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Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Review on 04/11/2012 17:13:02 MDT Print View

Hi Sean

Yes, good tunnels tend to be expensive. Unfortunate. I know the Firstlight is cheap and light, but given a bent pole the first night, what about the rest of the week?

> a question: amongst all the 2-person tube tent makers, which make/model is your favorite?
Answered in Part 2!
More seriously, selecting a 'best' tent is something I refuse to do because it depends so much on what criteria you have. Some of the tents listed in Part 2 are cheaper than others; some are more robust against novices; some are more storm-resistent, and some are more roomy.
See Part 2.

Cheers

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Debate on 04/11/2012 18:14:44 MDT Print View

I love a good Debate, Especially when it doesn't get personal : ) You said>>"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."

My reply is where is all this dry stable weather? In the Southwest were less then 5% of the population lives? The rest of the people in America live where there is plenty of rain, snow, wind and cold weather..

The reason there is a such a demand for cheap mass market tents has nothing to do with weather patterns and everything to do with our Walmart Society.. Not cutthroat capitalism, but more so greed. The big Corporations are greedy and want to make as much profit as possible, so they use substandard materials, child labor, and pollute the crap out of the environment. You would think a majority of American shoppers would care, but they don't because they are greedy too. They don't want to get off their wallets.. They blame having no money but what they don't realize is by buying these lower quality and lower priced things, the only demand they are creating is for more cheap labor and more inferior products..

WV Hiker
(vdeal)

Locale: West Virginia
Different needs???? on 04/11/2012 18:27:54 MDT Print View

Roger said:

"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."

Well Roger, I can be camped in certain parts of the Appalachians and have sleet, hail, torrential downpours and the occasional snow along with 60+ mph winds in the summer also. Nothing unusual there and I suspect several people on this forum have been in similar situations. I've run through all of these scenarios in dome tents, tipi tents and yes even a tunnel tent (Hilleberg) with nary a problem. Now, these haven't been cheap shelters which is what you seem to assume that the majority of US backpackers use. This is disingenuous and potentially offensive. I look for unbiased (or at least as much as possible) articles on BPL and lately some have been lacking in that department. Many of us have been backpacking for decades and have tried lots of gear. All I want is the facts, not some incorrect commentary on how the US is seemingly blessed with blue-bird skies all the time and we don't need serious gear.

Edited by vdeal on 04/11/2012 18:29:34 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Different needs???? on 04/11/2012 18:35:35 MDT Print View

I have experienced wind, rain, hail, snow flurries and more rain in a 45 mile stretch in an hour and a half drive to the trailhead where it was sunny. Got 45 mph gusts later that night. We get 60 to 100 inches of rain here as well. Has Roger ever traveled in the US?

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching on 04/11/2012 18:55:07 MDT Print View

Congratulations Roger. You seem to have found a way to unite America. Have you considered running for office?:).

Jane Howe
(janeclimber) - MLife
My experience of using Integral Designs MKXL1 and Warmlite C2 in Alpine conditions on 04/11/2012 19:01:10 MDT Print View

This reply comments Sean D's comments.

I had an Integral Designs MK1XL and used on Mt. Rainier when it had 60mph gusty wind. The MK1XL did fine. I also used a Warmlite's C2 right below the Chasm Lake near Long's Peak when the wind gust was about 60-70mph. I would say that under the same wind speed, the Warmlite C2 gave me less worry. Stevenson said that his Warmlite can withstand 160mph wind.

After the comparison, I sold the MK1XL and bought a BD light because it is about 2lbs lighter. A free-standing dome design does have its place on mountains. For alpinists who go light and fast, we do NOT climb if the weather gets too bad.

