Launched in June 2021, Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2 (£430) sits firmly within the Australian brand’s lightweight backpacking tent line-up.
It features an innovative upturned cross pole that offers more head height and ventilation than your average backpacking tent as well as taller side doors for easy access. I took it wild camping to see how it stood up to the elements and how it compares to the best backpacking tents.
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Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: design
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: Specs
Main material: 15D Sil-PeU Coated Nylon Ripstop
Pitching time: 10 minutes
What is an ultralight tent? Definitions vary, but I’d class it as a portable design weighing around or under one kilo, and usually designed to hold one or two campers at most. At 1.3kg and with room to fit two people, Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2 classes as an ultralight(ish) design – and unlike many small and coffin-like lightweight backpacking tents, this little tent still gives the camper plenty of room to sit up, pack and move about. The main design factor helping here is the Alto’s cross pole, which faces up rather than down, creating better ventilation and more head room. The Alto is available in two colours - green, which blends in with the landscape nicely on wild camps, and the grey I tested out, which gives a good feeling of light and space within the tent.
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: pitching and dismantling
The Alto is pleasingly easy to pitch, and takes under ten minutes to have ready to go. Once the poles are clipped together, it’s simply a matter of attaching them to the inner tent, pegging out the tent and then popping the rain fly on top. You can also pitch the inner tent alone on a balmy night, or leave the fly half-off if you fancy a spot of stargazing. Every part of the pitching process of the Alto feels well designed, from the elasticated toggles for holding back the doors to the lightweight aluminium poles, which pop together with ease. And why don’t all tents have colour-coded poles and clips like the Alto? On a windy, rainy day, or in the dark, being able to simply pop the blue clip on the blue peg, and so on, is a godsend.
Sea to Summit are proud of this tent’s ‘hangout mode’, which allows you to pitch the fly only as a rain cover to eat lunch under if you get caught in the rain (but by only using trekking poles or a separate, and not included, set of poles). I like that this option is available, and it’d be good as a sunshade in the garden, but it probably wouldn’t sway me when buying a tent.
The Alto comes in three separate stuff sacks – one for the fly, one for the inner tent and one for the poles. The genius of this storage system is that it’s easy to pack the Alto in a rucksack, strap bits to the outside of a backpack or to split it between two people. The two smaller bags also fit nicely into a bike pannier, and the poles can be easily strapped to a bike rack for bikepacking forays. When it’s time to break camp, it’s quick and easy to fold or stuff the tent back into its stuff sacks and be on your way, which definitely can’t be said of many tents I’ve reviewed in the past.
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: out in the wild
Tents are sold according to how many people they sleep – so you’ll see one-man, two-man, four-man and up on salt, all the way to big family tents with multiple bedrooms. The Alto TR2 is described as a two-man, but while it definitely can fit two humans inside, you’ll be pretty squished together, with little room for anything but your mats and sleeping bags (although the vestibules will hold backpacks, boots, food etc.). I used the Alto with my partner and we were comfortable for a few nights, but two large men would probably struggle to squeeze in. For one person, the Alto is really roomy, so I’d describe it as a one-man tent with benefits – ideal for one person on longer trips, or just about roomy enough for two on a one or two-night adventure.
Inside the Alto there’s plenty of head height when you’re sitting up, and tall doors for easy access – on the whole, it feels far roomier and less claustrophobic than most backpacking tents. The main room includes small mesh pockets (I’d have liked these to be bigger), plus lots of points for hanging a nightlight or kit from the ceiling and including ‘Light Bar’ Velcro attachments, designed so that you can pop your head torch into a stuff sack and hang it from the ceiling of the tent so that it acts as a lantern.
The Alto also proved pleasingly weatherproof when I tested it out on Dartmoor. I was lucky (or unlucky?) enough to use the tent in heavy rain on two occasions, and on both nights it kept me totally dry inside, with water beading on the surface of the outer fly. It was also quick to dry out back at home. Inside there’s also very good ventilation thanks to the taller ceiling and the mesh makeup of the inner tent. The bottom of the tent does feel fragile, so it'd be worth investing in the corresponding footprint, sold separately, if you plan to camp on rocky terrain.
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: alternatives to consider
If you’re after something similar to the Alto TR2 but you’re more of a keen cyclist than a hiker, keep an eye out for the Sea to Summit Telos TR2 Bikepack instead, launching in Spring 2022 and designed specifically to fit in panniers. The Telos TR3 (£600) is a similar design but offers offers more space for two people planning longer trips. Watching the pennies? The Vango Banshee, currently reduced to £155, is a less spacious but perfectly functional 1-2 man backpacking option at a more affordable price point.
Sea to Summit Alto TR2 tent review: verdict
If you’re branching out on multi-day hiking or wild camping expeditions and want a tent that manages to be small and easy to carry but impressively roomy and airy once you pitch it, look no further than Sea to Summit’s Alto TR2. Sleeping one camper with lots of room to spare or two campers at more of a squeeze, the Alto stands out for its good-quality design, weatherproofing, spaciousness and easy pitching. Lovely stuff.
First reviewed: April 2022