When the article below was shared on Facebook, I got a lot of comments. Many were in complete agreement, and related the writer's own experience with either good or bad gear. But there were several diatribes from those who accused me of being elitist—despite the fact that I listed several companies that make decent tents for under $200—and an extraordinary claim or two about cheap tents performing beyond what I would consider, er, likely, such as standing up to hurricane-force winds. Obviously it would be impossible for me to either prove or disprove such a thing; however, in counterpoint I give you this photo, which I took on the coast of the Sea of Cortez some years ago, when Roseann and I were instructors at the Audubon Institute of Coastal Ecology.
Note the sea state and lack of surf or whitecaps. The breeze was blowing at what I estimate was no more than 25mph, yet this motley batch of department store tents was clearly in dire straits. If I recall correctly, at least three of them wound up completely trashed with broken poles and torn fabric, despite attempts to guy them out and stake them properly. Several others were simply uninhabitable. Note, however, the green Timberline tent on the far right, and, in the far rear, the white Sierra Designs dome—a good sized one—each of which shrugged off the wind with zero drama.
I'll say it again: It's stupid to economize on your tent.