Eddie Bauer First Ascent Stargazer 3 Backpacking Tent Review
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Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line of expedition gear has been putting out great products for years and I’ve been fortunate enough to test a variety of it. The Eddie Bauer First Ascent Stargazer 3 is a lightweight yet spacious backpacking tent that can fit 3 adults and will get you through foul weather in Fall, Spring, and Summer. It offers a spacious design and two doors with vestibules to keep your gear dry. I’ve tested the tent in Utah and Colorado and have been impressed with the shelter.
The Stargazer 3 is meant to offer a good balance between weight and interior space and is designed accordingly. At 4 lbs, 15 oz (trail weight), it’s not the lightest 3 person but it is competitive with other manufacturers offerings and is respectable for a tent of its size. I had no complaints about the weight in my pack while hiking and didn’t feel like I had to make any real compromises to take it.
The designers have put some real thought into the pitching process of setting up the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Stargazer 3 and it yielded great results. My test for how easy it is to assemble a tent is to take it out and go for it without looking at any instructions and see how long it takes. The Stargazer 3 passed with flying colors and I was able to pitch it (before staking it out) in about 5 minutes. Unlike many tents that come with multiple poles that have to be put together and snapped into place, the Stargazer uses one huge pole that collapses neatly into a case. This avoids the issue of having to find where cross poles go, etc. It did take me a second to realize that the tent had different sized sides to it and that the poles could only be put in one way. Fortunately, Eddie Bauer used color coded poles and tent feet to make it simple to know which side goes with what. Once pitched, the tent has a very sturdy support structure and I knew right away it would stand up to strong winds and weather. Unlike most tents which come with stakes that you’ll want to replace immediately, Eddie Bauer included solid DAC stakes that are stronger and more secure than most. The lightweight rain fly is also easy to set up with nothing to snap on, just a simple slipping of the pole bottom through the hole in the tabs at the 4 corners. The vestibules are set up easily with one stake on each side.
Living space is where the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Stargazer 3 really excels and I was amazed by how much room there was inside. The design of the sidewalls are almost vertical and create a ton of headroom. I am 6’1 and often find myself wanting to change clothes and do most things outside of my tent. With the Stargazer 3, I could actually stand up hunched over and change while staying warm and dry! With 48.5 sq feet of interior space and 94″ (almost 8 ft) of length, this is a legitimate 3 ADULT person tent and a great option for 2 people who like to have a lot of space and want to keep gear inside. In addition to floor space, there are 4 side interior pockets that can be used for small things like headlamps, glasses, etc. I found these to be poorly designed because there wasn’t any tension to the top part of the pocket and it wasn’t a very secure spot for items. Not a deal-breaker but definitely an oversight in my book.
The rain fly is well made and offers great weather protection and it stood up to a torrential downpour that came out of nowhere while I was in the desert. It also proved to be breathable and didn’t develop much condensation on the inside when I was inside on a warm day. My one complaint about the fly isn’t about the material or weather protection but the vestibule design. In what I assume was an effort to keep weight down, Eddie Bauer chose to design the doors in a minimalist fashion that doesn’t offer much space. The vestibules are pretty small, especially when compared to the amount of interior room and you’d be cramped with 3 packs stored there. Also, the small size and door design made it somewhat awkward to get into and out of the tent as well as grab things from the tent without going fully inside. This isn’t that big of a deal when you consider the tent’s overall benefits and intended use, but it deserved mentioning.
Overall, the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Stargazer 3 is an excellent backpacking tent that would do double duty as an easy to pack car camping tent. Phenomenal interior space and easy set up are stand out features of this tent and the weather protection is also quite good. If Eddie Bauer keeps producing products like this one, they will be well on their way to a top flight camping gear brand.