Multifunctional tent splits the difference between backpacking and car camping
Those that spend a lot of time adventuring and sleeping outdoors can quickly amass a small pile of tents and shelters, and not necessarily just because they like to upgrade to the latest tree tent or retractable dome. Different activities, such as fast-and-light backpacking and car camping lend themselves to different types of tents, and oftentimes one tent doesn't translate over very well to other activities. Cotopaxi wants to cut down the tent overload and give you one tent for multiple activities. Its Inti 2 switches between lightweight backpacking tent for two and roomy car camping tent for four.
Using the same tent for different activities isn't unthinkable, but it does involve some compromises that you might not be willing to make. A super-compact, lightweight two-person backpacking tent is a great solution for backpacking and other fast-and-light activities, but it's probably unnecessarily cramped for car camping trips where you aren't worried about cutting packed size and weight. A roomy family camping tent, on the other hand, is more comfy for a car camping trip, but too big and heavy to conveniently carry on your back. So you end up buying two tents with two different uses and no compromises.
Cotopaxi wants to roll those two types of tent into one model with three different configurations, ranging from a 2.5-lb (1.1-kg) backpacking shelter to a 7-lb (3.2-kg) car camping tent. The greater tent consists of three pieces: an aluminum-poled, mesh-skinned two-person freestanding tent, a rainfly and a floored alcove.
The tent with rainfly can be used for backpacking, car camping or other activities. At 4 lb 9 oz (2 kg), it's a lightweight set-up but not ultralight when compared to other options on the market. The tent includes a nylon tub floor and can be used with the rainfly on, off or halfway on, depending upon weather and preference.
If you don't want to put that much weight in your pack, you can carry just the alcove, which includes a structural pole but is not freestanding, relying on a tree and integrated guy line or two trekking poles to pitch. This set-up weighs 2 lb 8 oz (1.1 kg) and puts a roof over two people's heads but has an open entry, leaving things like wind and insects uncontested on their way in.
When you have an extra two campers with you or can afford extra weight and want to spread out a bit at camp, the alcove snaps to the main tent to create a four-person tent weighing 7 lb 1 oz (3.2 kg). Since the alcove includes a floor, all campers have a roof above and floor below, unlike what you'd expect inside a traditional vestibule without a floor.
The Inti 2 is a smart design, but it might just outsmart itself. It suffers the compromises that inevitably affect multifunctional gear of all kinds and it isn't more affordable than buying two individual tents.
As the photo of the two tub floors snapping together shows, the snap-in system doesn't offer the sealed, element-proof construction you'd expect from a car camping tent. It sure looks like there's a lot of unsealed space, leaving things open for intrusions from insects and other unwanted visitors. There's a reason why tents use zippers instead of snaps, and we think a zipper, Velcro or something similar would be a better solution here.
You may or may not be opposed to the idea of some unsealed fabric between you and the ground – some people just sleep under the stars with no tent, after all. A bigger issue we have with the Inti 2 is the estimated US$560 retail price, which doesn't come out any lower than buying two separate tents.
A quick look around the market reveals that you can buy a two-person backpacking tent and a basic four-person family tent for well under $560. You can buy that same four-person family tent, plus a freestanding two-person backpacking tent that's significantly lighter than the Inti 2, in the same $560 range. We're not going to get into specific models because there are so many different combinations you could choose from, but all the models we looked at are from well-known, name-brand manufacturers and the prices retail, not sales.
To be completely fair, it'd also be possible to spend $600, $700, on up to thousands of dollars on a four-person tent and two-person backpacking tent, so it really depends what specific models you're comparing. But we'd expect the Cotopaxi to look like an immediate deal compared to purchasing two individual tents, and it misses the mark. If they can find a way to retail it for the $325 Indiegogo early bird price, or even $400 or so, it'd look pretty good, but at $560, it seems like a "two-in-one" for the sake of cool design, not for replacing two expensive pieces of gear, especially when you consider performance compromises like that unsealed floor.
If you don't mind going the Indiegogo route, you can secure an Inti 2 for that $325. The campaign is more than 3/4 of the way to its goal, and if all goes as Cotopaxi plans, shipments will begin in August.