40 responses

  1. Tim
    October 30, 2013

    Great post!
    I would add a mention that most double walled tents have a fast pitch option. If at all possible I carry my BA Copper Spur UL1 fly and footprint only and it’s worked great (on Pemi platforms). A cheap polycro groundcloth extends the space underneath too since most footprints are short and narrow. Sorta hybrid tarp tenting I guess

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      I have heard that option doesn’t work so well in rain on all tents that provide that option because the footprints are too big and water drips down the lashings that attach the floor to the poles and fly. Have you used it on the Copper Spur in rain?

      I like the Copper Spur because it’s freestanding, which is the most convenient way to deal with platforms.

  2. Marco
    October 30, 2013

    Phillip, there is one category you missed, I think: Tunnel Tents (or Hoop Tents.) These are single or double walled. They are narrow but have plenty of living space due to the near vertical sidewalls. They are for singles (Eureka Solitare) or couples (MSR Hoop) and have many different weights from heavy (over 5 pounds) to light (around 2 pounds.) There are several overseas manufacturors, Hildeberg, Exped, and others. They are often lightened by removing the inner net/floor and using only the fly (not always possible.) Generally they have excellent 4 season performance (snow compresses the sides in only minimally.) They require a small ground footprint, depending, because they do not require a lot of guy-lines. Example: the Stephensons 2XC weighs about 2#5 and is extremly weather proof, even using just 3 stakes to set it up. Condensation can be difficult, since ventilation is limited to one or two tip vents and the lower sides.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      No, almost 100 percent of the hoop tents you mention are over 3 pounds. I’ve also heard mixed reports about stephensons quality and service. I’d have to check whether they make the 3 pound cut but even so, there are so many other tents available that weigh less and I have no hesitation recommending to people trying out UL tents for the first time. Make sense?

      • Janek cieszynski
        October 30, 2013

        My Stephenson 2c came in at 2 lbs, 10 oz. 3 stakes to set.
        I will weigh my hilleberg nallo set as single wall to see where this might come in at.

  3. BeeKeeper
    October 30, 2013

    Excellent and comprehensive as usual. I have the Tarptent Rainbow 1 which I’ve been using for the last two seasons. The cooler ambient temperatures, the lower bathtub walls, and futzing setup time makes me envy the freestanding double wall construction. I have yet to be in a bad thunderstorm but I feel much more vulnerable than I did in my previous bombproof 5lb shelter. Check out the Big Sky Revolution 1P my friend used this past season, my current gear envy item. http://www.bigskyinternational.com/SummitShelters/Big_Sky_Revolution_1P_details.htm

  4. David
    October 30, 2013

    Philip, one tent you missed in your review, which I have been using for several years now and like a lot, is the MSR Carbon Reflex-1. It is a double walled tent that uses poles, and if you carry the inner tent, it is probably on the heavier side now, at just under 3 pounds. But, I don’t often carry the inner tent and usually just use the outer tarp with a footprint. This combination, even with a Z-packs superlight bivy for splash protection, is under 2 pounds. I recently spent 10 days in Torres del Paine in Patagonia in HEAVY winds under this tarp and the thing was a rock!

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      My intent for the shelter lists was to put up the best and most popular choices available not to be exhaustive, but the Carbon Reflex is definitely down there in weight. I think it’s rather overpriced though for what you get. Lists for $450 or something and really isn’t very different than the Hubba 1P.

      • David
        October 30, 2013

        You are probably right about it being a bit overpriced. I had the luxury when I bought it of waiting until I found it at a price I thought reasonable. On the other hand, when I had a problem with one of the poles a couple of years after I bought the tent, they were replaced immediately and for free. Can’t argue with service like that. :-)

      • Philip Werner
        October 30, 2013

        In my experience, most manufacturers wil bend over backward to help you out, but MSR’s customer service is legendary (and I’ve used it!)

  5. Louis Brooks
    October 30, 2013

    I used my Ridge Runner Hammock on my recent section hike and loved it. It was windy and cold but I slept nice and warm. I used the windsock for the Ridge Runner plus an underquilt and was fine sub 25 degs. Bit heavier than other options but I like it.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      Comfort trumps weight! Andrew loves his – says its good for backsleepers.

      • Louis Brooks
        October 30, 2013

        I like to alternate from my back to my side which was fine in the bridge. Harder to do in a gathered end hammocks. My only complaint with the hammock is you can’t spread out your gear inside to get out of the weather like you can with a tent.

  6. David Woodson
    October 30, 2013

    The weight of my GoLite SL3 tarp is 676 gm or 24 oz.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      Thank you! Pretty amazing actually. Really makes that a viable shelter for winter use and the steep walls make up for the slanted ones on other pyramids. I may need to buy one afterall. LOL! Martin Rye will be amused.

      • Martin Rye
        November 1, 2013

        Get one as its a terrific shelter. SL3 all the way for me.

      • David Woodson
        November 5, 2013

        I went to Martin’s site and saw that his came a few grams more than mine, probably guy line differences. Anyway I usually use mine with a Bearpaw Designs inner tent in the winter up here in the Pacific Northwest.

  7. Doug Layne, Portland, OR.
    October 30, 2013

    First really likde this article, a good cross section of shelters. Could make it hard to decide.
    My BA CS UL1 though comes in at almost 44 oz. which about what the BA site states.Just wondering how you got 34. I am going with something a bit lighter. Trying to get to a lighter base weight. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this series.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      Thanks for catching that – fixed. I haven’t weighed that one personally.

  8. Dan Smith
    October 30, 2013

    Great job, Philip, and in two parts! It was like reading a serial thriller!
    You did not mention the classic Noah’s Tarp by Kelty, a tried and true lightweight alternative. I use mine with a bivy, and although I don’t save much weight with that combination in the end, esp. when compared with modern tarp tents, I still have fun setting it up and sleeping in the open.
    Keep these longer comparison pieces coming!

