Review: Kelty Zen [ 2-man, 3 season DA17 Tent ]

Review:  Kelty Zen  [ 2-man, 3 season DA17 Tent ]
Product Description
The minimalist tent design of the Zen makes it extremely lightweight and compact. Mesh sleeves and the clip design is quick to set up. Once inside, it feels spacious due to its box-like shape. Wake up under two large photocromatic windows turning blue in the morning sun.
  • 9 mm aluminum poles with low temperature shockcord
  • ArchEdge floor (which lifts seams off the ground for dryness)
  • Large no-see-um mesh panels to secure essentials
  • Fly vent
  • 1.9 oz nylon taffeta walls
  • 2.3 oz 1800 mm PU coated nylon taffeta floor
  • 2.3 oz taped and 1800 mm PU coated polyester flys
  • 30.7 sq. ft. interior
  • 6.0 sq. ft. vestibule
  • 4 lb. 3 oz.

Retail: $199



Reviewed by: Tim, a Mountaineer from NE
Date Reviewed: 8/4/2002 9:37:45 PM
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Nice little tent. The Zen is not free-standing, so a few stakes are needed. Set-up is, never-the-less, a snap -- couple of minutes, maybe. The standard stakes are way too soft; spend a few bucks and get the no-bendium stakes -- they're worth the price.

Lots of room for one, a bit cozy for two. There are sufficient pockets for gear and stuff (glasses, small headlamp, watch, etc).

Ventilation is pretty good even with the fly attached (vestibule left open). Haven't had the tent out in a deluge, so can't speak to the weather-tightness though the fly and vestibule set-up looks excellent, so don't expect any problems.

The vestibule is big enough for a medium sized pack and a pair of boots, but not much more.

Materials, stitching, etc. is first rate

There are probably lighter tents on the market, but the Zen isn't bad -- mebbe a pound heavier than some of the competition.

I've loaned the tent to friends and they've been similarly impressed.

On sale, the tent is an excellent value. At full retail? Not sure. I'll give it 4 stars to allow room for the ultra-lightweight competition. Still, the Zen is a quality piece of gear. I'm very happy to have it.

Similar Products Tried:
Coleman
Various models of Sierra Designs
Kelty Vortex 2
Kelty Cyclone 2 Convertible (purchased based on experience with the Vortex and the Zen).
 

 
  Reviewed by: jo, a Paddler from ny
Date Reviewed: 7/20/2002 8:35:30 AM
 
 

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Summary:
THIS TENT SUCKS BUTT
 

 
  Reviewed by: Mike B., a Backpacker from St. Louis
Date Reviewed: 3/28/2002 12:38:15 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
This is a great tent for 1 person and somewhat cramped for two. I really like the amount of air circulation it gets in the spring and fall. I have noticed that there has been condensation on the fly on those chilly nights, but not too big of a problem. This is a great value at $140 and an overall good investment. I have had mine for 3 years and it has not failed me yet. I have not had any problems with rain or wind. I have sealed mine, so that might be an advantage. The only weakness are the stakes. They are not durable and I would suggest a stronger pair.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Chris, a Backpacker from Capitola, CA, USA
Date Reviewed: 9/18/2001 9:49:57 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Although the Zen is generally a good tent and an exceptional value, I didn't like a couple of things. First, the tent must be staked in order to stay up correctly (if there isn't any wind I'd just as soon not bother with the 8-odd stakes), and secondly, the side windows were so low as to render a total lack of privacy (think dark outside and light on in the tent - like being on TV). But it seems to be a great value, nonetheless.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Joe Pepin, a Day Hiker from Succasunna, NJ
Date Reviewed: 9/14/2001 7:11:49 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
Good two-person light-weight tent! Took the SO along on her first backpack, no real problems. Lots of condensation on the fly (temp was around 40F), but nothing got inside. Love the windows.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Garth Dickerman, a Backpacker from Bethlehem, NH , USA
Date Reviewed: 8/29/2001 3:25:20 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
This tent has performed very well for me. It is a little small if, like me, you like to keep your pack inside, but it is still big enough for me and a friend. It sets up in three minutes very easily.
 

