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Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW

Full three-season (non-bomber) weather protection for one person for only 11.2 ounces including guylines and stakes.


by Will Rietveld | 2005-12-20 03:00:00-07

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW


The Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter is the lightest full-protection one-person shelter on the market. Sure, a spinnaker fabric poncho/tarp is lighter, and doubles as rainwear and pack cover, but it doesn't provide full weather protection.

What's Good

  • Ultralight shelter for one person
  • Catenary ridgeline
  • Quick setup
  • Multiple pitching configurations
  • Two vestibules

What’s Not So Good

  • Limited headroom in standard configuration
  • Much of the floor space is not usable
  • Can be damaged in unexpected strong winds



Gossamer Gear


2005 Spinnshelter


One-person single-wall floorless shelter

  What’s included

Shelter, stuff sack, 50 ft (15 m) of EZC spectra core (275 lb/125 kg tensile strength) line, four base line clips, setup instructions


0.9 oz/yd2 (31 g/m2) high thread count spinnaker cloth, 70d nylon ripstop reinforcements, grosgrain tieout loops


Measured weight of shelter 8.8 oz (249 g), manufacturer’s specification 8.9 oz (252 g); measured weight of complete setup (shelter, base lines, guylines, eight 6-in (15 cm) titanium stakes 11.2 oz (318 cm), manufacturer specification 11.3 oz (320 g)


Length 86 in (218 cm), front width 55 in (140 cm), rear width 38 in (97 cm), front height 40 in (102 cm), rear height 23 in (58 cm)


38.3 ft2 (3.6 m2) total, 27.8 ft2 main shelter, 7.5 ft2 front vestibule, 2.9 ft2 rear vestibule (2.6 m2 + 0.7 m2 + 0.3 m2)


Catenary ridgeline, color coded front and rear grommeted pole connections, 10 stake out loops on sides, 4 stake out loops on ends, 8 inside loops for a clothes line or tent light, or attaching the optional bug canopy


Titanium stakes, aluminum pole set, carbon fiber pole set, bug canopy




The Spinnshelter, as the name implies, is made of 0.9 oz/yd2 high thread count spinnaker cloth. There are a lot of different spinnaker fabrics available, and the trick is to find one that has the right balance of waterproofness, strength, and weight for use in a shelter. Gossamer Gear claims that their Spinnshelter fabric is equal to silnylon in its ability to handle wind stress and rain, with a significant reduction in weight.

In the standard pitch (edges to the ground) the protected area in the Spinnshelter is 38.3 square feet including the vestibules, and 27.8 square feet in the main section. That is as big as many two-person tents. I measured it and checked the math, and the area is there, but frankly it doesn’t seem that big. The angled walls and minimal headroom (40 inches at the entrance) limit the usable space and make it seem much smaller. It feels and functions like a one-person tent. In the raised pitch (three guylines on each side, edges raised above the ground), the Spinnshelter is distinctly roomier, and can provide shelter for two, but in that configuration it functions more like a tarp.

The beauty of the Spinnshelter is its ease of setup and numerous pitching options. One very clever feature is the use of base lines (a thin cord clipped between the corners, one at the front and one at the rear) to set the width of the shelter, making it easy to pitch in the standard configuration (full protection, with edges down to the ground). To pitch, simply lay out the shelter (front and rear ends are color-coded), stake the four corners while stretching out the shelter and base lines, lift the rear peak and attach it to a pole or stick and stake it out, lift the front peak and do the same. The Spinnshelter is designed to utilize trekking poles or sticks found on-site (optional aluminum or carbon fiber poles are available).

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW - 1
For a standard pitch (edges to the ground), the process is to lay out the Spinnshelter and stake the outstretched shelter (top left), then attach hiking poles (or on-site sticks) to raise the front and rear. The result is pup-tent-like shelter with minimal headroom (top right). Alternative pitches include raising the front with the rear staked down (bottom left), or raising both front and rear (bottom right). The latter pitches provide more headroom, but open the sides more like a tarp.

There is a vestibule on each end of the Spinnshelter. Each has two doors with a Velcro attachment in the center. The doors can be pitched fully open, fully closed, one side open, or in a beak configuration. To minimize condensation inside the shelter, it’s best to open the doors as much as the weather and bugs will allow. My favorite configuration is the rear doors completely open (or the top closed to produce a beak), and one front door open for easy entry/exit. To get more air circulation in hot weather the Spinnshelter can be pitched so the sides are raised above the ground. This gives a larger protected area and more headroom. It requires three short guylines on each side and two additional stakes.

