Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/26/2007 02:31:14 MDT Print View

I'm still looking carefully at what tent to bring to the Alps this summer. Because of possible wintry conditions I want to get a storm-worthy and enclosed tent. Still I'm stuck between my Akto, a SilShelter that I modified with a TarpTent like pole in the back, my Gatewood Cape, my SpinnShelter, or possibly the Rainbow (though I doubt its ability to handle mountain storms). The Akto is perhaps too heavy, though a superb mountain tent. It also has a huge footprint. The SilShelter is what I'm leaning towards, but it is somewhat a pain to set up and the lack of a floor makes it dodgy on flooded mountain campsites, and condensation can be really bad. The pole and pole sleeve that I added on to the back portion of the shelter, where the SilShelter has had a lot of problems with sagging and unusable foot space, really helps to make the shelter more usable. The Gatewood Cape is what I'd like to bring because I can use it as a daytime shelter when taking lunch breaks, but I just have no experience with it in high mountain winds. The SpinnShelter is the lightest of the lot, but there has been talk of it tearing in high winds. Also when staked down in storm mode the headspace is so low that it is difficult to sit up and comfortably do things like cook or change clothes. The Rainbow is a great tent in many ways, but I'm not at all happy with the door system and am worried about how it performs in high winds. I'd prefer not to spend any more money on new shelters (or any other gear for that matter), but wonder if I should shell out for a good, fully-enclosed, freestanding mountain tent, like the MontBell Mighty Dome or the BD Highlight.

Any advice?

Edited by butuki on 06/26/2007 02:33:57 MDT.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/28/2007 08:43:36 MDT Print View

Hi Miguel,

it will depend on where you are going (and how high) and what you are going to do (and when exactly). I have done a lot of mountaineering and hiking in the European Alps and my favorites for all season camping in the mountains have been floorless shelters. I have survived winter storms in my BD Megamid (albeit with the loss of sleep) and my current favorite is my Tarptent Squall. If you are going to camp high, above 2500mtrs. you can expect some winter conditions when a big storm hits (most of the time they are very predictable) but i won't be the norm.
For years my only shelter was a bivy bag and a big boulder (lot's of them around). With some care you should be able to find a sheltered spot to set up a tent with enough shelter from the wind.
What I would like to say is that with your assortment of tents already at hand I would certainly not buy another tent for summer camping in the Alps.
If you were winter mountaineering or hiking really high in winter a fully enclosed tent would be nice.

If you will be camping on public campgrounds a lot than i would prefer a more fully closed shelter for privacy and getting your gear out of eye sight. But if you are "wild camping" i would prefer a lighter shelter.

Hope this is helpfull. By the way, where are you going?

Jeroen

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/28/2007 09:39:20 MDT Print View

In the summer Dolomites we used a tube tent slit to form
a tarp. Also slept in a couple of caves made by the military.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/28/2007 09:55:32 MDT Print View

Thanks Jeroen. Most likely I will be doing the Walker's Haute Route, depending on how my diabetes condition develops (I've been having inexplicable cramps for the last two weeks). I'll stay on low elevation walks if I just can't handle too much climbing. But hopefully the Walker's Haute Route will be it. If possible I will do as much wild camping as I can, with occasional stays at public camps or camps that the mountain huts allow. A few times, for a bath and some company, I will stay at the huts. I'm leaning toward my modified SilShelter (I added a rear sleeve for a TarpTent Squall-like pole) now with a Vapr bivy for possible snow and storms. If I do take a complete tent I will go with the Akto.

How are insects in the Alps? Anything to worry about? (anything like midges in Sweden, Norway, and Scotland?)

Edited by butuki on 06/28/2007 09:56:19 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/28/2007 11:15:54 MDT Print View

Miguel,
I wouldn't worry to much about insects. I've never had any problems with them in the Alps.

