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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > MontBell Crescent 2 Tent > Test Report by Ben Mansfield
MontBell Crescent 2 Tent
The MontBell Crescent 2 Tent
Over the past 15 years or so, I've tried to average at least one weekend trip per month year round, primarily in PA, WV, and VA. During the last 8 years, I've tried to take a week long trip somewhere further, but still usually in the eastern US. I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, preferring some luxury to an ultralight load. I am also an avid fly fisherman, mountain & road biker, and snow skier, and enjoy sailing my homemade dinghy.
The MontBell Crescent 2 tent is a single-pole, non-freestanding, two person backpacking tent. It is an asymmetrical hexagon shape, with two long walls along the left and right sides, and two short walls coming to a point at each end. Standing outside of the tent facing the door, the right wall of the tent is mesh with an integrated rainfly which is attached at the ridgeline. This integrated rainfly extends forward such that it may be staked out to form the vestibule at the front door. The left side of the tent is a single-wall design, though there is a vent just above the floor seam where a small strip of mesh allows some air circulation. The tent has a bathtub floor made of ripstop nylon. In addition to the guy points at every corner (six, plus one additional for the vestibule / door), there are two additional guy points, one near the front peak of the tent and one near the rear peak of the tent.
More detailed measurements of weight and size are available in the tables below.
The Crescent 2 includes a somewhat standard hanging mesh pocket at the foot of the tent, as well as a small stash pocket located near the door that should come in handy for a headlamp or other nighttime necessity. There are also five loops attached periodically along the interior ridge of the Crescent 2, presumably for hanging additional storage or a small clothes line.
Because of the interesting design of the Crescent 2, a number of venting options are possible. Obviously, with the rain fly fully deployed, there is complete coverage inside the tent. Opening the door in the vestibule gives access to the main tent door. The vestibule door can be tied back and left open thanks to a toggle and a loop to retain it, which is sewn into the fly. In addition, the entire vestibule can be rolled-up and tied back as well. Finally, if the weather is nice, the whole rain fly can be rolled up and tied off to the ridge, leaving a tent which is half nylon and half mesh. There is also a small rectangular vent running most of the length of the non-mesh side of the tent, as well as a small triangular vent at the peak opposite the door. The rectangular vent is located just above the seam of the bathtub floor, and is about 3" (8 cm) high, running nearly the length of the tent. The tent body nylon extends beyond this mesh to protect the vent from the weather (though splashing water may be an issue).
Although my experience with most non-freestanding tents is that they can be a challenge to pitch and adjust, the design of the Crescent 2 is actually quite smart, and setting up and taking down the tent is simple. The single pole is attached at the front and back of the tent by putting the tent pole ends through grommets in a piece of webbing attached to the tent body. This causes the tent pole to bend, and seven clips sewn into the ridge line are used to attach the tent body to the pole. Once this is complete, opposing corners of the tent are staked out, effectively raising the tent. Finally, the remaining tent stakes secure and tighten the tent. Additional guylines and stakes can be used to stabilize the tent in inclement weather.
If using the footprint, the operation is basically the same, except that the footprint is laid down first, the tent pitched on top of it (orientation of the tent in relation to the footprint is relatively obvious given the shape and symmetry of each), and guylines and grommets on the footprint are used to keep it in place. The grommets line up with the grommets on the tent used for holding the ends of the tent pole, and the guylines are located near where the guylines on the main tent are attached, so no extra stakes or guylines are required for the footprint.
The tent pitches tight and appears like it will be fairly resistant to normal three-season weather, though only time & testing will tell. I imagine that it will be important to orient the ridge of the Crescent 2 into the wind, although the extra guy points on the ridge may help the tent stand up to higher winds. In addition, it will probably be prudent to also ensure that the rain fly on the side with the mesh is appropriately taut.
For my toothbrush-shortening friends out there, a more detailed breakdown of the weights of each individual component is shown in the table below. Note that while drilling holes in your toothbrush may save a little weight, cutting holes in the Crescent 2 will diminish its usefulness (kind of like plucking the bristles out of your toothbrush). It might be possible, however, to leave the footprint or a few stakes at home. Note that in the table below, the weight of the stuff sack is included in the weight of the component. Some minimal weight savings might be realized by leaving the stuff sacks at home, but I'm not convinced that I can generate a measurement that is actually accurate.
