The Golite Shangri-La 3 is a classic ultralight shelter that is lightweight enough that it can be pitched as a one person standalone tarp or used as a three-person double-walled tent. It’s rare to find a shelter that is so versatile, reasonably priced, and can be used for solo trips or group car camping.
Pyramid shaped tarps like the Shangri-La 3 are more wind and weather resistant than other tars shapes which makes them a popular choice for camping in more challenging weather condition with high winds. Yet the Shangri-La 3 only requires one pole and 6 stakes to pitch, although extra guy-out point are available half-way up the sides for more extreme conditions. A trekking pole can also be used to pitch the shelter, although you’ll probably need an extender for it to reach the height of the included pole, about 70 inches.
Unlike many other ultralight pyramid shelters (see The Problem with Pyramid Shelters), the Shangri-La 3 has very steep walls which make the shelter very habitable. The walls are steep enough that you can easily sit up close to the side walls of the tent and even stand near the middle pole, provided that you bend over from the waist (handy for putting on pants in the morning). If this shelter has a weakness, it would be that center pole, which limits your ability to sleep two side by side if you want to have an intimate camping partner!
The Golite Shangri-La 3 comes with
- a waterproof outer 15-denier ripstop nylon fly (25.7 ounces)
- inner screened tent and factory taped floors (33 ounces)
- adjustable aluminum center pole (11.3 ounces)
- 6 aluminum stakes (2.6 onces)
- stake sack (0.2 ounces)
- stuff sack (1.2 ounces)
While the inner screen nest (33 oz) and fly (25.7 oz) are practical for car camping, the combined 58.7 ounces is a bit heavy to carry, even if split between two people. While the Shangri-La 3 is technically rated for hold three people, it’s better suited for two, providing better unobstructed access to the door at night for midnight pee breaks.
Pitching the Shangri-La 3 is very easy, even for one person. Simply spread the inner tent on the ground and stake out the six corners. Open the front door, extend the aluminum pole, and position it between the apex of the tarp and reinforced patch on the inner tent floor.
Walk around the inner tent and tighten the webbing straps. Next, drape the fly over the top of the inner tent so that the two door match up. loop the fly webbing straps over the same stakes that the inner nest is staked out with. Walk around the tent again and tighten each set of webbing straps or reposition them as necessary.
Fly Only Pitch
After using the Shangri-La 3 with an inner nest, I was surprised by how much I liked it. But my real interest in testing this shelter out was to see how it performed as a floorless tarp without the inner nest. Most of the year, there’s no need for me to carry around a huge inner tent. Instead, I sleep in a bivy sack with bug netting over my face, with a very thin plastic sheet as a moisture barrier against the ground. I’m good enough at campsite selection that I can find places to pitch a floorless shelter at night that won’t get flooded out in the event of heavy rain.
No surprise, pitching the Shangri-La 3 without the inner nest results in a huge single person shelter. It’s almost too big, but I quickly got used to having all of the head room it provides. Still pitching this shelter in the heavily forested areas I backpack in is a bit challenging unless I can find fairly open forest to camp in. This can be an issue in areas that have a lot of downed wood, convoluted and rocky ground, or heavy ground cover. It’s the chief reason I prefer a flat tarp over a shaped tarp in dense forest because I only need a space large enough to lie down in. The Shangri-La 3 is much better suited in locations with relatively little forest cover, like Scotland (where I also hike), but where the winds are much fiercer.
One of the benefits of having such a huge floorless tarp, is that you can cook inside it in bad weather with a well-mannered canister style stove. Of course, you need to be very careful to ventilate your tent properly because you can suffocate from carbon monoxide or set your tent on fire around you. I try not to cook inside a shelter in the US because it can impart a food smell to your shelter, but that’s not an issue in Scotland because they’re no predatory animals like bears that you need to worry about.
Pitching the fly alone is also trivially easy: with the door zipped close, loosen the six corner straps to full and stake them out. (I replace the stakes Golite includes with longer 8″ Easton stakes because they provide a much better hold than the included stakes and the top of the head prevents the tarp’s guyline webbing from sliding off.) Once the corners are staked out, I insert my trekking pole (with an extender provided by my trekking pole manufacturer) under the tarp and position the end in the peak. Then I walk around and tighten up the webbing straps. To get more airflow or less, raise or lower the trekking pole and adjust the webbing.
If you are experimenting with ultralight backpacking or lightening your load, but also do a fair amount of car camping, the Golite Shangri-La 3 is a good multi-purpose shelter at a reasonable price. It’s easy to pitch and extremely livable, something you won’t find in many other comparable ultralight or lightweight shelters weighing less than 26 ounces (fly alone).
- Two tents for the price of one: double-walled configuration for car camping and single-walled for UL backpacking
- Steep walls provide excellent headroom and internal volume
- Very easy to pitch by one person
- Requires a large open space to pitch – can be difficult to find in heavily forested country
- Included tent stakes are too short – replace with Easton 8″ stakes for much better holding power esp. w/ webbing straps
- Front zipper on fly snags very easily
- Includes flysheet and inner tent
- Three, larger peak vents optimize cross-ventilation
- External peak loop allows shelter to be suspended without pole
- Floorless shelter system works alone or with nest depending on conditions
- Internal peak loop for attaching nest
- Reflective guy points for stability and visibility
- High internal gear loops for clothes lines and hanging items
- Durable YKK® zippered door with snag-guard, Velcro® & snap closures
- Reinforced cone pole seat
- Factory-taped seams for field ready performance out of the bag
- Upgraded adjustable aluminum center pole features lighter Green Anodizing process
- Pitches with 6 stakes, included
- No-See-Um Mesh body keeps the smallest bugs out and lets the air flow
- Durable 3000mm waterproof polyurethane-coated nylon 8-inch bathtub style floor
- Side-hanging door with two-way zipper keeps the door clean
- Does not include guylines
- Set up instruction video.
Disclaimer: Golite loaned Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) a Golite Shangri-La 3 for this review.