If you came of age in the tent-camping boom of the ‘60s, you know the gold standard: Springbar.
To the delight of road-weary dads everywhere, the iconic American-made duck canvas tents were first introduced in 1961, simplifying the design so that one person could easily set it up themself. But roomy tents that can withstand the elements and come from a factory in Salt Lake City to this day? They fetch a pretty penny.
Recently, the company released two new versions called the Highline Series, described as “the culmination of a half-century of experience with Springbar Tent design.” Thing is, they’re over $100 cheaper.
So ... what are we missing here?
Springbar Tents (3 images)
The new tents were pointed out by Gear Patrol, writing that Springbar has “been revived and relicensed.” There’s no other information, other than the classic talking points for the company like durability, simplicity, spaciousness and mid-century design aesthetic.
Upon closer inspection, the Highline Series is cheaper because the tents are made in China, while the original Springbar tents sold by Kirkham’s Outdoor Products — owned by Jack Kirkham, Jr., son of Springbar inventor Jack Kirkham, Sr. — are still manufactured in America. The new line is produced by a company called Dwell Outdoors, and was developed in collaboration with Kirkham, Jr.
Springbar Tents 2 (2 images)
While adhering to the same design, the cotton duck finishing on the Highline is “a silicone based treatment similar to the Sunforger, but technically not quite as water repellent.” The poles in the original tents are aluminum with steel reinforcement, while the Highline is all steel, making them a little heavier and more prone to rust.
But hold off on your outrage, patriots.
Camping enthusiasts know Springbar is one of the few companies still making tents in this country. Kodiak Canvas — the longtime Springbar competitor — makes their tents in China and is the go-to for people who are looking for a cheaper version. We champion products that will last multiple lifetimes, but in order to compete with a new generation of buyers, Springbar had to evolve.
Knowing this, why would an informed consumer purchase a tent from the Highline Series over an original Springbar? A few reasons come to mind:
- USA-made Springbar tents are consistently backordered. If you want one for a camping trip on the Fourth of July, you’re out of luck. But the Highline Series will ship to you immediately, and for free.
- The price difference is larger than it seems. The Highline 6-person tent goes for $600, with free shipping. The equivalent domestic version is $720, but that doesn’t include shipping which for most people will be over $100.
- The warranty is exactly the same: Lifetime. Jack Kirkham, Jr. did this the right way. He didn’t simply sell the name and cash in. He spent years creating an authentic design for a lower price. And the icing on the cake is that although the Highline Series is made in China, the warranty is the same as for those made in America, citing they “will repair or replace anything we deem to be defective at our cost” forever.
What it comes down to is: are you willing to pay (and wait) for something made in America or not? We're not here to judge, so long as you get out there and use it.