Cabela’s line of camping and outdoor products has expanded to the ultralight world. Their new Extreme Performance Gear (XPG) line includes apparel, footwear, tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. I was given the chance to test out the XPG 2-person tent and jumped at the opportunity.
How I Tested It
In order to really understand how gear performs, I like to put it through the ringer. This season I spent over 30 nights in the XPG, car camping and backpacking in Joshua Tree National Park, California’s central coast, and the high Sierras. Here’s what happened along the way:
- I set up and broke down the tent over 30 times
- I slept through wind gusts up to 45 mph and sustained 30 mph winds
- I hid during heavy downpours of almost 1 inch per hour
Based on those experiences, here are my thoughts.
Specifications & Design
The XPG tent is clearly designed with the lightweight backpacker in mind. Every detail, from the fly to the stakes, is thoroughly thought out and expertly crafted. Ultralight design strips the tent down to its most basic components — an entirely mesh tent body with bathtub floor, simple pole design, and lightweight fly fabric. The XPG tosses in a few extras to finish things off, including a small overhead mesh pocket and the often-forgotten (but essential) footprint.
Here’s a deeper look at the XPG’s specs:
- 30.5 square feet
- 42” internal peak height
- 2 pounds 12 ounces packed weight
- 5” x 19” packed size
- 91” x 55” x 46” set up size
- DAC NFL Poles
- DAC J-Stakes
There are some impressive specs here, and I don’t want them to go unnoticed, so let me elaborate on a few things.
At 42 inches of internal peak height, this is one of the tallest tents I’ve used, ultralight or not. The high profile design puts those extra few inches where your head is when sitting in the tent, right where you need them. The internal height drops off dramatically towards the foot side of the tent, but there is no need to have extra room there anyway.
The 30.5 square foot floor is a little bit larger than similar tents. What I like most about it is the tapered design which creates more room around the head and torso and less near the feet.
The bathtub floor kept me perfectly dry even during a massive 48-hour rain storm along the coast.
The DAC J-Stakes are amazing. I’ve been on a constant search for a lightweight stake that is still durable for a long period of time, and I’ve finally found what I’m looking for. These stakes held up to the tough Joshua Tree rock and held onto the soft central coast duff. Not a single one bent or broke in any way.
The XPG’s specs either outperform or match similar tent models, including the Sierra Designs Mojo 2, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX, and the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2.
The only design aspect that was a little problematic resulted from the high profile. The poles form a very prominent spine along the top of the tent to create the roomy internal peak height. But that high profile has a tendency to catch the wind. On one windy (45 mph) Joshua Tree night the pole regularly bent down temporarily. I ended up moving my entire tent at 1am to a more sheltered spot. If you know from which direction the prevailing winds blow, you can orient the tent so that the pole isn’t broadsided and that would solve the problem.
Ease of Use
The pole design is very simple — there is one long ridge pole that splits into two near the head of the tent. I was able to set up and take down the XPG in under 5 minutes without breaking a sweat. There is only one door and the tent is designed to have your heads on the door end. This means there is a little maneuvering to be done when two people are getting in and out of the tent, but it’s plenty manageable.
I liked the simple mesh pocket overhead for small items like my headlamp and phone. The generous vestibule provides enough space to store two 50L backpacks during the night, but any large gear stored in the vestibule needs to be moved in order to get out of the tent.
I also really enjoyed the simplicity of the tent bag. A small pocket holds the stakes while the rest of the tent body, footprint, fly, and poles neatly roll right into the bag from the side. Two straps compress the packed tent further which makes the packing process effortless.
The XPG is still looking great despite over a month of steady use, heavy winds, and strong downpours. The only wear I’ve noticed is a couple of small holes in the mesh and the zipper getting slightly clogged up from the fine Joshua Tree sand. I resolved the zipper issue with a good cleaning and re-lubrication. The mesh holes aren’t big enough to cause any concern, but could easily be patched if needed.
This tent was designed for a specific purpose — long distance backpacking. As with any other 2-person, 3-season tent it can be used on general car camping, paddling, and shorter backpacking trips as well. But I’d highly suggest having another, lower cost tent available for those purposes.
While aesthetics isn’t a big factor for me when I choose a tent, I do have to explain my personal thoughts about color.
The tent fly on the XPG is bright green. And I mean BRIGHT green!
Now, I generally really enjoy owning pieces of gear that are brightly colored. They are more pleasing to the eye, are more fun to wear and own, and could potentially act as emergency signals in the case that something bad were to happen.
My issue with the XPG’s color is that when I leave my camp set up, I don’t want it to be so visible that it’s negatively impacting the experience other users are having. During a summit day hike up Mount Langley, I left the XPG set up and nestled in a small grove of trees along one of the Cottonwood Lakes. On my way back down, I could see my tent easily from over a mile and 2000 feet elevation away. I tried to pick out the shelters my co-workers and students were using and couldn’t see any of them, despite being located right next to mine.
Is this a reason to not get the XPG? Absolutely not. But I do wish they would tone down the color just a bit on any future edition.
Of all the tents I’ve recently tested out, the XPG is my favorite. I loved the simplicity of the design, the extra headroom, and the easy packability of this tent — all at a reasonable price point. While I could nitpick a few details (color and profile), the ease of use, durability, and functionality of this tent really impressed me. If you’re in the market for a new lightweight 2 or 3 person tent, then I’d look no further than the Cabela’s XPG.