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contrail or gatewood cape?
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David Faria
(TheNoumenalDave) - F
contrail or gatewood cape? on 09/15/2009 15:43:19 MDT Print View

hi everyone, first time poster but i've been reading a lot.
So im getting together a new ultralight set up and i just cant decide what i want to do. The contrail looks great but im torn between that and using a gatewood cape with perhaps one of the vapr quantum bivys wich would be about a whole pound lighter considering i could ditch the driducks poncho i have right now. right now ive got a neo air and a nunatak ark alpinist with an epic shell for the rest of my sleep system. i'll be using it in the north east for 3 season trips and im just getting back into backpacking after being away while in the army for a few years so any input would be great. ive tryed to read all i could from old threads but i just cant make up my mind. thanks a bunch!

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Contrail or Gatewood on 09/15/2009 16:08:43 MDT Print View


I have both shelters. To me they are two different beasts.

The Contrail is a full shelter with bug netting and a bathtub floor. Spacious for one. Weighs more than a Gatewood.

The Gatewood is a dual use shelter. No floor. No netting. Lightweight. Use as a poncho in the rain.

I also have a Gossamer Gear The One and use it when I know I am in for prolonged rain and bugs. Floor, netting, lightweight.

Derek Cox
(derekcox) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Contrail or Gatewood on 09/15/2009 16:16:05 MDT Print View

just curious scott... why would you ever use the contrail over the one if you prefer it it bad conditions and it is lighter?

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: contrail or gatewood cape? on 09/15/2009 16:51:16 MDT Print View

I think the key is bugs. For most of my backpacking (mid-summer) bugs are much worse than rain. I wouldn't be stupid enough to go out without some rain protection, of course, but while I often go hiking and don't experience rain, I almost always experience bugs when backpacking. While I could probably get by with a bivy and headnet to protect against the bugs, a fully enclosed shelter is much more enjoyable. Once out of bug season, a tarp makes a lot of sense (it is lighter and more flexible).

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
contrail or gatewood cape on 09/15/2009 18:05:24 MDT Print View

I've also owned both and agree with Scott - they are two different beasts. I ultimately sold my 1st generation Contrail. Took the GC with me on the JMT this summer and it exceeded all expectations. See my review here on BPL Reader Reviews.

Of the two as they exist today, I'd go with the GC, hands down. In my opinion, Henry has better designed tarptents than the Contrail in his inventory these days.

Suggestion: the first time you take the GC out when you know or expect rain, take your lightweight rain jacket along as a back-up until you're comfortable setting up and taking down the GC in the rain.

Do not forget to take your headnet. The BPL UL Mosquito Headnet, while expensive, is well worth the money. Easy to see out of and with the larger emsh, far cooler than other headnets I've owned. Just be careful that overhead branches don't snatch it off your hat when you walk with it raised above eye level. You'll never feel it leave; I didn't, and had to backtrack to find it hanging over the trail from a tiny branch.

Edited by wandering_bob on 09/15/2009 18:13:34 MDT.

Jonathan DeYoung
(jdeyoung81) - F

Locale: New England
Re Contrail or Gatewood on 09/15/2009 18:08:12 MDT Print View

I have the Gatewood and have been incredibly satisfied with it. By far one of the best items in my UL arsenal. I have been in absolute drenching downpours with it as a shelter and have stayed bone dry along with my gear. it pitches very quick after the learning curve has been achieved. it also keeps the wind semi quiet when pitched well (some of my experiences pitching it have left me up at night listening to it flap in the wind).

As a dual use item it is great for anyone looking for rain gear and tarp all while lightening up ones pack weight. I dont think you will miss having a full tent at all as I have had some of my best nights sleep on the trails under my Gatewood.Gatewood on the Monadnock Sunapee Grenway trip in NH

Edited by jdeyoung81 on 09/15/2009 18:11:38 MDT.

Brad Smith
(DocOne) - F

Locale: Southwest
Contrail on 09/15/2009 18:24:11 MDT Print View

I have a Contrail and a Golite poncho tarp, which admittedly is much more open to the weather than the Gatewood cape. In fair weather, without many bugs, I will take the poncho/tarp and ditch the rain jacket, saving a bit of total weight.

However, for buggy or rainy trips I really prefer the contrail as the small weight penalty is worth the extra comfort to me. The contrail also can be put up in less than 2 minutes which is nice if you are cold/wet at the time. The tarp takes me much longer, though I can't speak specifically to the cape.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
contrail or gatewood cape ? on 09/15/2009 18:30:23 MDT Print View

From Bob :
"In my opinion, Henry has better designed tarptents than the Contrail in his inventory these days."
Contrail on the PCT
Contrail in the Olympics

Gee, I don't know... looks pretty good to me.

