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Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions?
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/04/2005 00:09:35 MDT Print View

Think: steady winds in excess of 30 mph, lots of snow or sideways blowing rain, above treeline or otherwise exposed. Do you reeeeeally need a Bomber Tent? Whether your answer is yes or no, what's your response to proposing a camping kit - be it tent, tarp, or other - for ultra-foul conditions? Companion forum thread to the Bomber Tents Review.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/04/2005 02:07:35 MDT Print View

No experience in this area. Let me put my ignorance of these matters on display with the following question.

Can an ID eVENT Unishelter (31oz) be used in these conditions? Why, or Why not? I like this shelter for winter in New England. Haven't used it yet on any exposed eastern mtn. tops (merely "hills"/foothills to you out west - though winds/weather on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is supposed to rival the tallest peaks of the Himalayas).

I'm thinking low profile to wind. The bivy can be staked down with several stakes so it doesn't blow away in the high wind. Great WPB eVENT fabric to help minimize the condensation possible due to the conditions (precip+no wind) & the small internal air volume, and to keep the moisture outside, ...outside. Rigid, bent, sectioned-hooped Pole (not merely a bendable wire) in head area to keep snow from pressing the bivy against one's face. However, must keep the one stake req'd for longitudinal pole support staked well in the high winds.

However, do I really want 2' to 4' of overnight snowfall [can y'all out West in the Rockies get 6' overnight???] on top of me by morning? Will the fabric in the body section be flapping too much, unless it's volume is filled with a cold weather bag? [I can sleep through most anything, esp. if I'm "whipped" from a day of hard trekking. So, guaranteed, I won't wake up periodically to clear snow off of the bivy. Oh...and any flapping won't wake me either.]

Now, I know that I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, so, what other points, pro or con, am I missing here?

If the eVENT 'Uni' is not appropriate for use in these conditions, what about the ID Sola (ok...difficult to get into) and/or MegaSola (a bit on the heavy side for what you get)? [too bad both of these can't be considered bivies, & then made of eVENT to save a bit of wt - prob a 6oz to 12oz "guesstimate", based upon a loose cp. b/t the Unishelter & the eVENT Unishelter.]

I'd be interested in knowing more. Anyone care to enlighten me on any/all of these questions/issues, please?

[Note: These questions are not intended to "question" the four choices in a recent BPL on-line Review Ariticle. They are just for my own information.]

Edited by pj on 08/04/2005 04:05:50 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Why no tunnels? on 08/04/2005 05:00:02 MDT Print View

I note all the tents reviewed are domes. Now domes are NOT as stable as tunnels under really bad weather, nor are they as weatherproof. Why are there no tunnels included? Does no-one in America make decent tunnels these days?

(See the top of http://www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/FAQ_Shelter.htm and the second row of http://www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/FAQ_Photos.htm for what a tunnel tent looks like.)

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/04/2005 09:57:34 MDT Print View

My short answer is no. I don't need bomber tent provided the ground isn't solid rock (e.g. I can drive stakes into the ground). I have been using a GG Spinshelter for around seven months. I have had a number of trips which I was exposed to 30+ mph winds, sideblown wind. I was find. Of course there was some condensation that dripped on me, but it was very minor.

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
Jim on 08/04/2005 13:04:14 MDT Print View

Have used a Golite Hex this past winter during some downright severe weather in NH Presidentials, Stood up fine to 35-50mph gusts and heavy snow fall, had a few stakes come undone during the night but was impressed by the overall perfomance of this lightweight tent.

Larry Smith
(7633) - F
Re: Jim on 08/04/2005 19:30:27 MDT Print View

What about Stephensons Warmlite. The original superlite gear. Had one of their tents for years. Bombproof, lighter than any of these reviewed, actually made in the USA. Easy to pitch. Cutting edge in the 1960s and I'd say it still is cutting edge.

Dan Healy
(electricpanda)

Locale: Queensland
Re: Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/04/2005 20:06:36 MDT Print View

I’m with Jim… we also use a Hex 3 in conjunction with BMW bivys for alpine/bad weather trips … the space is luxurious for cooking in. The headroom is truly magnificent – changing clothes is too easy and you don’t have the damp gear in the attic in your face.. The condensation that forms when it is pegged to the ground in bad weather is not really an issue because the thing is so big you do not get to touch the lower sides anyway. With the conical shape, it is amazing how much the wind is shed from any direction, though you do get a bit of blown rain spray through the vents at the top. Because the Hex is so big and requires 11 pegs for a good pitch, finding campsites is sometimes a juggle. The Hex is also versatile. We have used it in heavy constant rain in a tropical rainforest to cold windy sleet at 3000m in the French Alps - this thing rocks!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Warmlite on 08/04/2005 20:06:47 MDT Print View

can't really speak for BPL, but three points worth considering.

1) if i understood the article correctly, there might be at least one more article (and reviews) in the "series" (not sure if this referred to the current "series" of four shelters, or if to a "series"of articles on this subject). Since this one dealt with some freestanding shelters, perhaps another article will cover some non-freestanding ones?

