Tents don't wind up being at the tip of the innovation spear as often as other outdoor gear does. Sure, we recently saw one tent that sets up in seconds and another that's half-hammock, but both of these leave the tent's core elements unchanged...and let's face it, they have a hint of gimmick to them.
That said, Sea to Summit's forthcoming Alto and Telos shelters — the company's first tents in its 30 years of business — do too, but they improve on every single core element of a tent, as well.
The most apparent feature is an inverted crossbeam pole, which Sea to Summit calls "Tension Ridge." Its effect is twofold: it draws the ceiling higher and pulls the walls closer to vertical. This effect, combined with an asymmetrical shape (the Tension Ridge is closer to the head end of the tent instead of in the center), works to make the new tents far more spacious without a weight penalty.
And the tents are indeed light — the ultralight two-person Alto is 2 pounds 15.3 ounces, while the two-person Telos is 3 pounds 10.4 ounces. That said, both also come in moderately beefed-up "plus" versions that feature slightly heavier fabrics.
They aren't without their bells and whistles, either. Features include condensation-reducing vents integrated into the rainfly, a way to deploy that rainfly in the middle of the night without getting out of the tent, and "Hangout Mode," which lets you set up the shelter without its insides like a giant umbrella for group hangs (this last one is Telos-only).
Even the stuff sack deserves note. Sea to Summit made it in three sections that come apart, so tentmates can share the load while hiking. When the tent is set up, two of these pouches have a second purpose as gear caddies that snap into the corners.
The Alto starts at $399 and the Telos at $499; both will be available for preorder on March 15 and ship in May.