Mountain Hardwear Bridger 4 Tent - Overview and initial impressions

Started by majorhavoc, June 08, 2024, 05:15:35 PM

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majorhavoc

Until I fully test it in the field, I can't call this an full product review.

This is a replacement for what's been my go-to car camping/vehicular bugout tent for over 10 years, an L.L. Bean Vector XL 4.  It's been a trooper and the highest quality tent I've ever owned.  But the past 2 camping seasons, I've noticed it's developed some (very minor) leakage during heavy, sustained rain.  I could tackle those leaks with seam sealer, but it's been my experience that when a tent starts showing its age like that, it's a losing battle and you'll never again have the security that a quality, truly weatherproof tent gives you.  The Vector XL is now relegated to my supply of backup gear, to loan out to less-equipped camping friends.  Or I suppose, to give to a desperate family in time of disaster.

The Bridger 4 is not a cheap tent, selling for around $470 - $600 online. But, this being UFOZS.com, we scouted out a much better deal (props to @Moab ) and I got one delivered to my door for $205, tax included.  If ~$500 (or even $205) for a four person tent seems like a lot to you, bear in mind that Mountain Hardwear is a top tier tent manufacturer.  They've made a name for themselves in professional grade, expedition quality gear.  Consider that you can occasionally find a 10 person tent from Walmart for as little as $150.  Mountain Hardwear will also sell you a 10-person tent, but it'll set you back a cool $5,600.  Mountain Hardwear is what you want for an arctic expedition, or a summit assault on K-2.  That level of quality trickles down to their recreational tents.  You're paying for top quality design, materials and workmanship.

The Bridger 4 weighs in at a girthy 18lbs, 9oz packed weight. That concerned me a little but this is a car camping tent after all.  When I'm camping with a group, I gladly trade lightweight for living space and the all-important stand up height (for ease of putting on your pants, of course).  Plus, the LL Bean tent it's replacing was no lightweight at 13lbs 4oz.  And that's without the fabric foot print or the two hanging storage organzers the Mountain Hardwear comes with.  And finally, the Mountain Heardwear features what appeared to be an absolutely massive stand up vestibule, something I was particularly interested in.  Here's how the two compare when packed up. 




Instead of a drawstring stuff sack, the Bridger 4 comes in duffle bag with a buckle closure that includes a very generous length of webbing: it extends to become a shoulder strap. The carry duffle has an inner compartment that stores the poles and stakes, each of which in turn have their own storage bag.  A very large pictograph instruction sheet is sewn into the inside of the duffle.




The fabric part of the tent is comprised of four separate components: the foot print, the main tent body, a full coverage rainfly and a pair of hanging storage organizers.  The footprint serves double duty as both a groundcloth to protect the tent floor, and to keep your feet dry in the vestibule. That's typically an extra cost accessory on other tents. 



You stake out the foot print first, then align the color matched straps on the tent body with those on the foot print.  Even the poles are color coded to match the straps they plug into.  Speaking of the poles, they're extremely high quality shock-cordered DAC aluminum alloy with ferrules on each end that plug into very robust grommets on the straps attached to the tent body and foot print.  They're larger in diameter than those on the LL Bean Vector XL, which I always thought were commendably beefy.  These suggest a whole other order of magnitude in strength and certainly account for some of the Bridger's extra packed weight.



A close up of one of the stakes and the included pole splint. The stakes were the first disappointment - just cheap aluminum wire stakes.  Adequate for firm ground, but not a lot of holding power in loose, sandy soil.  And they will bend over time.  At the $205 deal price I paid, this is acceptable.  But if I had paid the full $500 street price, I'd be pissed.  At that price, one expects higher quality tent stakes.  The second disappointment was the number of stakes: the Bridger only comes with 12.  Including the supplemental guy lines and stake loops along the botton of the fly, I count 18 anchor points built into the design of this tent.  This issue isn't specific to Mountain Hardwear, but why do tent manufacturers not supply enough stakes to account for all the anchor points a tent comes with?  On a more positive note, the pole splint is a thoughtful extra that I wish more manufacturers include with their tents.  If you somehow manage to break a pole, this and some duct tape will ensure the tent remains fully functional.