  9. mayake
    October 30, 2013

    Great post, and fine analysis. From my part, as I fear either floods or noseeum-mosquitoes, and that I give priority to speed of setting up in the smallest possible space and the largest interior volume as possible, I had to be forced to design and build my own shelter.

    Thus made in cuben fabric with :
    · Dimensions –>less 2,30m*0,80-1,20m*1,25m and
    · Weight 630g including all the guying and pegs.
    I think this type of shelter may interest and give ideas to some other hiking myogers.

    If you want to have a look on it, you can watch some pics and plans there in my blog –>
    http://mayake.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/le-mini-tipi-mayake-termine-interieur-exterieur/

  10. RevLee
    October 30, 2013

    Excellent series, Philip. I wish someone would have highlighted the site and environmental factors earlier as well as you have here.

    I’ve been using one of the BearPaw Canopy Tents almost exclusively for the last couple of years with great success. That has been limited to camping in the Mid-Atlantic, primarily in Spring and Fall, so it is appropriate for the local conditions. It always goes with me on Scout trips just to show the boys that the standard double wall tents aren’t the only option.

    Noticed you didn’t include the poncho/tarp shelter. It sounds like a great ultralight idea until you realize you might need to leave your shelter in the middle of the night while it is still raining.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      There’s a lot more to say about campsite selection – I’ve got something in the works about that. Lots of dimensions to it. I like the looks of those BP canopy tents. Surprising that they’re not more popular.

  11. whalen
    October 30, 2013

    Really enjoyed your two part series. Perhaps you’ve already considered this, but I’d love to read an article about your “12 different UL shelters in the past six years” and why specifically you moved on from each. I think that would be a valuable addition to this series. Thanks again for the time and effort you put into your articles.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      That’s a good idea – It’s a long story coupled with evolving tastes and needs. Still it’d be useful to reproduce the thinking behind it for others.

      • Albert Kim
        October 31, 2013

        I second the interest on reading about the “12 different UL shelters in the past six years.”

      • Philip Werner
        October 31, 2013

        ok ok – I’ll do it. Stay tuned.

  12. WinterCampers
    October 30, 2013

    Phil – Nice treatment of the shelters and a good range of pictures illustrating the variations.

    Unless one is camping in dry or western climates or an advocate of winter camping (YEA!) then bug protection is a key consideration of most shelters. I would recommend tweaking your article to treat bug protection consistently across all shelters
    .
    You mention a lack of bug protection as disadvantage of flat tarps, but I would argue bug protection is also an issue with catenary cut tarps and pyramids. You mention bug protection as a feature of the tarp tents but not of double wall tents or hammock sleeping systems.

    Good stuff. I follow your blog consistently via RSS feed. Thanks again.

    • Philip Werner
      October 30, 2013

      easy to fix – thanks for the consistency edit – it’s hard doing it on a small computer screen!

  13. Bfayer
    October 30, 2013

    I don’t think I would put the Lightheart Solo into the tarp tent category. It is more more of a hybrid design that combines the features of a double wall tent with the light weight of a tarp tent.

    It has vestibules that completely cover the doors and other than a very small area at the ridge, there is no part of the tent that is single wall. It does not suffer from the same interior condensation issues that most trap tents have, so in that respect it is much more of a double wall tent.

    Since it uses hiking poles and the rain fly is connected to the tent body it is also much like a trap tent. I don’t think it fits neatly into either category.

    Having said all that, overall very informative article.

  14. Marla
    October 30, 2013

    Great article! I have 3 UL shelters and use them all. Which is best just depends on the conditions.

  15. Craig
    November 3, 2013

    Phil, what are your thoughts on the Six moon designs Lunar Solo ? I hike in the whites most of the time. Peace

    • Philip Werner
      November 3, 2013

      It was the first tarp tent I ever bought and I loved it when I owned it. Six moons has made some design improvements in recent years which made it even better – one end used to flop down a bit on your feet – but Ron Moak reportedly fixed that. It has a pentangular inner which lets you store gear inside as well as a front vestibule. Pretty easy to pitch in small space but still comfortable. Why do you think you want one?

      • Albert Kim
        November 3, 2013

        Philip – didn’t you recently post somewhere that you sold your MLD Duo and went to an SMD Lunar Solo? Do I have that correct?

      • Philip Werner
        November 3, 2013

        Tarptent Notch. I expect to have my entire shelter history documented in tomorrow’s post – per your request, sir!

  16. Craig
    November 3, 2013

    Well, honestly I recently bought one after having my eye on it for a while. I was interested in your opinion based on your extensive experiance in the whites as well as shelters.I have been in a hammock (warbonnet blackbird ) for a couple of years now. I love the hammock,I just wanted a good option for going to the ground at times. Thanks for the opinion.Peace

  17. mayake
    November 4, 2013

    Hay Philip,
    I want to send you a long comment with a table. It will enclose html code, how can i send it to you ? I think it may interest you and your hiking community
    jack

  18. Jimmy Childs
    November 14, 2013

    Bivy tents? Tent/sleeping bag combo. Under 2 lbs.

  19. Michael Barbosa
    January 19, 2014

    Back in the 1960s my favorite tent was the Sierra Designs 2 person mountain tent. Heavy at 6.5lbs, but very spacious. Like you, Philip, I pack in the northeast where humidity is a given. Just by chance, I discovered a solution to tent condensation. I would use one or two candle lanterns, which added just enough heat to burn-off any moisture collected in the buttoned-up tent, while waiting out a heavy rain storm in the fall.

    • Philip Werner
      January 19, 2014

      Thanks for reminding me about that – good option on long trips, I think.

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