The Problem with Pyramid Shelters
The problem with many pyramid style shelters (such as the MLD Duomid, the Solomid, and the Trailstar to name a few) is that they suffer from low angled walls which reduce the amount of usable interior space inside. Granted, all lightweight backpacking shelters are compromises between comfort, function, weatherproofness, and weight, but there are times when I want a shelter that provides a little more luxury and living space. This was top-of- mind on my recent backpacking trip across Scotland, where I’d brought a floorless Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid and had to sleep with front door closed for 2 weeks in cold and dreary weather.
Adding a bathtub floor or net-tent to a pyramid doesn’t solve this problem because your head and feet are still be just inches away from the surface of the tarp, and waking up on cold mornings with frost an inch or two above your face on the inside of a pyramid tarp gets old pretty fast.
Size does make a difference if carry a large pyramid like the GoLite Shangri-La 3 (now made by My Trail Company) where the height and diameter of the shelter means steeper walls. Martin Rye has been telling me this for the past month and it’s starting to get through. I’m just not convinced I want a shelter with such a huge footprint because it limits the number of places I can set it up in the thickly wooded forests of New England where I live.
I’ve been running through the design alternatives in my head for a reasonably windproof tarp shelter that is suitable for windy, damp open spaces like Scotland and more protected but cramped spaces like New England’s forests with limited success.
Like Martin, I wished I hadn’t sold my Tarptent Scarp 1 (click for Robin Evan’s review) which uses hoops to solve the wall angle issue and can be set up in the rain without getting the inner tent wet. But at 48 ounces, it’s too heavy for my taste, although I’d be interested in what the outer fly weighs independent of the inner because it can be used separately.
But the Tarptent Notch looks very appealing to me, because the ends of the outer fly are raised off the ground using Pitchlock poles providing more interior head and foot room despite angled walls. Very clever. Henry Shires of Tarptent uses this technique on several of his other shelters.
Like the Scarp, the Notch fly can be pitched separately from the inner tent, and only weighs 15.2 ounces (433 g), good for times when I want to go light and don’t need an inner tent. But at 26 ounces total, including both the fly and the inner, the weight of the Notch is nearly half that of the Scarp 1, and probably sufficient for Scotland if pitched in more sheltered locations.
I haven’t made any decisions yet and would appreciate any insights or suggestions you have about the wall angle/usable space issue in pyramid-style shelters. I still like my Duomid which has been my goto shelter for 2 TGO Challenges and other long trips, but there are times when I want a bit more comfort than it provides.
Update: Since writing this article in 2015, I’ve sold my MLD Duomid, and bought and sold a Tarptent Notch. I bought a Tarptent Stratospire 1 in the spring of 2019, but haven’t had a chance to use it because I’ve been too busy reviewing other tents in the interim, including the Zpacks Duplex, the Zpacks Plexamid, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2, and the Tarptent Aeon Li. (forthcoming)Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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