I am ready to invest in a backpacking tent for myself on solo trips. I have already decided I want the space for 2 as I like to keep gear by my side at night, not just the vestibule. I have also already decided I am not willing to spend upwards of $400 plus for an ultralight tent as I only intend to use it a few times a year on long weekends and I am good with the extra weight. I recently bought and tried the REI Co-op Passage 2 for a couple of nights. While the tent is well made, plenty big and priced right($159 with the footprint!), the one drawback I cannot get past is the lack of air flow. Even with a good breeze outside all night and tent well positioned to take in some air, it got practically nothing. I live in and will do most of my backpacking in the mid-atlantic during Spring, Summer and Fall and air flow is a must. I am going to return the Passage 2 and have another go. I have narrowed my search on the following 3 contenders:
They are all similarly spec'd and priced, although the Half Dome is a little higher than I'd like. I am looking for feedback and opinion in general but specifically about air flow if anyone has knowledge to share. TIA!
You might consider a tarp. Check out this thread: https://www.rei.com/conversations/camping/rigging-an-rei-tarp/td-p/38711
I really like the alps mountaineering zephyr 2. Plenty of airflow as the whole thing is basically mesh under the fly and it holds up nicely even when not staked. REI doesn't carry it anymore, but you can still find it out there. Otherwise the trail hut is pretty similar.
1) Be sure to stake the fly out really, really well. I don't care which way the door faces, if that fly is down near the ground you're not going to get good airflow. I generally carry extra stakes and pieces of spare cord so I can rig it how I want it regardless of roots, rocks, etc.
2) Pick your site carefully. Trees block wind. They also keep the site cooler during the day but generally keep it warmer at night.
3) How much stuff is in the tent? Stuff blocks air. If you're in your bag, you're probably surrounded by stuff. You're not going to feel whatever breeze you might be getting.
All that said, I like the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Look for last year's model, and buy it on sale. Nice little tent, mostly mesh, plenty of air.
Also, I recommend going to REI and asking if you may pitch the tent(s) you're interested in before you buy. My son did that, and it really helped him decide.
I can highly recommend the Marmot Tungsten 2P, while I can't speak with first hand experience of the other two you listed but I can about the Marmot.
This tent is extremely well made for the price, while it is a bit on the heavier side then what I wanted setting at 5 pounds with everything, but like you I was after the price, and that price fit my budget. I do bicycle camping so that is the tent I use for that. So far I've used it about two dozen times since I got it in November of 2019. One of those times I was using it I got into a major storm, so bad my phone kept giving me alerts for tornados. The wind was extremely high with down pouring rain coming in at an angle, the wind was so high branches from trees were falling and small ones were pelting the tent. I think late in the night some hail came along because there was quite a racket going on against the tent and I could hear pinging going on with it hitting my steel bike. The storm lasted about 4 hours, the next morning I got up to see what how things were, even though I had the top vent partially open for ventilation I didn't even see one drop of water inside the tent, nor did any of the branches poke holes into the fabric, that may have been due to luck on the hole aspect? Also with all that wind I didn't feel the breeze inside the tent. A neighbor camping about 50 feet from me had a $450 tent and it leaked, he had used the tent about as often as I had, his sleeping bag was wet, it was a mess inside, with probably about a 4 maybe 5 cups of water inside. I had to help him pick the tent up and tip it so it could drain out. I can't recall the brand but it was one of those major backpacking brands. There was no condensation on the inside of the tent either.
My seat bag on my bike was suppose to be water resistant, and I had treated it with several coats of waterproofing spray and everything in side that bag was soaking wet even though it was protected by the saddle on it's top side. Just to give you an idea of what the rain did.
The tent is roomy enough me to sleep comfortable with my gear inside and using a bit larger (meaning a bit wider and longer) sleeping pad then most would probably use but I move around a lot at night and didn't want to feel like I was trapped on a narrow short pad, so with that pad taking up space and my two panniers, and the handlebar bag I had a decent amount of room. Would it be idea for two people? yeah, if you kept your gear out in the vestibule. I'm 6 foot tall and I had just over a 18 inches I'm guessing of room, so plenty of head to toe room with room left to spare.
pitching the tent is quite easy, I watched videos of how to pitch it before I went out but I didn't practice doing it at home like your suppose to, I figured when I get to my location I would have plenty of daylight hours to put it up, but it only took me around 15 minutes the first time, taking it down took longer! I can now put it up in 5 minutes if I'm in a hurry. Taking it down I can never package it back up like the factory did, and every time I take it down it's different than the last time! LOL!! This tent comes with it's own ground cloth (footprint as some call it) so you don't have to buy a separate one.
