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Integral Designs MK1Lite eVENT Tent REVIEW

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by Ryan Jordan | 2004-10-10 03:00:00-06

Overview

integral designs mk1 lite event tent - Ryan inside
Here, author Ryan Jordan gets ready to crash after a 22-hour day of late fall alpine ridge walking and climbing in the Montana Beartooth range. The small footprint of the MK1Lite comes in handy, pitching the tent on a 5-foot-by-10-foot rock slab found atop a talus-strewn windy ridge. After a long day, in high winds, and in the dark, the ease of setup of the MK1Lite makes it an outstanding mountain tent. For one person, the MK1Lite provides enough room to brew up a hot pot of tea at the end of the day.

Every once in awhile a product comes along that completely shatters your expectations of how a product can - or at least should be able to - perform in the field. One such product is the Integral Designs MK1Lite eVENT Tent, a 3-pound, single wall, breathable solo tent as capable for backpacking in the wet rainforests of the Washington Olympics as for expedition climbing in Alaska or the Himalayas.

Specifications

• Tent Type

Freestanding single wall with floor

• Fabric Description

Component Description
Canopy 3.1 oz/yd2 (105 g/m2) triple grid ripstop eVENT (waterproof breathable nylon with a tricot backing)
Floor 70d 1.9 oz/yd2 (64 g/m2) waterproof nylon taffeta with 0.5 oz/yd2 (20 g/m2) urethane coating
Vents and window Noseeum mesh (in dual peak vents and door window)

• Weight Full Package

As supplied by manufacturer with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc.

Backpacking Light scale Manufacturer claim
3 lb 9.0 oz (1.62 kg) 3 lb 6.0 oz (1.53 kg)
Components as supplied by manufacturer Backpacking Light measured oz (g)
tent 38.6 (1,204)
7075-E9 aluminum pole set 12.3 (383)
stuff sack 1.9 (59)
6 Easton 7075 aluminum 8" (20 cm) tubular stakes 3.0 (93)
2.2 mm nylon guyline, 40 ft (12 m) 1.2 (37)

• Weight Minimum Package

Includes tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.

Manufacturer supplied Backpacking Light
Includes tent body, poles, and four supplied Easton stakes (2.0 oz/62 g).

4 stakes, 0 ft guyline
Same as Manufacturer's Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes.

Note: Backpacking Light Minimum Weight - 2 lb 14.7 oz (1.32 kg) - with a carbon fiber pole set from Fibraplex (7.1 oz/221 g).

4 stakes, 0 ft guyline
3 lb 4.9 oz (1.50 kg) 3 lb 3.9 oz (1.47 kg)

• Dimensions

  inches centimeters
Width 46 117
Length 82 208
Height 42 107

• Floor Area

Backpacking Light measurement ft2 (m2) Manufacturer's claim ft2 (m2)
26.4 (2.45) 26.2 (2.43)

• Floor Area/Minimum Weight Ratio

0.50 ft2/oz (1.5 m2/kg) using Manufacturer Floor Area and Backpacking Light Minimum Weight.

• MSRP

$530

Features

Ease of Setup

In a storm, there may not be an easier, or quicker, style of tent to set up.

Generally, minimum setup requires that you assemble the two shockcorded poles, insert them into the interior of the tent, and adjust their ends to fit into the four reinforced fabric corners of the tent - the classic mountaineering wedge tent configuration. What makes this style of tent unique is that setup can be accomplished while you are totally inside the tent - and thus, have the ability to remain completely out of a storm while the tent is erected. With practice, we were even able to assemble poles inside the tent and erect the tent without ever setting foot outside. Nine hook and loop tabs on the inside of the tent keep the poles aligned in their most stable configuration, and configuring these requires a few minutes and nimble fingers - the tabs are not mitten friendly

Of course, polishing the pitch requires some "outside time." Although the Integral Designs eVENT MK1Lite Tent is a true freestanding tent, you may want to consider staking at least the four corners in order to maximize usable floor space. If pitching the tent from the inside, consider staking out the corners first. If pitching the tent from the outside, stake out two corners to keep the tent in control, and then stake the remaining two corners after the poles are set.

Two additional side wall stake out points can be used, but short (2-3 feet) guylines are recommended. Staking out the side walls maintains maximum floor space in the interior of the tent.