The Bridger's design includes a ridge pole that helps maximize interior volume.  Above the waterproof bathtub floor, the inner walls are entirely mesh.  Great for ventilation, not so much for heat retention.  The Bridger's overall shape looks like it'll do a decent job sheddng snow, but without tight-weave fabric inner walls, it's not a true 4 season tent.  Inside the main room, the Bridger includes numerous mesh storage pockets, a lantern loop and attachment points for a gear loft (not included).  The Welcome Home tags on both the front and back doors are a cute touch.




The Bridger 4 fully erect.  It took me about 20 minutes pitching it solo, what with figuring out how everything aligned and went together.  Pitching should take closer to 10 minutes next time.  The two pole cross-over dome design is free standing, but the vestibule portion (which uses the fourth, green color coded pole) requires staking out at least two of three provided guy lines.  Hard to see, but there are two more neatly coiled supplemental guy lines on each side of the tent fly for extra stability in stormy weather.  The exterior of the tent fly also features reflective stripes in numerous spots, which will make it easier to find at night (for bug out scenarios, some would consider that a disadvantage, along with the Bridger's overall light color scheme).



Here's the money shot and what is clearly the Bridger 4's calling card: the massive vestibule.  It offers true stand up height (assuming you're short like me - 5'8"), and a metric ton of space.  I thought my LL Bean Vector XL had a big vestibule, but it's positively dwarfed by this thing.  Just as signifcant, almost all of that vestibule is fully usable space, unlike the steeply sloping vestibules on my other tents.    And while it's no screened porch, it's legitimate living space.  There's plenty of room for a couple of folding chairs in there and still clearance to access the inner (fully bug-proof) sleeping area.  Which brings me to another point: most 4 person tents are really 3 person tents if you expect to bring any of your gear inside the tent with you.  With a vestibule large enough to actually keep everyone's stuff protected, four adults could actually be fairly comfortable sleeping in the main room. 

You also have the option of making the vestibule area floorless by tucking that portion of the foot print under the main body of the tent.  It then becomes a true mud room where you can store bicyles or shed muddy footwear before entering the main room. 



This is a cool feature I didn't know about until I pitched it: the Bridger comes with stake loops on either side of the each of the two zippers on the vestibute.  That means that instead of staking out the triangular side panels, you can instead stake down the central flap and those side panels become what Mountain Hardwear calls "saloon doors".  They allow entry/egress without letting the elements in with you.  Those saloon doors even offer roll-in/roll-out capability for bikes or even a small motorcycle. 



Can't give a final verdict until I actually use the Bridger 4 in the field.  But so far, I'm impressed with the quality and design.  I'm hopeful it will be a worthy successor to my Vector XL 4.
A post-apocalyptic tale of love, loss and redemption. And zombies!
<br />https://ufozs.com/smf/index.php?topic=105.0

Moab

Wow. I had no idea that was such a bombproof 18lb tent. That is an awesome deal. Jesus.
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

echo83

This is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful. 

Moab

Quote from: echo83 on June 09, 2024, 07:36:28 AMThis is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful.
If you only need a one or two man tent. Coleman's is selling the USMC tent for $150. It is bombproof. Heavy. But perfect for car camping.
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

majorhavoc

Quote from: echo83 on June 09, 2024, 07:36:28 AMThis is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful.
Glad you found it useful! Just so you know, I don't post these overly wordy, copiously illustrated product overviews because I necessarily think someone here on UFOZS.com is specifically interested in a Mountain Hardwear Bridger 4 tent.  I mean if someone is, that's great.  But I figure somewhere, someone might be.  I'm trying to add content to our humble site.  If someone is interested in this specific product and a Google search brings them to UFOZS.com, I'm hopeful they'll find our content to be quality, decide we're a community of people who seem to know what we're talking about, and decide to stick around.

FYI: The MH Bridger 4 did get an unexpected workout.  The Saturday afternoon that I set it up to take those pictures, it started sprinkling.  I didn't want to pack it away while wet, so I decided to leave it up overnight and planned on taking it down when it dried out on Sunday morning. 

Well sometime Saturday night/early Sunday it started raining.  And kept on raining.  A long soaking rain that lasted until about 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon. I kept checking on the tent periodically and am happy to report that the interior remained bone dry.  As in 100%, absolutely no leakage whatsoever after at least 12 hours of steady precipitation.  My first opportunity to take it down was this evening (Monday) and there was no dampness whatsoever.

