Backpacking and hiking are different experiences for everyone, and that’s why we can see the reason behind the development of the Marmot Catalyst tent line. It isn’t geared towards ultralight backpacking per se; rather its purpose seems to be in short distance trips for solo campers, couples, or families of 3 at max.
Available in 2 person and 3 person capacities, these are value-packed tents that are marketed towards 3-season trips.
For such budget-friendly tents, we want to discover whether you’re better off going for something mid-range or more expensive. Today we’re reviewing each and every aspect of the Catalyst line to see whether the materials, construction, and overall design make them durable enough to withstand outdoor conditions.
Since these are marketed towards backpackers, we also want to find out if they suit that kind of use, or if they’re more ideal for car, motorcycle, or bike camping.
Let’s dive right in.
Marmot Catalyst 2 Person
This freestanding 2p model surprises us with two doors and two vestibules, which we feel isn’t a common thing to see on budget-conscious tents at small capacities. Off the bat, we can tell you get a decent amount of space when you consider the intended capacity.
If you used this size as a solo camper, you’d be getting a roomy 32.4sq feet of floor space, plus double vestibule storage area. The packed size is a little bulky, but we love that it comes in a tubular shaped stuff sack with a drawstring carry cord; this makes it much more convenient to clip onto a bag, or carry from the car to the campsite.
- 4sq feet Spacious Floor Area
- Double D-Shaped Easy-Entrance Doors
- Huge Front Mesh Panelling Boost Airflow
Marmot Catalyst 3 Person
Even just from first impressions, it’s not difficult to spot that the 3p is extremely similar to its little brother – if not exactly the same apart from the size. This doesn’t bother us, in fact we actually like that the features are the same across the whole range, just expanded to accommodate to one more person.
We appreciate that you still get two doors and two vestibules, a large front mesh panel and roof for ventilation, and a compression sack for transporting with ease. Even though it may appear a little taller in terms of peak height, both sizes actually have the same height of just over 3 feet.
- Roomy Floor Space of 39.7sq Feet
- Twin Mesh Pockets & Gear Loft Loops
- Freestanding Design
First Impressions on Marmot Catalyst Tents
Out of all the Marmot tents we’ve reviewed, the Marmot Catalyst line is one of the most versatile. These models have a different mesh and polyester configuration than its counterparts, most notably the Marmot Limelight and Marmot Tungsten which are often compared to the Catalyst range.
From the get-go, it’s obvious that these won’t work for keen ultralight campers. However, there’s no doubt that there is a market out there for backpackers, hikers, and trekkers who can make-way for that extra bit of weight. When you’re getting a significantly larger amount of space, a couple of extra lbs. aren’t a big deal for some.
Now let’s get into our first thoughts on each model in the line.
What We Love – Our Top 3 Features
GOLD QUALITY – Intuitive Assembly
There are several exciting elements that make the set up process straightforward and hassle-free. Pop up or instant tents are highly convenient and require little to no effort, but these tents still manage to give you a simple set up with double the durability. You may be surprised to find that there are no sleeves to thread the poles through. We love this because there’s no need to fumble around with poking the poles through sleeves, so that cuts down the set up time quite a bit.
We also love the crisscross form, as it makes the most out of stability without the need for extra poles or weight. Each clip is strategically placed to give the tents a higher level of durability against winds. Another intuitive part we love is the pre-bent brow pole at the front. It’s specially designed to bend so you don’t need to worry about it breaking in your hands.
SILVER FEATURE – Asymmetric Design
Speaking of the single brow pole, this is one of the most promising features in our opinion because it’s modest, yet so effective. It creates an asymmetric look, which not only enlarges the headroom, but also makes it much easier to get in and out of the door – we’ve found this valuable as you don’t need to bend your neck as much as if the brow pole wasn’t there.
This is especially useful when you consider the sizes are only really for 2 people, even the 3 person we would only use for the extra gear space, not an extra camper. So obviously with the limited space, a decent access point is key for convenience, particularly in the night time when you have to sneak out to relieve yourself.
BRONZE HIGHLIGHT – Vestibule Space
Considering these are small capacity models, we’re pleased to see the addition of two vestibules rather than one, or none. These vestibules are useful because they do more than just protect you from rain. Apart from being able to store your gear away from the sleeping area, you can use them for privacy and to customize the airflow.
Each one comes with two flaps, where one can be rolled back to increased breathability. These are also a highlight for us because they’re super handy when you take your dog. When the weather isn’t too rough out, you can set your dog up under a vestibule away from the main section when you’re sleeping or hanging out.
