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Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching
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James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
"Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching" on 04/11/2012 06:26:04 MDT Print View

Roger, A very good article.

You mentioned the enclosed tent with the doorway opening into the vestibule. This is one of our (the wife's and mine) big concerns. Rain and snow are a problem. The wind driven rains we get in the NE corner of the US often swamp the entranceway in our Stephensons forcing us to keep a bandana handy for wiping up. This is a real concern, because it also adds to internal moisture, hence condensation, to the inside. I would confirm that an enclosed entranceway is important, especially in bad weather. We discussed an option for putting two doors in the sides (where we now have large vent "windows") to be protected by the roof awning, but have not gotten to it, yet. In the Sirius, we get in and take off our shoes, before getting into the tent body keeping things cleaner and dryer.

One large advantage to using tunnel tents (we have three - Exped Sirius, Stephensons 2rw and The North Face Dyad 12-sort of) is the mode of sleeping, we have found. With the 2rw we crawl in, then turn around. With the Sirius, we simply crawl straight in. Two years ago, while camping in the 2rw, I happened to "knee" the wife in the chest while spinning around. This has become one of the things we look at. Besides being easier, it is much least from the wife's viewpoint. Headroom for sleeping as well as sitting are important, with a large preference on straight-in sleeping modes. It looks like your tents do about the same as this, much lighter, though. The Dyad is a real snuggle encouragement, not really large enough for two.

There are a LOT of advantages to a tunnel tent. The ventilation is good, generally. This is usually offset by the fact that manufacturors often put smaller vents in them. For two walled shelters, this matters little. But for single walled tents, it can make a difference.

In fall and spring mode, the Sirius, allows us to pack the fly and poles, only. My wife cares not for seeing 'coons or 'porkypines eyes staring at her from atop her sleeping bag, soo a tarp is out. The weight is a bit, but not like winter.

WV Hiker

Locale: West Virginia
Tunnel tents in the US on 04/11/2012 07:46:08 MDT Print View

"But try to find tunnel tents in America and you will be surprised at the almost complete dearth of serious models."

While it's true that there aren't many there are tunnel tents available in the US. Of course Hilleberg is readily available with their full line of tunnel tents. Another option is the long-running line of tunnel tents from Stephenson's Warmlite. I'm also old enough to remember the Windfoil line of tunnel tents from Kelty, unfortunately discontinued.

There is also the MSR Dragontail which is a tunnel but doesn't have sleeves. However, all clip-style tents that I have used have the ability to lock the fly to the poles via Velcro tabs at multiple positions along the fly eliminating the the movement of the pole vis-a-vis the fly.

There are the Nemo Morpho tents which use air beams - don't know much about these.

I'm sure there are more but that's a sample.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching on 04/11/2012 09:29:19 MDT Print View

Excellent article Rodger.

I wish American cottage tent makers Henry Shires of Tarptent or Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs offered a tent similar to your single skin blue model.

I have bought tents from both of them and know they are capable of producing great tents.

If either of them made such a tent at a reasonable price, I would seriously consider purchasing it.

Greg Letts
(gletts) - F - M

Locale: Northern California
TNF Westwind on 04/11/2012 10:48:38 MDT Print View

Interesting to see the Westwind back. The one I had in the late 80's was one of my favorite tents ever. I recall it being closer to 5 1/2 lbs, rather than the current 6 1/2 lbs - and just bomber for all Sierra winter conditions.

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Good Article on 04/11/2012 12:15:14 MDT Print View

Roger as always, Good job on the Article.

I must say though, this topic going to get heated especially since its written with a bias against other styles of tents..

Writing stuff like "In Europe and other countries around the world where bad weather can be relied upon" and "It's just that I do not have the luxury of guaranteed wind-free sunny weather where I walk." Or "We cannot afford to take the risk of a fragile shelter."

You talk like Australia and Europe is the land of the worlds harshest weather, best equipment, and the worlds smartest people. The last two points could be debated but the USA has the highest Wind Speed Records, Low Temp Records, High Temp Records, Most Snow Fall Records, Most Rain Fall Records, Temp Drop Records, Etc..

The second point I want to make is the Youtube video of the tents flying was the Bonoroo music festival in Manchester, Tn about 6 years back and I was there about 50 feet away from the action when this all happened.. While a tunnel tent might not of inflated, there was still an up draft that caused these tents to fly and I saw several tunnel tents in the air over the course of the 5+ minutes this lasted.. It was almost a mini tornado that came through and I would guess the winds hit close to 75mph right in the center.. All sorts of heavy items were tossed around including several tunnel tents.. I actually saw a Hilleberg Nallo 2 get blown over and break a pole. There was a Bibler I tent sitting a few tents away that also took the full brunt of the wind and didn't hardly move. So this throws the Tunnel Tent is always better then the Popup Dome tent right out the window : ) Especially when there were tons of dome style tents that were anchored properly and didn't get destroyed, blown over or blown away..