That's what I was referring to above about the security a truly weatherproof tent gives you.  When all is said an done, the features, conveniences and usability of a shelter all take a back seat to the one thing you expect a tent to do: keep you safe, secure and above all, dry.  I'm still planning on doing an update after I spend an actual weekend living in the Bridger 4.  But for now I can at least say it's completely weatherproof in sustained adverse conditions.
A post-apocalyptic tale of love, loss and redemption. And zombies!
<br />https://ufozs.com/smf/index.php?topic=105.0

echo83

Quote from: Moab on June 09, 2024, 01:11:56 PM
Quote from: echo83 on June 09, 2024, 07:36:28 AMThis is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful.
If you only need a one or two man tent. Coleman's is selling the USMC tent for $150. It is bombproof. Heavy. But perfect for car camping.
I've seen that one too...it looks like a solid design, but I'm looking for something that will sleep two adults and two kids. 

I've crammed myself and my two kids into a two person tent, and with the amount of thrashing around they did, the experience was what I imagine sleeping on the roller grill at 7-11 must feel like. 

Moab

Quote from: echo83 on June 10, 2024, 08:53:30 PM
Quote from: Moab on June 09, 2024, 01:11:56 PM
Quote from: echo83 on June 09, 2024, 07:36:28 AMThis is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful.
If you only need a one or two man tent. Coleman's is selling the USMC tent for $150. It is bombproof. Heavy. But perfect for car camping.
I've seen that one too...it looks like a solid design, but I'm looking for something that will sleep two adults and two kids.

I've crammed myself and my two kids into a two person tent, and with the amount of thrashing around they did, the experience was what I imagine sleeping on the roller grill at 7-11 must feel like.
Dude. Were they infants?! I can barely fit two people in a two man tent. Lol.

Sounds like a research project. You might try www.outdoorgearlabs.com as a starting point. They give gear to world class, hikers, backpackers and trekkers. They use it for months. And review it as a group. No bullshit. No paid reviews. And they review an entire group of products against each other. And then post a rating chart. With specs, prices and opinions. Then each item gets its own long form review. They have categories for just about any piece of outdoor gear there is. 

If your looking for a deal try looking at last years model on gearx. They sell "new old stock" gear from previous years. Major deals. Or run a search by "(the model tent you want) vs (blank)". Like "Coleman Syndrome 4 person vs". That "vs" in your search will bring up any comparison reviews that have been done on it. 

If its a good tent it will have been compared in a review to another tent. You might like just as well. Similar gear tends to get reviewed against each other. Or just look at the previous model if there is one. Sometimes there are only small changes you can live with.
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

Moab

Quote from: majorhavoc on June 10, 2024, 08:21:55 PM
Quote from: echo83 on June 09, 2024, 07:36:28 AMThis is a great review! Thanks for taking the time to post photos and impressions. I'm in the initial stages of car camping tent research, and this is really helpful.
Glad you found it useful! Just so you know, I don't post these overly wordy, copiously illustrated product overviews because I necessarily think someone here on UFOZS.com is specifically interested in a Moutain Hardwear Bridger 4 tent.  I mean if someone is, that's great.  But I figure somewhere, someone might be.  I'm mostly trying to add content to our humble site.  If someone is interested in this specific product and a Google search brings them to UFOZS.com, I'm hopeful they'll find our content to be quality, decide we're a community of people who seem to know what they're talking about, and decide to stick around.

FYI: The MH Bridger 4 did get an unexpected workout.  The Saturday afternoon that I set it up to take those pictures, it started sprinkling.  I didn't want to pack it away while wet, so I decided to leave it up overnight and planned on taking it down when it dried out on Sunday morning. 

Well sometime Saturday night/early Sunday it started raining.  And it kept on raining.  A long soaking rain that lasted until about 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon. I kept checking on the tent periodically and am happy to report that the interior remained bone dry.  As in 100%, absolutely no leakage whatsoever after at least 12 hours of steady precipitation.  My first opportunity to take it down was this evening (Monday) and there was no dampness whatsoever.

That's what I was referring to above about the security a truly weatherproof tent gives you.  When all is said an done, the features, conveniences and usability of a shelter all take a back seat to the one thing you expect a tent to do: keep you safe, secure and above all, dry.  I'm still planning on doing an update after I spend an actual weekend living in the Bridger 4.  But for now I can at least say it's completely weatherproof in sustained adverse conditions.
That's why I only buy tents with a complete rain fly. None of this vents at the top stuff. For air flow. Or windows. Just one solid fly all the way to the ground. That can be zipped closed. 