 
  Reviewed by: John J, a Day Hiker from Plainsboro, NJ
Date Reviewed: 8/24/2001 5:16:14 AM
 
 

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Summary:
A good SMALL tent. Light, Probably better as a 1 person tent than 2... you must be really good friends with your partner - this tent it small.

Upside is incredible light weight. Easy setup.

I have no idea about worthiness in foul weather.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Colin Wilcox, a Car Camper from Corning, NY
Date Reviewed: 8/3/2001 12:41:36 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
I just bought this affordable tent and am very happy with it. It's very easy to set up and the ventalation is great. I stayed dry in Maine during a storm but got some drops of condensation on me in the morning. Other than that, I am very pleased with the rain fly and the roomy vestibule. I'm a car camper right now but plan to do some backpacking and I have no doubt that this tent will do me fine. And I didn't forget about the great price.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Patrick Bembry, a Backpacker from Nashville, TN
Date Reviewed: 8/1/2001 11:30:03 AM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
A great tent for the money! I bought the 98 model from Campmor and got to try it out on the AT in July 2001. A storm came up that night but I stayed dry and comfy all night - my only concern was for my backpacking partners who had lesser tents. It is kind of hard to fold up correctly, but that's a small price to pay for dry comfort and relatively little pack weight.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Jim, a Backpacker from Knoxville,TN USA
Date Reviewed: 5/25/2001 9:01:57 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
The Zen is fantastic! I have an older model (1998) and was pleased with its performance in all weather. On one rainy (read frog strangler) trip I shared the tent with a friend and we stayed dry, although I did notice some condensation on the inside of the fly. Well in the pursuit on continous improvement I purchased the new fly (2001 version) with UVX windows AND best of all Kelty solved the condensation issue with a hooded vent (zippable) in the fly! I took a trip to Shining Rock NC this past weekend and during the night the frogs started to look for higher ground. It rained all night long! Woke up to cloudy but clearing skies and found no condensate at all. Best solo/2 man tent for the money. New fly is great One caveat: if you just upgrade the fly, you will have to swap the buckles with your old ones because Kelty changed the design and new and old are not compatible.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Mike Roy, a Backpacker from Newtown, CT, USA
Date Reviewed: 5/13/2001 9:45:42 AM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
This is a great tent. It was easy to set up on the trail, and with the large vestibule I was able to keep all my gear dry through a night long storm. This was definately one of the best investments I've made, and it wasnt very expensive.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Jonathan Coley, a Backpacker from Anderson, SC
Date Reviewed: 5/11/2001 9:54:07 AM
 
 

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Summary:
The Kelty Zen is probably the best tent I have ever owned. From the ease of setup point, the Zen wins hands down, as there are only two poles to insert through two mesh sleeves after staking out the tent, and setup is complete. The Zen is also a durable tent. I've had mine on various types of ground, ranging from soft dirt to coarse sandy beaches, and after three years of moderate use it shows no signs of leaks, tears or other defects. Two other features that win the Zen in my book are the full mesh roof (use the rainfly for rainy nights) which allows for great ventilation and the interior room. The Zen is a condo for one person (weighing in right at 4 lbs) and close quarters for two. I use it as a solo tent, as there is plenty of gear room inside. The front fly is good for boots and small gear, but not much help for large packs.

Similar Products Tried:
Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight
Eureka Timberlite
 

 
  Reviewed by: Eric, a Backpacker from Dallas
Date Reviewed: 4/19/2001 11:40:28 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
If you're looking for a great tent at a great price, this is the one. It's light enough for a one man trip but roomy enough for two. It's easy to set up (I set mine up for the first time in the dark with a mini mag flashlight last weekend. Got to camp a little later than planned) and ventilates well. I'm from Texas so that's a huge plus. Kelty makes a good product at a fair price. If you want a good three-season two-man, take a look at the Zen. One thing I'd recommend, buy some Kelty Nobendium stakes. I got some after reading some of the reviews on the tent that said the stakes are kinda weak and I'm glad I did. I bent the first regular stake I put in the ground.
 

 
  Reviewed by: R. Voss, a Backpacker from San Diego, CA,
Date Reviewed: 4/18/2001 12:09:51 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
Great Tent. It keep me dry in some very wet weather during a Backpacking trip in yellowstone. Light weight, ample Vestibule room and good price make this a great bargain.
 

