Car camping, short backpacking trips
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I have some good news, and some bad news.
First off, the bad news: I don’t have any breathtaking photos of the Cotopaxi Techo 3 tent on the shores of a pristine mountain lake overlooking a glacial peak (that’s what Instagram is for, right?). However, the good news: I spent 6 weeks living in this tent in the central Oregon high desert while doing archaeological field work, and I can say with absolute confidence that the Techo 3 is a great product, far exceeding my expectations in several areas. This tent was set up for 1.5 months, dealing with intense sun at over 5,000 feet in elevation, high winds, and a night of heavy rain.
Out of the box, without even glancing at the directions, the Techo 3 was easy to setup. Color-coordinated poles align with the same colored webbing on the tent corners, making it obvious which ends line up. After inserting the end of the poles into the eyelets on all four corners, the body of the tent quickly snaps onto the poles, creating a freestanding tent that can then be repositioned if needed. An additional crossbar goes into two webbing straps at the top of the tent, creating an interior with a wider ceiling and more headroom. Loops at each corner can then be staked out to fully maximize floor space. When first setting it up, I purposefully didn’t use any of the provided directions, just to see how intuitive the process was.
The result? If you have any experience setting up a tent, you’ll be able to easily figure out the Techo 3.
One aspect in which the Techo 3 excels is material durability. The interior body of the tent, the rainfly, and the optional footprint feel sturdy and tough, compared to many backpacking compatible tents on the market today. Over the course of my time in the desert, the bottom of the tent was moved several times over rocks and dried sagebrush, without any holes or noticeable damage. In fact, for a majority of the summer, there was a rock under a portion of the tent (I MAY have been too lazy to remove it), resulting in no damage to the material at all. Additionally, countless windy nights spent in the Techo 3 were surprising quiet and reassuring: The heavier poly ripstop of the fly wasn’t particularly loud, even with the vestibule doors left open, and the poles stood solid. Overall, the construction and materials of the Techo 3 are high quality, sturdy, and feel like they’ll last for many years to come.
Another positive feature of the Techo 3 is the overall livability, both in terms of interior space and storage. Having actually LIVED in this tent for six weeks, I was really pleased with the number of interior side pockets, which I used to keep everything from toiletries to electronics to paperback books.
Additionally, a mesh cargo net across the top provided a great place to keep important items handy, such as my headlamp and bug spray. An optional ipad holder can also be attached across the top of the tent (adding another $10 to the price tag), which creates a secure and viewable spot to watch movies while reclining. This can be used in combination with the additional mesh cargo net, so campers don’t need to pick one or the other. My impression of the iPad holder was that while it seemed like a good idea, I personally didn’t find it all that useful. In fact, after an initial run of trying to watch a movie, I ended up using it as additional gear storage for the remainder of the summer. That being said, I think it’s a nice option for campers, especially those with children, who want the option of movie watching. Camping is all about choosing your adventure, AND choosing how you like to relax and spend your free time. For me, this feature comes down to personal style, and I much prefer a book during my camp downtime.
The interior of the tent felt roomy and open, with more than enough room for me to sit up and get dressed in the mornings. The design of the tent includes a small pole that goes across the roof, pulling out the sides and creating more headroom. In addition to the pockets, I had more than enough room for all my gear inside the tent, including a large plastic container, and numerous duffle bags and backpacks. As someone living in a dusty environment, I appreciated the high bathtub floor, which kept a majority of the dirt and dust outside where it belongs. The walls of the Techo 3 include several privacy panels (see photo below), which also helped to keep most of the dust out during high winds.
I also found the breathability of the Techo 3 to perform very well (however, it’s important to note that I was in the high desert, and thus didn’t have condensation as a concern). For this specific environment, the daily climate is characterized by warm sunny days, and sometimes very cold nights. I used the rainfly for the entirety of the summer, not because of the rain, but because it provided a great way to help keep in the heat in during cold nights while also allowing me to enjoy some airflow. A vent built into the rainfly, in addition to the mesh top on the interior tent body, allowed me to better cool the tent when I needed to, but also stay warm at other times.
Finally, during the one night of very heavy rain I experienced, I stayed warm and dry. Closing the vestibule doors on both sides, the Techo 3 provides two very generous storage areas, with walls coming down close enough to the ground to limit splash.
While the Techo 3 performs great overall, there are certainly a few possible downsides to note, including packability and sizing for three people.
According to Cotopaxi’s description, the Techo 3 is “light and packable enough for long, weight-sensitive trips.” While I agree that it COULD be used for “local backpacking trips,” I think it would be a stretch to consider this a backpacking tent comfortable for three people. In total, the tent weighs in at 6 lbs 7.5 oz, which is fairly reasonable for a non-ultra light tent, especially if you consider this a true 3-person tent and divide the weight. The body and rain fly, due to the materials used and the sturdy construction, are fairly bulky, and take up significant space in a backpack. However, for the price, it might be a trade-off to have a sub $300 three-person tent that could potentially be used for backcountry trips. Thus, the Techo 3 isn’t ideal tent for those looking to go fast and light.
Finally, my impression is that this tent would be a tight fit for three normal size, adult humans, but rather a comfortable fit for two. Oftentimes, I found myself wondering how three regular size sleeping pads would fit into the floor footprint, considering my large pad took up almost exactly half the space. While I think it COULD work, I think those interested in truly sleeping three people in the Techo 3 should expect to do a lot of snuggling (which, on those cold nights, might not be the worst thing in the world).
Overall, The Techo 3 is a great product, and made a comfortable, sturdy, and protective home for six weeks. At a sub $300 price tag, it’s a solid choice for individuals who are in the market for a tent that can potentially sleep three individuals for different types of conditions and trips. Overall, it’s an ideal choice for those interested in a car camping tent, who occasionally backpack and don’t want or need a specialized backpacking tent. It has certainly become an integral part of my camping system.
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