent because we are, at heart, DIYers. We considered making a lot of our own tarps and bags but in the end, we simply don’t have the time, material, equipment or the expertise to do so. Our first choice was to buy a used tent, but we searched for one online over several months time to no avail. The option to not use a tent at all on a world-wide cycling expedition is just not an intelligent decision – we must keep ourselves healthy and protect ourselves from the elements. Beyond that, we’re not going to have access to housing on many evenings and we wouldn’t have the funds necessary to maintain such a luxury every single day even if it were available to us.

      If you take a look at a couple of our past posts, in particular our “Ethical Sourcing” post and our “Money Talks” post in which we detail our Purchasing Procedure, you can see that we consider many different aspects when making any purchase – from whether or not we need the item in the first place to the environmental and social impact of the purchase. Our sourcing and purchasing guidelines were formed after educating ourselves about the negative aspects of globalization, climate change, unsustainable consumption of resources, and environmental damage caused by current delivery systems. We don’t hesitate to disclose or recognize the “trade offs” or negative aspects of some of our decisions – in fact our purchasing procedure prevents us from “rationalizing” away any of the negative aspects of any purchase, no matter how much we’d sometimes like to turn a blind eye toward them.

      The point is, we aren’t trying to hide anything in our own choices, we’re simply trying to lay out and make transparent how each of our individual choices, including ours, affects our world and those around us. By blogging about our experience we do hope to challenge others to stop and think about their own consumption patterns and to consider how sustainable their every day choices are. In the end, regardless of how someone may personally “rationalize” their own consumption, every choice has clear, undeniable and direct consequences upon the health of our world and it’s inhabitants. Whether or not people choose to recognize and acknowledge those consequences is solely up to them but we believe their choices (and ours) are critical to our survival.

      All the best to you as well!

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