 
  Reviewed by: jim spatharos, a Backpacker from amherst oh
Date Reviewed: 4/18/2001 8:50:13 AM
 
 

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Summary:
I love my Zen. I can use it on solo trips thanks to the 4 lb. 3 oz weight (1998 version, the newer version is 4 lb. 10 oz.). Or I can use it as a two person tent and still be comfortable. The stakes are a little weak,but you can replace them with Kelty's better ones. While you do have to stake it out no matter what, with a little foresight in regards to time and weather, this is never a problem. I love mine.
 

 
  Reviewed by: W. Moller, a Backpacker from West Point, NY
Date Reviewed: 3/25/2001 4:14:59 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
I purchased the Zen because of the reviews I read and because of its light weight. To date it has lived up to the reviews that are posted here. I used it in the Catskills during high winds and I had no problems with it. Condensation was not a real problem either, and it sets up very easily. It is a bit tight for my son and I. I'm 6"2", and he is about 5'6", and with both of us it is a bit snug. Our gear fit very well in the small vestibule. I really like the headroom because I can sit up at last! Nice tent at a fair price.

Similar Products Tried:
Eureka Alpenlite
Eureka Gossamer
Eureka Equinox
 

 
  Reviewed by: Adam Nelson, a Backpacker from DC
Date Reviewed: 2/24/2001 6:46:42 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Incredible tent. I have spent days in the rain with it and has never leaked. Some condensation, but nothing unusual. I am pretty picky about my equipment and searched endelessly for a quality, lightweight tent.

It is solidly manufactured and well designed.

Only beef I have are the cheap tents stakes and that the fabric stretches when wet casuing the the fly and tent to touch - wetness.

Similar Products Tried:
Hudson Trail Outfitters Tent called the Shennandoah. Greattent, just too large for solo trips.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Adam Nelson, a Backpacker from DC
Date Reviewed: 2/24/2001 6:36:50 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Incredible tent. I have spent days in the rain with it and has never leaked. Some condensation, but nothing unusual. I am pretty picky about my equipment and searched endelessly for a quality, lightweight tent.

It is solidly manufactured and well designed.

Only beef I have are the cheap tents stakes and that the fabric stretches when wet casuing the the fly and tent to touch - wetness.

Similar Products Tried:
Hudson Trail Outfitters Shennandoah tent - also a great tent, but larger.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Deve, a Backpacker from Tallahassee, FL, USA
Date Reviewed: 2/9/2001 5:46:52 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I love my Zen. I can use it on solo trips thanks to the 4 lb. 3 oz weight (1998 version, the newer version is 4 lb. 10 oz.). Or I can use it as a two person tent and still be comfortable. The stakes are a little weak, but you can replace them with Kelty's better ones. While you do have to stake it out no matter what, with a little foresight in regards to time and weather, this is never a problem. I love mine.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Matt Kummell, a Backpacker from Mountain View, CA
Date Reviewed: 2/1/2001 5:26:23 PM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
I've been pretty happy with this tent - great price for what you get. I'd have to agree on the cheap tent stakes, though... not very useful on really hardpacked/dried out ground. As the tent is designed, you _have_ to have it staked, though - it won't free stand which makes it rough when camping in places with really hard ground/granite. I guess you've gotta take the (heavier) dome tent on those trips! But it packs down nice and small and is barely noticeable at a bit under 5 lbs.

