Sea to Summit Telos TR2 Two Person Tent Review

Sea to Summit Telos Tr2 Tent Review

The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 Two-Person Tent is a double-wall tent with a freestanding inner and a semi-freestanding fly (i.e. the vestibules need to be staked out). It is part of a new line of double-wall tents that feature what Sea-to-Summit calls a tension ridge pole architecture which increases interior volume and head-room.

The Telos TR2 has received a lot of attention as an innovative and flexible tent with multiple options for pitching, including fly-and-footprint, fly-only, double-wall tent with an inner-first set up, double-wall tent with a “dry setup” / fly-first pitch, and a trekking-pole supported “Hangout Mode” canopy for sun and rain protection with room for camp chairs underneath. It has won a number of media awards, including Outdoor Retailer Magazine’s Hot Pick Award, Backpacker Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award 2021, and inclusion in Outside Magazine’s Top Tents for Summer 2021. We beg to differ, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.

The inner is freestanding and can be pitched on its own
The inner is freestanding and can be pitched on its own.

While I applaud Sea to Summit’s creative thinking in developing a tent with so many pitching options, and look forward to seeing how this develops over time and future iterations, I found numerous problems with construction quality, complexity, and inefficiency in the pitching process, and performance problems, especially in the wind and rain.

Specs at a Glance

  • Minimum Trail Weight (manufacturer): 3 pounds, 4.3 ounces (52.3 ounces/1482.7 grams)
  • Minimum Trail Weight (tested):  3 pounds, 3.5 ounces (51.5 ounces/1460 grams )
  • Total Packed Weight (manufacturer): 3 pounds, 10.7 ounces (58.7 ounces/1664.1 grams)
  • Total Packed Weight (tested): 3 pounds, 10.6 ounces (58.6 ounces/1661.2 grams)
  • Materials:
    • Fly: 15 denier ripstop nylon, Silicone / Polyether Polyurethane (PeU)-coated
    • Inner: 15 denier polyester mesh
    • Floor: 20 denier ripstop nylon
  • Floor Dimensions: 84.5 x 53 x 43 incches / 214.6 x 134.6 x 109.2 cm (tapering head to foot)
  • Peak height: 43.5 inches / 110.5 centimeters
  • Included: 8x 7075 -T6 aluminum Y-stakes in a stuff sack, repair patches, pole repair sleeve, 4x guylines with toggles for Hangout Mode pitch, 3x multi-use connectable stuff sacks for the poles, inner and fly.
  • Footprint: Sold separately

The Telos tent also comes in a 3 person version, and both the 2P and 3P versions of the Telos are also available as 3+ season tents with a solid fabric inner.

The Tension Ridge is a V-shaped cross pole that creates more height near the doors for extra headroom
The Tension Ridge is a V-shaped cross pole that creates more height near the doors for extra headroom

Pitching Options

The backbone of the Telos TR2 is a hubbed pole system that is connected into a single, collapsible unit with shockcord. The frame looks like two letter “Y”s attached together at their posts, a common shape for double-wall tent poles. But the distinguishing feature is the Tension Ridge: a V shaped, attached cross pole whose ends point up to the sky and lift the edges of the tent peak to create more headroom for two users. Normally, a modified dome-shaped tent curves down on the sides, so the most height is found right in the center of the tent, great for a single user, but less headroom for two.

The Telos has several pitching options, but the primary decision is between an inner-first pitch (common to most American double-walled tents made by large manufacturers) or a fly-first pitch (often seen on European and ultralight/cottage industry tents and better for keeping the interior dry in wet weather).

It is possible to set up the Telos fly-first and then hang the inner tent inside.
It is possible to set up the Telos fly-first and then hang the inner tent inside, with some contortions.

The inner first pitch is simpler but it exposes the mesh inner tent to rain for several minutes before the fly is attached. For this reason, it’s better as a fair-weather pitch. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty setup details of each pitch, but the inherent flexibility comes at the expense of much complication.

Setting up the Telos TR2 is also best done by two people, not one, particularly in wind and rain. This might not sound like a problem, since it is a two-person tent, but I believe it’s important for 2 person tents to be easily pitched by one person. For efficiency reasons, one person will often pitch the tent while the other person gets water or prepares dinner. And for safety reasons, if one hiker is injured or hypothermic and needs shelter, they’re not going to be able to help. Additionally, many tall hikers or hikers with dogs buy a 2 person tent for extra room at a small weight penalty, and as much as we’d like them to be, dogs are no help with pitching tents.

Hangout Mode provides a canopy for sitting under for protection from the rain and sun
Hangout Mode provides a canopy for sitting under for protection from the rain and sun

Still more setup options

  • Hangout mode begins as a fly-first pitch, and then one end is staked down and the other lifted into the air and propped up with trekking poles. You really need two people to set it up if you want to preserve your sanity. I think it’s best used as a sunshade for two people when there’s little to no wind.
  • Fly and footprint pitch with the feet of the poles connecting to the corners of the footprint. This is a standard option on many double-wall tents, provided you buy the footprint if it’s not included.
Both sides of the vestibule can roll back
Both sides of the vestibule can roll back.

