Badlands Mirage Tent
Nothing bugs me more than reading a review on a product which has only been in the field once or even worse, has simply been taken out of the box and examined in a living room. When I review something, I strive to field test an item at least a dozen times to give users an idea of more than just how a product will perform in usual circumstances, but of how the product will also perform in those situations that only arise one in a dozen trips. The downfall of this philosophy, of course, is when attempting to review an item like a backcountry tent, where real-life field use only happens a few times a year. That said, I was not able to put a dozen hunts into my Mirage yet, but it has made backcountry hunts for elk, mule deer, blacktail deer, and bear, so I feel confident enough diving into my analysis with that.
When analyzing a piece of backcountry equipment, there are a few things I am particularly concerned about: How user-friendly is the design/structure, how lightweight/compact can it get, and how does it hold up to the elements and abuse. Here is how the Mirage stood up in these three areas:
1. Design/Structure: The designers at Badlands did not leave any stone left unturned when cramming every design feature they could think of into this tent. For those that have ever used lightweight backpacking tents, you are probably familiar with some of the features so I will spare from expanding on all of them and simply stick to a list things the Mirage touts that some other competitors don’t.
- One-Piece Poles – Like most lightweight tents, the Mirage sports just two collapsible cross member poles, but unlike most others, the poles on the Mirage are connected at a swiveling center hub. This design makes the pole connection process seamless. Furthermore, the entire one-piece design is asymmetrical meaning there is no right or wrong way to put the poles together. While this may seem like a feature only appreciated by the less outdoorsy type, I can assure you that you will be grateful for it when trying to set this tent up in the dark during a snowstorm as I did on my last bear hunt.
- Rain Fly – The Mirage sports a rain fly that “clips in” to the main tent body, allowing them to attach as one piece rather than having to ensure that they both stay connected to a third point such as a stake, which is the case in many other tents. This clip also has a tension adjustment on it, enabling the user the get the rain fly as snug as possible after setup. Another feature of luxury is the magnetic closer of the zipper flap which automatically snaps together to seal off the zipper from water run off after the user is inside of the tent. Furthermore, the rain fly is deigned larger than normal on the side of entry to allow a “dry pocket” of sorts outside of the main body of the tent where items such as your pack can be placed. If there is an all out downpour as was the case on our last backcountry bear hunt, we used this small dry pocket area to cook our meals using our Jetboil burners.
- The Little Extras – The lightweight stakes that come with the mirage are still extremely durable (we haven’t been able to bend a single one, an anomaly for lightweight tents). Reflective strips woven into the guide lines that help stake down the tent, work wonders for helping you to avoid tripping at night when walking around the tent. Lastly, the stuff sack is roomy enough for one guy to pack the tent up without the need of four other hands compressing the tent to make it fit – a bit of an underestimated luxury until you are in a rush, and alone of course.
2. Weight & Compactability – The main tent I ran before Badlands came out with the Mirage was an upper-end brand from REI that came in weighing right around 5.3 lbs. The Mirage with everything comes out to just over 5.5 lbs. with many more features and luxuries that the other did not have. That being said, a tent that includes an added rain fly and footprint can only be so light and the industry standard for those that are involved in ultralight extended-day backpacking activities seems to be in the five pound range, which the Mirage certainly suffices. If an individual is concerned solely with weight, you can run just a base setup with the tent body, poles, and stakes, bringing the weight all the way down to just over 3 lbs. However, a perk that the Mirage gives over others is a stuff sack that features compression straps on it, allowing the user to compress the unit down in size if he decides to run a modified version of the tent (i.e. leaving the rain fly or the footprint at home).
3. Durability – So far, I have been fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how you view it) to have run the Mirage in both rain and snow, and it has held up to both very well. The most important part for me - zero leaks or seepage issues. The Mirage has taken a few falls while strapped on to the Ox Frame and seen every element the Northwest has to offer, and so far it has been impenetrable. And of course… if something ever were to happen, the Badlands warranty gives a hunter the ease of mind that is second to none in the hunting industry.
All-in-all, the Mirage is a top pick. It accomplishes everything a hunter needs in a tent, yet is versatile and lightweight enough that it can compete on the same shelf as tents being produced by the high-end mountaineering companies that are designed for twenty-day treks. In fact, I was so impressed with the smart design features of the Mirage and it fit my needs as a hunter so well, I sold both of my ultralight backpacking tents and have gone solely to this one. At the end of the day, the Mirage is capable of filling every backcountry tag you might have from late summer elk hunts to early spring bear excursions.