Alister R Barnes
(ARB)

Locale: Piha
Free standing tents on 04/11/2012 19:11:12 MDT Print View

Years ago, I was on a beach on the Napali Coast, Kauai. Two free standing domes had been erected on the sand. A woman was asleep in one. The day was calm, then a moderate gust of wind came, and bowled tent complete with woman about 50 metres until it fell in the sea. The woman was bruised and shaken, but the tent poles all broke. The second dome had been pegged down with sticks of driftwood, and did not move. Since then I have not considered free-standing an advantage.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Flimsy Pop-Ups on 04/11/2012 19:15:40 MDT Print View

You said: ā€œā€¦ some debate as to whether I was being too harsh in my comparisons between tunnels and pop-ups, especially as the pop-ups are sometimes lighter. I make no apologies here for my hardline approach to this subject.ā€
Iā€™m sure that the following hiking trip was far too easy and under conditions far less extreme than those you experience every day, but in their book describing their award-winning climb of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, Vince Anderson and Steve House have a great photo of a Black Diamond Firstlight perched on a teeny-tiny ledge thousands of feet above the valley. Of course, a flimsy pop-up like that could never withstand the howling winds and extreme cold of Australia, the coldest and windiest place on Earth. P.S. Double-poling of pop-up tents is often very easy and very effective.

Edited by RobertM2S on 04/11/2012 19:27:31 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
trends on 04/11/2012 19:19:03 MDT Print View

What's with all the BPL articles lately with the snarky, opinionated, insulting tones about them?

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Debate on 04/11/2012 19:19:30 MDT Print View

""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."

Roger wrote "in some areas", not everywhere. I think he is right. A lot of California, unless you get into the mountains,along the northern coast or some deserts, has weather that is quite stable. California is a market for cheap tents. Not here on BPL, but I see plenty of them and I see nothing wrong with buying and using them for the most typical kind of camping that is done here.
The above comment seems pretty straightforward and true enough to me.

Edited by Kat_P on 04/11/2012 19:32:19 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Debate on 04/11/2012 19:20:09 MDT Print View

Hi Lawson, WV, Ken and all

> where is all this dry stable weather? In the Southwest ...?
Well, lots of trip reports talk about the endless fine weather. Maybe I am just jealous? That said, I have also seen muttered comments about the north (Appalachians etc) where it is wetter.

> demand for cheap mass market tents has nothing to do with weather patterns and
> everything to do with our Walmart Society.
You said it, not me. :-) (I have to agree though.)

> I look for unbiased (or at least as much as possible) articles on BPL and lately some
> have been lacking in that department.
Yeah, but 100% sterile articles with no biases gets boring - no? And I did warn, right at the start, that I would express some personal opinions in this article.

I wonder what the difference is between bias and experience?

Cheers

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: trends on 04/11/2012 19:23:50 MDT Print View

Maybe I should just read the reviews, I guess.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Flimsy Pop-Ups on 04/11/2012 19:45:19 MDT Print View

Hi Robert

It is worth looking at the example you have quoted (Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat) a bit more carefully.

First of all, with a tent on a little ledge on a big face you may not get such extreme winds. The air speed at the surface of the rock is zero, and all the lumps and bumps decorating the face will slow the wind down a fair bit within a metre or so of the rock surface. This is very different from an open snow field or a high saddle.

Second, it is hard enough getting enough space to lie down on some of those big faces: finding enough room for a decent tunnel tent might be a bit out of the question. You would not try to use one of the large heavy 3-4 man geodesics you find on the South Col on a big face either. You pick the appropriate shelter for the conditions.

Third, comparing what two extreme alpinists doing a face route on Nanga Parbat will accept from a bivouac shelter for the night with what a walker might want from a tent for a week-long holiday walk with his wife(/partner) in the mountains seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Cheers

Kerri Larkin
(Bumper) - MLife

Locale: Coffs Harbour
Tunnel Tents on 04/11/2012 20:40:30 MDT Print View

Brilliant! Bring on the opinions and facts - it's great to get expert advice from someone who's used them all. Thanks for a wonderful article mate. As always, I enjoyed it immensely and will be looking for a tunnel tent in the near future. You talked me in to it with some great arguments. Well done!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report on 04/11/2012 21:26:23 MDT Print View

Roger, we do get plenty of bad weather in the US! Try visiting Wyoming's Wind River Range sometime. You're mostly above timberline, often with daily thunderstorms, high winds, occasional snow. If you're lucky you can shelter behind some krummholz or perhaps a few boulders, but most of the time you are out in the open. Unlike many other places along the Continental Divide, it's often not possible to drop down to timberline to camp, and because of bark beetle infestation you usually have to camp in the open even below timberline. The Wind River (which flows from these mountains) was not so named for its peaceful zephyrs! The Winds are a truly beautiful place, but you have to pay the price!