The Walkers Haute Route, now that is a nice walk. I've walked a short bit as part of the Tour du Mont Blanc and it's great. The Haute Route is one of those (many) trips which is on my wishlist although with some variations to the official route. But I think you're going to have a great time.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 01:11:11 MDT Print View

Hi Miguel,

like Tom says, no insects to worry about. I did the Haute Route in June 2006, a bit too early because there was a lot of snow which made some parts inpassable. It is a nice route with incredible views but watch out for the last part, the Europa Weg. It is the worst hike I ever did in the Alps (and I did a lot). It is tricky and downright dangerous in the rain.
If your intinerary is still flexible; have you looked at the Tour de Mont Blanc, in my opinion the best walk in Europe and far superior to the Haute Route. More wilderness and exceptional views....

Edited by jeroenman on 06/29/2007 04:13:00 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 01:57:58 MDT Print View

Since this is my first time to the Alps and I don't really know what one route is better than another I am still very flexible. And with one month to walk I have quite a few options to choose from. I'll take a better look at the Tour de Mont Blanc. I was just worried about going around one mountain and looking just at that mountain all the time. I was hoping to see a variety of terrain and mountains. I can also still consider walking parts of the Via Alpina (I was looking at the section starting in Slovenia and heading through Italy, up into Austria) and the GR50, The only thing that's not flexible is my flight into Zurich. That's already booked. Why do you think the Tour de Mont Blanc is the best walk in Europe? (a walk I also want to do is the Kungsladen in Sweden). If I do do the Tour de Mont Blanc I will have to figure out another place to head to afterwards with the extra time I have.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 05:49:20 MDT Print View

you can do them both because the share some ground, you could combine them into one walk. Then you would have the best high altitude walk in the European Alps.
I did both walks and I think the TMB has a more wilderness feel and less road walking than the HR. Furthermore the Mont Blanc range is so spectacular and you go through 3 countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) and some great camping opportunities. But as I said you could easily link them together...time is on your side. Lot's of opportunities to do all kind of side trips and Chamonix and Zermatt are both worth seeing and staying.

Another favorite of mine is the smaller and more rugged Stubai Hohenweg in Austria....well so much to do.

When are you going, from July 15 to August 15 it will be crowded so (wild)camping will be the way to go. In Switzerland they definitly do not encourage this so you have to be discreet.

On the TMB i met an english couple (we were the only UL hikers on the entire trail), they wrote an story on an internet site - i will try to find the url so you can get an UL feeling about it.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 05:49:20 MDT Print View

with the time you have you could combine the two, they share some ground.

check out this site

http://www.trailjournals.com/journals.cfm?trail=Tour%20du%20Mont%20Blanc&year=2004

when i did the TMB i met an english couple (we were the only UL hikers on the entire trail). The above link is their acount on the TMB in june 2004.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 07:16:05 MDT Print View

Miguel,
I agree with Jeroen that combining the 2 would make a very nice trip.
The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of the most popular trips in Europa so walking alone isn't a guarantee. But the views are fantastic. Don't be mistaken, you don't walk around a single mountain but around a mountain range with Mont Blanc on top but with a number of other mountains which have earned their place in (European) mountaineering history: Grand Jorasse, Dru, ... From the NW (French)side you can almost look into the heart of the range, aspecially if you're watching from the so-called southern balcony above Chamonix. An impressive view on glaciers and snow packed mountains. On the SW (Italian) side, the views are very different with the walls appearing to rise nearly vertically. Above Courmayeur, near the refuge of Le Pré is a lovely spot for camping with a fantastic view to the south face of the Grand Jorasse. A very nice spor to wake up in the morning.
As already said, it's a very popular area, supported by a good hut system so it can be hard at times to find a spot for your own, but if you can take the variations of the normal route, it could be a bit easier. BTW, I prefer the variations above the normal route, more challenging but nicer also.

I don't know the Haute Route as well als the TMB, although I have an idea about the route. There are very nice parts but as Jeroen also noted some paved tracks which I would prefer to avoid.