Edited by Franco on 09/15/2009 19:27:47 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: contrail or gatewood cape? on 09/16/2009 01:18:00 MDT Print View

I am with Ross... the issue that separates the two shelter (and separates any tarptent from a tarp) for me is the combination of bug protection and ventilation. I used a tarp for several years but ended up going back to the tarptent because I spent too many nights coping with mosquitoes. Since I had a shaped tarp I had two choices. Pitch my tarp in a full lockdown configuration which block any ventilation or hide under my quilt with a headnet or a bug bivy. The tarptent can provide a decent amount of bug free space which can be quite nice.


Jonathan DeYoung
(jdeyoung81) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: contrail or gatewood cape? on 09/16/2009 05:42:47 MDT Print View

The combination of the Gatewood and ti goat bivy with no-see-um netting I use keeps the bugs away at night, but at times I do feel cramped in my bivy so I can certainly see the benefit of the tarp tent especially on a hot/muggy/buggy night.

If you go with the Gatewood you might want to consider the SMD Serenity NetTent (I am certainly thinking about doing this for black fly season in New Hampshire).

This would give you the option on a clear night to just use the NetTent and if rain is expected just pop up the gatewood over it. This combo also saves about 6 oz over the contrail and gives you much more options to play around with IMHO.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
Gatewood Cape on 09/16/2009 07:20:05 MDT Print View

I'd have to give my nod to the gatewood cape too. Since I was able to dump my BA Seedhouse SL1 and my rain gear, it was the quickest and most cost efficient way to shed several pounds out of my backpacking system.

It is true that if you intend on the Cape to replace all your rain gear, then you do need to practice setting it up a dozen times and once or twice in the rain. And truly, you just have to be okay with getting a little wet while you are setting up camp.

Since I live in a spot where insects are very large and real, I do support the cape with a NetTent to great effect. I've also used the cape with BMW Vapr Bivy for colder conditions. Flawless.

I have to admit that when I road trip to some distant trail head, my full shelter tent does go into the trunk just in case.


Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
Gatewood Cape + Serenity NetTent on 09/16/2009 09:06:50 MDT Print View

The SMD Serenity Net Tent solves most of the bug problem. It goes well with the Cape, and provides a ground cloth you need anyway, for not much more weight. The netting helps hold gear close to you, especially keeping a quilt or bag off wet or muddy ground, or from sticking out from under the Cape and getting wet. I love the NetTent and with the bugs where I am would never go without it. Its a little cramped, but I can just sit up and dress inside it.

I spent two nights in the Southern Everglades in August with this combo. The first night, hundreds if not more, mosquitoes layered on the outside of the net, but there was enough space to keep away from the sides, lying on my back, or on my side.
The second night was during the outer bands of Hurricane Gustav. Sequential downpours, but the Cape kept me dry, no leaks. The hood cinches up tight during rain, but opens for excellent venting in better weather.

Often in good weather I'll pitch the NetTent and then the Cape over it, and after I've placed all the stakes, take the Cape part way down, folded on the ground, with only the 3 rear stakes still attached. If it rains I pitch it back up.

The NetTent works much better IMO with separate stakes. This allows a tight pitch to keep it away from skin. The provided loops for attaching to the Cape stakes give too loose a pitch for my taste.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Gatewood Cape as rain gear on 09/16/2009 10:37:31 MDT Print View

I bring a ULA Rain Wrap for short term protection while using the restroom at night and extra leg protection while using it as a poncho. It can also be cinched down to form a sort of 1/4 bivy to keep the foot of my sleeping bag dry.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Contrail or Gatewood on 09/16/2009 11:10:48 MDT Print View

This is an incredibly well focused discussion for me, as I'm planning on starting the AT in late Feb. I used the Contrail for most of the PCT last year and love it, but I also love the idea of saving significant weight --- I normally use a poncho as raingear anyway.

My current plan is to start the trail with the GC and with a light (not waterproof) bivy. The bivy is:
(1) a little insurance and mental comfort against a floorless tent
(2) something to add warmth
(3) useful in shelters when I opt to use them
(4) last ditch alternative against bugs, slightly better than just a headnet (and earplugs)

I'm thinking that when the weather is warmer I'd swap the light bivy for the Serenity net tent.

The net tent works well, but the limited enclosed space is far from the luxury of the enclosed (bug proof) space that the Contrail affords, so there's a real possibility that I'll swap everything for the Contrail and reasonably light rain gear (dri ducks coat maybe or short poncho). When the bugs got bad on the PCT last year it was really nice to be able to retreat for the night inside a roomy area, and do just about everything in there --- cook quickly outside, but eat inside, skip brushing teeth, use a pee bottle --- and you don't have to get out again until morning. I think I can approach that process by having everything really needed at night just outside the zippered enclosure, i.e., so I can unzip and grab stuff with minimal exposure to bugs, but ... TBD.

