Tribute to the Quest Preying Mantis Tent
I've been using a Quest Preying Mantis tent for about 7 years. It's a great tent, well-made and with a unique design. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best tent ever made! Too bad it's no longer available. (In the photo at the right--taken on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway trip--you can see the Preying Mantis behind my Dad's Eureka Timberline tent.)
I remember reading Backpacker magazine in the early '90's and seeing small ads for the Preying Mantis. The ads did their job: they left me wanting to know more about the tent, and wanting to have one. But, as I remember it, this was a nearly-$400 tent and I never had near that much money. I finally bought a Eureka Cirrus tent a few years later and forgot about the Preying Mantis.
Then, one day during the dot-com era of exceptional deals I came across a site that had the newly-discontinued Quest Preying Mantis for about $125. I snatched it up quick!
The Preying Mantis was a unique design. Most obviously, it offered a gigantic vestibule, roughly 2/3rds the size of the tent itself. That means this two-man tent really does comfortably fit two people because all of the gear easily sits in the vestibule. Overall, the tent is about 12-1/2 feet long.
The size of the vestibule isn't the only thing that makes it unique, though. The zipper to enter/exit the vestibule (and the tent, of course) is on the side of the fly--not on the ground. When entering, this isn't such a big deal but it's important when exiting. If you've got a vestibule with the zipper on the ground, you know that you basically need to plant your face in the ground to reach it. And unless you can bend in half, you don't want to put your boots on before opening the vestibule because you'll track dirt and mud into the tent; but if you don't put your boots on first and it's raining, you've got rain pouring into your tent while trying to get the boots on. The Preying Mantis completely avoids this trouble by just putting the door and zipper in the middle of the vestibule wall! I can sit in the tent, put my boots on in the vestibule, then open the vestibule door to exit--never getting wet or planting my face in the mud to reach the zipper!
Another great design feature is that the tent is entirely freestanding. Most "freestanding" tents still require you to stake the fly out to be effective in a rainstorm, but the Preying Mantis' fly doesn't. (There are many areas to stake out, and they certainly help stretch the fly a little more, but it's entirely effective unstaked.) Obviously, the whole fly wraps tightly around the tent, unlike many others that cover just the sides and leave the front and back open or just a demi-fly covering the vents. The result is that the tent is always completely dry. I've been camping in some pretty horrendous weather with this tent, and there's never been a drop of rain inside it.
Similarly, the shape of the tent is great at diverting wind. The tent is very quiet (even in heavy wind) because there's no loose fabric or open edges for the wind to catch. The Preying Mantis has four guy lines to help anchor the tent in inclimate weather, but the tent barely moves as-is, so I've never attached them to the fly.
The tent is mostly screen. That's a pretty common feature of 3-season tents now, but back then that was a rather brilliant innovation. Airflow is significantly better than in any other tent I've ever been in. Of course, in the winter it's amazing just how little warmth the tent provides. In my experience, most solid-wall tents are at least 10 degrees Farenheit warmer!
The tent itself is longer than most--about seven feet. I often sleep with my arms over my head, and there's plenty of room to do that in this tent. The tent's about 40 inches wide and tall, making it comfortable but not large enough to kneel in. As I mentioned before, with the fly over the tent, it's about 12 feet. The whole tent--including stakes and the guy lines I've never used--weighs just 6 pounds, 2 ounces.
I've used this tent quite a bit. I'd estimate it has seen about 150 nights of use. The Preying Mantis has held up very well (though I do take very good care of it). Last winter, however, the main pole hub connector snapped at the edge. There's enough of a lip left that the tent goes together fine, but I doubt it would last another winter. And this past summer, the vestibule zipper began falling apart: it's missing a few teeth and jams constantly.
As I said in the beginning, the Quest Preying Mantis is out of production. In fact, Quest doesn't even produce the same kind of high-quality equipment anymore. So, I needed a replacement tent. A few weeks ago I bought an EMS Moonshine, which seems like a good tent with several great features to it. Of course, I immediately noticed that I had to shove my face in the dirt to get the vestibule open!