Rugged and ready for the worst conditions, the Backcountry 2 Dome tent from L.L. Bean offers impressive durability and weather protection at a relatively low cost.
The Backcountry 2 is a full double wall 4-season backpacking tent. This means it’s designed to handle high wind, heat and snow. The tent has a full front door and vestibule with room for gear storage, a full sized rear door, two air vents that can be adjusted from inside, and internal points for guy lines and hanging gear, and there are also 6 large gear pockets sewn into the wall. It’s built around 4 7000 series aluminum poles that cross each other at several points in order to produce a more rigid frame, with a 5th pole providing structure to the vestibule. The inner body is a breathable nylon, with the rain fly being an exceptionally rugged polyester. The floor comes in at 7’6″ long, 4′ 10″ wide, with a peak height of 3’5″. The tent weighs in at 9 lbs. 6 oz. packed and retails for $419.00.
What I liked
When it comes to a true 4-season tent, the one thing that really matters is durability and it’s ability to withstand harsh wind and snow. Here, the Backcountry 2 does not disappoint. Once the 5 poles come together, the dome becomes a near impenetrable fortress and shrugs off the most intense weather from all directions, especially when pitched fully and properly. The poles cross in 2 points on each side, arched into the wind, and strapped to the tent body using Velcro tabs and sturdy plastic clips along the ground. This all adds to the stiffness of the shelter, allowing it to hold shape under pressure. It doesn’t hurt that the body is absolutely littered with guy points, and the tent comes with enough line and stakes to fully bolt the tent down from any direction. This greatly reduces sway, and all but completely prevents buffeting, and ultimately creates a shelter that absolutely lives for harsh conditions.
Livability is quite good. With a wide floor plan that doesn’t narrow at the feet and a relatively high ceiling, the Backcountry Dome 2 plenty of room to stretch out and relax inside. Sitting up, two people can be side by side without getting in each others way or rubbing up against the tent wall or ceiling. I’ve found there is ample storage space under the vestibule, meaning almost all gear can be moved outside the living quarters. Anything else can likely be stored inside one of the large internal pockets or hung from one of the lines already attached inside. This means a completely clutter free floor and living area that when paired with the near vertical walls makes for a nice, spacious feeling hideaway. I never found myself craving more room or feeling cramped, and the bright colors of the yellow exterior provides a nice, warm feeling that’s much appreciated when spending long periods of time inside. The small window on the vestibule is a nice touch too, offering a small view of the weather conditions outside.
Setting the tent up is quite easy. Everything is color coded, easy to understand, and either clips or buckles in place. The poles simply pop into the grommets, and the tent body lifts up and clips to the poles with large, easy to grab clips or carabiners. The rain fly attaches like any other tent, lining the colors up on the fly itself with the tent body, clipping them in place and tightening them down. The vestibule is the only real departure as it clips on the outside of the tent, but there really is no challenge to it and it goes up in a matter of seconds. Thanks to the lack of stretch to the fabric and the taut pole system, achieving a proper pitch is basically trivial as long as you are on decently flat ground, and setting it up in bulky gloves or with cold handles isn’t an issue thanks to all the clips being large and easy to handle. The setup does take some time, with the 5 poles, numerous line and stakes, but the effort is minimal, even while soloing in windy conditions. It’s one of the easiest 4 season tents I’ve ever pitched.
Ventilation is quite good with the two top vents, both of which can be accessed from inside the tent, and the full, breathable, nylon walls. Both doors can be opened up for let air flow through the mesh windows, or the doors and vestibules can be opened up completely for a wind tunnel like experience that’s great for warmer weather. I’ve found the tent to be comfortable to about 75 degrees F, with the lower limit being, basically, as low as your sleeping bag can handle. When zipped up, the walls do a great job of blocking wind and creating a much warmer feeling environment. This means it’s a shelter that can be used most of the year, or perhaps year round if you camp at high enough elevations. Summer heat would likely be pretty miserable, but that’s what 3-season tents are for.
The polyester body and guy lines hold taut when wet, and it doesn’t stretch out either. This means that once the tent is pitched, there isn’t much need to go back and tighten or adjust all the buckles and guy lines. This is important when you’re hunkering down, riding out a storm or just avoiding frigid temperatures.
Having two full sized doors means you can pile all your gear under the vestibule and make a clean, obstruction free escape out the other.
At just over $400, the Backcountry Dome is an exceptional value for the amount of protection and space it provides.
What I didn’t like
Exceptional durability at an exceptional cost does have a price, and that’s weight and pack size. There’s no way around the fact that the tent takes up about as much space as a medium sized watermelon, and weighs as much as one too. You’ll need considerable pack space, and if you’re going a long distance, sturdy legs or a hiking partner to split the load. If you’re car camping, this shouldn’t be a concern at all. But, backpackers should be aware of the bulk and weight.
The guy line tensioners are oddly sharp around the mold seams, at one point actually slicing through the outermost layer of skin on my thumb while adjusting it. I’m not sure if it was just this particular batch or not, but it’s worth keeping an eye on when setting it up.
There’s really no way to pitch the tent without the vestibule being, at least partially, in the way. If you choose to use this as an entry and exit point (a likely scenario if you have muddy boots to keep under the vestibule), be prepared to always crawl under the awning. Without these connections, the vestibule just falls against the tent, with no real way of removing it or tying it out of the way.
I’m yet to get to test this tent in any kind of snow or ice. I’ll update accordingly when the weather allows it, but so far I have no reason to believe it would be any issue at all, based on the sleek walls, burly frame, and overall robust design.
Despite a heavy pack weight and pack size, the L.L.Bean Backcountry 2 still managed to stand out to me. The design is impressively robust, especially at the price, easily outperforming tents that cost significantly more. The setup is impressively simple thanks to a design that largely sticks to proven design choices, and the color coded connections remove any guesswork or trial and error. The window, bright color scheme, and roomy interior go a long way to staving off cabin fever, and the ability to regulate the internal temperatures, thanks to the wide array of ventilation options, means the shelter is enjoyable in almost any condition. It’s built great too, holding up in, literally, any condition I’ve been able to throw at it. If you don’t mind a bit of extra heft and simply want something warm, safe and affordable for colder or rougher weather, the Backcountry Dome is an excellent option.
For more information on L.L.Bean and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, https://www.llbean.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks to l.L.Bean for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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