A reliable three-person tent is the backbone of any quality camping setup. Today we’re going to compare the Marmot Limelight vs. Tungsten 3P tents.
These Marmot-brand tents are excellent options and are identical. The Tungsten is ideal for the budget backpacker market. But the Limelight is better and is more desirable for frequent campers.
Before you decide, let’s dig a little deeper into the details to ensure you find the best tent for your specific needs.
Limelight 3p or Tungsten 3p?
Two of the Best 3 Person Tents Compared
There are over a dozen options for finding the most suitable tent for anyone. No tent will work well in all conditions or for all people. It’s important to understand for whom and for what conditions a piece of gear is sold to.
Marmot Limelight 3P
Marmot has been a backpacking industry leader for decades. They have been making high quality down jackets and sleeping bags. Not to mention their foray into the tent market has been as successful. Marmot tents are designed to be set up in less than ideal conditions and perform well, rain or shine.
The Marmot Limelight 3P is one of their latest three-person. This three-season backpacking tent offers comfort and its extremely lightweight to pack. The Limelight is the premium model in this line of products.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Limelight is that it has lots of floor space and headroom. Two key features make this possible – the pre-bent poles give it a boxier shape and the tent’s accompanying vertical sidewalls ensure that there’s at least a foot of headspace even on the sides and corners.
All that extra space means plenty of airflow through the Limelight. This is true when you have both of the large D-shaped doors open. This tent is a great choice for campers that are spending a lot of time in hot climates. The extra cooling power comes in handy.
The only real downside to the Limelight is that it’s not as light as other backpacking tents. Keep in mind that it’s rated for three people, and has a much larger volume than some other lightweight tents. For many campers, the extra weight is worth it for increased comfort.
Marmot Tungsten 3P
The Tungsten 3P is also an excellent three-season, three-person backpacking tent from Marmot. This tent appears in a dome shape and easy to set up a three-pole system. It’s considered the budget model in the company’s three-person, three-season tent line.
Like Limelight, the Tungsten has two large D-shaped doors for enhanced ventilation. Unlike the Limelight though, it does not have the pre-bent poles to give a boxy shape and more headroom. That’s less than desirable design for claustrophobic campers and those camping in warming climates.
The Marmot Tungsten 3P is a solid choice for a backpacking tent. It is lightweight and less expensive than comparable models. It’s still a three-person tent. Except for all the bulk and weight that comes with. But it’s lightweight for what it is and has an excellent size to weight ratio.
You’ll love the Limelight for how easy it is to put together, a feature that is always mentioned in many of the gear reviews for the Tungsten. Even solo campers can assemble it in less than ten minutes.
Keep in mind that the Tungsten is a camping tent if you are opting for cheaper options. And like most inexpensive tents, this means it’s a little less durable. The poles are more fragile, the stitching less reinforced; you can’t expect it to last as long as more expensive models. That’s not a problem if you only camp a few weekends each season though.
It’s also a little less weatherproof, with seams that leak in heavy rains and flaps that don’t stand up to the wind as well. Again, such criticism shouldn’t deter casual campers who are more likely to stay home when the weather’s not looking good.
Marmot Backpacking Tents: Features Face to Face
In a head to head matchup of the Marmot Limelight vs. Tungsten, you’d fail to notice many differences.
They’re both excellent tents and have many of the same great features, but they’re not identical.
These are areas where the tents have some differences.
There’s always a precarious tradeoff between comfort and weight with any backpacking tent. It’s most obvious in their stated capacity, with nearly all tent manufacturers overstating how many bodies can comfortably fit inside their product.
Both the Limelight and the Tungsten are considered three-person tents, which means they only comfortably hold two people, or three people if one of them is a child; neither of them sleeps three adults easily. However, there are some differences in how comfortable these will be.
Both tents are rated for three occupants; the Limelight has 42.5 square feet of floor space and the Tungsten 41.5 – a negligible difference. With either tent, you’d struggle to fit more than two campers. Three standard sleeping pads will fill the width of the tent, but few us enjoy sleeping with only 20 inches of space.