Vestibules

The vestibules of the Telos TR2 feel generous for keeping a backpack and shoes near the foot end of either side without them getting in the way of your entry and exit. They have a catenary cut (arch) along the bottom to aid in a tight pitch as well as ventilation. You can roll up one or both sides of the vestibule on calmer/ hotter nights. There is also a neat feature where you stake out both vestibules and disconnect the rest of the fly, and roll it up so you just have a small tube of the fly arcing horizontally over the top of the tent, from vestibule stake to vestibule stake.

The Lightbar snaps to the ceiling below the tension ridge
The Lightbar snaps to the ceiling below the tension ridge

Lightbar

The Lightbar is a double-ended drawstring stuff sack for the tent poles with a rigid semicircle of plastic inserted along its length that serves double duty as a way to let your headlamps provide overhead tent lighting. It is a neat idea, reminiscent of a fluorescent light tube, but it feels overbuilt and overly complicated for what it does. A number of other tent manufacturers include tiny pockets of white mesh on the ceilings of their tents to slip your headlamp into for an imperceptible amount of weight. They are always there when you need them and disappear when you don’t. The Lightbar also cuts into the headroom of the tent, one of its biggest selling points.

Additionally, the Lightbar is located at the peak of the tent, so it is over your chest when lying down, instead of over your head. That’s fine if you’re sitting up to look at maps or change your clothes, but if you like to read while lying down, your book will be in the dark when using the Lightbar. You’ll have to remove it and wear the headlamp on your head to read.

The gear buckets are the best solution I have ever seen for holding a water bottle upright inside your tent.
The gear buckets are the best solution I have ever seen for holding a water bottle upright inside your tent.

Gear buckets

The stuff sacks for the inner tent and fly have snaps on them to connect to the inner corners of the tent giving them double use as “gear buckets” in addition to the mesh pockets sewn to the inner walls for small essentials. This dual-use aspect is one of my favorite features of the Telos because the gear buckets are able to hold bigger and much heavier things than many mesh pockets do. The gear buckets are the best solution I have ever seen for holding a water bottle upright inside your tent for easy access.

The tent's stuff sacks have multiple purposes
The tent’s stuff sacks have multiple purposes./

Packing system

The Lightbar and gear bucket stuff sacks work together as a packing system–you can separate them and share them among backpacking partners, or link them up into a single package, by slipping the Lightbar into the external pockets on the inner and fly stuff sacks, and attaching the metal bachelor buckle of each stuff sack to the corresponding webbing loop on the opposite sack. This makes a sizeable package 19.5 inches long by 5.5 inches wide bulging to 7 inches wide at the middle that feels awkwardly connected and not totally secure; I would feel nervous carrying the package strapped to the outside of my pack. I think keeping them as separate pieces is a much better option.

The teeth on the stakes are small for the webbing stake loops
The teeth on the stakes are small for the webbing stake loops.

Stakes

The Y-shaped tent stakes included with the Telos are made from 7075-T6 anodized aluminum, a super-strong material, and they’re light for Y stakes at 0.3 oz each. They have 3 teeth to capture guyline at different levels. However, they feel like a mismatch with the Telos TR2 which doesn’t have guyline on the main stake points, but rather 3/8″ webbing, which is quite a bit bigger than the teeth, so the loops don’t catch easily on the stakes. The stakes also have rectangular edges on the top which hurt when you try to push the stakes in with your palm, even into soft ground.

Even in a light drizzle with no wind, water made its way through the ceiling vent and dripped onto the floor.
Even in a light drizzle with no wind, water made its way through the ceiling vent and dripped onto the floor.

Performance in Rain

The Telos has an Apex Vent, a rainbow-shaped zipper backed by mesh on the roof of the tent, covered with an awning of fly material. The idea is that, since heat rises, warmer, moist air can escape through the Apex Vent while cooler, dry air enters from the Baseline Vents (the space between the ground and the rainfly).

In a light drizzle with no wind, water made its way inside the tent. Here you can see drops collecting on the ceiling mesh
In a light drizzle with no wind, water made its way inside the tent. Here you can see drops collecting on the ceiling mesh.

In the rain, with 100% humidity, ventilation is critical. Because of the awning, I hoped the inner tent would be protected from the rain with the vent open. But I found that in mild all-day rain with no wind, a not insignificant amount of water leaked in through the Apex Vent. In a downpour or storm with wind, it would have been much worse. Because the awning is fixed in tension and can’t be tightened further, I found that rain tended to pool in the awnings slack. Also, the Apex Vent can only be opened and closed from the outside, so if it’s open and you feel the rain coming in, you have to exit the tent to close it up.

This seems like a crucial design flaw. If the Apex Vent can’t keep out even light rain, what is its purpose? Apex or peak vents allow moist air to escape when the rest of the tent is battened down for weather protection. If it’s not raining, you can keep the vestibule doors open and have massive floor-to-ceiling ventilation on both sides, or roll back the fly entirely.

