Recently I had the pleasure of going on a backpacking trip in New Zealand. The past few years whenever I’ve backpacked it has been in Utah so I haven’t bothered bringing a tent and opted instead to just pack a tarp for building a shelter with if needed. This trip was with my wife though and she had never been backpacking before (also I knew there would be lots of sandflies) so I figured I should get a lightweight, 2 person backpacking tent for the excursion. I decided to try the Kestrel UL 2 tent by Peregrine since the weight, size, and price seemed right. This tent is just over 3 lbs, which is comparable to the award winning Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. It packs down just a tad smaller than its Big Agnes rival as well. The price tag on the Peregrine saves $80, so I figured I would give the underdog a shot.
As soon as you get your hands on the tent in its storage sack there’s no doubt that this thing is made for ultralight backpacking. I had to open it up and make sure everything was in there since it felt like that couldn’t possibly be the full packed weight, but it was all there! The materials it is constructed with are noticeably thinner than the other tents I've owned but they felt premium and purposeful. I didn’t have time to test it out closer to home before my trip, or even look at how to set it up, and instead just threw it in my bag and caught a flight across the world.
The first few nights of our trip we backpacked through an area that had “huts” for crashing in. Apparently they use the term hut pretty loose in New Zealand, because these things were basically cabins that slept tons of people in bunks. Some even had large rooms for cooking and hanging out in. It wasn’t until night four that we actually had to bust out the Kestrel. Since I’m a man, I didn’t bother to read the instructions for how the tent sets up and just dove right into it with the help of my wife; that way I could blame her if it didn’t go well (it's a joke). The process was very intuitive and the setup took only a few minutes. The single-pole design eliminates the common tent issue of figuring out how multiple poles go together. Due to the asymmetric shape of the whole tent, it was obvious which ends of the poles went with which end of the tent but there was color coding to the pole tips as well. Everything snapped into place and attached to form a well-structured tent that felt sturdy. With the rainfly on and the guylines pulled tight it looked like the tent would hold up well in rain. This speculation was confirmed since it poured all night yet no water got into the tent. It also didn’t budge at all during the howling winds while we weren’t in the tent weighing it down. I can see how there could be some concern that the tent wouldn’t fair well in a storm since it is so lightweight, but the materials seem to have been very purposefully chosen and it passed the weather tests.
The first thing my friends all commented on about the tent was how nice it looked. The colors really pop and the small Peregrine logo on the side of the rainfly is subtle yet classy. They didn’t feel the need to advertise the brand in gigantic letters across the whole tent like some manufacturers do. The fly and bottom of the tent are ripstop nylon, which means that if you do happen to puncture the tent the hole will not spread outside of the affected area and you can just throw a patch over it. The walls of the tent itself are fully mesh so that if the night looks like there won’t be rain you can ditch the fly and have great views of the stars and excellent ventilation, while still being protected from bugs. If privacy is a concern you would definitely want to use the fly though since without it you and your tent mate, if you have one, would be quite visible to other campers close by. The Kestrel UL 2 also has a Fast Flight option which allows you to ditch the body of the tent altogether and use just the rainfly, pole, and footprint for an even lighter option, if that’s your thing.
The interior of the tent has six pockets which I found to be quite nice for getting items out of the way yet still kept close at hand. The roof of the tent is divided up into four rather large pockets and there are two additional pockets in the lower corners (one on either side of the door) so that each occupant has a place by their head for the essentials. The center ceiling hook was nice for hanging a headlamp for some light before bed. Four additional ceiling loops expanded the options for hanging items overhead. The interior is 86 inches long and 37 inches wide at the head, with the width tapering down to 35 inches at the feet. This was plenty big for my wife and I since we are average height, but I certainly wouldn’t try to cram our big dog in there with us or suggest that two NFL players share the tent. The vestibule allowed us to keep our shoes and wet rain gear outside of the tent without them getting further soaked during the night. These features were all built into the tent instead of being cost-increasing additions like many other tents brands that sell you a separate vestibule or gear loft in addition.
After having used this tent for a week in a variety of conditions including bugs, rain, humidity, cold, and wind I feel confident in putting my stamp of approval on it. I will definitely be using it again for many more trips now that my wife has decided that backpacking isn’t so bad after all. Considering I will likely continue carrying the majority of our weight on these trips, I am pleased with how light it is. It’s certainly not as light as just carrying a tarp and some paracord, but the comfort and peace of mind that it brings are worth the 3 extra pounds.
For more info about the Kestrel UL 2 and to check out more great Peregrine products, visit peregrineequipment.com.
by Adam Kittell-
Adam has worked in the outdoor industry as a merchandise specialist, buyer, and most recently in marketing. Prior to that he was a guide at multiple wilderness therapy companies. He has spent weeks at a time living out of a backpack starting at a young age and later living out of a Honda Element. Adam has guided extended trips backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and canyoneering all over the United States. Some say he has an obsession with gear, and he does not disagree with them.