Tent Overview – Breaking Down Every Detail
Designed with Marmot’s signature “Easy Pitch” system, this line comes with several valuable features that speed things up more than you’d expect.
Each component, from the clips, to the poles and fly, are color-coded. This gives you a clear indication of where the front of the fly should go so you won’t spend an extra 30 minutes switching things around over and over again.
As we mentioned in our ‘Favorite Features’ section, the clips are all tactically placed in order to achieve high stability and durability. There are no sleeves (just two small pockets for the front brow pole) and the poles intersect at the top with a heavy-duty black clip.
We’re big fans of this clip-only assembly. Besides speeding up the process, the fact that they stretch out the canopy is a huge advantage. It’s such a unique feature because it enhances the headspace significantly.
On these models, you get the best of both worlds when it comes to the floor. There seems to be a combo of catenary cut and bathtub style – the inner seams are taped with the catenary cut and the outside features a tub design.
The catenary cut stands out to us because it not only keeps you dry, but also ensures the body remains taut to prevent damage from high winds. Tub flooring is seen through the raised floor at the door which stops water splashes from dampening your tent.
While some campers may assume that more doors should be a feature reserved for larger tents, we certainly beg to differ. Two large D-doors on these tents make it feel extra roomy, as you can leave them open for more air, or use the door on one side if others are sleeping and you don’t want to disturb them.
A double zipper on the doors gives you greater control, as it’s much faster to grab and pull. Once unzipped, the flap rolls to give you unlimited access in and out. It clips to one side with a simple toggle-and-loop system, which can be controlled quickly and easily.
With the strategic clip placement, front pre-bending pole, and catenary cut floor, it’s pretty obvious that these tents focus on comfort. We’d like to compare it an A-frame tent, which has a fair amount of unusable headspace. This line gives you heaps of headroom, even more than your average dome model.
Apart from the space, there are dual mesh pockets and clips for a gear loft in each size. These let you comfortably store some small items. Another comfort feature is the lampshade pocket that diffuses light like a regular bulb, letting you organize things hands free.
The ratio of mesh to fabric is different to others we’ve seen from this brand – we like that each of their tents are unique in what they deliver. This line has full mesh paneling on the front of one side and the roof, while a polyester taffeta fabric is placed on the other side.
We like this half-half design because you can leave the vestibule open on the polyester side to keep privacy, but encourage air to still flow through. With so much mesh you do get a fair amount of airflow, but we would have liked to see some extra mesh on the back panel, even just a small part at the bottom to still maintain privacy from that side.
Despite being on the low-end range in terms of price, these models pack a punch when it comes to durability. They’re fitted with robust aluminum poles, thick polyester mesh and polyester taffeta materials, and are equipped with a well-crafted framework that is designed to perform well in winds and rain. You’ll find standard storm flaps on the rainfly that shield you from leaks. They only come in a rusted orange/cinder color, featuring an electrifying orange rainfly that stands right out amongst nature.
This coloring is useful for being able to spot your tent in the wilderness if it’s raining, foggy, or you’ve simply forgotten the location. With the addition of storm flaps and adjustment clip on the rainfly, we feel confident that these models would last a wet weekend, or even a week of constant drizzle. Let’s also not forget about the free footprint, so you’ve got even more protection from a ground full of puddles.
Most Popular Questions
Does it come with a bag?
Yes, each size comes with its own carry bag. It’s shaped like a tube with a drawstring that doubles as a carry handle – it’s probably just wide enough to chuck over your shoulder.
We’ve found that the pack size is a little bulky on both, which is why we think it’s better for car or motorbike camping. Although, if you’re backpacking with a few other campers, you could easily share the weight of the tent.
Are they waterproof?
Each size in this line is waterproof thanks to the polyester taffeta build across the canopy, fly, and flooring. The fly has a waterproof rating of 1500mm, which means it can withstand 1500mm of rain before a leak could occur. The floor is even thicker with a rating of 2000mm; a smart move considering the ground attracts the most moisture when it rains.
Can I really use these for backpacking?
At just over 5lbs for the 2p and 6lbs for the 3p, these aren’t designed as ultralight tents. That being said, you can definitely take these backpacking, but we recommend splitting the load between one or two other people. That way, you can save a lot of space in your bag that you could use for other valuables, like food and water, sleeping gear, clothes, and so on.
Conclusion on Marmot Catalyst Tents
Spacious, livable, durable – the Marmot Catalyst 2p and 3p tents are perfect for a casual campout or occasional hiking/backpacking trip. After picking apart every detail, we’ve come out the other end feeling satisfied and impressed by what these tents have to offer. High-quality materials, a strong framework, full-coverage fly, and bonus footprint all add immense value to this line.