There is nothing worse than spending a night in a tent that leaks or let's water in. In boot camp I slept in a shelter half canvas tent with a wool blanket. And it rained hard. The instructions were to build a mote around your bed in the dirt with your etool. So the rain would drain around your sleeping position. We were lying in mud in about an hour. MISERABLE.

I then spent a night in a cheap igloo tent up in the PNW mountains. It leaked so bad I found my friend at about 2am stabbing the bottom of the tent with his knife. Just to try to get the two inches of water to drain from the bottom of the tent. Our sleeping bags were completely soaked. We were completely soaked. We squatted in the bottom of the tent for like an hour. And then just got up, put our rain gear on. And stood outside until sun up. 
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

echo83

Quote from: Moab on June 10, 2024, 10:44:12 PMDude. Were they infants?! I can barely fit two people in a two man tent. Lol.

Sounds like a research project. You might try www.outdoorgearlabs.com as a starting point. They give gear to world class, hikers, backpackers and trekkers. They use it for months. And review it as a group. No bullshit. No paid reviews. And they review an entire group of products against each other. And then post a rating chart. With specs, prices and opinions. Then each item gets its own long form review. They have categories for just about any piece of outdoor gear there is.

If your looking for a deal try looking at last years model on gearx. They sell "new old stock" gear from previous years. Major deals. Or run a search by "(the model tent you want) vs (blank)". Like "Coleman Syndrome 4 person vs". That "vs" in your search will bring up any comparison reviews that have been done on it.

If its a good tent it will have been compared in a review to another tent. You might like just as well. Similar gear tends to get reviewed against each other. Or just look at the previous model if there is one. Sometimes there are only small changes you can live with.
Hahaha yeah, they were 8 and 6 at the time, and it was backyard camping. Honestly, for them the biggest draw is having a fire outside, staying up late, and using their mess kits to eat "camping food." Sleep is totally secondary.

During the summers of my youth, I slept in everything from a shelter half, to a leaky canvas pup tent, to a decent Kelty. I know what it's like to be comfortable in a tent, and to be a one-man blood bank for the mosquitoes, so it's really important to me that I start them off on the right foot. If they're miserable, they're never going to get into it. 

Thanks for the site recommendations; I'll take a look at it!

Moab

Quote from: echo83 on Yesterday at 09:12:39 PM
Quote from: Moab on June 10, 2024, 10:44:12 PMDude. Were they infants?! I can barely fit two people in a two man tent. Lol.

Sounds like a research project. You might try www.outdoorgearlabs.com as a starting point. They give gear to world class, hikers, backpackers and trekkers. They use it for months. And review it as a group. No bullshit. No paid reviews. And they review an entire group of products against each other. And then post a rating chart. With specs, prices and opinions. Then each item gets its own long form review. They have categories for just about any piece of outdoor gear there is.

If your looking for a deal try looking at last years model on gearx. They sell "new old stock" gear from previous years. Major deals. Or run a search by "(the model tent you want) vs (blank)". Like "Coleman Syndrome 4 person vs". That "vs" in your search will bring up any comparison reviews that have been done on it.

If its a good tent it will have been compared in a review to another tent. You might like just as well. Similar gear tends to get reviewed against each other. Or just look at the previous model if there is one. Sometimes there are only small changes you can live with.
Hahaha yeah, they were 8 and 6 at the time, and it was backyard camping. Honestly, for them the biggest draw is having a fire outside, staying up late, and using their mess kits to eat "camping food." Sleep is totally secondary.

During the summers of my youth, I slept in everything from a shelter half, to a leaky canvas pup tent, to a decent Kelty. I know what it's like to be comfortable in a tent, and to be a one-man blood bank for the mosquitoes, so it's really important to me that I start them off on the right foot. If they're miserable, they're never going to get into it.

Thanks for the site recommendations; I'll take a look at it!
My friends and I, even my whole family, slept out in the yard in Eastern WA in the summer time. Often. It gets hot in the summer time there. I remember watching the satellites. There were so few you had to wait for them to go around again. To see them cross the sky again. Wow. I feel old . Lol

"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

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