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Rainshadow 2 Tarptent as snow/4th season tent
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b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Rainshadow 2 Tarptent as snow/4th season tent on 12/06/2006 15:04:12 MST Print View

Most recent update 12/20/06: I realized that it was a disservice to Henry Shires and Tarptent to post pictures of his amazing and beautiful Rainshadow 2 pitched in such a shoddy manner. When I pitched the tent in the below photos it was the first time I seriously tried to pitch a tent in the snow in some many years and I pitched it loose so that I could purposely put snow on the sides. So here is one of his designs at Panther Meadows, Mt. Shasta, pitched properly or better than in the below photos, which took about 2 minutes.

HH Squall at Mt. Shasta

Earlier Update/Intro: I realized I should disclaim anything more than the lowest level beginner and novice at camping in the snow. Did it a long time ago when a kid, but have done next to none in years. So if you have any pointers, advice, helpful hints, etc. please let me know. Thanks.

Second update: Here is an article from BPL teaching me a lot about how to do snow camping, emphasizing tarp shelter use. Trumps my little experiment here. Again just novice, BPL is a great site to learn from:

I have been dieing to get done with a work project so I could fool around with my new Rainshadow 2 from Henry Shires. I want to use it as my main winter tent in non-serious wind or heavy snow conditions, or even in those conditions if I can figure out how to set it under tree cover, against rock walls or in a nook or cranny somewhere.

Finally got to do it just now and I am thrilled ... I would have never even really thought of doing this if I hadn't been hanging out here at BPL for a bit, listening to the sage wise and great advice, info, and stories, reading everything in sight ... and chatting with the members ... great site and group ....

Here is the first experimental setup, Henry Shires Tarptent Rainshadow 2 in snow:

Rainshadow 2 in snow

The tent (I think I'll call it SnowShadow) is big enough for three people sleeping all in the same direction in good weather(unlike the Big Agnes Seedhouse 3) ... weighs around 32 oz. - 40 oz., based on Henry's web site, depending on how many stakes, poles, kind of ground cloth etc.

So it is a three season tent. I want to use it as a 4th season tent pushing the idea of multi-use through technique of setup and lighter carrying weight for snow shoe/mukluk camping treks.

It is big enough, I figured, to use in the snow as a two person tent, with snow piled up at the rear, around the sides (thus reducing the width down to a good size two person tent) and half the front (it has a great height of around 48"), leaving one side for an entrance and the other protected (I'm gonna fashion a black plastic bag that can be used to melt snow water & as a closure for the front right entrance half; or some such closure system -- but that is for later).

My theory is, and the initial test today confirmed, it will ventilate well and ventilation can be controlled by how much snow is piled at the rear (even closing it off) and in the front, reducing the open area.

I figure this "3 season" tent should get me through a 4th season winter camping trip, in non-hazardous (like not really bad) inclement weather and thus becomes an all year 4-season tent for me and my partner.

I figure it will easily be habitable with the right gear down to 0 F, easy, and keep us out of any lower winds, lighter snows or rain/sleet, serve as overall protection in other words (staying dry when we need to) ... and because of the space to start with it will provide protection for all our gear that doesn't stay outside -- including our packs -- at around 2.5 lbs once I get it all configured.

I'm not ready to cook in it but in the below pictures I have set up the front so that I can stay inside the tent and cook in the alcove area.

Below are pictures of the first experimental setup ... not too taught, but I didn't want it taught because the sides and rear are buried in snow. (The rear ventilates in this configuration because the snow only goes up to within 1" of the rear overhang and was kept away from the rear mesh tentside when I built the snow enclosure.)

This was set up using standard stakes to hold it in place until the snow is put on, the rear was done first using a length of dead limb to hold the rear stake in place. The front was roughed in. Then the rear was secured with a first pile of snow, then the sides going about 1' towards the front. Then I roughed in the front corners and kind of straightened it out. Then covered the sides until they would pretty much stay in place. Then adjusted the front center line taughter, put in both front poles and set the corners in their final position. Then buried the sides in about 6" or so, the snow does it automatically.