* Note that my "Tent-Packaged" measurements include the tent itself, along with the tent pole, emergency sleeve, stakes, and extra guy lines.
** Note that my "Tent - Minimum" measurements include the tent itself, tent pole, and stakes, since without these three essentials it is impossible to pitch the tent. It is possible to argue that the tent can be pitched without stakes by using natural anchors, so the weight of the stakes is included in the table as well. I attribute the lack of difference with my measured "packaged" weight to inaccuracy in my scale (though quite good, still not accurate to fractions of an ounce) and rounding.
Below is a table showing measured and claimed values for the various tent dimensions.
(D) in the above table indicates a diameter measurement, as the stuff sack(s) in question were more or less cylindrical when I measured them. In addition, MontBell states the vestibule size is 2.2 sq. ft. (2044 sq. cm.). Based on my measurements and my knowledge of geometry, I put it closer to around 1.5 sq. ft (1394 sq. cm.)
This tent must be magic! Or maybe it's lucky like a rabbits foot covered in four-leaf clovers stored inside a horseshoe (with the opening towards the sky, of course, so the luck doesn't fall out). Well, maybe not quite that extreme, but there must be something special about it. Never, ever, in my however many years of camping & backpacking (going back to my Cub Scout days) have I had a summer full of outings during which NOT ONE TIME did I have to pack up my gear wet and deal with it at home. Maybe it's global warming. I don't know, but what I do know is that to date, I've spent 12 nights in the MontBell Crescent 2 Tent, and I have yet to be rained on at night in this tent. Don't misunderstand - I was sprinkled on in the New River Gorge in West Virginia, rained on in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, and even slipped and took a short swim in a small creek in the Allegany Forest up in New York (the Allegheny in Pennsylvania and the Allegany in New York are the same forest - the states just spell them differently). But in every daylight case, the "Magical MontBell" was safely & deeply entombed in my pack, in part because of its small size, and did not take on any water. My wife has almost forgotten that every time I come home from a backpacking trip, my gear spends a few days set up in the garage, like a little suburban campsite, in order to dry everything out. (This is probably a good thing, since this tent would be hard to stake out & therefore pitch on a concrete slab.)
Temperatures on all my trips were mild - if it got down below 60 F (16 C) at night I'd be surprised. Daytime temps were, at times, upwards of 80 F (27 C), but I can't say that I spent a lot of time in the tent at these temperatures. Elevation-wise, all of my trips were somewhere around 500 ft (150 m) not quite up to 3000 ft (915 m).
What I have been able to test quite well is the ventilation options offered by this tent. Thanks to the warm, dry nights I've had, I've set up the tent with the fly rolled all the way up on many occasions. This gives a wonderful sense of sleeping under the stars, complete with view, while also providing good protection from bugs. I've also slept with the hatches battened down a few times when the weather threatened (but didn't deliver).
Condensation-wise, the Crescent 2 has performed well - though on most nights it's been just me in the tent and with all the extra volume inside the tent (& with the fly open) there's plenty of air to soak up my breath. I haven't noticed any condensation in the mornings, even on mornings where the ground was a little dewy.
I did share the tent on a few nights - note that my hiking partners are all long time friends of mine, and that we've all been doing this a long time. Also note that we're all average (or better) sized guys. We've shared other, smaller tents in the past and have felt much more awkward in the morning. The Crescent 2 definitely allows enough space for two average size men without a lot of extraneous elbow bumping and breath smelling, which is a welcome feature when comparing against some of the other two person backpacking tents on the market.
One thing that the tent doesn't really provide, when being used as a shelter for two, is space for gear storage. The tiny vestibule has to stretch to fit two pairs of hiking boots, let alone provide space for making coffee or storing a backpack. It would be nice to have a little more room in the vestibule department, though I'm not sure I'd be willing to sacrifice the small packed size or additional weight to get it. I guess these are the tradeoffs that have to be made. That, coupled with the fact that a garbage bag is light and makes a pretty good overnight pack cover in a pinch, means that all in all I really can't complain about the vestibule size a whole lot.