Because most people in the US have really short vacations, they check the weather forecasts and aren't out for long periods in bad weather. That may be why you see trip reports with good weather.

Even out here in relatively mild western Oregon, we get high winds out of the Columbia River Gorge due to air pressure differences between the east and west ends (it's often high pressure at one end and low pressure at the other). Fortunately, the worst of the winds are in the winter when most of us are not camping. At least one winter since I've lived here, the winds got up to 90 mph (145 kph) and blew down a lot of billboards along the nearby highway!

If something that we can buy comes out of the commercial interest in your own tent, it will be anxiously awaited!

Re clips vs. sleeves--at least one US tent designer (Sierra Designs) went from sleeves to clips for its most popular tent (Flashlight) in the early 1990's because it was so much easier to clip the inner to the poles than to thread the poles through the sleeves. I suspect the popularity of the Clip Flashlight (which I personally hated for other reasons, especially horrendous condensation problems)) spread to a lot of other tents from the big manufacturers and explains the prevalence of the clip design.

Many people here (on BPL) claim that pyramids are the most wind-resistant....

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/11/2012 21:43:41 MDT.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report on 04/11/2012 22:17:34 MDT Print View

From the Hilleberg catalog. FWIW

TUNNEL OR DOME TENT? Some users simply prefer one type over another, but each has its advantage. Our tunnel tents offer lighter weight and more usable space. Our dome tents provide better static load stability and can be a better choice in tough pitching conditions, but at the price of greater weight.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report on 04/11/2012 22:20:42 MDT Print View

Hi Mary

Yes, I KNOW you can get bad weather in America. But the impression I have got from trip reports and stock lists at the retailers is that most people restrict themselves to fine weather. A frequent comment seen in late Autumn seems to be that walking is now over until late Spring. I can understand that. Obviously, there will be many here at BPL who do not fit that mould.

> much easier to clip the inner to the poles than to thread the poles through the sleeves.
That could be the explanation. Condensation - yeah, with that design.

> the winds got up to 90 mph (145 kph)
Several times we have experienced winds over 150 kph in the mountains. We have been reduced to crawling across the exposed gaps and saddles. Carrying skis under those conditions is ... tricky.

Cheers

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Tunnel Tents on 04/11/2012 22:32:36 MDT Print View

Anyone familiar with Roger should have expected to get some opinion ... comes with the territory.

Oz extending roughly 4000 miles (6400km) by 3000 miles (4800km) I rather doubt that there is such a single thing as "Australian weather" just as there is no such single thing as "American weather" ... just a wide range of extremes in both places.

Perhaps Roger is having a bit of fun "pulling the yank's chains" ... if so, mission accomplished!

But let's strip this article to it's core:

* very strong winds and/or heavy snow loads present challenges that many tent designs handle poorly or not at all
* well designed tunnel tents can handle those conditions well
* not emphasized in the text but obvious from pictures of Roger's winter tent is he feels that a LOT of guy lines are part of being well designed. I think I'm seeing 20 or more on his winter tent.
* well designed geodesic dome tents can rival tunnel tents in this regard ... but with a weight penalty (this IS BPL, after all)
* being able to be setup in a blizzard with 60MPH winds is a highly desirable attribute if you get caught out in changing weather or if your outdoor activities include goals that do not allow you to go home in bad weather.

I can't argue with those points because I don't have the experience sleeping in those conditions but I have been out in snow storms with 40MPH winds and temps below 0F ... was happy to have a heated building to retreat into!