Four guyline attachment points are present on each of the four corners of the tent, and are recommended for stabilizing the tent in high winds. Four to six feet of guyline length provides the optimal angle for stabilizing the corners.

Thus, in the windiest conditions, the tent can accept up to ten stake points. Most backpackers and temperate climate travelers will find four to six stakes and two short guylines to be more than sufficient, and result in a taut, quick pitch.

Usable Features / Options

The eVENT MK1Lite provides few options:

  • A single 26-inch high door is backed by a small netting window on its upper half for ventilation. The short door makes entry/exit a trick for taller folks (who are not likely to find the 82 inch floor length long enough for their tastes anyway). The vented window in the door is a blessing to improve ventilation in the tent (it effectively serves as an air intake) for frost control in the winter. The door rolls down and can be left open on calm nights when bugs or rain don't threaten - but lack of an awning leaves the doorway unprotected in stormy conditions.
  • Two 8 inch diameter tunnel vents (backed by no-see-um mesh) in the ceiling vent humid air - most effectively if the door window vent is left open as well. The vents can be closed with a drawstring and toggle from inside for spindrift control.
  • Two small mesh pockets (4 x 8 inches) on the inside of the tent provide limited storage space for minor essentials.

Weight/Sizing

integral designs mk1 lite event tent - interior
The interior of the tent is just large enough to lay out two 6-foot-long sleeping bags. Solo users may want to sleep diagonally, although this does not provide as much extra room as one may think. Here, the interior of the tent is shown with a 6-foot sleeping bag arranged diagonally, and a small backpack on the floor at the door end.

With a surface area to weight ratio of 0.5 ft2/oz, this tent is one of the heavier single wall shelters we've reviewed. However, considering that it is the most stormworthy tent in this review series, and that it is suitable for high altitude mountaineering, the area to weight ratio is among the best in its class.

Backpackers and three-season climbers might consider upgrading the poles to a carbon fiber set from Fibraplex, saving more than 5 ounces of tent weight. With four titanium skewer stakes, a carbon fiber pole set, and the MK1Lite body, the weight is only 2 pounds 14.7 ounces, and the surface area to weight ratio becomes 0.57 ft2/oz.

The tent is fairly narrow for two hikers (46 inches) and will be cramped for hikers taller than 5'10". We recommend the Integral Designs eVENT MK1Lite primarily as a solo tent, for use with one adult and small child, or for two mountain climbing companions with an acquired taste for living in close quarters. For those looking for a larger eVent tent, Integral Designs also offers the eVent MK1XL model.

Flexibility of Pitching

None.

Usable Space

With the steepest walls of any tent in this series of reviews, and one of the higher ceilings, the eVENT MK1Lite offers an outstanding ratio of usable space to total space. The ability for a solo hiker to sit up in the tent and conduct normal tasks without rubbing his head on the tent walls offers added livability not found in most solo tents.

While the dimensions of the tent are short (82 inches in length), taller hikers can maximize usable space by sleeping diagonally to avoid their sleeping bag rubbing against the walls of the tent.

Usable Vestibule / Porch

None.

Field Performance

Stability

Stability in wind, and in response to snow loading, is the one of the strongest features of the MK1Lite.

In a recent southwest Montana snowfall that brought a record 100 inches of snow to the mountains in a 72 hour period, we had the tent pitched on a backcountry ski tour in the Bridger range. The MK1Lite was the only tent we used that retained its shape through nights of heavy snowfall without requiring shoveling.

While camped on the Bridger Ridge near Flathead Pass, an area notorious for its consistent high winds (it's the location of BackpackingLight.com's unofficial field testing grounds for shelter wind resistance), the MK1Lite, even with a weaker carbon fiber pole set, was easily able to withstand gusts up to 60 mph without structural deformation of the shelter. No other tent in this review series could make that claim, including another wedge tent by a different manufacturer.

Storm Protection

This tent is one of the most stormworthy 3 pound shelters we've used. Out of the box, some polyurethane sealer is required to touch up stitching through the eVENT fabric where the interior hook and loop pole loops are sewn through the fabric, but the rest of the tent is seam sealed.

In the worst conditions, all doors and vents can be cinched shut, effectively sealing out spindrift, wind, and rain without sacrificing a significant amount of condensation resistance (see below).

The tent's only limitation is its lack of a vestibule and we hope that Integral Designs provides a simple, lightweight vestibule option for the tent that at least allows for a more protected entry. Our wish: a small awning that provides 12-16 inches of door protection that can be staked out with a single tent stake to the front of the tent.

