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The L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV 2, 3, and 4 Tents are roomy, freestanding backpacking tents. The hubbed pole design maximizes interior space, and the tents are loaded with usability features.
To get us a closer look, L.L.Bean sent Man Makes Fire a Mountain Light HV 3 review unit. This is what we learned:
L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV 3 Tent
There are many great backpacking tents available these days and they all try to create the best blend of features while keeping weight to a minimum. The trick is to find the right blend of durability, weight and cost for you. The L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV Tent series comes in at a midrange weight — they’re significantly lighter than camping tents but heavier than more expensive ultralight backpacking tents.
Basically, you can find backpacking tents that are lighter than the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV Tent series, but they’re often less durable, if not outright fragile, and they cost more. You’re probably reading this Mountain Light HV Tent review now because you want to know if the Mountain Light HV series are good tents.
Rest assured, the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV Tents are very good tents — and a good value. Let’s take a closer look.
Let’s Talk About Weight
When it comes to backpacking tents, a key factor comes down to weight. For durable, long-lasting, and affordably-priced freestanding backpacking tents, the trail weight per person should be around 2-to-3 pounds per person. For instance, one person can carry the rainfly and poles while another carries the main tent body and stakes. The tent load can be split and shared between multiple backpackers.
Here are the minimum trail weights for the Mountain Light HV series: The Mountain Light HV 2 minimum trail weight is about 5 pounds, the HV 3 is about 7 pounds, and the HV 4 is about 7 pounds, 11 ounces. So what might those weights compare to?
Here is a good example: The excellent MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Backpacking Tent, which L.L.Bean also sells, weighs in at about 3.5 pounds. If you’re doing the math, that is about 1.5 pounds lighter, which is pretty solid weight savings — but what are the downsides?
Weight vs Durability vs Space vs Cost
The MSR tent is a super high-quality tent, no doubt about it. However, sometimes you can’t fight physics. In this case I’m talking about the relative thickness of the fabrics. The rainfly on the MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a 20D nylon while the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV rainfly is 68D. The floor fabric on the Hubba Hubba NX is 30D while the floor is 70D on the L.L.Bean tent. The D stands for denier, and it’s basically a rating that indicates the thickness of the threads used to weave a fabric. Higher denier levels generally indicate thicker and usually stronger, more durable fabrics. Of course, the quality of the weave and the type of fabric play a role, but in general terms, the bigger the number in front of denier, the thicker the fabric.
Now let’s talk about the size of the tents. The Hubba Hubba NX is quite a bit smaller in size even though it’s also rated as a 2-person tent. The L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV 2 gives you a sleeping area of 90″ x 54″ while the MSR Hubba Hubba NX is just 84″ x 50″. I’m a fairly tall and large guy so I always appreciate longer tents, especially when it rains.
But there’s more. The Hubba Hubba NX 2 also has a lower interior height with less overall interior volume.
When you tally up the cost, the Hubba Hubba NX 2 is about $150 more than the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV 2. Even so, the Hubba Hubba NX has a great price-to-value ratio — it’s still a great value but it’s designed for someone willing to pay a bit more for a lighter tent. If your gear budget is limited, you might do better to lower your pack weight by investing a $150 tent price savings into something else, for example, a high-quality ultralight air mattress or a down sleeping bag or quilt.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent series. It’s an excellent tent, especially for more active, experienced backpackers. It’s super high quality and provides a great balance of durability for the price. However, for more recreational backpackers, backpackers with dogs, and larger backpackers, the value proposition of the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV Tents . . . are also excellent and may be the better buy for you.
What I Like About the L.L.Bean Tents
There is a lot to like about the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV tent series, starting with the sturdy and roomy overall design. The hubbed pole structure is easy to setup. The structure also gives you near vertical sidewalls, which improves livability. When you place this shape over the top of its generous rectangle — 90″ long in all three tent versions — you get a winner for interior space.
The design is also essentially freestanding, which makes it easier to set up your tent in all sorts of terrain. The interior of the tent is mesh, which helps with airflow and moisture. This design is particularly important for novices and backpackers who don’t want to worry about moisture buildup on the insides of their tents (which is a con for single-wall tents, which I’m generally not a fan of).
Easy up hubbed poles.
High-quality materials and construction.
In all versions, you also get two large doors, which makes entry and exit much easier when backpacking with buddies. It also means that you get two large vestibules, which are great for storing trail shoes or hiking boots out of the rain as well as your pack.
The vestibule rainfly has two sides of zippers, which lets you roll up the middle for visibility or airflow.
On the inside, L.L.Bean includes stuff pockets built into the no-see-um mesh in each corner of the tent. Plus, L.L.Bean added hang loop points on the interior that you can use to create a mini clothesline or gear loft.
One of the things I really like about freestanding tents — as opposed to many tarp-style tents — is the built-in bug mesh that can be easily exposed by rolling the rainfly back over the top of the tent. This can let you enjoy vistas and look at the night sky. If it starts to rain, you can easily pull the fly back into place.
Overall, the material quality is very good. The fabric and stitching is excellent, and the poles and hubs are made from high-quality aluminum.
To help protect the floor, L.L.Bean includes a footprint. Most tent manufacturers charge you extra for a footprint, so this is a nice bonus.
Typically, though, we leave the footprint in our vehicle and only use it for extra ground protection at campground base camps. On the other hand, if you’re heading into a backpacking trip where you’re pretty sure you’re going to get a lot of rain, your footprint can turn into a rainfly that you can string between two trees to provide some protection from the rain for hanging out or cooking.
All-in-all, the L.L.Bean Mountain Light HV 2, 3 and 4 Tents are can’t-go-wrong backpacking tents. Each tent in the series is generously sized, well-built, and relatively light. The pole design and rainfly structure work together to create a sturdy tent, ready to handle plenty of backcountry rain. Highly recommended.