Once the tent setup was double checked and positions of everything tweaked, I just buried everything without compromising the interior space or the sidewalls angles.

I cleared out and shaped a front entrance area. Put the Tyvek groundsheet in over the floor - not under the tent - figuring that was the best way to save heat and protect the floor, since it won't get hurt by the snow surface. Put a 32 F Phantom MH bag in over a Thermo-Lite Emergency Bivvy Sack, on closeout from the Gear Shop, and a Thinlite 1/8" long closed cell GG pad w/ a torso pad from GG over that. If the 32 F bag is not warm enough, which I think it will be, to go down to 10 F with hot socks, thermawrap pants over expedition weight capilene long johns and a mid weight capilene long sleeve top under Insport polartec high loft pullover, with synth balaclava, MH Micro hat and down balaclava from the Down Works in Santa Cruz -- then I can always slip the bag into the emergency, reflective bivie bag for an extra bunch of degrees -- or that is my theory anyway. (Using that bag which is a three season bag in this set up also means I am not only multi-tasking my three season sleeping system, I am saving the extra weight it would take to bring a 0 F bag along.)

It worked so far, now for the overnight tests.

Entrance setup:

Entrance to Rainshadow 2 in snow configuration

Left front, facing the tent (with Gear Shop Snowclaw Guide Backcountry snow shovel):

Left front, facing

Right front and entrance (I was testing the front line to see if will hold Drop Stoppers, Ether windshirt, and hanging hat, snow googles, and polypro stetch gloveliners on the top, light weight snow shoes where they can be reached from inside, pack under overhang and protected by snow enclosure -- it can be brought in at night or in weather):

Right front and entrance

Inside (with MH Phantom 32 F bag w/inflatable pillow in modified pillow sack and stuffing and Marmot Never Summer 0 F bag, sleeping gear (Hot Socks, Thermawrap pants, dry upper thin capilene pullover, Down Works down balaclava), Giga cannister & stove, MSR Titan Kettle, foil windscreen, emergency stove - Ti Esbit UL, fuel tabs, (can't wait to get my Ultra Bushbuddy), 1/2 liter Platypus (gonna have to get a black plastic bag to fill with snow and let melt in sun for more water), food smell proof ziplok with mainly Mountain House stuff, stuff sacks for gear and misc. stuff, including outter layer waterproof hooded coat, dry pair of socks, capilene T shirt, underwear if I get wet, ... and that is about it inside.


Rear of the tent (if I were really concerned about the cold or weather I would raise the enclosure and seal off the rear):


Edited by bdavis on 12/20/2006 22:14:04 MST.

Mark Watson
(mwbike) - F

Locale: Northwest
Re: Rainshadow 2 Tarptent as snow/4th season tent on 12/07/2006 08:22:28 MST Print View

Looks good b d. Please let us know how the overnight tests work.

I've been extremely happy w/ my Rainshadow2. We used it for 10 (non-continuous) nights at Rainier this last summer. We lucked out on the weather, so actually haven't even been in the rain w/ it yet.

Upcoming Boy Scout snow-camping had/has me thinking about the Rainshadow. Depends on the weather forcast, I think.

I'm especially interested in any improvements or techniques you come up w/ for the front peak vent.


b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
First tests done, RS 2 in snow on 12/08/2006 12:23:35 MST Print View

First test results on 19 F night outside temp. (next time I'm gonna take a thermometer inside with me):

1. Too much ventilation if there is any wind and the temp is low. Need to either seal the back off with snow completely and reduce opening by pulling front overhang pieces down next to mesh screening or design front closure.

The wind came up a bit and went through so well it got too chilly from wind, not still air temp.

2. Great configuration otherwise.

3. Very comfortable. Bag was warm but had cold spots during the night. Pads worked well, but shoved extra gear under the feet portion.