With that said, I like tunnel tents, but I think their main advantage is their steep walls which gives the interior more living space.. When it comes to wind resistance and setup ease, nothing beats a properly built dome/popup tent.. Haha, as you can I also have a bias : )

Edited by Mountainfitter on 04/11/2012 16:28:45 MDT.

Jane Howe
(janeclimber) - MLife
Tunnel tent on 04/11/2012 12:51:54 MDT Print View


I am looking forward to reading the Part II.

It has been proven many times, in wind tunnel experiments and also finite analysis simulation, that tunnel tent configuration is the best design for wind-resistance. People who deny tunnel design's superiority in wind resistance apparently do not have the knowledge of structural mechanics and fluid dynamics. Sometimes one may not need to fully understand how things work, but accepting truth and facts would certainly make one's life easier.

The owner of the Warmlite company, being an engineer of the aerospace industry before getting into the tent business, clearly understands the advantages of the tunnel configurations.

I hope that you will give a detailed discussion of the Warmlite's tents in the Part II of your article.

Ps. Unfortunately, the US outdoor market sometimes is so driven by outdoor-wannabee's "needs". For example, Osprey Atoms backpack has a biomechanically inefficiently design to cater the poser's needs for "venting at the back".

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Hilleberg on 04/11/2012 13:07:30 MDT Print View

Hi Jane,

I hope you realize Hilleberg "The Tentmaker" also thinks their dome tents have more strength then their tunnels.. Maybe you and Roger know something they don't??

Edited by Mountainfitter on 04/11/2012 13:08:06 MDT.

peter michaloski

Locale: alaska
tunnel tent on 04/11/2012 13:07:58 MDT Print View

1. So we have been hearing about your tent for a couple years. Are you going to have it manufactured? Or would you bless us with some patterns and instructions. I would be willing to pay for a pattern for MYOG types who can't afford a $700-$1000 tent. And live in extreme environments like Alaska.
2. Also have you ever tested Teepee style tents for wind loading? how do they compare I know they do pretty well with snow loading.
3. As a note I have the tarp tent scarp. They don't do too well snow loading you have to shake them off all the time. Haven't had it out in real strong winds yet but like roger said the tether attachments are the weak point and make me kinda nervous.

Steven Scates MD
(scatesmd) - MLife
Nallo 2 on 04/11/2012 13:13:09 MDT Print View

I recently bought a Nallo 2 and pitched it for the first time in a hailstorm last month under windy conditions. It was my first experience with a tunnel tent, but it went very well. I pitched it alone, in the dark, and in the rain. It was completely dry inside when I crawled in and was stable in the wind all night, no problem. After reading your article, very glad I bought it.

Thanks, steve

whitenoise .
(whitenoise) - F
Re: Review on 04/11/2012 13:38:11 MDT Print View

Thanks for the article, Roger. I have some similar sentiments to Lawson, however.

I know that you're a big proponent of tunnel tents, Roger, as well as many other people in climbing circles who experience crazy weather regularly here in the US. I also think that you come off as a bit biased towards tunnel tents without looking at the whole picture.

As an owner of a Firstlight, one of the influential factors in my purchasing decision was watching the same video as you cite in this review and coming to the complete opposite conclusion. The Firstlight weighs under 3lbs, pitches internally within a minute in high winds and is idiotproof in that regard, costs under $300, and only suffered a minor pole bend in sustained 60mph winds on an exposed slope. It also appeared that the tester didn't use the extra guyouts on the middle of the tent, nor did he take advantage of the clips on the top to tie it down further.

All that to say, I'd say that it performed admirably considering what it is and its intended usage. I know a 6lb Hilleberg can handle more wind and is more comfortable, but it takes longer to set up, requires far more guyouts, is vulnerable to snow-loading on the top (unlike the Firstlight), and costs 3x more.

I did appreciate the review, however, and have a question: amongst all the 2-person tube tent makers, which make/model is your favorite? Thanks!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Hilleberg on 04/11/2012 13:47:52 MDT Print View

"I hope you realize Hilleberg "The Tentmaker" also thinks their dome tents have more strength then their tunnels.. Maybe you and Roger know something they don't??"

Hilleberg indicates their dome tents are statically stronger for snow load but that their tunnel tents are better in high winds.

Jane Howe
(janeclimber) - MLife
manufacturer's hype and truth on 04/11/2012 13:55:23 MDT Print View

I used two Hilleberg tents, Akto and Nallo. I own Warmlite, MHW Trango, MHW Kiva, and many other type of shelters.

I am a materials scientist by training, with decent amount of knowledge in materials, mechanical design, and the application of light-weight structural materials in extreme conditions.

I am not selling any gear and have no commercial interest in gear reviews.

I am free to state the truth and facts. And for the sake of my conscience and public interest, share my knowledge with everyone.

Hilleberg and many other manufacturers may have a conflict of interest in disclose truth and fact completely to the public. It is just that plain and simple.

Khader Ahmad
(337guanacos) - F

Locale: Pirineos, Sierra de la Demanda
climbing tents on 04/11/2012 14:23:43 MDT Print View

Lawson and Sean:

I was a dirtbagger long time ago. until I had an argument with gravity, now I'm a half time backpacker. A climbing tent has different characteristics than a backpacking tent, I love the I-tent, but a tunnel is way more wind stable and lighter and more comfortable so it's better for backpacking, the I-tent is better for climbing: smaller footprint, freestanding, tie in...

