In 2011 the Kelty Salida was honored with the Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, and even a few years later it’s still easy to see why. It’s hard to find a piece of gear that elegantly combines ease of use and solid build with a great price-point, but this one pulls it off admirably. This Boulder-based business has a long history in manufacturing high-quality camping gear—its founder was a pioneer in developing aluminum-framed backpacks for civilian outdoor enthusiasts—and the Salida fully demonstrates that level of craftsmanship.
Heavy polyester panels and rain fly, along with a nylon floor, make for great protection even in genuinely rough weather. That’s doubly impressive considering that the top half is entirely mesh. By combining the pleasure and ventilation provided by the open top with the weather-proofing you get with a fully-deployed heavy-duty rain fly, this model offers comfort in most any season you’d want to be outdoors in. Even when the weather turns unexpectedly or unseasonably nasty, the high standard of construction helps ensure that you’ll stay warm and dry, though you shouldn’t expect it to stand up against weight of heavy snowfall. Widely renowned for its sturdiness, an important factor when the tiniest tear can let rain in and ruin a trip, you can expect your Salida to hang tough through many adventures.
EASE OF USE
Another aspect that can be appreciated by both beginners and veteran outdoorspeople is the almost unbelievably easy setup process. User comments all around the internet abound with similar stories—set up in just over a minute, set up in three minutes in the dark by the light of a lantern, and so on. Fully freestanding, based around two sturdy aluminum poles that attach to the shelter’s body with a series of clips that are so easy to attach you could practically do it with mittens on, this tent is a cinch even for less experienced campers. The rain fly also attaches via quick, easy, color-coded buckles with adjustable straps, so if the weather turns suddenly you won’t need to worry about fumbling around with an elaborate process to get it attached.
Of course, the Kelty isn’t perfect. For one thing, the low price point and emphasis on essential quality means some sacrifices in the realm of extras and features. For instance, interior storage is extremely limited, comprising gear pockets just large enough for a light or cell phone and a detachable overhead hammock that will cut somewhat into your available headroom. The single door can be inconvenient when sharing space (imagine your fellow camper having to crawl over you on their way to a late-night bathroom excursion), and in general could be a snug fit for two, especially with gear included—despite being sold as a two-person model, many advocate it as ideal (if perhaps a bit heavy) for solo backpacking.Additionally, while the tent’s build is top-notch, some of the peripheral items are somewhat more questionable. For instance, the plastic tighteners for the exterior guy out lines are superfluous and can actually fray the lines themselves. Also, the spikes for grounding the tent (again, as a freestanding model, they’re not needed to erect the structure itself, only to help steady it against strong wind etc.) are made of aluminum rather than a tougher metal like steel, which can ding and even bend if driven into hard ground. Many owners have reported opting to replace the packaged spikes with higher-quality ones, which can make your purchase a bit pricier.
In short, the Kelty Salida may not have everything that you could want in a tent, but it offers just about everything you need, convenience that’s second to none, and a price point that should be attractive to just about anybody.