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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Brooks-Range Propel tent > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Brooks-Range Propel Tent
By Raymond Estrella

February 18, 2013


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 52
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co.
Web site:
Product: Propel 2-person Tent Propel
Year manufactured: 2012
MSRP: US $349.95
Packaged weight (complete) listed: 2 lb 10 oz (1.19 kg)
Actual weight: 2 lb 10.4 oz (1.20 kg)
Interior height listed: 38 in (97 cm)
Length listed: 84 in (213 cm)
Actual length: 82 in (208 cm)
Width listed: 48 in (122 cm) verified accurate
Stuffed size: 5 x 16.5 in (13 x 42 cm)
Floor space: 28 ft2 (2.6 m2)
Vestibule space: 6.6 ft2 (0.61 m2)
Protected space to weight ratio: 13 ft2/lb (2.67 m2//kg)
Color: Yellow
Photo to right courtesy Brooks-Range

Quick and Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Brooks-Range Propel tent is a great addition to my summit pack or daypack for a just-in-case emergency shelter, or as my main shelter for a light weight, low volume winter kit. It packs small and can take some rough conditions with ease. It is definitely suited to normal height or below users though. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

Side view

The Brooks-Range Propel tent (hereafter referred to as the Propel or tent) is the company's lightest 4-season tent. It comes with everything seen below. The main body weighs 32.4 oz (919 g). There is an 8.5 mm DAC ridge pole that comes in at 5.6 oz (160 g) and two 8.5 mm side poles that weigh 1.9 oz (55 g). There are eight J-stakes that weigh 0.4 oz (11 g) each and have a 0.2 oz (6 g) stake sack for storage. All of it is carried in a 0.6 oz (16 g) stuff sack.

All the parts

The yellow body and green floor of the Propel are made of 15 denier silicone and polyurethane coated nylon that has a 1200 mm water resistance rating. The seams have been taped.

The Propel is a front-entry design with a triangular door that uses the entire front of the tent. The door drops to the ground when open. There are no gear pockets inside the tent.

The tent is not freestanding. To set up the body is laid down and staked or anchored depending on terrain. The ridge pole is inserted into a sleeve running the length of the tent. While the foot end goes into a reinforced pocket the head end slides into a hooded strap. As the strap is pulled tight the pole curves up.

The straight side poles are placed in grommets at ground level and into hooded straps of their own at the top. After being cinched tight the poles are hooked to the tent sides with hook-and-loop fasteners.

End view and stuffed

The vestibule is formed by pulling the front of the tent out and anchoring it. A single zipper on the left, running at an angle from pole anchor to the end of the ridge pole, accesses the tent. The design keeps the inside of the shelter protected from falling rain or snow when the vestibule door is open. If the vestibule is not needed it can be flipped over the top of the tent making access much easier.

There are two high vents, one on each side of the body, and one low vent that sits about a foot up (3 cm) at the foot-end left side. The vents all have wire stiffeners in the edges and can be zipped or unzipped to open or close from inside the tent. The door has a zipper at each side which allows it to be used to add ventilation too, just having the very top open if so desired.

All of the stake loops are big enough to use skis or snow pickets as anchors. Also all of the guy points and pole and stake attachment points are heavily reinforced. They are very strong.

The Propel is a two-person tent and it fits two standard pads with no problem. The only night I spent with two people I had my son's standard size pad and my wider large size pad as can be seen below. It just fit and once my quilt and his bag and over-quilt were added it took up all the space. More on this night later.

With two pads and gear

One of the neatest things about the Propel is the fact that it was designed to be used without the included poles. For folks who are already using them, the ridge pole may be swapped for a standard 300 cm (118 in) avalanche probe, and the side poles can be swapped for trekking or ski poles.