4. I really like the Tyvek, white side up for the inside floor.

5. Entrance area aluminized packing foam surface to keep snow out and for pad to put on mukluks or boots works really well.

6. Just plain fun learning to use the gear in the snow, as a novice.

7. Will cut a UL black plastic garbage bag open and use it for a tent cover to increase heat absorption from the sun -- therefore, will pitch the tent lengthwise going East to West or vice versa, depending on wind, and then control wind by getting a windstop entrance cover and sealing up the back if need be -- just emailed Henry Shires to see if he would make me one or assist me in designing one (crossing my fingers he'll say yes).

All in all it worked and was not the disaster I might have worried about -- in fact it was pretty cool, no pun intended.

Edited by bdavis on 12/08/2006 12:24:27 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: First tests done, RS 2 in snow on 12/08/2006 17:02:41 MST Print View


The tent is not pitched taut. This will cause some problems.

The biggest problem is my hangup with aesthetics. I want your photographs to be very pretty. In order to be very pretty, a tent must be tautly pitched.

A tent that is not tautly pitched reflects either (1) a bad product or (2) a user that hasn't figured out how to get a good pitch or (3) is too lazy to get a taut pitch.

I'm going to guess that you fall into category #2!

Why is a good pitch important?

The most important reason is that if you do not have a good pitch, and there are lots of wrinkles in the fabric, there will be no laminar boundary layer of air movement across the surface of the fabric. That laminar boundary layer is very important for removing moist air from the inner surface of the fabric. If there are wrinkles, the boundary layer is turbulent and there will be pockets of moisture that are protected from air movement.

This speculation which I've sort of observed with a colored smoke bomb lit at the foot end of a TarpTent Rainshadow (old version) on a breezy day forms the basis for my theory, which is:

A taut pitch requires less wind speed in order to remain "condensation-resistance" than a sloppy pitch.

Have I proved this theory?

No. But a taut pitch still looks good, and I'm a geek and really like thinking about this stuff.

Another good reason for a taut pitch is that precipitation (rain or snow) rolllllls off nicely, never really accumulating on the tarp because thar's no wrinkles to hold it there.

Some will speculate (I'm probably guilty of this in my writing too) that a taut pitch is "key" or "vital" or "incredibly important" for maximizing the wind-resistance (defined as the load transferred to the stakes by wind!) of a tent, but in these types of shelters, it just doesn't seem that big of a deal to me. In a high mountain winter tent on the other hand, maybe more so.

There's my take.

But I just want your new tent to look really good in the photos!

Edited by ryan on 12/08/2006 17:04:03 MST.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Pitch is on the way .. on 12/08/2006 18:51:38 MST Print View

Getting the pitch tight is on the way. Embarassing as it is, I was working to figure out how to bury the sides first, then figure out how to have good looking and better functioning tent set up. Point well taken.

I was actually just going to post a link to the Winter Camping Technique articly by RJ when I got here and found RJ's post. The article is at:

I also realized I could pull the front extension flaps down and against the mesh front. Working on how to get that right.

And, the Tyvek inside the tent has the extra advantage of producing a fold up flap at the rear to add about 4 - 5" of wind stop and snow stop through the rear mesh in case the snow enclosure melts, shifts, etc. It also adds a few inches on each side of the tent thus shutting out any drift, moisture, or wind from the sides and the mesh there, even though it is buried.

The system is working well, or even a bit better than I had hoped ... I am thinking of lightening up on the sleeping clothes, since it can get warm as long as I don't roll off the GG insulation pads. I did a test and lay in the bag, with the clothing on and rolled off the pads. Turns out that is why I experienced cold underneath described in the first tests email. As long as I stay on the pads it does not convey cold, or very little.

The snow has firmed up and hardened some so the sleep clothing is a real plus in a lighter weight down bag like I am testing out -- because of the extra padding.