Backpacks and four-legged companions should stay in the vestibule unless you don’t mind a tight fit. Both tents have poles that extend to 90 inches. Extends to a length of 90 inches on both tents, and offers 1.5 to 2 feet of space at the end of your sleeping pad. This is enough to give you movement while sleeping.
But, the Limelight is hands down the more comfortable tent due to increased headspace from having vertical walls. It almost feels as roomy as some of the larger car camping tents, though you still can’t stand up in it (only 48 inches at its peak).
The Tungsten’s peak height is only two inches lower, and dome design will only be inches above your face. If you’re a frequent camper or have ever used a bivy sack, this won’t bother you, but newbies might feel claustrophobic in it.
A remarkable feature on both Marmot tents is the lampshade pocket. This is an opaque piece of fabric that you can set your headlamp in to create a more diffused light. It’s perfect for reading, taking stock of gear, or creating some ambient light for chatting with your tent mate.
Besides the lampshade pouch, both tents have a couple of interior pockets for your phone, keys, bear spray, or any other small items for easy access. But, neither includes the overhead gear net seen on many other tents, which is something of a disappointment.
The Limelight is the clear winner when it comes to comfort. With a smidge more floor space and with vertical walls for a whole lot more headroom, you won’t feel like the walls are closing in with this tent.
Ease of Use
No one wants a tent that takes an hour to set up or that can’t be climbed into quickly should the weather require it. There are already enough problems to solve on every camp trip; a tent shouldn’t be one of them.
Both tents are freestanding and the setup process for either of them couldn’t be easier. The canopy attaches to the tent poles using a set of easy to use clips, so there’s no need to fish a pole through a piece of fabric or anything difficult like that. Just lay the floor down, lift the poles, and clip-in.
The Limelight’s poles are pre-bent to create the vertical wall shape, which makes them asymmetrical and a little bit more difficult to handle. With a few setups under your belt, they shouldn’t be a problem but can be somewhat tricky the first time around.
They’re both designed with an extra short pole that spans the roof of the tent to give it a little more structure and shed rain better. Once the canopy is properly tensioned with the main poles though, it’s a cinch to add.
Aside from the structural elements, there are a couple of small things worth looking into. Both tents are equipped with noiseless, “snag-free” zippers. These zippers still need to be treated with care to prevent them from catching on the tent fabric, but they function better than average. They should be lubricated occasionally.
Neither tent seems to come with enough stakes to properly secure it in windy or rainy conditions. There’s just enough to hold down the four corners and vestibule, but not enough to utilize the included guy lines.
These lines serve an important purpose in inclement weather; a couple more stakes should be included.
In terms of functionality, the Limelight and Tungsten are nearly identical. They each have two large D-shaped doors to enter from. So you won’t need to step over your partner’s sleeping set up to reach your own; you each have a separate entrance.
Thanks to the vertical walls though, the Limelight has slightly larger doors that are easier to move through. If you’re not very flexible, this might be a selling point for you.
On the whole, both tents are incredibly easy to use, but if forced to choose, the Limelight’s vertical walls make it slightly harder to set up. The Tungsten’s dome design makes it the easier of the two to use.
A good three-season backpacking tent should function in a variety of situations – rainy springs, hot summers, and cool autumn nights. They should also be comfortable enough for car camping, but compact enough for carrying out on the trail.
As a six and a half pound tent, the Limelight is not the best for backpacking; it’s too bulky for long trips. Most campers would prefer something lighter, and the Tungsten’s only better. Neither of these tents will make it on anyone’s Pacific Crest Trail packing list.
But, they both do an excellent job of keeping the elements at bay, being true three-season tents. Unless you plan on pitching your tent in the snow, either of them should work throughout the camping season.