There are little pockets on the tent you can put stuff in if you need to be able to grab stuff in the middle of the night, there is also a loop in the middle of the tent roof so you can hang a light, and that's where I put my Luci solar light (very good light by the way, not sure how long the vinyl will last, I got mine the same time I got the tent and it's still working fine, just don't get the one with the USB port so you can charge up stuff, the solar panel is far too small to make a dent in charging up anything other than itself).
I can't think of anything else to tell you. If you have any questions about it feel free to let me know. Probably the next time I decide to upgrade I will get a lighter tent, at least half the weight, but I also have to get a lighter sleeping pad because mine is too heavy as well. I bought all my camping gear the same time I got the tent and I had a fixed budget for everything so I had to compromise on a few items, but the stuff that I did get all works well enough. The only problem I have concerns with when it comes to lighter tent is will it survive a storm like what I went through or will leak like my neighbors $450 tent that weighed a pound and half did? I have a friend who's into backpacking and his roughly $450 tent from another manufacture leaked on him too in a lighter storm then the one I went through, so eek, I will probably use the Marmot till it wears out and deal with the weight up to then.
I have read some of the reviews and a couple said the clips and poles feel cheap, I didn't think so, while it's not a $500 tent the clips and poles seem pretty much standard to me. The only odd thing about the tent is that it was sewn to exact specifications, so the seams don't line up 100% with the poles after it's put up, but hey for the price I can deal with that, the seams aren't way off just a tad off, but the seams are extremely well sealed, so that's a huge plus. Whatever tent you buy at that price range the stakes may not be really good ones, even with an expensive tent you should carry 4 spare stakes that can be used for different type of ground.
I highly recommend the Marmot Tungsten 2P tent, and no I did not get this tent as a promotion so I have no dog in the fight, though I did get on a really nice sale price.
Keep one thing in mind: It won't matter how much or little mesh you have if the air isn't moving on its own. If the air is still, then the air will stay put and get hotter & more humid.
Well if you use a portable fan you can help move the air a bit, and if you put the fan in front of a block of ice will help too, but I don't want to be dragging a fan while bike camping, and getting a block of ice would be difficult to find as well.
So if you can't get a fan and block of ice then all you can do is take a cold shower before going to bed, take a towel that you used for taking that shower and get it damp with cold water and place it over you. Some say to take down the tent during the day, or don't pitch it till sun is down. The only other thing to do is to sleep on top top of a mat and on top of the bag without using the tent.
Can't speak to those tents specifically but generally any tent with a full fly is going to restrict airflow when the fly is fully deployed. The closer the fly comes to the ground the less air it can let in.
Tents with full flys have vents which often have to be specifically opened. Often there is a prop of some sort that is only easily set from outside. On some light weight tents it is just the top few inches of the vestibule door which should be left open. Generally you only want these vents closed if it is very cold or very stormy. Not having them open will restrict air flow and may possibly be why you found the Passage 2 stuffy?
Generally tents with more mesh and less privacy/splash wall on the inner tent are going to feel a bit more breezy in a wind than tents with more mesh.
For 2p 2 vestibule tents if you want a lot of airflow you can roll back one or both of the vestibule doors on one or both sides while still getting some protection from precipitation. This will work better on tents that have a spreader pole in the roof which set the top of the vestibule further away from the center of the tent.
If you don't expect rain on warmer nights you can set up the inner without the fly to get bug protection but maximize the breeze.
And if you are a breeze fanatic then as @hikermor suggests you can use a tarp. This can be cheaper and lighter than a tent particularly if you use trekking poles ...although you will probably want a ground sheet and bivvy of some sort (bug/rain/combo) which will add back some cost and weight.