- Buying Considerations: The “Six S” Method
- Eureka Spitfire 2
- Alternative Shelters
- Final Thoughts
I know I seem fine on the surface, but I hold a dark secret.
I am plagued by the financially crippling habit of being a gear junkie.
From ultralight backpacks to nanotechnology-infused camping wear, I have to own the latest and greatest products in the camping world. I can't help it. If it's cool, I NEED IT.
You can probably imagine that not all my purchases carry the best price-to-performance ratio. In fact, during my years of searching for the best gear on the market, only rarely do I come across something that's absolutely killer value for its price.
One such occasion was with the Eureka Spitfire 2. Let me show you why.
Buying Considerations: The “Six S” Method
Don’t be like me and purchase the newest outdoor gear without thoroughly doing research on each product.
For tents, it can be difficult determine which shelter fits your needs, so utilize the simple “Six S” method (expanded from the “Five S”) for tent buying: size, season, setup, security, storage, and $$.
Take my preferences for example. I often camp with my wife and dog, yet we are both average, if not slightly below average, height. Therefore, a 2-person, lightweight tent usually will suffice.
Since we don’t camp in the winter, we opt for a weatherproof 3-season tent. Pitching the shelter is no problem to us and we feel pretty safe in the outdoors (even though it wasn’t always like that).
Since we tend to hike a lot, we require storage for our packs, like a small vestibule, and money is always an issue, but we are typically able to justify purchases through consistent use.
This is how YOU should be narrowing down your shelter options.
What are some of your tent buying requirements? If you still are unsure, I’ll dig a little deeper into each specific category.
Some of the basic (and quantifiable) size specifications you should look into are floor dimensions (since floor area can sometimes be misleading), ceiling height, packed size, and packed weight. One factor that often goes overlooked is the actual usable volume, which has to do with the angle of the side-walls and overall shape of the shelter.
The structural design also plays a major role in protection from the elements. Even if a tent is 2-,3-, or 4-season, the geometry of the poles may not be effective against strong winds (typically blocky and top-heavy tents) or may cause too much interior condensation (due to poor ventilation).
On top of that, the tent’s overall architecture can affect your ease of setup.
Usually classified as either freestanding, semi-freestanding, or supported, each tent design has it’s pros and cons. Freestanding shelters typically allow for the easiest setups, but rely on lightweight poles (which often break).
For supported structures, you can use heavy sticks trekking poles to hold them up, but it may not protect you from the elements.
A happy alternative is the semi-freestanding tent, which maintains its shape through added pole support, but also relies on guy-lines, stakes, and external supports to remain upright (since you don’t want your tent to turn into a body bag in the middle of the night).
When you can assure yourself that the tent has an adequate structure, it may give you the personal security you need to enjoy your camping experience. Also look into each of the tent’s materials (and its specific thickness) to ensure that your camping shelter will be long-lasting, durable, and weatherproof.
Once you’ve established your personal preferences in the aforementioned factors, consider what you will be bringing to the campsite. Will you have enough storage for all your gear in the backcountry? Or will you simply be lounging next to your car?
And finally, it’s all about the $$ - but more specifically - each product’s price-to-performance ratio. Heck, if a shelter meets all my requirements at $150, why would I need to splurge $450 for the same thing?
7’1 x 4’7” (tapers to 3’8”)
4’4” x 7’2”
4’2” x 7’
10’9” x 5’10” (tapers to 4’2”)
4 lb. 1 oz.
3 lbs 12 oz
3 lbs 15 oz
4 lbs. 3 oz.
Eureka Spitfire 2
The double-walled, semi-freestanding Eureka Spitfire 2 is an excellent tent for car campers and backpackers alike. While it’s not the roomiest on the market, the unique trapezoidal design offers plenty of floor space, although you may feel cramped with the shallow-angled walls.
When it comes to protection from the elements, Eureka has provided a full-coverage rain fly and bathtub floor to keep you dry in the wettest of conditions. In the event that the forecast is clear, you may want to ditch the rain fly and gaze into the stars as most of the tent’s canopy is made up of mesh.
Although the tent is slightly heavier than some of its alternatives, the Spitfire 2 has a packable, manageable weight that will have you yearning for adventure.