The Telos TR2 with a 26" width pad next to a 20" pad
The Telos TR2 with a 26″ width pad next to a 20″ pad.

Durability/ Construction/ Design issues

I had numerous issues with durability, construction, and design issues of the Telos TR2 from the very first time I set it up and continuing throughout my testing. I am someone who takes very good care of my gear; the tent never got any rough treatment by any means, only real-world field testing in the wind and rain.

The storm flap on the vestibules is quite skinny and only closes with one piece of velcro at the bottom, so it tends to leave the zipper exposed to rain
The storm flap on the vestibules is quite skinny and only closes with one piece of velcro at the bottom, so it tends to leave the zipper exposed to rain

In all fairness, Sea-to-Summit says they sent us a pre-production version of the Telos TR2 for review although we can’t see any difference in terms of packaging between the tent we received and retail units. It does beg the question of how the tent was able to win so many awards from other publications who presumably received pre-production models as well.

Here is a partial listing of some of the construction or design issues I encountered:

  • The first time I was taking down the tent, the color-coded webbing that pulls the tarp over the Tension Ridge poles tore clean off. It was bartacked into the Hypalon pole pocket but this tells me the edge of the webbing was barely caught in the seam.
  • The vestibule zippers don’t meet cleanly when zipped together–on both vestibules, one of the zippers is about a centimeter longer than the other, leaving extra zipper length on one side beyond the zipper slider. I haven’t found this to cause a functional problem, but it looks very amateurish.
  • Lightweight zippers on the vestibules consistently get caught on the tent fabric when unzipping. The first time I opened one of the vestibules, the fabric got badly caught in the zipper, and then the zipper split and misaligned (shifted) above the slider. Luckily, coil zippers are somewhat self-repairing and I was able to force the zipper open to realign it, but you can’t do this many times before you cause damage to a zipper. It is really frustrating to be out in the wind and rain and having to fight to open and then fix a vestibule zipper.
  • The placement of the mini velcro wraps to secure the fly to the poles conflicts with the placement of the inner tent clips when you adjust the tension. When the clips and the velcro wrap hit against each other, you can’t tension the fly any further until you undo the wrap. I didn’t find the velcro wraps to be necessary, so I just left them undone.
  • The vestibule zippers’ storm flaps are quite skinny with only one piece of velcro closing it at the bottom, so they don’t completely cover the (non-water-resistant) zippers, leaving them exposed to rain.

Comparable Two-Person Tents

Make / ModelTypeWeightPrice
Sea to Summit Telos TR2Double Wall3 lbs 4.3 oz$499
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2Double Wall2 lbs 11 oz$450
NEMO Hornet 2Double Wall1 lb 15 oz$370
Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2Double Wall2 lb 3 oz$400
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2Double Wall3 lbs 8 oz$450
REI Quarter Dome SL 2Double Wall2 lbs 8 oz$350

Assessment

I’m excited to see Sea to Summit sell a double-wall tent, there are too many design, construction, and usability issues with the Sea to Summit Telos TR2 2P Tent for me to recommend it. I would wait for a second version of the tent that will hopefully fix the issues I describe above and the feedback they’re getting from other testers.

Disclosure: The author received a tent from Sea to Summit for an honest review.

The Sea to Summit Telos TR2 is available at: Sea to Summit | REI

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About the author

Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.

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9 comments

  1. What brand your grey 26 inch sleeping pad?? Thanks good review

    • Thanks, Jean. The pad is an uninsulated Kammok Pongo Pad that I supplement with closed cell foam. They only make an insulated version now. Super comfortable. I have a review of it here on SectionHiker.

  2. Awards don’t mean anything these days. The apex vent had me worried from the start and I’ve yet to see any wind tests. I also don’t see how this can be considered a two person tent when it tapers all the way down to 105 cm. That’s hardly enough for two regular (narrow) sized pads let alone for two actual people.

    • The entire award thing is a scam that keeps getting more corrupt every year. PR firms send tents to media companies like Outside Magazine or Backpacker because they know they’ll just regurgitate a press release and not actually test the tent. Unfortunately, too many people are conned by it.

  3. As much as I like Sea to Summit quality I STILL eschew any tent that cannot be set up as fly-and-inner tent together. In a storm setting up with poles and fly first then crawling under the fly to attach the liner tent is a real PITA!

    I agree with Jari, awards mean little. Real world tests mean more.

  4. Thank you for honest and thorough review, I was about to get this tent but had questions on my own, I think I rather get sierra designs meteor lite 2, it’s more solid, 20d, floor 30d and more spacious

  5. Knowing Sea to Summit quality in their other products I’ll bet they fix the vent leakage problems and others within a year.

    I know several backpacking acquaintances from Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Nevada/E.California Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter and others that rely quite a bit on two main websites, namely Section Hiker and Backpacking Light for accurate gear reviews. I hope StS takes these sites members’ reactions into account. I know for a fact Henry Shires of Tarptent monitors BPl and several other sites.

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