Now I am looking for a light synthetic bag to make sure that moisture wouldn't be a problem. One that is competitive in weight and quality with the MH Phantom 32 F (1 lb. 5 oz. or so)bag I am testing out in this setup. My theory is the lighter bag allows me to carry up to 1 lb. and 9 oz. or more of layered and sleep clothing for the same weight as the Marmot 0 F Never Summer bag, making up for some of the extra weight in the winter pack.

All in all, after reading some of JR's articles in particular, I think I am doing some overkill ... but hey, its the first time I have ever really approached snow camping seriously and for the purpose of enjoying it and not seeing how much misery I could endure to prove some point or another. Youth.

So onwards and upwards, and no more pics of a sloppy tent ... jeesh, got caught by the teacher. But seriously .. the real reason I love BPL is experience qualified people can point out how to do it better, which means more fun, more safety, and more motivation to go out there a next time. Those tent walls were so loose that when the mild wind wafted through you could understand how well they work as Spinnaker cloth or such.

At this rate I am going to tape a piece of duct tape over the part that gives my BPL rank ... I'll probly be owing the staff points next time I look ... is the system set up for negative numbers?

Edited by bdavis on 12/08/2006 19:10:26 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re snow use on 12/09/2006 03:14:23 MST Print View

Well, yes, so far so good.

You are worrying far too much about the snow walls around the side and not enough about getting the roof taut, as Ryan said. But what he did not emphasise is what is going to happen when it snows. That flat top is going to collect snow, and more snow, and more snow. Eventually you will discover that half the tent is lying on your sleeping bag. The poles may get damaged in the process. Your sleeping bag will get wet from the condensation.

All is not lost. You can prop the middle of the tent up with a pack or two, and certainly you can keep waking up through the night and knocking the snow off the roof. This is pretty much essential anyhow.


(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: snow use on 12/09/2006 03:41:07 MST Print View

Is there such a thing as too tight of a pitch? Where a moderate amount of snow might over stress guyout loops to the point of failure? Or is the technique to remove the snow before it becomes an issue? In other words, hope you are a restless sleeper that night.

Edited by dealtoyo on 12/09/2006 03:42:25 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: snow use on 12/10/2006 01:59:53 MST Print View

> Is there such a thing as too tight of a pitch? Where a moderate amount of snow might over stress guyout loops to the point of failure?
Interesting question. I will stick my neck out (I have made and sold silnylon tents) and say that a well-designed and well-made tent will not be over-stressed at the guyouts by a taut pitch. Indeed, I reckon that a taut pitch will reduce the stress on the tent when the wind gets up: it will stop the flapping. In my exoperience, it's flapping which can do real damage.

> Or is the technique to remove the snow before it becomes an issue? In other words, hope you are a restless sleeper that night.
LOL. Yep, in many cases this is the only real success story. Snow falls ever so gently, but it sticks to almost anything. And so it slowly builds up, and up, and ... ooops, there goes the tent pole.

In fact, I have to say that while I have seen broken tent poles on many tents (some due to owner incompetance of course), I am not sure I have ever seen a guyout pulled off.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Tx 4 advy, conc's re: HS' RShadow test on 12/10/2006 09:59:21 MST Print View

1st, advice received is rt. on.

Conc's 1st test: Concept worked, execution & executor needs vast improvement.

1. Tent pitch/tautness first priority next time.

Roger's comment spot on: I was too concerned with how to get the snow on the tent, not the tent on the snow and taut.

Tent after two days: With some above 32 F temps during the days snow melt was occuring, freezing nights. Took the tent up this morning and found I had made a Henry Shires' Rainshadow Tent Pospsicle. It was easy to get up and had stayed dry inside, even though there was ice-snow around the base, indicating melt had occured around and off the tent. Dry was the first goal.

Next time: Ditto to Rog' again, the tent will be pitched as per RJ's specs, to the best of my ability and per Rog's comment -- the snow enclosure will take care of itself, the weight of the snow will push up against, on, and over the edge of the tent. Goal is to secure the sides down low so the bottom mesh siding is sealed off -- thinking of scooping out a trench and setting the bottom tent edges in the trench, so that the tent can be set up taut to begin with and have a head start on burying the side bottoms.