Anyway, I'm still on the fence, but I want to try hard to make the GC work for me. I'll certainly start with it, at any rate, and I appreciate all the discussion in this thread.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Re: Contrail or Gatewood - Is there a bigger Poncho Tent? on 09/16/2009 11:18:15 MDT Print View

This is an intriguing discussion...

Is there a poncho tent any bigger than the Gatewood? I'm tall and stayed away from it because I was worried that it wasn't big enough. I like the idea of a poncho tent (dual use), but the bigger the better in my case.

And yes Roger (Tallbloke), I know you use it at 6'7", but the idea of the sides touching me isn't terribly appealing as it is both distracting and I don't want to get my gear wet.


Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Contrail vs The One on 09/16/2009 11:51:34 MDT Print View

Derek Cox asked: "just curious scott... why would you ever use the contrail over the one if you prefer it it bad conditions and it is lighter?"


Sorry, I posted last night and then left the office and did not check back. I have a Contrail that belongs to my son. I have "The One" for myself. If I had to choose, I would use "The One" over the Contrail due to weight.

Also, many people use the Serenity Net Tent. I personally would use The One if I felt I needed that much bug protection. On my recent JMT hike I used the Gatewood Cape on 2 wet nights and the rest of the time I slept under the stars using an Equinox bivy. If there were bugs I just slept with a net over my face and it worked just fine.


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Re: Contrail or Gatewood - Is there a bigger Poncho Tent? on 09/16/2009 22:03:46 MDT Print View

W.r.t. a tall person using a Gatewood Cape ---
First, I suspect that the only alternative for a tall person is one of the larger conventional ponchos and pitch it in a way that provides less cover ... maybe someone else has a better answer there (apart from, of course, a MYOG approach).

I did a three-day backpacking trip this past weekend with the GC and thought very carefully about this height issue. I'm 5' 10", and of course there's more space than that required to ensure that the foot of the sleeping bag doesn't brush against the potentially wet wall of the GC. After this weekend I'm convinced that I'll be fine so long as I pitch it carefully enough that I'm happy to sleep in pretty much just the right spot inside to minimize the chance of this. It's always possible that if I move around a lot in my sleep, or sleep on any sort of slope and slide on my polycro floor (a possibility) that I could end up with the foot end of my bag wet, but I think a person my height can make this work. Note that due to the slope of the tent walls, the longer your feet --- or if for whatever reason you raise your feet or cross one ankle over the other --- that effectively shortens the stand-off distance between the end of your bag and the tent wall. I think I might have, guessing here, 3" with my heels flat on a relatively low pad and my head about as close to the other end as I'm comfortable with.

So if I was very much taller, I would have decreasing confidence in keeping the foot of my bag dry, unless I was happy to spend all night curled up like a cat or something (I'm not ...).

David Faria
(TheNoumenalDave) - F
re:contrail or gatewood cape on 09/17/2009 01:04:10 MDT Print View

first off thanks a bunch to everyone for all the info its really helpfull. looks to me like the gatewood cape is a good way to go. so now im wondering what everyone likes to use with it as far as a ground sheet or a net tent or bivy. i see from some of your responses that there are a lot of different options and it would be helpfull if someone could provide a little more input on the various options available. light weight is of course the ultimate goal but not being eaten alive and such is nice too. im thinking a net tent would be nice since it takes care of the ground sheet and the pesky bugs but im also thinking it might be better to just go with a bivy to add some protection for my down gear. problem is all this adds weight wich defeats the whole point of the cape and maybe i would be just fine with a ground sheet, im so indecisive. well anyways any advice would be awesome. thanks again.

Jonathan DeYoung
(jdeyoung81) - F

Locale: New England
Re: re:contrail or gatewood cape on 09/17/2009 05:11:56 MDT Print View

HI David,

With my Gatewood I use a TiGoat Ptarmigan bivy with bug net biult in. I do not use a ground sheet because i typically will just put my foam pad directly on the ground. It has been a great combination for me. The thing that i really like about th bivy over the bug net is that i can use my 40 degree bag and have another small layer of insulation over me with the TiGoat bivy. When i hunt out a spot to put my head down for the night if at all possible i try and find a soft area on the ground (but this is location dependant). I have set up on compact dirt before and missed a goodnights sleep but that could have been solved if i had made the decision to pack something to simulate a pillow which is my next luxury addition to the pack.

Its a good lightweight solution that in my experience has worked very well for my intended use.

Best of Luck on your decision!


Edited by jdeyoung81 on 09/17/2009 05:12:49 MDT.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: re:contrail or gatewood cape on 09/17/2009 05:39:45 MDT Print View

Gossamer Gear Polycryo (