One place where the Limelight shines though is privacy. If you decide to forgo the rain fly on the Tungsten, you’ll be pretty visible. A diagonal privacy panel overlays half of the tent, but it’s not very effective.
The Limelight has a panel extending up the vertical walls, with mesh only covering the uppermost canopy. With the fly off, you can look up at the stars without worrying that someone is looking at you. Sleeping without the rainfly isn’t the most practical idea, but if you choose to, at least you’ll have some privacy.
Both tents work well for car camping or short backpacking trips but are too heavy for extended expeditions. The Limelight’s extra privacy when the rain fly is removed makes it a slightly more versatile tent.
There’s nothing worse than waking up to a wet floor in your tent (or worse, a wet sleeping bag). Most of us take for granted that our tents will keep us safe from the elements, but there’s some variability in how well each model accomplishes that task.
Start by looking at the rainfly; both tents incorporate a decent-sized vestibule that will keep your gear, or a furry pal nice and dry through the night. The two vestibules on the Tungsten are about one square foot smaller than the ones on the Limelight; not a major difference, but still something to consider.
The flies on both tents have spacious vents for increased air circulation, which means you’ll be more likely to put up the rain fly in the first place. All too often campers leave the fly off thinking it will get too hot, only to wake up drenched from an unexpected midnight rain shower.
Both tent models state that they have seam-taped edges, which should prevent water from leaking through. In practice though, the Limelight prevents leakage a bit better. If you’re camping in rainy conditions like the Pacific Northwest, the Limelight is probably a better choice.
The Limelight and Tungsten both use a catenary cut floor; a design where the walls of the tent come down to meet the floor at ground level. This works great in windy conditions, as staking out the corners will tighten the fabric.
A bathtub design works better for preventing leaks though, as the floor fabric rises a few inches up from ground level. These Marmot tents will not stand any amount of water accumulation. This is why it’s always a good idea to dig a shallow trench around your campsite to redirect the water.
The footprint that comes with both Marmot tents should go a long way in preventing moisture from leaking up through the floor. The 68-denier polyester floor functions all right. But any kind of standing water beneath the tent would be problematic without the footprint.
In a head to head comparison, the Limelight is a better choice when camping in bad weather due to its superior seam-taping and more durable rainfly.
It might not look like it, but tents endure some serious punishment. These can be due to a clumsy camper falling over on it or standing up to 30mph winds while staked out for most tautness. A good tent should last several seasons without any rips, tears, or holes.
The Limelight and Tungsten are both good options when it comes to durability. They both have floors made from 68-denier polyester, a canopy of 40-denier insect-proof mesh, and a 60-denier polyester rain fly. They’re not bulletproof, but they’re capable of standing up to the normal wear and tear of the wilderness.
Both tents also have a footprint included with them. Footprints add minimal weight to your pack and protect the floor of your tent from sharp rocks that could wear a hole through it. It’s something many backpackers forget or refuse to pack, but using one could mean several extra years of use from your tent.
To keep weight down though, both tents use 9mm aluminium poles, which are on the thinner side for a 3-person outfit. The lightweight DAC poles on the Limelight are especially easy to twist out of shape if you’re too rough with them. Never force a pole and be careful about tugging too hard when staking out.
The Tungsten’s poles are less at risk for being bent out of shape as they curve into a dome shape instead of a box. Still, after a couple of years of use, they’ll likely have some permanent bends in them. Thicker poles would have given both tents greater durability, especially under windy conditions.
As is often the case, gear durability boils down to the little things on a tent: zippers, clips, and small fasteners. This is also where there are some differences between the Limelight and Tungsten too. A major complaint among campers using the Tungsten is that the Velcro on the rain fly detaches easily.
Somewhat, the Limelight also holds up better than the Tungsten in strong winds. The boxier shape acts as a sail compared to the sleek dome of the Tungsten, it gives it more structure and makes it less likely to collapse in high winds.
Everyone wants durable gear, but know that it’s less important if you’re only doing a few outings per season. Not everyone needs bulletproof gear, both models will last several seasons before being put out to pasture. Overall, the Limelight is the more durable of the two.