Still, there are a few aspects of this tent that fall short of (my) desires.
There is limited gear storage, not free-standing, and there isn’t really a footprint made for this shape. Yet if you are looking into transitioning from the campsite to the backcountry, the Eureka Spitfire 2 may be your best option.
Size: Large, But You May Feel Confined
Although it’s not the most spacious tent on the market, the Eureka Spitfire 2 offers plenty of interior room for you and your partner to stretch out in the outdoors.
You may feel a little cramped as you move about the tent since the width actually tapers down from 70” to 52” (along with some oddly shaped side walls), but you should be able to sit-up comfortably in your sleeping bag as the head-end boasts a 43” ceiling height.
Still, if you are just using your shelter to sleep while you spend the rest of your trip bathing in nature’s beauty, then you shouldn’t have to worry about the Spitfire’s less-than-stellar interior dimensions.
The best “size” aspect of the Spitfire 2 is its packed size and weight.
When stored, Eureka was able to get their tent down to 18” x 6”, which compared it’s competitors, is extremely packable. In combination with a decent trail weight of 4 lbs. 3 oz., the Spitfire 2 makes a perfect shelter for every car camper looking to dip their toes in the world of backpacking.
Season: 3-Season With Interesting Trapezoidal Shape
The Eureka Spitfire 2 offers superb weather protection without sacrificing overall weight.
The unique hoop design allows for a wide, trapezoidal profile, which gives the tent stability even in windy conditions (unlike some of it's 'boxy’ competitors).
The rain fly is coated with 1200 mm of polyurethane which is extremely waterproof, giving you and your partner ample protection from rainy conditions, yet, the fly doesn’t extend all the way down to the ground. Therefore, Eureka has incorporated a bathtub floor into the tent’s design to prevent any droplets from splashing back into the shelter.
Although, the way the doors are structured, you may get a face full of dew if you open them too fast in the morning.
So, what about moisture from the inside? Many of these tapered shelters can pose a huge risk for condensation formation on the underside of the fly, but the Spitfire 2 has large mesh wall panels that allow for plenty of air flow to keep the dew drops from falling on your head.
Setup: Semi-Freestanding Hoop design
With the dual-hoop architecture, you can probably tell already that the Eureka Spitfire 2 won’t simply stand-up on it’s own.
You’ll have to break out your inner survivorman and learn how to properly rig this tent.
Okay maybe I’m being a little dramatic, since it’s actually not that difficult to pitch. Simply clip on the half-circle hoop supports to the tent canopy and use the guylines (one on each side) to pull the shelter taut.
It may be difficult at first, since once you pull one-side, the other side may become loose (and so on and so forth), but you should only need to use two stakes total to pitch a solid structure.
Unfortunately, the Spitfire 2 does not come with a footprint, and they are actually pretty difficult to purchase due to the unique shape. Rather than going without extra protection altogether and risking tearing a hole in the floor from a stray pebble, perhaps consider making your own tent footprint.
Tyvek works perfect for a floor saver, and can be purchased from most local home improvement stores. Cut out a piece of the Tyvek that fits that size of your shelter, get a cheap grommet kit, and ta-da; you’ve not only got a footprint, but also a hands-on activity to do with the whole family.
Security: Durable and Perfect For Stargazers
I’m sure after multiple practice pitching sessions, you won’t have to worry about the Spitfire 2 collapsing on you in the middle of the night. Even though it’s semi-freestanding, Eureka has provided you with some of the best tenting poles on the market. The DAC Feather-Lite aluminum supports allow for ample structural integrity without weighing you down, and the combination of polyester and nylon allow for durability that will last you years (if you take proper care of it).
With more than half the tent’s canopy made of no-see-um mesh, not only does it keep the bugs out, but let’s the views in.
If you want to get lost in the night sky, pointing out constellations and hunting for shooting stars, than simply layback and enjoy (without the rain fly of course). Eureka has struck stargazer gold with this feature.
Unfortunately one factor that could use a little work on the Spitfire 2 is the lack of storage.
