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Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy
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John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 18:55:18 MDT Print View

I'm curious as to what other people's shelter philosophy is for continuously wet weather (multiple days of rain or light snow - PNW weather?). My wet weather hiking experience is limited (I live in AZ but am moving to OR in a few months), so I'm looking to learn from those who know best. Three ideas that come to my mind are:

1. Take a single large shelter: this will provide room to live, spread out gear, and cook. Examples: large mid or tarp
2. Take your normal tent + a small tarp: the tarp will provide room to live, spread out gear, and cook, while you can sleep in your normal tent. Examples: tarptent + small cuben or silnylon tarp
3. Take your normal tent: I suppose you can make do with your normal tent and rely on it and a combination of natural shelter for everything else

From what little wet weather hiking I've done, I've found that having a large, floorless shelter makes a big difference. It's nice to have a roomy space to eat and relax in that's not in the rain, particularly if you are out with friends. The vestibules on most tents simply aren't big enough IMO. What works well for you?

Finally, my other question is on the weight of your wet shelter. I got rained on last weekend and had to pack away a wet, soggy tent in the morning (I stayed dry, but I had a fair amount of condensation). When I got home later that afternoon, I decided to weigh my tent which had been in its stuff sack since morning: my 23 oz tent had gained 15 oz. I shook it off pretty well when packing it up, but it seemed the silnylon fabric had absorbed quite a bit of water. This would have been quite the hassle if I'd planned on staying out another night.

I've heard that cuben fiber does not have this problem and the water can be mostly shook off. Has any one verified this? In addition to avoiding sag, this trait might actually make cuben seem worth the price.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 19:00:23 MDT Print View

"In addition to avoiding sag, this trait might actually make cuben seem worth the price."

Those two were the clinchers for me.
A one-time tight pitch and a quick pre-pack shake are pretty nice.
Ain't going back.

Edited by greg23 on 06/25/2013 19:00:53 MDT.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy" on 06/25/2013 19:01:39 MDT Print View

If it were me and I were expecting consistently wet weather, it'd be my normal tent and a large silnylon tarp (Cuben is out of my price range). I've got a 10x12 silnylon tarp that weighs about 2 lbs. Not light. But it would cover a nice sized area outside the tent for cooking, lounging, etc. I'd probably pitch the tarp first, then pitch my tent while under the tarp and move it after it was up to one edge of the tarp (with the tent entrance remaining under the tarp) and stake it down.

Edited by EagleRiverDee on 06/25/2013 19:02:31 MDT.

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
RE: wet weather shelter on 06/25/2013 19:38:10 MDT Print View

Through experience I have learned that 45 degree walls are the best in rain, the more momentum the water gains and flows away from your shelter, I'm a fan of Mids. Also I will bring an extra 10' X 5-12' tarp to pitch in front of the tent for down time, and to cover the door of the mid.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 20:17:34 MDT Print View

Im in the tent and a tarp camp. Obviously heavier- but hanging out, and cooking in the rain just soaks your clothes. Hanging out and cooking in the tent is depressing.

Hammocks really shine here for the same reason, a place to hang out (no pun intended) and often the ground is saturated and/ or hilly/ rocky. Hammocks trump all that. Also, there is usually no shortage of trees.

I tent with my wife. I hammock with my buddies.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 20:24:44 MDT Print View

In a forested area sheltered from the wind, a tarp is nice. Pitch it high and wide.
An extra large ground cloth is also good for keeping all of your gear dry and clean.

If you want you can build a fire in front of your tarp and keep warm and dry clothes while protected from the rain. You can't do that with a tent.

Edited by justin_baker on 06/25/2013 20:28:15 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 20:42:10 MDT Print View

That is not my experience with cuben fiber. I have a fairly new Hexamid Twin. Second night in it was in a light rain storm. There were a ton of water droplets hanging on my shelter. I removed most of the water with a microfiber towel and had to wring it out few times. If I had to guess there was between 8 and a little under 16oz of water on my shelter.

Tarps never cease to amaze me. I was hiking last fall where it rained for the three days and the temperatures were hovering at 40*. We set up a basecamp and I hung a 9x9 tarp almost 5' off the ground with zero pitch so we could have a relatively dry place to hang out and dispose of beer. It provided enough shelter from the rain (no wind) that I could of slept under it no problem.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 06/25/2013 20:42:55 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 21:02:46 MDT Print View

I've spent many rainy PNW days in floorless mid

Need 60 inch head room to move around a little

Enough floor area for sleeping bag plus some gear

As long as it's not too windy I like to leave door mostly open to watch rain

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
wet weather shelter on 06/25/2013 21:12:30 MDT Print View

A big mid with plenty of space for wet gear. Add a wood stove for day temps below 45 or so.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Re: Hexamid moisture absorption on 06/25/2013 21:36:28 MDT Print View


Your post addressed a serious concern I have with the Hexamid series of tents, namely the mesh absorbing lots of water due to rain or wet grass. Was most of the water weight in the mesh or on the cuben? And is there an easy way to set it up to dry, since the mesh is underneath?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Hexamid moisture absorption on 06/25/2013 22:14:08 MDT Print View

I have the tarp only so I don't have any experience with the mesh. I've heard others complain about it so I opted for the S2S nano mosquito net which just arrived. I'm taking it out to the Blue Mountains this weekend to see how it works as a modular system.