Weight and Packed Size
Weight is one of the most important factors when choosing backpacking gear, and unfortunately, it’s often the last considerations. A tent is the heaviest piece of gear that will go in your pack, and shaving a few ounces from it makes a much bigger difference than buying an expensive titanium spork instead of aluminum.
Fortunately, weight is one area where we see some slight differences between the Limelight and the Tungsten. The Limelight is just over 6 lbs. for just the tent, or 6 lbs. 11 oz. fully packed with pegs and storage bag.
The Tungsten is a little lighter at 5 lbs. 13 oz. for the tent and 6 lbs. 5 oz. for the fully packed setup. Are you going to feel the Limelight’s extra 6 ounces, probably not, and given its superior headroom and sturdier design, a few ounces could easily be forgiven.
Why the weight difference between the two? The floor, ceiling, and rainfly are made from the same material and the dimensions are almost identical. The vertical walls do add some length to the tent poles and there’s slightly more fabric involved with them. So consider the tradeoff between vertical walls and 6 ounces of weight.
Next comes the issue of size; how much space will this tent require in your backpack? Many campers strap their tent to the outside of their pack, but doing so can unbalance your load and should be avoided when possible – which means it’s important to find a tent that can fit inside the bag.
There’s no difference between the two Marmot tents when it comes to volume. While the Limelight weights a tad more, they both pack down to a compact 22 x 8 inches. As far as three-person tents go, that’s not bad.
The Marmot Tungsten 3P is the more lightweight tent of the two, but unless you’re an ultralight backpacker, the difference is negligible. Additionally, if you subscribe to ultralight principles, you probably aren’t interested in lugging around a nearly 6 lb. three-person tent anyway.
If six pounds sounds like too much, or you do a lot of solo backpacking, invest in a 2-person tent, or even a bivy sack if you’re concerned about going ultralight.
Marmot Limelight vs Tungsten: Stand Out Features
These are some of the most important differences between the Marmot Limelight 3P and the Marmot Tungsten 3P.
Marmot Limelight 3P
- Vertical Sidewalls: Most tents have minimal headroom near the edges, which can make for a very uncomfortable night of sleep. The vertical sidewalls allow for maximum space throughout the tent; you can sit up without scraping your head on the canopy fabric.
- Durable Design: The boxier shape and pre-bent poles make for a more robust setup that can better withstand windy days. Set it up as a basecamp and rest assured that you won’t come back to a collapsed tent after a long day on the trail.
Marmot Tungsten 3P
- Low Price: This is one of the best 3-person tents for budget campers as it costs about 20% less than its competitors. While that comes with fewer features and durability, you’re still getting a great tent for the money.
- Lightweight Design: Several ounces lighter than the Limelight, the Tungsten is a better option if you’re trying to cut weight and can stand have less headspace when you’re tucked in at night.
Conclusion: Which One is the Best 3 Person Tent
These are great Marmot backpacking tents, choosing between them is actually quite simple. If you’re camping every weekend, the extra comforts and greater durability of the Limelight make it the clear winner between the two.
The Limelight is best if:
- You’re camping in places with bad weather.
- You take frequent camping trips and need durable gear.
- You would prefer some privacy when the rainfly is removed.
- You feel claustrophobic in backpacking tents with less headspace.
Buy the Marmot Limelight if you want the best 3-person tent.
However, those extra features and thicker fabric on the Limelight do add a small amount of weight, so the Tungsten could be a better option for those wanting to lighten their load. It’s less expensive and thus more attractive to budget-conscious backpackers.
The Tungsten is best if:
- You’re very conscious of your tent’s trail weight.
- You only go camping occasionally.
- You’re looking for a more budget-friendly tent.
Buy the Tungsten if you want to save money and can make do with a no-frills 3-person tent.
Need something more lightweight? Check our buying guide on ultralight backpacking tarps.