Nook Backcountry Tent
MSRP: $399, (cascadedesigns.com)
This summer we tried out the MSR Nook on a three-day float down the upper Missouri, throwing as much rain, mud, muck and mosquito as we could at this well-thought three-season tent that packs down tight and light. Packing significantly smaller than a budget Kmart camper, but just a wee heavier than your ounce-counting minimalist backcountry kit at 3.5 pounds, the Nook is an ideal paddlers' pick for floaters needing a spacious solo option or couples who will still sleep comfy. The basic two-pole framework creates a big, almost vertical entry for simple stumbling in and out in the night, and the additional central spine pole opens the internal seated space. Yes, it's freestanding, but to take full (and dry) advantage of the legroom, and to prep it for any wind or rain, tensioning the back corners is a necessity (plus adding guy-lines front and back at a minimum). Fortunately, the corners are made to fit a trekking pole, but we found that a canoe paddle with a cam-strapped T-grip was a perfect fit. Constructed for years of abuse, this Nook's nest is a solid choice for paddling partners, yet it still packs small enough that you won't feel too decadent taking it solo next to your bivied buddies--just more comfortable.