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Tested! Eureka! Down Range 2 Two-Person Tent

Eureka Down Range tent

The venerable shelter-half tent has been used by the US military since at least the civil war days. That’s a looooong time. Variations on the theme are also still in use with a number of NATO armies. To say the design has withstood the test of time is clearly an understatement.

The good thing about shelter half tents is, at least while the water repellent is working, they are fairly waterproof, as long as the rain doesn’t last too long and as long as you don’t touch the sides. They can also take a lot of abuse and they are easy to set up.

I have recently seen “new” shelter half tents, still made from cotton, still weighing about 11 pounds and still lacking a floor and mosquito netting. Which leads me to believe that some grunt somewhere is still getting issued a shelter half tent.

Eureka Down Range military USMC tent

Now some self-styled experts may claim that only sissies need floors and screens. But I can tell you that even though I am a fan of the simplicity and utilitarianism of a shelter-half, after pitching one on the high plains of Wyoming and having several rattle snakes attempt to curl up next to me, I am of the opinion that I need a floor. And after waking up in the morning eye-to-eye with a wolf spider I would say a floor and screens are good things. So color me sissy. Moreover, if you’ve ever spent the night shivering, wet and cold you can appreciate a dry place to ride out a storm.

Before you go hurling invectives at folks who like floors and screens I would like to point out that the United States Marine Corps rather wisely contracted with Eureka to build combat tents for its grunts. Suffice it to say I doubt anyone in their right mind would question the toughness of field Marines. Similarly, if you know a field Marine, it’s just as likely that you wouldn’t characterize them as being gentle on gear either. So any tent in use by the USMC has to be good and tough.

The Eureka USMC 2-man combat tent is a modern, tent-and-fly design that features a bathtub type floor. The problem is, it’s a Government only item, so if you want one you can join the Marines, or in the more sensible alternative, you can get a Eureka Down Range 2 Person Tent.

The civilian Down Range 2 was inspired by the U.S. Marine Corps' combat tent replete with two doors, a bathtub floor made from 75D 190T nylon taffeta, 3000mm water-proof coating on the seams, a desert-sand colored fly with two vents, made from 68D 210T poly ripstop, 2000mm water-proof coating on the seams, and two vestibules. The vestibules can be secured with snivel locks at the bottom and sport side-release buckles to keep the doors shut in high winds.

You also get a repair kit and the coolest mini aluminum tent stakes! Both No-See-Um mesh doors, with high/low venting, lend easy access and allow fine-tuning the ventilation to the conditions. I can’t tell you how cool that last feature is if this will be the tent you use all year!

The tent comes with three identical aluminum, shock-corded poles, a color-coded stake strap on the tent and the rain fly so that you orient them properly the first time, which meant I was able to pitch the tent alone at 3 AM by lantern-light (with only a minimum of swearing). I liked the way the guy ropes/stakes secured the Down Range against flying away in intensely high winds.

Eureka Down Range tent storage nook

The vestibule opening on the front can be propped up with poles to make a cool sun shade awning, which proved a boon in the relentless mid-day July sun of western South Dakota. With its floor measuring 8 feet by 5 feet, two adults slept comfortably. The vestibules allowed our packs and gear to stay dry but outside, out of the way of the sleeping quarters.

My youngest daughter and I had the opportunity to go backpacking on a rare June night when the temperature dipped down into the 40s at night. We managed to find the campsite at dusk so we set up under the lamp of a Coleman single mantle gas lantern.

We first laid out the floor saver and used it as a template to stake out the tent over it, assembled the poles and had it set up and secured in 10 minutes flat. When we got around to getting ready to sleep, after toasting marshmallows and listening to the radio, it was getting pretty chilly. I zipped up all the windows and vents figuring to retain as much heat as possible and it worked fine. I never even zipped up my sleeping bag. Now while this tent is classified as a three season tent, I can tell you that I have spent many winter nights camping in Eureka three season tents. My first real tent was a 1983 4-man Eureka Timberline Outfitter that I actually wore out! Yes, the nylon eventually cracked and disintegrated after many years of 20 camping trips a year.

Next I bought a 6-man Eureka Timberline Outfitter and we’ve used it a lot too (separated so everybody-packs-something). It’s more than 20-years old and still going strong, having camped in conditions ranging from -25 below to 110F!

Eureka Down Range tent

This new-to-me Down Range 2 appears to be built every bit as well as my 6-man and I have no doubt it will survive cold weather camping just fine. But remember for safety sake, allow no heaters or gas-powered devices inside.

On our recent trip to South Dakota, we found the Down Range 2 to be a well-designed and rugged tent eminently worthy of the Eureka name. I was particularly impressed with the small details, like the gear hangers, interior pockets, the separate nylon bags for the tent and the poles and the stakes, as well as the color-coding of the fly/tent. The capability to vent a lot of air through the tent was welcome when the temps climbed into the 90s!

Finally, we encountered one storm on our trip and the Down Range 2 kept my son and myself dry. I’d estimate winds gusted up to 40-knots so it wasn’t terrible but there is no question we’d have been wet and unhappy campers in a lesser tent.