Concerning Vince Anderson and Steve House using a Black Diamond Firstlight on a tenny-weeny ledge on Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face ... well, Hermann Buhl "bivied" overnight standing on a tiny ledge without shelter at 7900 meters without oxygen during the 1953 first ascent of Nanga Parbat ... I don't think that means Vince and Steve carried an unnecessary shelter to their ledge. Both situations mean that on those days they did not encounter conditions that would defeat their gear (or lack thereof) ... does not mean that another day wouldn't have killed them.

Lastly, I'll offer an opinion of my own ... if you wish to be able stay out in the conditions Roger describes you would be wise to 1) listen to a several people who have done a lot of that. 2) Accept that much (most?) of what they say is of value, even when they are not in perfect agreement 3) make intelligent choices of techniques/gear that cover the bases 4) NOT make the leap from mere bad weather to "you might well die" weather in one jump 5) probably most important, rely on your field tested ability to use the "right gear" properly as much or more so that the gear itself.

Here's a simple example of what I'm talking about. I am not fond of bic lighters ... have a terrible time getting them to light ... the wheel and valve lever are just too small for my thumb. SO, I'm a matches guy. But matches have their problems too. NO PROBLEM, I'll use ____ brand storm proof matches! They work great, I don't think they use oxygen ... some other exothermic chemical reaction. You strike the match, it glows for a couple seconds and then bursts into flame that seemingly cannot be extinguished ... perfect!. Two days later, the temp is about 10F, it's snowing and a little windy. I strike a match, it glows for a few seconds and does NOT burst into flame. I try several .. same thing. I open a fresh box that has been tightly wrapped in cellophane ... same thing. Good thing my companion has a lighter! Back home in the driveway two days later the temp is 40F .... every match I strike lights just fine. My theory is that the colder temp keeps the glowing match head from heating up enough to trigger the chemical reaction ... just a theory. The point of the example is that I used something that had a proven track record in certain conditions but later failed in different conditions ... it happens.

edit: Over here a local guy wrote a book titled "Expedition Canoeing" ... chock full of opinions, all the result of decades leading groups "above treeline" (canadian tundra). He's well worth reading but I've never felt that I must do exactly as he says. In fact the book has a long chapter containing "other voices" of people with just as much experience as the author telling how they do things and why their way works for them. There's rarely (never?) just one way but whichever way I choose it is good to be able to say I KNOW that something works for me ... until then I prefer to test things closer to home where my learning experiences don't become problems.

Edited by jcolten on 04/11/2012 22:55:12 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Tunnel Tents on 04/12/2012 00:46:35 MDT Print View

Hi Jim

Me stir the pot? Never! Would I do that? :-)

> a LOT of guy lines are part of being well designed. I think I'm seeing 20 or more
> on his winter tent.
You may have a point there. Yes, guy lines are extremely light and extremely important. Their structural value per gram is enormous. Thanks for raising this!

Not quite 20 though, only 12. There are 4 'double' ones on each side rather than 8 singles. These side guys go from the lower attachment point out to the stake, then back to the upper attachment point, in one continuous length. There is only one adjustment, near the upper attachment.

OK, the 'doubles' are not much different from two singles, except that the double version is faster to install. And for really bad weather, having two guys per pole is better than one, for just an extra few grams. Value per gram.

Cheers
PS: I like your summary.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Weather on 04/12/2012 01:55:17 MDT Print View

An outsiders view. I have been to the US, but not hiked there. The weather was not only pleasant, it was very stable. The forcast appeared to be reliable, even for several days ahead.

The rest of the world is not like this. In Scotland, tomorrows forcast will be more or less right but anything beyond that is guesswork. The weather can change in hours. Case in point: at the end of March we had record breaking 23C. We thought summer had arrived early. 5 days later we had 6" of snow, not forcast until two days before. A party of Belgian school children were caught out in the Cairngorms and had to be rescued by helicopter. You have to be prepared for any weather at all times of year. I have yet to see anyone use tarp here.

Windspeed records? 142MPH at sea level and 173MPH on a 4000ft hill.