Different tools, different uses.

BTW my favorite tunnel is helsport rondane 2. I've used 2 more: TNF Westwind (Excellent tent, old model) and a Slovenian? tent I got from some russians (absolutely the best tent I've seen).

In my parking I've got the Helsport, a firstlight (love it) and 2 tarps (sil). I recommend the helsport, and right now is a good time to buy it, it's going to be discontinued soon so it's on sale.

whitenoise .
(whitenoise) - F
Re: climbing tents on 04/11/2012 14:33:35 MDT Print View

Thanks for your thoughts Khader. Checked out the Rhondane Light 2, and it looks very decent. About 4.5 lbs, a vestibule, tube design, more roomy than the Firstlight... and right now on some websites for about $400.

I wish they had some here in the states so I could check them out. Downside though is a lot of guyouts. But I'll look into it. Thanks for your thoughts re: climbing vs. backpacking. Different tents for different applications.

One thing though, if it's really that windy out, it's got to take a long time to set up a tube tent like that, right?

Khader Ahmad
(337guanacos) - F

Locale: Pirineos, Sierra de la Demanda
@Sean on 04/11/2012 14:43:48 MDT Print View

In really windy conditions, I personally believe that they are the second fastest to set up (MK1, I-tents.. being the first), but the safest, as making a mistake is difficult if you know the ninja ways.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Tunnel Tents on 04/11/2012 15:25:52 MDT Print View

Hi Roger! First, I'd like to say how much I appreciate your writing style: your wit really shines through in this had me fairly howling with laughter on more than a few occasions. Thanks!

Second, I've no first-hand experience with true tunnel tents but have always been intrigued by them ever since I came across a Warmlite in the Beartooth Mnts back in the '70s. A little later REI came out with a tunnel tent but they discontinued it in favor of all their permutations of the dome before I could afford to purchase one. Too bad. Now your article has reignited that interest because I really could use a decent winter tent, so I look forward to the next installment.

Addie, could you tell me why some folks apparently get their BPL posts a day before I get mine? I notice by the time stamp that some were able to read the article on the 10th, whereas it didn't show up in my mailbox until after 10AM on the 11TH. No big deal, just wondering is all. Thanks.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: "Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching" on 04/11/2012 16:37:39 MDT Print View

Hi James

I don't want to preempt Part 2 by commenting too much on individual tents, but I will say I am NOT happy with the current Warmlite tents. Details in part 2.

> I happened to "knee" the wife in the chest while spinning around.
I bet that cost you a week or two of grovelling! :-)

> My wife cares not for seeing 'coons or 'porkypines eyes staring at her
Or frogs, or small antechinus, or ... :-)


Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Dome Vs. Tunnel on 04/11/2012 16:40:59 MDT Print View

Hi David,

You said >>>"Hilleberg indicates their dome tents are statically stronger for snow load but that their tunnel tents are better in high winds."

Could you post a web-link where they say this?

All I can find is the following:

"A Hilleberg tunnel tent’s design provides the greatest weight to space ratio."

"A Hilleberg dome tent’s self-supporting or free standing design provides the greatest snow-load handling."

"Tunnel or Dome?" "Our tunnel tents offer lighter weight and more useable space. Our dome tents provide better static load stability because of their crossed-pole structure, and so withstand snow loading better", "using weight as the only criteria is problematic: if you need static strength, a small increase in extra weight is an insignificant price to pay."

Edited by Mountainfitter on 04/11/2012 16:41:38 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Good Article on 04/11/2012 16:50:38 MDT Print View

Hi Lawson

> You talk like Australia and Europe is the land of the worlds harshest weather, best
> equipment, and the worlds smartest people.
Yeah, I'm biased. You know that. At least we don't have the Tea Party here ...

As far as the weather goes, a slightly different matter. The American outdoors market is huge and America does get a lot of dry stable weather in some areas. That means there is a good demand for cheap mass-market tents for fine weather. Nothing the matter with that of course, but we don't have that blessing here. Would we like a guarrantee on fine weather? Too right!

Thing is, I can be camped in our alpine region or in our local mountains at the peak of summer and get sleet, hail or snow with 2 hours notice. So our needs are a bit different.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: tunnel tent on 04/11/2012 17:06:15 MDT Print View

Hi Peter

> Are you going to have it manufactured?
Be very nice, wouldn't it?
I have been approached about this as a result of this articpel. I cannot say anything more at this stage. Will anything come of it? Dunno at this stage. But stay tuned.

> have you ever tested Teepee style tents for wind loading?
Personally tested, no. However:
OP Pyramid
Used by the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) in the Antarctic. However, before you get too excited, I had better mention that the 4 poles are something like 4" aluminium tubing, while the guy ropes are something like 6 mm accessory cord. They carry it on a sled.
The problem is that the light ones can lose floor space when the wind flattens the side a bit.