Similar Products Tried:
The North Face - Peregrine
 

 
  Reviewed by: Robert Adams, a Backpacker from Mauldin, SC
Date Reviewed: 1/31/2001 6:23:29 AM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I bought this tent because of it's relatively low weight and cost. It was used in the High Sierra in last August with excellent results. It weathered high winds and a two inch rain and hail storm with no problems whatsoever. The only thing I don't like about the tent is that the length of the side walls seems a bit short causing the tent bottom at the ends of tent to rise up. This manufacturing defect(?) affects floor space to a small degree. A positive aspect of this problem is that it keeps side wall/floor seams above the ground by approximately one inch.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Terry, a Mountaineer from Toronto, on, Canada
Date Reviewed: 1/27/2001 3:22:32 PM
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I bought this tent for simple backpacking and bike touring based on its weight, area, and price. I was really surprised, however, at its performance in the mountains. I have used it climbing in Colorado (surviving 9 straight nights of thunderstorms and high winds), and for a real test I took it to Peru on a climb up Huascaran (6,768 meters) in winter. It fit three climbers (with some gear) easily and lived up to the challenge of the winds and light snow . While it was cold in the tent, we were fine once in our sleeping bags. The bottom line is, it performs well beyond its price tag and claims, and well worth the money. Toss the stakes and get some sturdier ones, they are way too flimsy.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Brent Farlie, a Backpacker from Albuquerque, NM, USA
Date Reviewed: 1/27/2001 1:17:42 AM
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
My son and I chose the Kelty Zen based on weight and size. We have used it on multiple backpacking trips including 12 days in the rain at the Philmont Scout Ranch. It came trhough snug and dry. It is a tight squeeze for two good sized guys but certainly livable. The only weak point is the no-see-um in the side walls is a bit delicate. Overall a hell of a bargain for the price and it packs very small.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Joe O', a Backpacker from Moncton,NB,Canada
Date Reviewed: 10/14/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I've had my Zen for 2 seasons now and it's the perfect tent for me.It is very compact and light-weight while also having plenty of room for 1 person or 2 if needed.I use it extensively for Bike touring,kayak trips and backpacking.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Robert Torongo, a Backpacker from Lawrence, KS
Date Reviewed: 9/15/2000
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
So far, i have had good experience with this tent. the only problem i had was the crappy tent stakes that come with it. also, it can be tricky to set up the first few times you use it. overall, it is a great value.

Similar Products Tried:
EMS Pampero, Mountain Hardwear
 

 
  Reviewed by: Daniel, a Backpacker from Boulder, CO
Date Reviewed: 9/10/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I rec'd this from a friend who needed a bigger tent for him and his mutt. I've used it twice-once up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and once along the Upper Missouri River while kayaking in Montana. Just worked great-packed up real neat in the kayak. Great for the $$$
 

 
  Reviewed by: Webb Phillips, a Backpacker from Stanford, CA, USA
Date Reviewed: 9/10/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
The coolest thing about this tent is that it is light. And cheap. The rain fly works well, although condensation forms on the inside of the tent during the night. Also, water tends to pool on top of the rain fly instead of sliding off, but this doesn't I've never used this tent in snow or cold weather -- the coldest was maybe 40 degrees -- and I don't think it is designed for such things. It's also mosquito-proof. BTW, I'm a mountain biker, not a Day Hiker, Car Camper, Backpacker, Climber, or Mountaineer, but I had to pick something...
 

 
  Reviewed by: Mick, a Backpacker from Littleton, CO.
Date Reviewed: 9/9/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I have caught in rain, snow, and severe wind while camping but never had to feel the elements in my Zen. It fits me and my overstuffed pack so comfortably that I might install a garage door opener and try to fit my IH Scout in with me.
 

 
  Reviewed by: a.alonzo, a Backpacker from S.F.
Date Reviewed: 9/9/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Very sturdy light weight tent .Can't say much,but you get what you pay.

Customer Service:
none
 

 
  Reviewed by: Eric, a Backpacker from Washingtonville, New York
Date Reviewed: 9/1/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I received my Zen as a present 2 years ago and have used it for many purposes; backpacking on the AT, bike touring, canoeing, BSA campouts, and this tent is the best. It's low weight (under 5 pounds) and ample room (room for one and gear or two in a squeeze) make it possibly the best non-freestanding tent ever! (on the bike tour there was even enough room to stuff our paniers, helmets, and other gear by our feet - WITH TWO PEOPLE!) I reccomend this tent to anyone and/or everyone.

Customer Service:
I have had other Kelty products, none this good.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Daniel, a Backpacker from Nacogdoches, Tx
Date Reviewed: 7/29/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
This tent is great. I am a Boy Scout and have used this tent for about a year. I have been to Philmont, and slept well every night of the 70 mile ling trek. I recommend this tent to anyone who backpacks and likes to be a minamalist. The best price I've seen for this tent is $120 from campmor which is still a good price compared to other companies.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Rob, a Backpacker from Colorado
Date Reviewed: 7/12/2000
 
 

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ValueRating:

Summary:
This tent rules! I got it on sale for about $90, and it is one of the better investments I have made. I've used it in the mountains of Virginia and Colorado, and it has performed flawlessly in heavy rain and wind. Anyone who tells you that Kelty gear is crap (and many of my colorado gear snob friends do) has probably never used this tent. They can have their 7lb Marmot for $350; I'll take the Kelty and save 2lbs and $260.