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW - 2
Some pitching options for the rear doors include fully closed (top left), creating a rear vestibule; one side open (top right), both doors open (bottom left); or creating a beak (my favorite) with both doors half closed (bottom right).

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW - 3
Some pitching options for the front of the Spinnshelter include completely closed (top left), which creates a large vestibule; one door open (top right); or both doors open (bottom left). My favorite is staking one door beyond the centerline so that the other door is slack enough to easily fasten the Velcro closure when needed (bottom right), or open it up (top right).

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW - 4
Gossamer Gear provides spectra core cord for baselines and tieouts. The baselines at front and rear (top left) set the shelter width, making the standard pitch fast and easy. The front and rear of the ridgeline have grommets for attaching hiking poles (top right). The closure on each end consists of Velcro strips (bottom left). Side guyout loops are grosgrain sewn into the hem; the inside loops are attachment points for an optional bug canopy.

On cool nights during bug season, I closed the doors to keep the bugs out, and did not have any problems with mosquitoes coming in under the edges of the Spinnshelter. However, fully closing a single-wall tent is an invitation for heavy condensation. I opened the doors later in the night when it had cooled off enough to chase the skeeters away. For situations where bugs are a problem all night, Gossamer Gear has a mesh bug canopy available ($19, 3 ounces) that clips to loops inside the shelter. It drapes over the top of your sleeping bag and creates a protected vestibule around your head area. It works quite well, and can be left attached for repeated use during the bug season.

Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW - 5
The bug canopy accessory for the Spinnshelter clips to loops inside the shelter and creates a vestibule around your head area. It has two pockets in the front corners to put a rock (or boot) into to extend the canopy. For exit, the front rolls up and ties at the red loop shown above my head in the photo.

I weathered a number of Rocky Mountain thunderstorms and overnight rains in the Spinnshelter, and it faithfully kept me dry and secure. As recommended by Gossamer Gear, I seam sealed the ridgeline with silicone sealer to ensure there is no leakage through the stitching. At least eight stakes are needed for a pitch secure enough to withstand normal winds (seven if you don’t stake out the rear vestibule). I went to ten stakes during the monsoon season so I could also stake out the middle of each side.

I found the Spinnshelter to be wind stable in “normal” breezy/windy conditions. Its catenary ridgeline helps to obtain a tight pitch and reduce flapping in the wind. The pointed vestibule on each end helps to deflect the wind; it’s a good idea to point the rear of the shelter into the wind. Gossamer Gear recommends the Spinnshelter for sub-alpine use, or alpine use by experienced ultralight backpackers. Our Pacific Northwest Editor found out what that caution means. Camping at timberline, he encountered winds estimated at 45 mph, which resulted in the front pole connection being torn loose. That unfortunate experience indicated the upper limit of the Spinnshelter’s wind stability. In our estimation, the Spinnshelter is adequately strong and wind stable for normal backpacking conditions, assuming it is properly set up and secured, and used as recommended. However, don’t treat it like a bomb shelter, because it’s not.

The condensation situation in the Spinnshelter is the usual drill for a single wall tent. The warm, moist air from your breath hits a cool surface (the tent wall) and produces condensation, just like car windows on a cold day. The trick is to maximize ventilation as much as conditions permit - the more ventilation, the less condensation. It’s best to have both ends of the tent somewhat open so air can circulate throughout. Condensation is unavoidable in some situations (like a rainy night, or a calm/humid night where it cools down later), so it’s a matter of not brushing against the wet tent walls. I frequently packed up the Spinnshelter while wet on both the outside and inside, and carried it in a mesh side pocket of my pack. The following evening it dried out quickly after I set it up.

What’s Unique

The Spinnshelter provides full three-season weather protection for only 11.2 ounces complete with guylines and stakes.

Recommendations for Improvement

Offer a two-person version of the Spinnshelter, and offer more options like a sewn-in floor and no-see-um netting in both ends. This is starting to sound like a Tarptent, but why not borrow a few ideas from Tarptent? To make the Spinnshelter stronger for withstanding wind, sew a strip of grosgrain into the ridgeline seam.


"Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2005-12-20 03:00:00-07.