Here is my Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid Review based largely on my experiences using this shelter during the 13 day TGO Challenge, this year in Scotland. Andy Howell has also published a review of the cuben fiber version, which I also suggest you read if you’re tempted to lay out $405 dollars for this outrageously priced shelter.
A Pyramid Camping Shelter
The “mid” in Duomid is short for pyramid, which many reckon is the most wind resistant shape for a camping shelter. The MLD Duomid is not a pure four sided pyramid, but has more of a 6 sided shape when pitched taughtly, with the front door and rear wall angled out slightly, necessitating six tent stakes for the base set up.
In addition to the six base tie-outs, there are four more bungeed loops set midway up the skin on the two sides and the front and rear wall. These are designed to provide additional anchoring in high winds but are useful to stake out every night in order to provide a steeper interior wall slope and more foot and head room.
In a stiff breeze, it is useful but not strictly necessary, to stake the Duomid close to the ground with the back stake facing the wind, if only to stay warmer inside. Most nights in Scotland, I set up the shelter with anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of clearance between the ground and the bottom of the shelter walls to keep internal condensation at bay. It looks like the shelter is levitating off the ground when you pitch it like this, but it’s not going anywhere if you’ve got good stake penetration, wind or not.
Interior Living Conditions
With enough interior room for two, the Duomid is a palace for one person, providing ample sleeping space and gear storage with little weight penalty. While it is possible to pitch with two hiking poles set at an angle, I prefer a center pitch with one pole, since I don’t share. MLD will sell you a pole for pitching the Duomid if you don’t use hiking poles. If you do, make sure that you have adjustable poles, because getting the right poll height is very important for setting this shelter up.
In Scotland, I used a Gossmer Gear polycryo ground sheet and a Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight bivy sack with a mesh netting mod to provide moisture protection for my sleeping bag and bug protection for my face. There are two gear loops on each internal seam of the Duomid, and I tied the bug netting to one at night to keep the netting off my face. These can also be used to hang a gear attic or anything else like a makeshift clothes line.
While I did experience internal condensation on one or two nights, the steepness of the walls and the huge internal living space make it easy to avoid coming into contact with any moisture. It is easy to sit up without touching your head and on windy evenings, I frequently cooked dinner inside the Duomid, which provides excellent ventilation including a rooftop vent and a front zipper, which I opened to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
On warm still nights, it is possible to open up the front zipper, roll up the front wall, and secure it to using a bungee cord and loop system sewn into the front seam of the shelter. This however results in a significant reduction in shelter stability, so I do this sparingly.
As long as you’ve seam-sealed the Duomid, it is bombproof in the rain. To do this, pitch it, and paint seam sealer that has been cut with paint thinner over all of the seams, including the zipper stitching and mid-wall tie-out patches. I’ve adopted Martin Rye’s seam sealing method. It’s a winner and provides a nearly invisible and lightweight seal on my cuben Duomid.
If compactness is important for your packing system, the Duomid folds up quite small. If dry, you can stuff it in the bottom of your backpack, or jam it onto a small stuff sack and stick it in an exterior mesh pocket on your pack. This is the system I used during The Challenge, stakes and all, wet or no.
Cuben Fiber transmits a lot of light through the walls to the interior of the shelter. This is beneficial on buggy nights because all of the bugs are attracted to the walls and not me. I’m not sure exactly why, but they climb up the sides of the shelter toward the vent, leaving me and my blood alone.
The downside of this is that the Duomid becomes an oven when it is warm and sunny. So much so, that you can’t remain in the shelter when you want to lie around in the afternoon and read. It’s for this reason, that I probably won’t use the Duomid in summer conditions and will opt instead for a flat tarp. I am planning to use it in winter in the snow where extra warmth from the sun will be beneficial.
Getting a Perfect Pitch
It can be difficult to get a perfect pitch with the Duomid if you’re camping on a site that is not level or your pole is not exactly 145 cm in length. When I pitch my Duomid, I set my Black Diamond Trail poles to 135 cm and attach the 6 inch pole extender that MLD provides to get the right pole height. The top of the pole fits into the reinforced top of the Doumid’s peak. Any shorter or longer, and it’s hard to get taught walls.
Camping on an un-level site invariably leads to one wall being more horizontal than the others, no matter how you adjust stake or center pole height. I think the cut of the mid, with it’s equal wall lengths, creates this condition.
Once set up, the cuben fiber seems to relax a bit and needs to be tightened up a bit after an hour or so. This might also be due to relaxation in the tie-out cordage.
Weight vs. Price Trade-offs
MLD sells the 16 oz silnylon model of the Duomid for $205 and the 12 oz cuben fiber version for $405.
Truth be told, I resisted buying the cuben fiber version of this shelter because it is so darn expensive. I ended up deciding to treat myself for my 50th birthday and paid the premium.
If weight is less of an issue for you or you’re “still” trying to keep your backpacking costs down, my bet is that the silnylon shelter will have very similar performance characteristics to the cuben fiber model.
No shelter is perfect, but the cuben fiber Duomid is pretty darn close. So close that I’m going to sell my Tarptent Scarp 1 and Squall 2, and depending on how well the Duomid works this winter, my Black Diamond Firstlight. I’ll still keep my cuben fiber and silnylon tarps for heat-of-summer use, but expect to use my Duomid for most other trail conditions, and for a long time to come.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.