2) often a mfr must submit a sample to be reviewed - and then, not request that it is returned & hold the reviewers responsible for any possible damage to the product. not sure if/how this applies to BPL review policies in this case.

3) the article mentioned "new" shelters. some popular shelters wouldn't qualify, solely on this basis.

Dan Healy
(electricpanda)

Locale: Queensland
Re: Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/04/2005 20:09:04 MDT Print View

Paul re the ID Unishelter, from experience, 8inches of snow on an unsupported bivy end is very cold! (how about a 3 pole bivy like the Bibler Tripod?) and I certainly wouldn’t want to spend a night and day in one when the weather turns really bad… like the folks in Patagonia had to…

Dan Healy
(electricpanda)

Locale: Queensland
re Why no tunnels? on 08/04/2005 20:39:55 MDT Print View

Roger, as a fellow Aussie I have read your first rate articles. I also own a tunnel tent – the excellent Wilderness Equipment First Arrow – but I would certainly like to see any data you have that supports the idea that the large amounts of unsupported fabric on a tunnel tent makes them more stable/weather proof as opposed to good 4 pole design like the Bibler Fitzroy. Or are you comparing them to the cheaper types that really are more about being free standing rather than weather resistant? One of the advantages of tents like the WE or Macpac range is the quality of the fabric and design – they punch above their weight. But all things being equal, a good interlocking pole design with less unsupported fabric at the same tension must surely be stronger.
I know I only got my engineering degree from Melbourne (and it is not civil or mechanical!) and you Sydney chaps are sometimes more informed ;) but if you have any data on this would you mind sharing!

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
some explanations on 08/05/2005 00:12:58 MDT Print View

Hello everyone- I'm Doug Johnson and I put this release together. I'd be happy to explain a few things that you've found here:

1) You aren't seeing bivy shelters because we tried to focus on 2-person tents that could handle the worst conditions- high winds, sustained heavy snow loads, and the possible need to cook and live inside for extended. However, there are certainly bivies and solo shelters that could survive serious winter conditions.

2) I hear you on the missing Stephenson's tents Larry- I've been trying to get one of those to review for years! Not all companies participate. Then again, tunnel tents just won't stand up to heavy snow loads like a tent with interlocked poles. I love my Hilleberg tunnel tent but its flat roofline means that it won't shed snow like a 2, 3, or 4 pole interlocked design.

3) Like Paul said, you will also notice many missing ultralight bomber tents from this release such as the single wall Integral Designs and Bibler tents. For this release, we chose to focus on a smaller amount of great new designs. Of course, that doesn't discount other excellent designs on the market.

4) Re: the Hex. Yes- great tent. I've spent several nights in a similar BD Mega Light and it's been great. Then again, there are few who would pitch one of these on top of Rainier or high in the Himalayas. That's more of the focus of this release- tents that can survive the absolute worst. For a review of the Hex and other floorless shelters that are great for most winter conditions, check this out:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00174.html
The MSR Twin Peaks fits this too and its review can be found here:
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/msr_twin_peaks_shelter_review.html

Thanks everyone- good questions!
Doug Johnson
Shelter Systems Editor

Edited by djohnson on 08/05/2005 00:16:26 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
to Dan, re: bivy response on 08/05/2005 03:28:47 MDT Print View

Thanks for responding. Good info. Appreciate it.

Bibler Tripod - don't know why I didn't consider it.

Ingress/egress much easier than Sola & somewhat lighter too. Much lighter than MegaSola - though smaller.

thanks again.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re tunnels, and strength on 08/08/2005 22:43:21 MDT Print View

Dan
The WE 1st and 2nd Arrow tents are not bad, as long as you get the wind drection right. The classic tunnel for extreme conditions is imho the (old) Macpac Olympus. I know the Olympus has been tested to over 100 kph many years ago. It has also been used around the world under all sorts of extreme conditions.
Why is a tunnel more stable than a dome? Because the poles in a tunnel are much shorter than in a dome. The shorter the pole, the stronger it is.
Also, many domes (no, not all) have the poles separate from the fly. You just throw the fly over the top.This means the poles can move relative to the fly, go into an S-bend, and the tent can collapse. In a proper tunnel tent the poles are threaded INTO the fly. They canNOT twist. Sure, some may say that makes such a tunnel a bit harder to pitch than a pop-up dome. True - but I am far more concerned with spending a comfortable confident night than with a few minutes of 'convenience'.
The reason dome makers stress the 'crossed poles' is because poles which are not anchored togather at the top really are bendy and can collapse.
I don't agree that a tunnel has long sections of unsupported fabric: far from it. I do agree that some tunnels have an unfortunate flat top: that's because they are trying to use a straight pole rather than put a bend at the top. The bend makes the roof shed rain and snow far better.
I've made many versions of both designs, and used them under gale-force conditions. I trust my tunnels.
Cheers

Nikolas Andersen
(nsandersen) - MLife
Re: re Why no tunnels? on 08/09/2005 15:04:59 MDT Print View

Some veterans on the nice (but not ultralite) UK site http://www.outdoorsmagic.com claim that tunnels flex better than geodesic domes, giving way temporarily to the worst gusts and then flexing back up again when the wind settles down a bit. I am unfortunately not an engineer either, so wouldn't know how much merit that holds.