Ventilation / Condensation Resistance

integral designs mk1 lite event tent - vent
Two tunnel vents adorn the ceiling of the tent. Ventilation is controlled by adjusting a drawstring from the inside of the tent, effectively working like a stuff sack to close off the no-see-um mesh end of the vent.
integral designs mk1 lite event tent - door
The 26-inch high door is fully backed by an eVENT fabric panel, with a small no-see-um mesh window on the upper part of the door panel, facing the outside. This configuration has unique advantages over conventional mesh-inner/fabric-outer doors, in that ventilation can be completely controlled from the inside, rather than having to unzip an inner mesh window prior to adjusting an outer fabric door.

eVENT fabric is not magic. In very cold conditions, interior humidity will cause frost buildup on the interior of the tent walls. Of course, we've yet to experience subzero conditions where this did not occur to some extent on every breathable fabric tent we've tried, including the Epic tents from Black Diamond.

However, the eVENT offers significant advantages over other waterproof breathable fabrics such as Tegral-Tex (Integral Designs), Todd-Tex (Bibler), Gore-Tex, and Epic (Black Diamond), in that the climatic range for which condensation does not occur when all vents are closed is significantly broader. Based on side by side comparisons of eVENT and Epic tents, where boiling a small cup of water inside the tent created an atmosphere of 100% humidity, we noticed significantly less condensation on the interior of the eVENT tent than on the interior of an Epic tent, when the outside air temperature was 20 degrees and calm.

Insect Protection

The Integral Designs eVENT MK1Lite Tent is not my first choice of shelters for warm, buggy conditions. I'd rather camp under a tarp, or in an ultralight single wall shelter. However, situations may arise when you want the full weather protection of a tent like this, with the possibility of encountering swarms of gnats or mosquitoes above the treeline as you await a summit attempt.

To that end, this tent offers a mixed bag of features for those seeking refuge from bugs.

Its strength is that there is plenty of interior space for most solo hikers to remain comfortable (but it's so small for two people that spending any length of time in the tent with a partner may drive you both to relational insanity). Its primary weakness is its lack of ventilation. A tiny door window and two small ceiling vents are not enough to promote a cool mountain breeze through the tent when you are inside, baking away in the heat of midday.

Durability Field Observations

A 3.1-oz/yd2 fabric, simple construction, ease of setup, and bomber structural design make the Integral Designs eVENT MK1Lite Tent a durability champ. The floor is sturdy enough for long term use by reasonably careful hikers, but if you consistently camp on sharp gravel, you might consider the non-eVENT MK1, which offers an option for a more durable floor.

If using the carbon fiber pole set from Fibraplex, some care must be taken while setting up the tent, and pitching from the inside is nearly impossible without overstressing the carbon poles. With the 7075-E9 aluminum pole set provided by Integral Designs, there should be no durability issues and the risk of breaking a pole or ferrule during setup is minimal.

Value

At $530, you won't find the Integral Designs eVENT MK1Lite sitting at the bottom of too many bargain bins. And, if you calculate the cost/weight, cost/area, cost/height, or cost/anything ratios for this tent, it's going to come up short.

It's value can be measured more effectively in terms of the qualities adored by mountaineers and cold-region backpackers: simplicity, breathability, durability, and storm protection. You certainly pay for what you get, but in this case, you get what you pay for and once sticker shock has subsided, you'll probably be pleased as punch for quite some time.

Recommendations for Improvement

I don't think I'd change anything about the current design. I'd like to see the option for an ultra-minimialist awning/psuedo-vestibule to be added to the front door, and I think it's important for Integral Designs to extend their normal tent options (choice in number of peak vents, size and number of doors, and choice of floor fabrics) to the eVENT MK1Lite model. An eVENT MK1Lite with dual large doors, dual vents, and dual vestibules would still likely remain less than four pounds yet provide that much additional comfort for two people. An eVENT MK1Lite with a durable floor, single large door, and single awning may serve the solo hiker with enough flexibility to last a lifetime. Even as is, the tent is a very appealing option for the solo winter traveler or mountaineer who doesn't want to sacrifice storm protection or stability.


Citation

"Integral Designs MK1Lite eVENT Tent REVIEW," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/integral_designs_mk1lite_event_tent_review.html, 2004-10-10 03:00:00-06.

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