Field Data

I used the Propel on four backpacking trips and one camp-out with my son. Three of the backpacking trips were along the Red River north of Halstad, Minnesota and one was in Smoky Hills State Forest in north central Minnesota. Terrain was frozen ground for the most part, and one trip was on deep snow. Temperatures encountered ran from lows of 15 F down to -12 F (-9 to -24 C) and the tent has seen winds in excess of 40 mph (64 km/h). Here is a shot of the Propel in Smoky Hills State Forest.

Lots of snow


Folks who follow my reviews and test reports, or gear forum posts, know that I am a big fan of trekking pole-supported shelters. Since 2004 my knees have forced me to use trekking poles and I love being able to have them do double duty, allowing me to leave tents poles at home. So I was intrigued the first time I saw the Propel tent and decided to give it a shot.

Since I am now in flat Minnesota there is no need for me to carry an avalanche probe so I do use the supplied ridge pole. So my base weight of the tent and ridge pole stuffed is 38.6 oz (1094 g). I can't use the stock stakes in our frozen ground so carry either super hard sharp stakes of my own or snow anchors for the one time we actually had enough snow this winter to need them. In the picture above I had stomped down the snow about 8 in (20 cm) deep before setting the tent up. I dug an entry pit at the vestibule another 8 inches or so before hitting a frozen layer. The Propel worked very well with the curved aluminum snow stakes.

Other trips saw the snow melted off or blown away (it is very windy on the northern plains) so a couple times the Propel was directly on prairie grass or leaves like this shot in the forest.

No snow

The nylon that the Propel is made from is very slick. Snow just does not stick to it. The trip in Smoky Hills saw light snow falling off and on the entire time. None stuck. But a better example, and one that shows the strength of the Propel, was the camp-out with my son.

He likes to sleep out in the winter, but his sister has no such desire so when he wants to set a new low-temperature record we set up a tent just outside the living room window so my daughter can see us. On Thanksgiving we were warned of a storm moving in that was going to be pretty severe. While it was not supposed to be that cold (for here) it was bringing heavy snow and strong winds. My son decided that he wanted to sleep in a storm and I figured it would be my only chance to try the tent with two people so I hurried out before the storm to set it up and get our sleep gear inside. I had it ready just after noon. By 2:00 PM the storm hit. We watched from the window as snow blew sideways, sometimes barely able to see the tent. Here is what it looked like as we went to go to bed.

Thanksgiving Storm (thanks 4 snow)

I had to dig out the opening to get inside. They were reporting winds at 39 mph (63 km/h) and I don't know what it was gusting to. It blew all night and hit a low of 15 F (-9 C). I had the upper vents half-open and the top of the door dropped a bit to try to keep air movement. The lower vent was under snow.

What amazed me was that I did not ever have to knock snow off the sides during the night. The snow just slid off on its own.

It was pretty tight inside for two people. Both of us were touching the sides of the tent. As expected there was quite a bit of condensation but with the wind blowing so much snow I could not really open it up. Here is a shot of the two of us inside.

One bundled up boy.

I really like how small the Propel packs down to. I was able to use my 3-season packs (seen below) as the Propel is between half and one-third the size and weight of my other 4-season tents.

The only problem that I have with the Propel is due to the fact I am a big guy. I have to go straight down the center of the tent and still touch the foot at one end and the door at the other. If I could I closed the vestibule and left the door completely open so that I had the extra room. When I did this I would let the door lay on the ground in the vestibule to keep me from hitting the ground or snow.

The entry is pretty tight for someone as tall as me too. Of course my son, at 5' 4" (163 cm) thought it was just great. The beak at the end of the ridge pole is 32 in (81 cm) high. I always put my sit pad on the ground in front to help my knees as I have to drop to them to go in and out. To facilitate entry and exit I kept the vestibule flipped up until I went to bed.

I really like the design and concept of the Propel. It doesn't weigh that much more than a winter bivy yet offers much more protection. If it were a bit longer and higher it would be great for me. Hmm, or if I were just shorter… I understand the limitations put in place by the set length of an avalanche probe but sure do wish there was a Long version of the Propel. I leave with a shot of it on the banks of the Red River.

A little snow

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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