All in all, it is a great tent in the snow, sealed out moisture, was warm enough for the first time, will be downright cozy I predict when I learn to use the front flaps and/or another wind blocker to control air flow through it. Materials are so sturdy and solid in the HS tents I will probly switch from Tyvek (weight issue, to GG Polycro groundcover for inside floor lining). It functions more like a base tent in this configuration than a tarp or tarp tent ... now gotta get it taut to resist snow load in light to moderate snow event, wind, and RJs scrutiny.

Tx 4 advice & help.

Edited by bdavis on 12/10/2006 10:01:26 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Tx 4 advy, conc's re: HS' RShadow test on 12/11/2006 02:24:43 MST Print View

> thinking of scooping out a trench and setting the bottom tent edges in the trench
Ah ... watch it. IF you are getting the mesh in contact with the snow at all, ask yourself what happens when the snow stick to the mesh and then freezes rock hard overnight.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Tx 4 advy, conc's re: HS' RShadow test on 12/11/2006 07:22:16 MST Print View


Great job of pushing the limits of UL gear, as well as a great post so that all of can benefit from knowledge learned!

In regards to your “trench” idea, Roger’s advice is best heeded or your post could be renamed, “The winter I spent in the wilderness.”

I do use a trench when snow camping, although with a different shelter. I dig a small trench around the perimeter of the shelter just outside of the walls. This allows for new snowfall to slough off the tent and have someplace to go so that it doesn’t compress the sidewalls during the night. I use the snow removed from the trench to build a small snow wall just outside the trench to try to block drifts.

(My shelter is a Golite Hex 3, a teepee or pyramid style, that has steep walls hence my tent selection for winter. )

Happy camping!

Edited by mad777 on 12/11/2006 07:28:32 MST.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Tx 4 advy, conc's re: HS' RShadow test on 12/12/2006 00:10:01 MST Print View

Thanks guys, for the advice and encouragement. The trench idea has a twist now.

I just met a woman who lives a couple of miles from me up here on the mountain. She is a PCT "Angel." Or that is what I think they call them.

She is pretty old now. She used to teach snow camping in the Girl Scouts, like when I was still in grammar school.

She also has either met Henry Shires or worked on his tents before (don't remember which, but she liked them a lot). She asked me to go with her to the "send off" or "opening" next year down by Mexico. I don't even know what that is.

She told me to think about her sewing a flap on the bottom of the sides, or a couple of flaps which could be buried in snow to stabilize the tent, and even with grommets to put stakes through. So we are working on that angle which reduces the perceived need to bury part of the sides.

Thus, I believe that the trench can be dug around the perimeter if I am worried about snow load, sliding, and packing up on the sides ... but I think her idea will work so we are going to try it.

I really appreciate the inputs, when everyone around me here thinks I am crazy ... and even in other places. Her first comment when I told her what I was trying to do with one of Henry's tents was: "You're crazy."

But now she is helping me, after I described what I was trying to do. She also said she could repair gear and sew for people, not a lot, if they need someone to do it -- especially those on the PCT. I know it would help with the food money she puts out (they had something like over 200 people last year). I don't think if you were thru-hiking she would take a dime from youl

What really got to her, and I told her about BPL in passing and how I had learned about this UL gear, was the 3.8 ounce orange colored thermal bag that the Gear Shop was selling until they ran out. She thought it was incredible and wanted to get one. She also pointed out the man who died last week in Oregon should not have died with a simple piece of equipment like that.

She was really concerned because people have come up here to Mt. Lassen and tried to cross over from here south on the PCT when it is not possible (even in May) and deadly. Also, they have tried to go north when she tells them on the phone it is not possible.

She actually knows all the nicknames of the people who have stayed at her house. I didn't even know people had monnikers.

Don't know why I said all that but thought ya'all might get something out of it.

Edited by bdavis on 12/12/2006 00:43:10 MST.