You could combine both and perhaps even change the route here and there to make it even better. At least the first part of the HR in Switzerland (the Franch part of the HR uses the same paths as the TMB) is something that seems less interesting and personnaly I'm thinking of circumventing this part by following the Tour du Grand Combin in the anticlockwise direction, entering first into Italy and then crossing the border into Switzerland and passing the cabane/refuge the Chanrion. I haven't figured out al the details but you should have some fantastic sights on the glaciers of Swiss Valais/Wallis.

Ofcourse there are other options overthere, Tour de Matterhorn, Tour de Monte Rosa (although I believe you have some short glacier traverses on those tours)

Closer to Zurich, you have the Berner Overland with famous mountains like the Eiger and the biggest glacier in Europe, the Aletch, ...

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 08:33:01 MDT Print View

Jeroen, Haha! How small the world is! Two years ago I read the account by Dave and Michele! It was that account that actually inspired me to try walking in the Alps. I never thought I'd be consulting with the same person whom the two walked with in the account! You are the one with the Black Diamond Megamid, yes? I've often wondered what shelter you would be walking with now.

I will be walking between August 5th and August 28th (arriving on and leaving Zurich on Aug. 4th and Aug 30th), so I will probably be catching the most crowded times. It can't be helped since that is my vacation period. But I don't mind; nothing can be as crowded as the mountains in Japan! It isn't uncommon to see hiking groups of a hundred or more people here, and often each of these groups is only about five minutes apart!!! I just don't like sleeping in mountain huts with all those snoring people. So camping will be important to me.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 08:33:29 MDT Print View

Tom,
I like your suggestions about the possible detours. I should have thought about those earlier....I should go back some time and make one big TMBHR trip.

Miguel,
whatever you will do I am sure you will like what you see. Keep us posted on your final decision and which tent you will bring.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 08:42:34 MDT Print View

Indeed our world seems small. I now use a Tarptent Squall (old model). For me this is a great comprise between a fully enclosed tent and a tarp although i am still tempted to do a high alpine trip with just a tarp (ID Silponcho) and a bivy sack (Oware Epic Silnylon Bivy).

The Megamid on that trip was great, we also used it for cooking and eating for the three of us. Lot's of room but too heavy now to carry for just one person (!)..go lighter.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/29/2007 12:20:42 MDT Print View

Miguel,
If I had a Hilleberg Akto like you do I'd take it. It's THE best all around solo tent I've ever seen and can take a lot of wind, rain and a fair amount of snow.

Eric

Shahrin Bin Shariff
(zzmelayu) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Table Mountain
Re: Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 11/25/2007 06:36:53 MST Print View

Miguel/Jeroen

Since both of you have done the TMB, maybe you can advise me on the same dilemma. I will be going June or July 2008 with my wife and 10-year old daughter. We will mix camping (for same reasons as you) with staying in the huts/refugios (for showers etc)

I have a choice of the TT Rainshadow2 or the Big Agnes Seedhouse3 (Fastfly option).
TT_RS2: lighter, roomier, easier to setup but breezy
BA_S3: more alpine worthy but heavier, smaller

I posted a tread "My wife still too cold" and got some good feedback from the forum. I have sorted out most of the issues like padding, sleeping bag, balaclava, hot water bottle, & food. We field-tested the new setup at sea-level down to 6degC and some sea breeze. The Tarptent RS2 still feels really breezy for her comfort. I am not sure how it will handle an alpine storm at altitude. I am considering getting a bivy for her but that just adds more weight. Any thoughts.

Jeroen Wesselman
(jeroenman) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 11/28/2007 08:02:09 MST Print View

Hello Shahrin,

if going with the three of you i would go for the biggest of you shelters. Personally i think there is not much differnce in breeze control between the TT and the BA without inner tent. During my trip (which was in beginning of june a couple of years ago)i had only one really exposed camping site but with carefull site selection you can offset the draft issues on the TT.

