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Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Tent REVIEW

Single wall, low-profile, and built for altitude: the Summit Extreme belongs on a high mountain ridge.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-08-03 03:00:00-06

Overview

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 1
The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is built with a single focus - to climb to the world's toughest summits.

The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is a tent that was created for a singular purpose - to climb serious mountains quickly with the lightest weight and greatest level of security possible. It weighs in at just about 3.25 pounds, making it among the lightest two-person bomber mountaineering tents on the market. The Summit Extreme is constructed of Exchange Lite Gore-Tex, which is highly breathable and gas permeable, and has a large rear vent; both factors greatly minimize condensation. (Exchange Lite Gore-Tex is not available in tents sold in the U.S.; Outdoor Designs is manufactured in the U.K.) It uses Easton 340 Carbon FX poles which are 35% lighter but 208% stronger than similar aluminum models. The Summit Extreme has an extremely low profile at 28 inches, 13 stake out points, and can handle the strongest of winds. It has a small footprint and can be pitched in very small spots (even most double porta-ledges). A unique feature is the dual sealed tie out points, allowing two climbers to be directly anchored to the mountain without having to open the tent to pass a rope or slings.

However, in its singular focus, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme has some serious downsides. The 28-inch roof is very short, making sitting up impossible. This low height also creates low angled walls which, while adding to its wind stability, greatly minimize usable space. This tent is very cramped for two people. It also has no vestibule, making this a better solo tent unless you have a very focused pair of climbers who are willing to accept the cramped quarters. There is a mosquito mesh door on the front but this is not a tent you'd want to spend a lot of time in while waiting out the bugs in lowland areas. At $660 USD, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is also a very expensive tent. That said, the price is right, and the design is right, if you need a tent that offers an unparalleled mix of light weight, high security, breathability, and wind stability. It begs to be taken up the most serious mountains in the world.

In Brief

  • Ultralight mountaineering tent at just 3.25 pounds minimum package
  • Easton Carbon fiber poles are 35% lighter and 208% stronger than aluminum models
  • Exchange Lite Gore-Tex is highly breathable and virtually eliminates condensation
  • Dual sealed tie out points to anchor climbers directly to the mountain
  • Very cramped quarters and a very low ceiling make this a better solo tent and passable for a pair of climbers only for the most focused summit attempts
  • Low ceiling, stiff poles, and 13 guy out points create exceptionally high wind stability
  • Very tough and durable
  • Made in the U.K. - Gore-Tex tents not available in the U.S.
  • Not cheap at $660 but a good value for climbers that need its features
  • The Summit Extreme has no equal in its niche - light weight, secure, breathable, and stable

Specifications

• Tent Type

Single wall with floor, mountaineering tent

• Fabric Description

Tent body: Exchange Lite Gore-Tex - 15,000 mm Hydrostatic Head, O2 and CO2 gas permeable; Tent floor: coated nylon - 10,000 mm Hydrostatic Head

• Pole Material

Carbon fiber, Easton 340 Carbon FX (ultimate tensile strength poles - 200,000 psi, inserts - 96,000 psi)

• Weight Full Package
As supplied with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc.

Backpacking Light scaleManufacturer claim
4 lb 8.2 oz (2.05 kg)3 lb 4.8 oz (1.50 kg)

• Weight Minimum Package
Tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware

Backpacking Light minimum Manufacturer supplied minimum
Same as Manufacturer Minimum but with: 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes, 0.004 oz/ft (0.37 g/m) Aircore pro Dyneema guylines
6 stakes, 12 ft (3.7 m) guyline
6 stakes, 12 ft (3.7 m) guyline
3 lb 3.8 oz (1.47 kg)3 lb 5.4 oz (1.51 kg)

• Floor/ Vestibule Area

Floor area Vestibule area
27.1 ft2 (2.52 m2) none

• Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.52 ft2/oz

• Dimensions

inchescentimeters
Width47120
Length83210
Height2870

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$660 (£350)

Usable Features / Ease of Use

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 2
The rear vent can be held open by attaching it to the guyline and is fully adjustable from within the tent. Note the elastic section of the guyline for flex during high winds.

Setting up the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is very easy. Like other single wall wedge designs, the poles are set up outside the tent, slipped inside, and flexed into their corner spots. Pole tips are placed into the corner grommets (two are provided for tensioning options or for running a double pole set for extra strength). The 10 Velcro tabs are then attached. A minimum of six stakes are recommended to achieve the maximum stability and floor space (one at each corner and two for the side guy outs). In really nasty conditions, I was even able to set the tent up from inside, although it's usually easier from the outside because of the small interior space.

The poles are Easton 340 Carbon FX models which are 35% lighter than similar gauge aluminum poles but 208% stronger. In fact, these poles are twice as strong as ANY OTHER POLE EASTON MAKES. Their weakness is in their standard Easton aluminum inserts, which are half the strength of the pole material (see Durability below).

The tent material is Gore-Tex Exchange Lite, a waterproof/breathable fabric that is also oxygen and carbon dioxide permeable, allowing for totally sealed usage for extended periods. All seams are seam taped and the corners have deep, reinforced pole pockets.

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 3 Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 4
The dual tie in loops are found on the top and side of the tent.