The smallish door that I pointed out during my initial review of the tent is, well, still small. With one person in the tent, it's not a big deal. With two people in the tent, it can be a little challenging, especially when the person sleeping on the side opposite the door has to get out in the middle of the night for biological reasons. So, it comes down to a decision - do I want the side with the mesh ventilation and great view of the night sky, or do I want the side where I'm less likely to be stepped on if my tent-mate has to pee at 3 AM?
The other issue with the door has to do with putting on my boots. I like to leave my boots in the vestibule, sit inside the tent, feet out through the door, and put on my boots so that they stay outside. Then I do this little dance where I try to get my head and shoulders out of the door (while my feet are still out there but my butt is still inside), the end goal being that I'm standing up outside & in front of the tent. There are probably easier ways to do this, such as rolling over and going out feet first, then butt, then head last, but my little tent exiting dance at least provides some entertainment for the squirrels and gives my hamstrings a good stretch in the morning.
Long Term Report
By the time the effects of Hurricane Ike made it to Ohio, its power was greatly diminished but Ike still managed to bring sufficient wind and rain to blow some fascia off of my house. While the storm was rolling in, I had an evil thought to pitch the Crescent 2 in by back yard to see how well it would stand up to a pretty serious storm. My wife convinced me that it was stupid and irresponsible, as well as unfair. So I was forced to plan some more trips to test the tent... "Sorry, honey. Should've let me pitch the tent in a hurricane."
Luckily, fall in this part of the world brings frequent rain, so I dutifully planned a trip up to the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania in late September. To try to increase my chances of getting rained on, I called on a couple of friends to join me on a trip where we not only spent some time on the trail, but stopped along the way to fish some of the wilderness trout streams for which the forest is somewhat famous. Fishing trips, for me at least, almost always guarantee rain. Crescent 2 and fly rod packed, we headed off for a 4-day trip.
The first night, after setting up in the dark, the weather was beautiful - clear skies and temps in the 50's F (10 C). I was able to enjoy the starry night thanks to the combination of great campsite selection and Montbell's roll-up fly.
With our first choice stream looking pretty low and not a lot of activity, we headed deeper into the forest to our second choice stream, which is somewhat less scenic but known for better year-round fishing. Luckily, the stream and weather both cooperated. The remainder of the weekend served up scattered rain and scattered rainbows (trout, that is), as well as the biggest and most beautiful wild brook trout I've ever been fortunate enough to catch and release (and on a dry fly no less - #16 elk hair caddis, for you fly fisher-folks).
Well, if it's not one thing, it's another, and in this case, it was the camera. The battery was not charged, so not only did we miss pictures of the Crescent 2 fighting off the rain, but I also have no proof of my 11" (28 cm) brook trout, except for the testimony of the other two guys who were with me. I can say, though, that the Montbell did well against the moisture. The single-wall side performed pretty much as I would expect - kept the rain out as long as you didn't brush up against the inside wall - a well known rule in pretty much every tent. The double-wall side with the attached fly was nearly perfect as well. I didn't notice any drips coming off of the fly and through the mesh. Speaking of the mesh parts of the tent, I did not experience any noticeable water splashing off the ground and into the tent (I suspected that the single walled side, with its mesh vent very near the ground, might be subject to bouncing rainwater). The tent also dried quickly when the skies cleared up and the sun came out, which happened every afternoon.
From a durability standpoint, I have seen no issues to date with this tent, and no signs of any impending problems. It is well constructed, sufficiently waterproof, and well designed. I have been scrutinizing the door opening, expecting to see some wear or strain around where the zippers meet from the stress I must put on it when I try to get out of the tent (getting in is not as big of a deal), but it looks the same as when I first set it up. At this point, I don't even have plans to re-treat the seams and will probably try to go another season in the tent before I do.
Overall, this tent has met and exceeded my expectations. I've spent over 20 nights in the Crescent 2, and I'm very impressed with the ease with which it is pitched, the different options for ventilation, and the interior space that is delivered considering the weight and size of the total package. I plan to make this my "go-to" tent, at least for three-season use, for the foreseeable future. And who can argue... with its capability to keep rain at bay and deliver trout to the net, why wouldn't I keep it on the top of the gear pile?
I would like to thank MontBell and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test this tent.
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