One of my favorite online retailers is Sierra Trading Post. They often have great deals on name-brand outdoor equipment, shoes and the like. They also will strike private label deals with certain manufacturers for product exclusives that allow them to offer even better prices. When I started my search for a three-person backpacking tent, I kept running across one of those particular offerings: the Alps Mountaineering Zenith 3 AL tent. With the far-below retail price and discount coupon I found the deal impossible to pass up.
Out of the box, I was not disappointed. The Zenith arrived just in time for a family camping trip, and was lightweight and compact, well constructed and extremely easy to pitch.
The Zenith is exactly the same product that Alps sells through other retailers under the name Zephyr. The only difference according to a company representative is cosmetics, in particular the fly. The Zenith has an orange fly while the Zephyr uses an olive green. Other than that, both products are a two-wall, two-door, three-season design. The main tent has a bathtub floor and full mesh canopy. Inside is a small pocket and a gear loft. It pitches easily with three lightweight aluminum poles. The two longer poles offer the main tent support. They attach to the tent with clips. The third small pole holds the other two apart. One small criticism, the connectors on the pole ends tend to pull away from the ends of the poles so be careful especially when taking the tent down.
Like most three person backpacking tents, getting three actually side-by-side will be quite tight. But if you have only two people, there’s more than enough room in the Zenith. The shape is unique, with a tall ceiling over the doors (where you need it) which slopes down to the foot of the tent, saving unnecessary weight. The main tent – without the fly – is very light and would be perfect alone for summer outings. The fly is much heavier than I expected, perhaps because of the extra material for the two vestibules and the plastic eyebrow windows. At just over 5 lbs though, it’s won’t break your back.
Like it a lot. When you compare the cost of the Zenith and Zephyr to tents of similar quality, you can’t beat them. If you’re looking for a three-person, three season tent you need to consider these products from Alps.
Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. Written by Matt K.
September 7, 2010
Sweet review! This does sound like a great tent. Maybe I can make up an excuse to buy this tent for myself as a Christmas present;) I love the photos that you attach to each review – I’m always curious about all the different angles of the gear if I buy it online. One thing that would be awesome is if at the beginning or end you have a quick specs chart (like you’d see on http://www.rei.com/product/796091 under “Specs”) to find out the exact measurements, weights, etc. Otherwise, great post!!
October 5, 2010
I bought my son a Zephyr 2 for Christmas several years ago; we took it on practice hikes when he was getting ready for Philmont Scout Reservation. I’ve shared it on a number of occasions, and he’s taken it on many multi-week adventures, including some of the nastiest rain you would want to see. It has served him well, and we’ve become pretty good friends with the Alps folks as the result of our experiences with their products and service.
October 5, 2010
I have this same tent except mine is the 2 Person Model. Great little tent. I use it solely for backpacking. Very dry and and VERY quick and easy to pitch. I got mine from Sierra Trading Post also.
October 26, 2010
my camping tent is a cheap, made in china stuff but this tent is also very durable:~.
February 26, 2011
Great article! Thank you!
I agree that Alps has done it right. This is an awesome well made light weight tent for the money. We got the Zephyr 2 for backpacking and liked it so much that we also recently purchased the Zephyr 3 as well. We spent days finding just the right tent. The two doors and vestibules were a must have. The inside clearance and mesh upper was all bonus.
A few things that you did not mention that I think are worth mentioning. The tent also comes with quality very light weight aluminum stakes and reflective guy lines. In the past I would have tossed the stock steel stakes and guy lines and purchased replacement third party aluminum stakes. Not so with the Zephyr. And if you get the matching foot print you can setup the fly and the foot print without the tent for a very nice warm summer canopy.
February 26, 2011
You make some great points. Thanks for pointing these additional details out. I still think this is one of the best tents for the money out there.
February 9, 2012
I have the Zenith 2, and couldn’t be happier. It sets up in no time at all, and I like the color scheme of the Zenith (easier to see at night or from the air in case of a bad thing happening.) It should weigh a little less to be a real backpacking tent, but even after hiking a few miles in, not all that bad. I also have their Crescent Lake 20° mummy bag. Again, not the smallest bag, but, in the end Alps Mountaineering has some great entry level gear at fantastic prices. Do look around for sales…
April 14, 2012
I appreciated this review. We have been in the market for a new tent and have looked at this model several times on Sierra. A discount and $2 shipping were hard to pass up, but your review helped seal the deal (especially the non-stock photos). I have never owned Alps gear, so I am looking forward to testing her out this season.
April 14, 2012
Hey Elise, Thanks for comment. I’m with you on the quality of the STP deal. Best of luck with the tent. Once you get a chance to try it out, definitely let us know what you think.