First Impressions

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.

The tent goes up in minutes. And the fly is easy to attach with buckles at all four corners. The fly has some very interesting and clever features. There are small eyebrow windows over the vestibule so you can see outside when the doors are zipped shut. The Zenith also has a small rear vent that can be opened with a built-in prop.


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.

Final Verdict

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.

First Impressions:
[Rating:5/5] Features:
[Rating:4.5/5] Fit:
[Rating:4/5] Final Verdict:

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. Written by Matt K.