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Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter?
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Nathan Boddy
(nnboddy) - MLife

Locale: Hamilton
Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/10/2008 22:53:43 MDT Print View

I know it may be a serious faux pas to say so, but I don't want to collect a bunch of gear. I'd much rather have just the right amount of equipment to cover the situations I'm likely to encounter: a lot of dry clear nights, some shoulder seasons trips and at least one annual trip where snow is almost guaranteed.

I've settled on a basic spinn tarp for myself for all purpose conditions. However, when the shoulder seasons and bugs are an issue (or if my wife is ever along) I'll need something with a bit more body. My own thought was that something like the Hex or the Golite Shangri-la (or better yet one of the MLD mids if they become available) would cover rain, snow, most bugs and be light enough to settle on. However, my wife informs me that a floor is a must (and that means sewn in).

I guess I'd have to lean for the SMD Lunar Duo (wife is ok with it) but at 2 lbs 9 oz wouldn't I do better to just go with a Big Agnes Copper Spur (3 lbs 8oz) which is a double wall, comes with stakes and would probably shed snow better?

What is a guy to do?

Richard Allen
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/10/2008 23:22:54 MDT Print View

Hi Nathan,

I have both a Hex3 and an MLD Mid w/OEM netting. And a million-and-two other shelters. And "The Girl" is like your wife; she hates floorless shelters. So, I bought her a Double Rainbow. We'll have to wait and see how she likes it.

I'll give you a bit of advise from someone who's used just about every kind of shelter there is, in everything but high altitude, winter mountaineering conditions:

1) Any well made four season shelter is fine as an all purpose shelter.
2) Don't worry about weight so much. Normally it really doesn't matter if your pack weight is 15lbs or 20lbs. Or even 40lbs. Or whatever.
3) For the kind of hiking you've described a tarp is fine. If you're willing to learn how to use it effectively.
4) Keep your wife happy!!! You'll both enjoy hiking and do it together more often.
5) Teach your wife about the benefits of Permethrin. Once she's comfortable w/it, try to get her into a foorless shelter (maybe in your backyard), for an overnight.

Most important of all: Question Authority!

Never take our advice just because we seem knowledgeable. We *don't* know you and can never know you as well as you know yourself. In fact if you had the time and inclination you could learn everything we know about the kind of shelters you've mentioned w/o ever leaving your desk.

Then, a few overnights in your backyard under varying conditions, and the rest is a piece of cake.

Don't let anyone kid you Nathan. Hiking is *not* Rocket Science. E.g.s; a few knots, some affordable gear and common sense is all anyone (exception; extremists) needs to have a great time in the great outdoors.



Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/11/2008 04:37:47 MDT Print View


I just bought a Seedhouse SL 3 for the wife and me, which I've only had time to try it one night at the local park.

At 3lb-15oz (confirmed) it is light. It has a ton of floor space and has a reasonably peaked roof which I think would shed some light snow (but haven't tested). The SL 3 has an additional middle cross pole that would help support any snow that stuck. Don't get me wrong, I would not categorize the SL 3 as a robust, four season tent, but it could extend your three seasons, particularly if you can camp somewhat sheltered below the treeline.

Otherwise, this is a wonderful summer tent as the inner is all mesh and I've figured out a way to lash the rolled-up fly onto the top pole, which runs the length of the tent, with a strip of silnylon and a slip knot. If rain starts, I can quickly release the lashes and the fly rolls down the sides like a window shade!

Like most all double wall tents, this would be a pain to set up while raining as the inner tent must be set up first but, this is the only drawback that I can see.

As I like winter camping, I also have a Hex 3 which I have total confidence in during the "fourth" season but wouldn't want to even think of using it in hot, humid summer. .... So much for the universal tent! :)

Stephen Lastname
(hootyhoo) - F

Locale: East TN
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/11/2008 04:50:19 MDT Print View

It really sounds like you need two shelters. Sorry. It does not make sense to lug around unnecessary weight when the features are not always needed. Or, you could get the shelter that is required for 80% of your trips and just tough it out when that shelter is (still safe) not adequate for desired comfort level. I have an Oragami 2UL tipi shelter and no one ever mentions it as a purchase potential - it is lighter and much cheaper than many other tipi shelters and if you saw my hail storm video you might agree that it is plenty tough enough. I just think that two shelters gives so much more versatility and comfort.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/11/2008 06:47:08 MDT Print View

Since you mostly have dry (non-humid?), clear (non-rainy?)nights - I'd reommend going with the Lunar Duo or Tarptent Rainbow, etc. I have a Sierra Designs Lightning (3#, 14oz), and it takes up at least 4 times more room in my pack than a silnylon single wall. As a result, you will almost certainly need a different pack, or need to pack the tent externally & change your packing system around to get the weight distribution right. Even then, the taller pack makes leaning when negotiating rocky terrain very tiring (comparatively).