But I digress..

I don't think water clings to cuben any better or worse than silnylon but this shelter is still new to me and my first cuben fiber investment.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/25/2013 22:29:30 MDT Print View

Out of the 15 or so tents I have if I expected a lot of rain and particularly some downtime, I would take the TT StratoSpire II.
Reason is that at 1.1kg it gives me a lot of protected space (the floor area covers 4x20" mats) , I can set it up in the rain keeping the inner dry , I have plenty of space to cook under it (we don't have bears...) and I can leave one or more door panels open .
When packing up I can remove the inner , pack everything into the backpack , then get out fully dressed, take the fly down, give it a shake and stuff that into the front pocket or under the lid of my pack.
Again all up it is about 1.1 kg (38 oz)
(BTW, if the wind changes direction there is no problem here either...)
SS2 for 1

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/26/2013 05:48:37 MDT Print View

I have used mid's, various shaped and flat tarps and your typical dome style tents.

The typical double wall domes suck in summer rain because you have to keep the fly on in the rain and so feel a bit claustrophobic.

Most mids have an issue with lack of overhang at the door and so there is a tendency to keep it closed. But the height makes up for it.
I have left the zipper open on the Oware Alphamid in the rain as the door is on a vertical(not angled) side).

My favorites for lots of rain and various wind situations are some of the shaped and flat tarps that allow you to vary the pitch. These allow an open highly ventilated pitch when the wind is not an issue, but can be staked tight to the ground in a gale.

Although there is a tendency to think the bigger the better, a small low pitch will deflect wind and wind blown rain better and not flap as much as a big and/or tall pitch. You can then open it up and pitch high when the wind is not an issue.
It can be awesome sleeping under a small open tarp in the rain, unless the wind picks up. If it does, just re-pitch until it passes.

I avoid shelters that are limited in their flexibility.
Some shelters are perfect for average conditions, but let in too much spray and splash in torrential wind blown rain and then can't be pitched high and open on hot summer nights.
Many single wall tarptent style shelters suffer from this and of course the typical dome.
Many may argue that the fly can be removed on a dome shelter in hot weather. But you can't take it off when it rains.
How many times have you seen car campers with a tarp suspended over their dome so they can leave the fly off. This is not practical for backpacking or at least UL backpacking.

John Taylor
(jtaylor) - F - M

Locale: Shenandoah
Tarps are ventilated and dry on 06/26/2013 14:45:05 MDT Print View

I once spent two weeks in the Pine Barrens under a tarp with a bivy sack. The tarp was pitched low and tight during days of continuous rain. I was warm and dry and so was my gear. The only downside was the inability to sit up which was a small unconvience.

Folks I tents did not fare so well. I don't beleive any of them stayed dry during the multiple days of rain. A few were soaked out.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Re: Tarps are ventilated and dry on 06/26/2013 15:28:01 MDT Print View

You are onto something there. A soaked tent - especially with fly and inner - does not vent and does not dry everything feels so damp all the time, and they do not dry out from day to day. At least with a tarp, if you're dry, your not in a constant humid/damp environment. Makes sense and that is my experience, especially from using a Trailstar on very wet ground after what seemed like endless rain late last summer in the Sierras.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/26/2013 16:22:07 MDT Print View

Regarding Cuben vs Silnylon and weight when wet,
My experience shows that water clings slightly more to silnylon and silnylon has a slightly more porous finish and should hold a little more water.
You can see the water bead up and roll off of the cuben material where it tends to spread and cling to silnylon.

I suspect it is only an ounce or two difference at most.

What I do when hiking with a wet shelter is to put the shelter in a mesh outside pocket or strap it to the outside.
If the rain stops, take it out and shake as much water out as I can and put it inside after.

If I see sunlight, I take a break and get all my gear spread out on a rock, tree limbs or a line strung between trees:-)

Kyle Meyer

Locale: Portland, OR
Trailstar for rain on 06/26/2013 16:26:21 MDT Print View

MLD Trailstars are the bee's knees in the rain. Protected space of a shaped tarp with a protected entrance and a view.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Trailstar for rain on 06/26/2013 19:00:54 MDT Print View


I recently picked up a Oookworks Cuben fibre door for the Trailstar, it weighs something stupid like 1.8oz.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/29/2013 19:58:06 MDT Print View

For those of you who use one big tarp (an idea I like), are you concerned about food smells from cooking under it in the rain? This in reference to bears.

I am thinking that boiling water for a freezer-bag meal under a well-ventilated tarp in the rain would not be too much of an issue as long as you still hang your food.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Wet Weather Shelter Philosophy on 06/29/2013 20:34:11 MDT Print View

Bears have incredibly powerful senses of smell, so I would imagine that the trace scents left over from FBC in a well-ventilated tarp would be similar to anything else already on your pack or other gear not hung in a bear bag.

They can easily distinguish between the odors of remnants/traces and actual food. It is inherently more risky, but I doubt it would be substantially different.