If you want to buy a camping or backpacking tent, welcome to Babel! The made-up marketing jargon that tent manufacturers and outdoor retailers use to describe their products defies comprehension. It’s no wonder that so many tents are returned to retailers because they don’t measure up to the hype.
One marketing term that I find to be a particularly egregious abuse of language is the concept of a semi-freestanding tent.
Here are a few examples:
This choice of words is not accidental but intended to convey a similarity to freestanding tents, which are valuable (and rare) tents because they can be set up without any tent stakes. Freestanding tents, with an inner tent and a rain fly, can be effortlessly picked up and repositioned or set up on tent platforms, something which is impossible to do with a tent that requires tent stakes to set up.
You’d think that a semi-freestanding tent would be an inner tent that doesn’t require any tent stakes to be pitched. But actual usage varies, and the term is also used to refer to inner tents that need tent stakes to set up. (Incidentally, the term freestanding is also used inconsistently and includes tents that require tent stakes to be pitched.)
A Modest Proposal
Instead of making up misleading jargon, tent manufacturers and retailers could simply tell consumers the minimum number of tent stakes required to pitch the inner tent and the outer rainfly, if there is one. There’s no need to define a new concept such as semi-freestanding or spend any time arguing about what a freestanding tent is or is not.
Manufacturers could also list the number of tent stakes that can be shared between the inner tent and rain fly, so consumers could compute a tent’s minimum trail weight including tent stakes, which are currently excluded from most online product descriptions.
For example, here are five lightweight double-walled tents that I’ve reviewed recently (or about to publish reviews for) and the minimum number of stakes their inner tents and rain flies require to be pitched.
|Tent||Inner Tent (Min Stakes Req.)||Rain Fly - (Additional Stakes Req.)||Notes|
|NEMO Hornet 2P||2||2||The rainfly requires 4 stakes; 2 are shared w/ inner tent|
|MSR Freelite 2||2||2||The rainfly requires 4 stakes; 2 are shared w/ inner tent|
|Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 2||2||1||The rainfly requires 3 stakes; 2 are shared w/ inner tent|
|Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1||0||1||The inner tent is freestanding|
|Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 1||0||3||The inner tent is freestanding|
A quick look at this table tells you whether the inner tent is truly freestanding (zero stakes) and how many stakes are required to pitch the rain fly.
This is just one suggestion for making is clearer to consumers what they’re buying when they purchase tents online. Making up new marketing jargon is not the answer.
You’d figure that retailers would see the advantage of providing consumers with accurate information about the products they sell, since it would attract more online visitors (who’d shop at the online stores with the most concise product information) and reduce return rates.
What other jargon do you find confusing or misleading in online product descriptions?
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