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Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT Review

Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT Review

The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is a two-person floorless tarp shelter that requires two trekking poles to set up. Weighing 29.5 ounces, it’s not the lightest weight two-person tarp you can get by a long shot, but it is inexpensive, spacious, and durable, making it ideal for trips where you want a lot of covered storage. For example, this is the kind of lightweight shelter you might bring if you were bunking with another dad or mom on a Scout 50-miler, backcountry fishing with a buddy, or out hunting for elk with your (big) dog.

Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT

Interior Space
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Spacious Shaped Tarp

The Mountain Shelter LT is a large and spacious single wall tarp that's well made and durable, but easy on the wallet. Weighing 29.5 oz, it requires a fair amount of space to set up, but it's also quite spacious inside, providing substantially more interior space than most two-person double-wall tents that cost 4 times as much.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 29.5 oz, minus stakes
  • Type: 2 Person, 3-season
  • Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 6, and up to 13 for more interior volume and stability
  • Doors: 1, front
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Materials: 40d Sil-Nylon Rip Stop PU 2000MM
  • Dimensions:
    • 142″ x 54″ x 84″ (360 x 137 x 213 cm)
    • Area: 54 ft² / 5 m²
    • Peak: 4′ 6″

The Mountain Shelter LT is a shaped tarp that can only be pitched one way. It has a diamond-shaped floor plan, with one front door that forms a huge front vestibule for gear storage. Each side of the door can be rolled back and secured independently, or both can be rolled back to create more of an A-frame front opening. There’s also another smaller storage area at the rear of the tarp, so you can really spread out.

The Mountain Shelter has a single front door (center zip)
The Mountain Shelter has a single front door (center zip)

Setup is relatively straightforward, but practice does help to get it down. There is a diagram lightly stenciled to the side of the tarp, which illustrates how long the front and rear poles should be to pitch the tarp, so you can never lose the directions.  Just match up your trekking poles to the diagram, with 53″ for the front pole and 40″ for the rear. The diagram is very handy if your poles only have centimeter measurements and not ones in inches.

The Mountain Shelter LT has a lightly stenciled diagram on the side that shows how long your trekking poles should be
The Mountain Shelter LT has a lightly stenciled diagram on the side that shows how long your trekking poles should be.

Next, stake out the three guyout points at the rear of the tarp (the back part of the diamond) loosely with a lot of slack and insert the rear pole. Re-adjust the stakes with the pole standing and repeat at the head end of the tarp.

The guy-out points on the tarp are short webbing loops without much length
The guy-out points on the tarp are short webbing loops without much length

This will create a pitch that is flush with the ground without a lot of ventilation underneath. Unfortunately, the ground level guy-outs on the tarp are short webbing loops, without much vertical length to enable better airflow. This becomes an issue if its raining and you can’t keep the front door open, because internal condensation will collect on the walls and potentially drip onto your gear. While there is a rear peak vent on the shelter, it’s small enough to be insignificant. Your best bet might be to retreat as far back into the 142″ long shelter as possible and leave the front vestibule completely or half-open. As long as the rain isn’t blowing into the front of the shelter, you should stay dry.

The extra guylines add interior volume and stability
The extra guylines add interior volume and stability

While it only requires 6 stakes to pitch the Mountain Shelter, I’d recommend using the 5 additional sidewall and peak guylines which help increase the interior volume and livability inside the shelter. While you can carry stakes to anchor these, the guylines are long enough to anchor to tree branches on the ground or rocks with a taut-line hitch if you want to shed some stake weight.

There are five additional guylines, in total, including

  • 2 sidewall guyline halfway up the sides walls to increase interior volume
  • 1 rear guyline to help pull the ridgeline taut
  • 2 front peak guylines to help anchor the front trekking pole, necessary if you want roll back both sides of the front vestibule.