A really nice (but UK, admittedly) tent brand is Lightwave (http://www.lightwave.uk.com/) -eg. they have a 2-pole double-skin 1-person tunnel at 1.3kg. It does unfortunately have a flat top.

Their customer service has a very good reputation, it might be possible to persuade them to let this site test their tents.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Bivys and Cooking on 08/09/2005 19:57:39 MDT Print View

Paul, Ryan recently made a post on another bpl thread praising the ID Unishelter bivy. Check out
www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/xdpy/forum_thread/991/index.html?mv_session_id=nrgjblym&mv_pc=198&skip_to_post=6071#6071

Though I've never tried it, it seems like with a few tricks, a hooped bivy might be a workable way to go ultralight in extreme conditions. Like Dan suggested, I guess you'd have to deal with snow accumulation somehow.

But, what I'm really wondering is, how do you melt snow or cook during a storm if your sole shelter is a bivy sack? Any of you mountaineering bivy users have any tips to share?

Edited by MikeMartin on 08/09/2005 21:18:52 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Bivys and Cooking on 08/09/2005 21:15:40 MDT Print View

Michael,

Many thanks for taking the time to reply. I haven't spent extended days out during the winter. I was just curious if my current overnight winter shelter would work for longer winter treks - even below treeline.

Snow is melted outside the bivy for drinking. Cooking is often not necessary as I often just eat GORP for several days + a multi-vitamin & mineral supplement.

Edited by pj on 08/13/2005 16:44:38 MDT.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/13/2005 16:24:02 MDT Print View

Having backpacked over 200 Munros in one of the worst summers on record (1986) as well as gaining experience in Iceland and New Zealand, I feel that this is a bit of a specialist subject. So the first thing to ask is what do you consider ultra-foul? I mean, if the wind is above 10 metres/second the midges won't be biting and rain always sounds worse on the flysheet than it really is. Modern waterproofs almost negate rain.

Today's 12 miler round Snaefell took place in windy but humid conditions. Humidity means sweat and a major challenge for clothing. Humidity also stops the ground from drying out, a major challenge for groundsheets. And if the wind drops on a humid day, the backpacker is in big trouble from biting insects. However, my nightmare walking condition is extreme heat. Ultralight is the only possible solution.

Edited by JNDavis on 08/13/2005 16:24:51 MDT.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 08/31/2005 08:19:39 MDT Print View

Tarps can be very comfortable in foul weather. Mine has beaks. I use one to block off the windward end and pitch the other end of the tarp high, with the beak horizontal, so that I can sit and drink tea as the rain is hurled past. The only real ultralight compromise is using a bigger tarp than the one Carol used in her Uintas trip.

In medium wind strengths my tarp flaps quite badly, far worse than a hooped tent, but there is the certain knowledge that an increase in wind strength would only pull pegs. The tarp and trekking poles are not going to break. Backpackers in latest generation tents don't have that comfort. Hoops definitely do break (although I admit that the BBC said wind speeds had reached 90 mph when my Tadpole's front hoop broke).

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 09/06/2005 13:09:25 MDT Print View

Hmmm, I seem to be the only person enjoying this thread, but walking through the storm has some sort of appeal - don't want to speculate what - so here goes for another post.

We know what ultralight is because Ryan has given us a definition, but what is ultra-foul?

In the 1986 walk mentioned elsewhere I was wet to the skin on 23 consecutive days, including the day of my final Munro in round one. But, I was used to it and never felt uncomfortable till the water reached my groin. That is most definitely not my attitude today, so one of the aspects of ultra-foul lies in recent experience.

Another aspect of ultra-foul concerns the kit selected. I cannot help feeling that some of Ryan's gear choices for his Lost Coast trip meant that he experienced more discomfort than he would have with slightly heavier kit. Nokian Trimmis, waterproof trousers and a Cave 1 would not have made the load unbearable and would have kept him both warmer and drier. (Ryan seemed to feel fairly happy with his kit in his summary.)

So if attitude and gear selection influence our definition of ultra-foul, perhaps ultra-foul just means we've gone too far with the kit we've got. That can happen with any approach to backpacking, not just ultralight.

Do we experience more ultra-foul days with ultralight kit? Perhaps, but ultralight kit also makes it easier to clear out to a more sheltered area.

T. Sedlak
(busotti) - F
Hilleberg Unna on 04/26/2006 16:47:33 MDT Print View

Hilleberg makes a number of non-tunnel tents.

Unna specs: $400
4 lbs (64 oz) with 27 sq. ft. area,
40 inches tall, 2 interlocking poles. Sized on the threshold for 1-2 persons.

Edited by busotti on 06/22/2007 09:41:02 MDT.