I wouldn't carry a winter tent, for the other 3 seasons if you don't need it. Otherwise the weight & packing space costs are pretty high.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/11/2008 06:55:48 MDT Print View

Hey Nathan,
I think you are going in the right direction. I think if I could only have one tent it would be one of the MLD mid's. For overall versatility they cannot be beat.

Nathan Boddy
(nnboddy) - MLife

Locale: Hamilton
"Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter?" on 06/11/2008 07:40:31 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the input.

I admit that I've already come to terms with having TWO shelter systems (spinn tarp being one) it's just that other for which I'm looking for versatility. My concern is that I'm going to end up with THREE.

Tarp: solo camping, descent weather, 70 % of the time.
Lunar Duo: shoulder seasons or buggy conditions, camping with the lady, staking out at the regional Bluegrass festival, camping when conditions have a good chance of turning sour.

Maybe I should just stop there but my fear is that the Lunar Duo may not be the correct piece of equipment for even the conditions mentioned above, let alone stepping things up a notch. This leaves me with the option of making that second shelter a little sturdier OR getting a third.

I agree with Richard that keeping my wife comfortable may be one of the most important elements to consider. I also agree with about half of the responses that a tipi/ MID type shelter is both very light AND good for the fourth season.

Hmmm. I guess if I were confident that the Lunar Duo could hold the snow (which SOME reviews claim it can) I should just go that way and hold off on the MID until the need arises (next December at the latest...)
I'd be keeping the wife relatively comfortable, keeping things FAIRLY light, and I'd not have to bother with double walls (even though the Big Agnes is not that much heavier than the lunar duo.)

1. Tarp/ single wall
2. Tarp/ double wall
3. Tarp/ MID
4. Tarp/ single wall/ MID
5. Tarp/ double wall/ MID

There can be no end to the speculation...

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Utilitarian all purpose shelter on 06/11/2008 10:46:12 MDT Print View

Would anyone argue that an 8 x 10 tarp and bivy or net tent is about as close to a all around shelter than a single person can get to for three seasons?

What conditions would you consider this not a good shelter for?

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Is there any such thing as a utilitarian all purpose shelter? on 06/11/2008 11:09:01 MDT Print View

What you have identified appears to me to be light 4-season use.

My first choice would be that blue wonder that Roger Caffin made/uses.

My second choice would be some sort of pyramid tarp with removable/detached footprint.

It could be done with the right flat or cat tarp, but it wouldn't be very pleasant if you are in a windy area or above treeline.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Tarp Tent on 06/11/2008 11:14:31 MDT Print View

I guess I consider a tarp tent a good general purpose shelter. My wife and I have a Squall 2, and we like it a lot. It is solid enough that we feel confident taking it into a windy, stormy area. I would be surprised if it couldn't handle a bunch of snow as well. The big advantage to a double wall (in my opinion) is condensation. However, even if you don't get enough ventilation, you can always wipe down the insides with a little towel.

The thing is, when you start mixing a tarp with two bug bivies (or netting which does the same) you usually get close to the weight of a tarp tent, with a lot less room. That being said, the advantage to the tarp + bivy approach is that it is double walled.

Nathan Boddy
(nnboddy) - MLife

Locale: Hamilton
Utilitarian shelter? on 06/11/2008 22:19:05 MDT Print View

Is there any such thing as a MID style shelter which has a detachable floor AND has a sewn in no-see-um mesh which could be tucked under or (better yet) attached to the detachable floor?

Windows in such a shelter?

AND... Since many of the MIDS are quite large, is it possible for me and the lady to sleep side by side without a trekking pole configuration getting in the way?

Let me know if I'm grasping at straws.

Edited by nnboddy on 06/11/2008 22:26:19 MDT.

Jeff Cadorin
(JeffCadorin) - F

Locale: paper beats rock
Re: Utilitarian shelter? on 06/11/2008 22:44:36 MDT Print View

golite has a bunch of floorless shelters with net/floor add ons...Not the lightest when combined but still alot of versatility

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Utilitarian shelter? on 06/12/2008 16:35:59 MDT Print View


I have a Golite Hex 3 (now Shangrila 3) and my wife and I do sleep side-by-side. The "center" support pole doesn't really have to be in the center. We offset it about a foot and this leaves plenty of room for two campers on one side and plenty of gear storage on the other.

I offset the pole toward the door. This puts the sleeping bags far from the opening as these type shelters do not have a vestibule to protect the interior from blowing snow.