The Mountain Shelter LT requires a big level space to set up, but it also provides impressive livability for a single wall shelter. There’s plenty of space inside and you can easily sit up inside, nice if you bring a chair kit along to use with an inflatable sleeping pad. You can even enter or leave the Mountain Shelter in a crouch since the peak height of the front vestibule is 4′ 6″. In comparison, the peak height of most double wall backpacking tents is nearly half that.

In good weather, you can roll back both sides of the front vestibule
In good weather, you can roll back both sides of the front vestibule

The best way to sleep in the Mountain Shelter is with your head at the head end, making it easier to get in and out at night. The front door has a center zipper and each side of the door can be rolled pack and secured independently. Since the shelter is floorless, you’ll probably want to bring along a plastic sheet (I use super lightweight window wrap) to sleep on as a moisture barrier and to prevent any abrasion to your sleeping pad.

Comparable Shaped Tarp Shelters

Make / ModelWeight (oz)Doors
Black Diamond Beta Light191
ENO House Fly Rain Tarp252
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II291
MSR Twin Sisters322
Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT301
Rab Element 2182
Warbonnet Outdoors Superfly192
Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform DW271

Recommendation

The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is a large two-person single-wall tarp shelter that’s well made and durable, but easy on the wallet. Weighing 29.5 oz, it requires a fair amount of space to set up, but it’s also quite spacious inside, providing substantially more interior space than most two-person double-wall tents that cost 4 times as much. While you will probably want to bring some sort of lightweight bug and moisture protection, the norm for tarp-style camping, the Mountain Shelter LT is still a great value for the money and is often available on sale.

The author purchased this product.

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5 comments

  1. Good Day,

    Can you put and sit on a camping chair in the shelter?

    Thank you kindly,

    lucie

      • I bought this because I usually hike with 2 dogs. I’ve only had it out on 2 warm and dry overnights. It has worked very well. I’ve learned single wall shelter condensation is VERY real.

        I found the set up to be a lot trickier using the given directions.

        If anyone is interested, here’s what I came up with for the tautest pitch…

        -Set the poles to the lengths specified on the tarp.

        -Stake out the rear middle loop and 1 side rear loop.

        -Set the rear pole under the tent making sure it’s centered.

        -Stake the other rear side loop so there is as little vertical slack as possible in the rear wall.

        -Set the front pole under the tent in line with the rear pole and rear middle loop.

        -Stake out the middle front loop. Make sure it’s centered with the rear by moving it side to side and making sure the tension is the same on each side.

        -Stake out the front side loops.

        -Stake out the 5 guidelines, don’t over tighten.

        -Stake out the middle side loops where the loops are and don’t pull them out further.

    • yes if you are using a thermarest chairkit or the likes like the author said. nope if you plan to use the ones with legs which are quite popular now.

  2. I purchased the Mountain Shelter2 last fall and have used it (nearly) exclusively since – PNW fall & winter conditions. Yes, condensation is real! My remedy has been to attach supplemental cord loops (maybe 10″ each, with an adjustable hitch at the stake) at each stake loop, allowing me to pitch the whole shelter ~3-4″ off the ground. This helps immensely, while not adversely affecting the shelter’s performance in rain/wind/snow conditions.

    No, it’s not the lightest shaped tarp out there, but the amount of interior space is impressive. With the cord at the tie-outs, I max out my front pole to 145+cm, and all of that height is usable for sitting, stretching, cooking, etc. Only complaint is that the pole positioning bisects the sleeping area (rather than having poles past your head and feet, the poles are adjacent them), but for 1P use, this hardly matters.

    Set up is generally as mentioned above; I’d say to set up all three rear stakes, then the rear pole, then the door stake, front pole, then finish with the remaining perimeter and (if needed) peak tensioners; final tension can be adjusted via pole length/position. Even pitching with snow anchors, it’s not difficult or unduly stressful – it pitches on the first try with little drama or fiddling. Plan on 8 stakes to pitch, plus more for harsh wind.

    I may prefer smaller/lighter shelter options for long summer days with lotsa miles, but for winter or lower mile use, the MS Mountain Shelter 2 is tough to beat!

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