“That will either be the best deal ever or a really painful lesson in buying cheap gear,” TUP Founder Karl Hylle told me as he looked over my new tent, doubt etched on his face. I’d found the ALPS Mountaineering Greycliff, a two-man, three-season tent, aggressively discounted online and planned to use it on my first-ever backcountry mountain hunt. He had good reason to be skeptical: The weather in the mountains can be savage, with heavy rains, straight-line winds, and dense snow—often in rapid succession. A tent that fails under these conditions, especially in the backcountry where you can’t just hop in your warm truck, can be much more than an inconvenience: It can be downright deadly.
ALPS Brands, the maker of this tent, also produces much of Browning’s camping and hunting gear, so they’re not a complete unknown in the hunting community. Still, at this price point, the likelihood of the Greycliff having even a few of the features of a pro-quality tent were slim. To my credit, I didn’t blindly trust it would hold up in the field: I first tested it out multiple times during the summer and fall leading up to our expedition, and it fared admirably against the unforgiving winds of the South Dakota plains and the mosquitos of northern Minnesota. Optimistic, I set out into the Colorado backcountry with the Greycliff strapped to my pack.
Like most two-man tents, unless the person you’re sharing it with is someone you know intimately (or would like to), you’re better off using it as a comfortable one-man shelter. In that application, it excels. The interior is downright capacious without company. The 42″ interior height gives you the clearance to sit up and get dressed without brushing your head on the ceiling, and the 31.5 sq. ft. of floorspace leaves you plenty of room to spread out. The two large vestibules on either side of the Greycliff provide an ideal spot to stow muddy boots or to keep your pack out of the weather. The 75D 185T polyester rainfly works as one would expect to shed water and snow and proved rugged enough to hold up to rough treatment without tearing. The seams all proved well sealed from the factory.
Ventilation is good: Water vapor from your breath passes through the mesh tent walls and strikes the rainfly, cascading down to the vestibules, keeping the central sleeping area dry (though it will create ideal conditions for rust if you happen to stow your rifle in a vestibule—learned that the hard way). Included guylines attached securely to the tent and worked well to keep it firmly anchored. The overall design of the tent is aerodynamic and bucked heavy winds with apparent ease—no dangerous flapping, swaying, or lifting.
The Greycliff also sets up quickly. The 7000-series aluminum poles have color-coded ends that correspond to the corners of the tent where they belong, ensuring speedy assembly. Should you find yourself in inclement weather, frantically trying to get your shelter put up, you’ll appreciate this aspect.
Fortunately, the list of drawbacks for the Greycliff is short. The first, and most substantial in my view, is that it’s not a lightweight tent as far as backpacking is concerned. Packed weight is almost six pounds! Compare that to Nemo’s Dragonfly 2 at an even three pounds (though sold at more than twice the price of the Greycliff). In the world of backcountry hunting, the expression is “ounces make pounds.” There are quite a few ounces in three pounds’ weight difference.
Additional minor complaints include the zippers on the doorways, which, though robust, tend to get hung up and “eat” the fabric of the rainfly. Also, the gear loft that suspends by plastic hooks from the interior of the tent proved flimsy. It’s not a crucial piece of kit, but it would be nice to toss a light up there and know it’ll stay put without falling on your face.
Not a bad little tent
There are certainly lighter tents with more bells and whistles on the market, but for the amount I’d spent, I was satisfied with it. On the last day of our hunt, Karl stood nearby while I took down my tent and said, “Well, I think we can safely say this turned out to be one hell of a deal.”