Nathan Boddy
(nnboddy) - MLife

Locale: Hamilton
Utilitarian shelter on 06/12/2008 20:02:42 MDT Print View

Thanks Michael!

That's great to hear. In fact, that may cinch it for me. I have to admit, the lack of a vestibule isn't the greatest, but for all that space that could serve the same purpose I can't see a downside.

Do you use a tyvek floor or anything?

I'd kind of like to get the MLD MID so that I could get it with the bug netting sewn onto the bottom rather than having to foot for a whole separate structure (being the Golite nest). Can't really see a down side to the square shape of the MLD shape either....

Oh boy!

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Utilitarin Shelter on 06/12/2008 20:29:59 MDT Print View

I too- have to give the Golite Hex a THUMBS UP!! Simple shape, lots of room, one center pole. Use the bug shelter with it and you really can't ask for a better 2-3 person shelter. I have been caught in many storms over the years and the Hex always maid me feel like it was BOMBPROOF!

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
general purpose shelter on 06/12/2008 21:41:01 MDT Print View

Another vote for the Hex 3. It is great as a two-man shelter and I use when hiking with either of my boys or wife. Originally purchased for winter use, I now carry it when hiking with any family member, winter or summer. Last summer my youngest son and I used it for the John Muir Trail, and although we had to be careful where pitching it during heavy rain, we’ve decided to carry it again for our repeat hike of the John Muir Trail in spite of many other modifications to our gear list. It is has been most appreciated in strong blasting wind.

Edited by johnk on 06/12/2008 21:42:10 MDT.

Nathan Boddy
(nnboddy) - MLife

Locale: Hamilton
HEX versus the MLD MID on 06/12/2008 22:40:10 MDT Print View

It seems to me that the Hex (and I'm really thinking the Shagri-la 3 now) would only be a truly utilitarian piece of equipment if I also had the bug shelter (another $125 plus 2 lbs 5 oz).

Wouldn't the MLD with the sewn in bug netting and a tyvek floor be just as good at far less cost AND weight?

I suppose there may be far less ventilation that the golite with bug net shelter option.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: HEX versus the MLD MID versus Oware 10' Pyramid on 06/12/2008 23:36:11 MDT Print View

Don't believe anyone in this thread has yet mentioned the Oware pyramid, which appears to be pretty similar to the Hex and the MLD MID in design and function.


Haven't used an Oware pyramid, but have read good reports about them here at BPL. Search "Oware" to find discussion in forums, and there is also a review of Oware's Alphamid (half a pyramid) by the staff.

At about 26 oz per the Oware website, an Oware 10' pyramid has a bit more height (6') and apparently a little larger footprint than the either the Hex or the MID, yet it is lighter than the Hex and about the same as the MID.

Oware pyramids are also available with a bug netting skirt, both in the 10' and the 9' versions. Adds a little weight; believe it might be a few ounces.

Would be very interested in whether anyone here has used the Oware pyramid as well as the MID and/or Hex and has an opinion regarding the Oware compared to the others.

For myself, I've been considering an Oware 10' pyramid and so far am favoring it over the MID and Hex due to Oware's weight (less than Hex and only 2 oz more than MID) as well as its internal room compared to the other two, with both more height (6' for Oware vs 5.5' for MID vs about 5.5' for the HEX) and its floor space (for example, 10'x10' for Oware vs 9'x9' for MID -- and I can only guesstimate about the HEX since I don't calculate octagon areas very well).

But then, if price and delivery time were no object, a MID in Spinntex would be pretty nice.


Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
if i had to choose on 06/13/2008 07:59:07 MDT Print View

i adore one-pole pyramid/tipi shelters and can't recommend them strongly enough. They are light, easy to pitch, and 4-season capable (although not suitable for real mountaineering). their only drawback is if you are a couple that likes to snuggle - then you have to select a model that will allow you to sleep together on one side of the pole.

I am partial to Titanium Goat-style tipi tents. I think a conical tipi is a superior design (i have owned 'mids, a tipi, and a Kifaru knockoff that i sewed myself). The tent I am sewing right now is a conical tipi.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
available single pole shelters on 06/13/2008 08:33:34 MDT Print View

In reference to the Oware Mid above, the posts regarding customer service have been near unanimous for positive feedback in dealing with the company owner. In contrast to the laudatory PR and near deification on this site, I have yet to see an option to purchase a mid in any material but the heavy nylon in the two years I have been checking the web site. The lack of an available light weight material and the posted platinum-premium prices for these unavailable models have been a big turnoff. On the other hand the folks who have dealt with him seem to grope for suitable superlatives to describe their positive purchase experience with the Oware owner.