Similar Products Tried:
I've slept in a Marmot Swallow. It was really nice, w/lots of features, but it is heavy and expensive
 

 
  Reviewed by: Steve, a Backpacker from Orlando
Date Reviewed: 6/13/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
The Zen is a great tent for one person and their gear. Two people if very friendly. First time I used it, it rained. Everything stayed dry. I am very happy with this tent. Can't beat it for the price. Easy to set up and take down.

Customer Service:
Called Kelty service because my dog destroyed the manuals. They sent it right out.

Similar Products Tried:
Have a Kelty Solitude sleeping bag. So far it has been very comfortable. My son loves his Kelty Clear Creek sleeping bag and his Kelty Tioga pack back.
 

 
  Reviewed by: E. J. Martin, a Backpacker from Virginia Beach, VA
Date Reviewed: 6/8/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I bought this tent based on reputation, need, price and research...I am not disappointed. As a Scoutmaster I spend a lot of time camping and wanted a multipurpose tent. Just completed some miles on the AT and have nothing but good stuff to say about the Zen. Easy set-up, superb ventilation and light weight. I'm 6'2"" and had plenty of room, 2 people requires good friendship. At $150.00 (or even $200)you cannot find a better tent.

Customer Service:
Called to ask about the windows...should I use any special care? Kelty gave me all the info I wanted and had a catalog on its way that day. So far I'm impressed with their service.

Similar Products Tried:
Sweetwater Guardian
 

 
  Reviewed by: Mark Scantling, a Backpacker from Burleson, TX
Date Reviewed: 5/21/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
Great lighweight tent. I got mine for a canoe trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas last summer. My 15 year old son and I were quite comfortable.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Todd, a Backpacker from Missouri
Date Reviewed: 4/5/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I used the Kelty Zen on a Bicycle Tour last Summer and on shorter overnight bike trips. It's lightweight, ease of set-up and roominess makes for an ideal Bicycle Touring shelter. For the money, this is a well contructed and durable tent.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Reuben McFadden, a Backpacker from Gainesville, FL
Date Reviewed: 3/16/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I just purchased this tent and I am very pleased with it. Theres room inside for me and another person or me and all my gear. I was in thunderstorm the first night high winds and stayed warm and dry and on the second nite another storm with freezing rain. The entire tent (the rain fly actually) was covered with a half inch layer of ice which i had to pound off to get out but once again i was dry and it held up to the weight of the ice and the high winds with no problem. The 99 model has clear windows in the fly which are great. You can't beat this tent for quality and function for $150.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Dave, a Backpacker from Morgantown, WV, USA
Date Reviewed: 3/15/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
A great tent. Setup is easy and fast and the tent will keep you reasonably dry. This is only a 3 season tent and is advertised as such so if you camp where it gets chilly at night make sure your sleeping bag is up to the task since this tent is ventilated well. Light and packs well. Great value for money.
 

 
  Reviewed by: Adam Hansler, a Backpacker from Port Elgin,Ontario, Canada
Date Reviewed: 1/30/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I bought this tent two years ago and have used it on a 9-day trek on the LaCloche Silhouette Trail(100km) in Killarny Prov. Park. I was impressed! An awesome value. Low weight + easy setup(3-min) + good price + good construction make this a 5 star tent. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a light-weight high-quality backpacking tent. It is small but I found it to be big enough for two people. The vestibule is great!
 

 
  Reviewed by: John Jans, a Day Hiker from Plainsboro, NJ, USA
Date Reviewed: 1/29/2000
 
 

Overall Rating:
ValueRating:

Summary:
I got a good deal on this tent. So far, I've only used it once for a weekend trip. The tent is light, well made, and small. Tight for 2 people, but manageable. I recommend it to bike campers and for short camping trips.


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