Since the rain fly is full-coverage, there is no vestibule to store wet, dirty gear, which is essential when out on the trail. Although you may be able to finagle your pack into a small crevice between the canopy and the fly, it won’t be adequately protected from the elements. With the long interior space though, you may have enough room to tuck your larger items at the end of the shelter.
While there are a few side mesh pockets built into the interior fabric, they are only big enough to hold a few items. I’d like to see Eureka expand on their storage capabilities in future versions of the Spitfire 2.
$$: One Of The Top Budget Backpacking Tents on the Market
Arguably the best aspect of the Eureka Spitfire 2 is it’s affordability.
Not many other tents come close to the price-to-performance ratio of this tent. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of its competitors, the Spitfire 2 does offer a gigantic door. Sure, that may not sound like a priority, but if you’re like me, and have tripped entering a tent more times than you can count, you’ll be thankful for the spacious entry.
Yes, there may be better, lighter backpacking shelters on the market, but if you want to experience the outdoors without breaking the bank, then you should seriously consider the Eureka Spitfire 2.
If you’re interested in the Eureka Spitfire 2, but still have some reservations about pulling the trigger, consider looking into a few similar competitors.
Coming in slightly lighter than the the Eureka Spitfire 2 (and only a tad more expensive), the 3-season Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 is a functional tent for all outdoor adventures.
Whether you simply want to relax by the campfire or trek into the wilderness, this shelter offers a sub-4 lb weight and 29 sq. ft. floor area. Although the typical “X” structure causes the side-walls to feel more cramped, leaving less usable interior volume.
Even though there is a vestibule on the rainfly, it can be difficult to assemble due to the use of a String Lock cord as opposed to clips or grommets. The freestanding canopy is easy enough to put together, but you will probably have to practice pitching the tent fly in your yard before you head out to the campsite.
While the Summer Moon 2 is does not have all the features of the higher-end tents on the market, it does include added amenities like a large D-shaped door, fully-taped seams, and a Night Glow pocket which turns your headlamp or flashlight into a tent light.
If you think the Summer Moon 2 is more your speed, you check out my full review here.
If you want to drop a little more coin on a semi-freestanding shelter, consider the Tarptent Scarp 2. Weighing 3 lbs. 12 oz., this large, lightweight tent will make the perfect addition to any backcountry adventure.
The durable, silicone-treated fabric provides excellent weather protection and with a unique door and fly design, the interior of the shelter should never get wet. Plus, the Scarp 2 is rated for four-seasons, so if you have the urge to go snowshoeing in the winter, you’ll have the perfect shelter to do so.
Yet, there are some downsides to the Scarp 2.
While Tarptent claims their shelter is a simple two-minute pitch, it may be difficult if you are not used to setting up these type of structures. On top of that, there is limited storage for gear in the form of an extremely small vestibule near the door. Still, the lightweight, durable tent offers ample protection from the elements and may fit your all-around outdoor needs.
If you’ve got the bankroll to finance this ultralight backpackers dream, read up more about the Scarp 2, and the rest of Tarptent’s lightweight shelters, on their website.
It’s hard to imagine a shelter that’s similarly priced to the Eureka Spitfire 2, but still boasts the same type of features, yet Kelty has somehow created a similar inexpensive backpacking shelter in the Grand Mesa 2.
At just over 4 lbs., this tent provides any outdoor adventurer the ability to trek miles into the brush, or just lounge around next to the campfire.
The waterproof polyester materials allow for great weatherability, but there are questions about its durability over time. Even though the accessories may not be of the best quality, it is truly hard to compete with the overall price-to-performance ratio of this budget backpacking shelter. With a well-known gear company like Kelty, you should have nothing to worry about.
If you’ve been thinking about easing into the backpacking world (or simply want to keep your outdoor options open), than you should consider the Spitfire 2.
The unique hoop-design and trapezoidal shape will keep you safe from the wind, while still making the setup a breeze (once you practice of course).
With an affordable price, hopefully you’ll be able to strike gold with the Eureka Spitfire 2.
About the Author - Andrew
Andrew's love for the outdoors began at an early age growing up in the midwest farmland and taking family vacations out west. Being a dreamer with his head in the clouds most moments make the mountains the perfect location for him. He hasn't met a false summit he doesn't like yet! Click here to learn more about Andrew's outdoorsy background...