More backyard gear testing: The Marmot Limelight tent

More backyard gear testing: The Marmot Limelight tent

Our palatial new Marmot Limelight tent set up in our backyard in the Allandale neighborhood of Austin. Pam LeBlanc photo

Last year, during a January trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park, my husband and I set up our tent at a group camp site, about 20 yards from our truck, just as a massive cold front blew in.

I hunkered under a blanket as Chris grilled steaks, and we retreated to the truck to eat dinner. Then, as temperatures dropped into the 30s and a stiff wind buffeted our 10-year-old tent, we made a run for it. We flopped onto the huge inflatable mattress we’d tucked inside our tent, and attempted to sleep.

The aging Mountain Hardwear Lightpath 3 didn’t hold up, though. The seals along the zipper delaminated, and the wind howled through the now-gaping side flaps of the tent. Then, our inflatable mattress slowly caved in as the hours ticked on. Sometime around 1 a.m., I awoke, flat on the ground, shivering, the mattress deflated.

I expect to suffer a tad when I’m backpacking. I sacrifice luxury for weight, and besides, I’m so tired when I crawl in my tent that I don’t notice I’m sleeping on sharp rocks.

Look how much room in here! And since this is “car camping,” we pulled out the heavy and non-technical sleeping stuff. Chris LeBlanc photo

But when I car camp, I want a modicum of wilderness luxury. I like a bigger tent and a thicker sleeping pad. And I don’t want to wind up flat on the ground.

That old tent had taken us on some wonderful trips, but it was time for a replacement. Last night we tested our new car-camping setup in the backyard, in Round 2 of my shelter-in-place gear-testing adventure.

This time we popped up a new three-person Marmot Limelight tent ( and puffed up a thick queen-sized air mattress (the pump that came with it sucked; we had to call in reinforcements) that we ordered separately from Amazon (

The tent? Amazing. Cavernous. Completely screened in on top, so if you remove the fly you can sleep while stargazing. Zippered entryways on two sides, roll-back flaps, pockets for stowing stuff like glasses and books, and a lovely russet color.

The tent was pretty basic to set up, but not as easy as our tiny backpacking tent (a Big Agnes Copper Spur). It’s big, and that made it a little tougher to wrangle.

One thing I noticed? More road noise last night. When I camped two weeks ago, I hardly heard a passing car on Loop 1 Mopac. More people are venturing out late at night, during the shelter-in-place order, apparently.

The best part of last night’s experience? Waking up this morning, rolling over to grab a few more minutes of snooze time, then staggering into the house, where Chris had already prepared a plate of bacon, fried eggs and grits, the perfect camper’s breakfast, for me.

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