When you go in june there will be more opportunity to use the huts because they will not be crowded yet.
Although the weather can be nasty it can be fairly predictable so you can always go for a hut then as there are quite a few around.

If you have the opportunity i would really recommend june as it is less crowded, you can actually sleep in the huts (if they are open then; do check) and the weather is much more stable than in summer with it's thunderstorms (my experience).

I think it's one of the best (maybe the best) high alpine hikes in Europe and camping makes it even better.

ENJOY.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 11/28/2007 08:35:02 MST Print View

One of the great things about the TMB is that shelter is never really that far away. If the weather is fine, then camping at higher altitudes will be no problem, but if, as the day is rounding into its second half, you find that the weather is getting stormy or cold, then it is an easy matter to decide there whether to continue on to the huts or descend far enough to be safe with your tent. I think the TT would be perfectly fine as long as you don't try to weather an alpine storm in it. And as for it being breezy, for most summer conditions the TT is not bad at all; if you need the extra warmth just find a more protected spot out of the wind. Another suggestion might be to have one big quilt for all of you together... your body warmth should keep you all nice and cozy. That's how the Inuit slept and poor people in northern Europe three hundred years ago.

As Jeroen pointed out you do have to worry about a lot of thunderstorms and, this summer and last at least, there were some pretty heavy snowstorms, too. Keep that in mind. Remember you're trying to get your wife and daughter to LOVE hiking with you in the years to come, not subject them to French mountain torture!

Edited by butuki on 11/28/2007 08:36:00 MST.

Shahrin Bin Shariff
(zzmelayu) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Table Mountain
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 11/29/2007 16:52:22 MST Print View

Miguel/Jeroen
Thank you for your feedback.

Just finished seam sealing the TT.

>>Keep that in mind. Remember you're trying to get your wife and daughter to LOVE hiking with you in the years to come, not subject them to French mountain torture!

>>I think it's one of the best (maybe the best) high alpine hikes in Europe and camping makes it even better.

Absolutely. If I can get them to enjoy this walk, then maybe I can tempt my daughter to go on more walks with me before she grows up and leaves home.

Edited by zzmelayu on 11/29/2007 17:06:08 MST.

Shahrin Bin Shariff
(zzmelayu) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Table Mountain
Re: Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 11/29/2007 17:00:30 MST Print View

>>Jeroen, Haha! How small the world is! Two years ago I read the account by Dave and Michele! It was that account that actually inspired me to try walking in the Alps. I never thought I'd be consulting with the same person whom the two walked with in the account! You are the one with the Black Diamond Megamid, yes?

What a coincidence. Exactly the same reason why I am doing the TMB too. I re-read the journal to make sure Jeroen really was the 3rd person in that party. Small world. ;-))

Edited by zzmelayu on 11/29/2007 17:07:31 MST.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Re: Shelter for the Alps... Hard Time Deciding on 06/15/2010 22:47:46 MDT Print View

Sorry to revive an old thread but my wife and I will most likely be moving to Switzerland in August for 2 years (we find out in 2-3 weeks on the work permit - fingers are crossed!). I am starting to plan for any gear adjustments I'll need to make in case I need to order any gear with longer wait times. The Southeast US is a big difference than the Alps so I'm guessing I'll have to make a couple new purchases.

I wanted to start out by asking what you would recommend for a shelter in the Alps. I currently have a TarpTent Squall 2. From the reading I have done on all the threads and blogs I could find on the Alps it seems as though the TarpTent will work for most situations and up to moderate elevations however if we wanted to camp in higher elevations it might not be substantial enough in the event we encountered a storm.

I'm trying to determine if it would be best to purchase a pyramid type shelter (Shangri-La 3, Duo/Supermid, or Oware Pyramid) to give us more margin and allow us to camp during the shoulder seasons as opposed to just mid-Summer. Also, from what I can tell, bugs do not appear to be much of an issue in the summer so I don't think we'd need a fully enclosed, bug-proof shelter.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!