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Review: L.L. Bean Microlight UL 2-Person Backpacking Tent

posted by gumptiongear August 25, 2017 0 comments

The L.L. Bean Microlight UL 2-Person Tent’s ultra-lightweight materials and construction make it your new go-to option when you want to make a lot out of a little. Coming in at a minimum weight of 2.11 pounds and packing down to a mere 7 x 16½ inches, the Microlight UL 2 is ridiculously lightweight and easy to carry, making it ideal for fast-moving backpackers and discerning adventurers alike.

On Performance and Design…
Fast-paced excursions call for a featherweight, streamlined two-person tent that maximizes interior space and is simple to pitch after a long day of big miles. Emphasizing weight savings without compromising performance, the Microlight UL is not only feathery light, it takes up a minimal amount of space in your pack. It’s so light and unobtrusive that there will be moments – as our team experienced – that you’ll wonder if you lost it along the trail.

L.L. Bean used a breathable no-see-um mesh tent body for ventilation and a bug-free nights out under the stars. Thanks to a thoughtful design, the freestanding Microlight UL also offers an enviable ease of setup which is one of the quickest we’ve ever experienced. No wrestling with the 7000-series aluminum frame, no struggling with a complicated fly; in fact, when it comes to setting up camp, your biggest issue will be the time it takes to locate the most scenic vista.

A 15-denier ripstop-nylon full-coverage fly coated with silicone and polyurethane keeps wet weather out when you’re hunkered down for the night. And, we make no qualms about how much we love the bright yellow aesthetic of the fly which makes this tent easily identifiable wherever you are. Two D-shaped doors make for stealthy and convenient ins and outs throughout the night, while a sleek low-profile design and generous stake and guy out points ensure that this tent is stable and secure in the face of blustery mountain gusts.

Now, let’s talk about livability. When it comes to most lightweight tents, oftentimes manufacturers are forced to carefully weigh certain trade-offs in design to achieve the ‘ultra-light’ moniker. The result is that as a consumer, you may be forced to sacrifice comfort for performance, or weight for durability. So here’s what you need to know about the Microlight.

To the credit of L.L. Bean’s design team, the Microlight UL does an outstanding job of maintaining an impressive level of comfort and livability. This is largely due to the impressive length of the tent (enter cheers from the extra tall hikers) which measures in at 91.2 inches. By way of comparison, this lightweight gem offers more square footage than another in-house favorite, the Kelty TN2 (27.5 sq feet). And to our surprise, the Microlight’s 54 inch width is greater than the TN2, The North Face Mica FL2 and MSR’s Freelight 2 – all of which measure in at 50 inches wide.

Notes from the Field…
By and large, the Microlight UL is everything we had hoped it would be. A two-person double-door entry tent that delivers lightweight performance, exceptional set-up and impressive internal space. However, after zigzagging through the wilderness with this shelter, we did walk away with a few minor quibbles.

Our most significant issue with the overall design comes with the lack of venting. The Microlight UL relies entirely on it’s mesh body for ventilation, and unlike other tents in this category, there are no integrated vents in the rain fly. So whether stormy conditions are threatening, or you simply prefer to sleep with the fly on, you will experience moisture management issues with this tent.

As much as our testers appreciated the interior floor space and luxurious length of the Microlight UL, the 36-inch ceiling height was a drawback for our six foot plus backpackers. As most tent dwellers know, even when you have impressive floor space, a low-end top can still leave you wishing for more head space. That’s especially true when you’re paired up with a backcountry adventure partner.  Last but not least, while the tent itself made it through our testing unscathed, the tent stakes did not.

On our very first outing we snapped the head off two of the stakes while using a rock to insert them into the ground. The good news is that because the Microlight UL is backed by L.L. Bean’s 100% satisfaction guarantee, we’re confident knowing that we have a product that will always be backed by the brand whether it’s the tent stakes, or an accidental tear in the floor.

Bottom Line…
L.L. Bean’s lightest freestanding tent for two provides full protection minus the weight penalty. Wherever your adventure may lead you, the 3-season Microlight UL tent lets you enjoy the full backcountry experience — including time spent in the tent.

*Gumption Gear Review received the items featured in this review from L.L. Bean at no cost and receives no monetary compensation for this or any related review. The items featured were provided solely in return for our honest views and opinions.

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