There is one door that has an inner mosquito/spindrift netting door. Door seams are covered by two overlapping 3.5 inch wide flaps that are Velcro closed. A rear vent is placed low in the tent for high/low air flow with the front door. This vent can be sealed closed by a cordlock, but is not backed with mesh. The vent is easily adjusted from inside and attaches to the rear guyline for maximum ventilation.

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 5
The author hanging out with the top tie in use. I am directly tied off with zero load on the tent and no opening in the top. Another loop on the side gives another secure tie-off.

A unique feature of the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is the dual sealed tie points. These points are created by fabric hoops that are sewn to the tent walls, creating sealed elbow macaroni-shaped hoops. One hoop is located on top of the tent (hoop outside the tent) and the other is at the base of the tent side (hoop inside the tent). These two fabric tubes allow the climber(s) to tie into the tube with a runner and then to tie into an anchor on the outside of the tent. This system effectively removes the tent from the system WITHOUT having to pass a rope or runner through an opening in the tent. This means that you can pitch the tent on a highly exposed ridge, on a big wall porta-ledge (it fits most double porta-ledges), or in an area of extreme wind and secure yourself directly to the mountain, increasing security in extreme conditions dramatically.

The Summit Extreme comes with standard v-stakes and a set of guylines. Also included are guylines with thick elastic hoops at one end which allow the tent to give a bit during high winds. These elastic guylines were a blessing during one 60+ mph night, allowing the fully guyed-out tent to give during gusts, helping maintain solid anchor placements. Three reasonably lightweight and durable stuff sacks are also included, although the pole sack is too short for the carbon poles.

Weight / Sizing / Usable Space

At around 3 pounds 4 ounces for the complete tent, this is one of the lightest tents that can truly be considered "bomber." The floor space is also reasonable, measuring 1 inch wider and 1 inch longer than a comparable Integral Designs MK1 Lite. However, because of the very short 28 inch roof (compared to 42 inches on the MK1 Lite), the walls are at a low angle. This cuts way down on usable space, making this tent very small for two people. As a solo tent, usable space in the Summit Extreme was better, but at 6'2" tall, I slept at an angle to be most comfortable. I could not fully sit up in the tent, and with a partner it was necessary to take turns getting ready or organizing gear.

There is no vestibule and precious little space for gear inside. If there are two of you, compromises will be a necessity.

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 6 Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 7
The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is a tiny tent - very low to the ground and very cramped for two hikers. My wife and I survived in the tent during condensation testing on the Olympic Coast - cramped but with extremely minimal condensation despite completely sealing the tent in constant rains.

Wind stability

Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Mountaineering Tent - 6
The Summit Extreme has low angled walls, stiff Easton carbon fiber poles, and 13 guy outs, creating exceptional wind stability.

Although the low height and low angle walls cut down on usable space, they absolutely shine when the wind picks up. Despite the fact that two-pole designs tend to not be the best when winds pick up because of side deflection, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme does very well with high winds, due to its sloped walls that easily spill wind. With 50-60 mph gusts on a mountain ridge in the Cascades, the tent barely moved. The side guy outs added to the stability of the tent. In fact, much higher winds would be needed to fully test the upper limits of wind stability with the Summit Extreme. This is the first tent I've used that I would take for an overnight in a storm on the summit of Rainier or a high camp in the Himalaya.

Storm Protection

The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme sheds snow easily. However, the low roof creates a tiny flat spot on the top of the tent. During snow storms, I had to occasionally knock snow off the roof. Nothing abnormal resulted from these light snow loads and the tent could handle far greater snow loads with ease.

Ventilation / Condensation Resistance

The Gore-Tex Exchange Lite fabric is second in breathability only to eVENT in waterproof/breathable tent fabrics. However, the only full eVENT tent currently available is the Nemo Tenshi and only for a limited time. Further, because of fire codes, Gore-Tex tents are not available from North American companies. To find Gore-Tex tents you have to look at brands outside of North America such as Outdoor Designs (U.K.), Terra Nova (U.K.), MacPac (Australia), or Montbell-Japan. But when it comes to breathability and condensation resistance, it is well worth it to track down a Gore-Tex tent.

Little more than minor condensation along the poles was ever achieved during field usage of the Summit Extreme. This includes a very wet trip in the Olympic National Park; despite constant drizzle, still air, two people in the tent, and keeping it completely sealed, very little condensing occurred in the tent and not enough to run down the sides (a huge difference from the condensation found on the large volume silnylon tent pitched next to us). Even during condensation testing in my backyard when I boiled water in the tent for 15 minutes (not recommended), the condensation was remarkably low and dried within 20 minutes after shutting off the stove.

By opening the rear vent and cracking the door, cross ventilation was sufficient for airing out the tent if one is forced to cook inside the tent (once again, not recommended). However, finding space for cooking is a different matter.

Insect Protection

The Summit Extreme tent is designed to survive bug season but not to be comfortable in it. The door has bug netting and the fabric is breathable. However, the tiny tent is just a step ahead of a bivy for comfort when being swarmed. The rear vent without netting makes it impossible to achieve cross-venting at these times. However, adding netting to this vent would make it impossible to adjust the vent from inside the tent, a compromise not acceptable with the focus of the Summit Extreme.

Durability

While on a climbing trip, I fell hard on the tent while walking on ice in my boot liners, breaking a pole insert (which are half the strength of the carbon poles). I ended the trip fine and Easton had a new section to me in just three days, no questions asked. Believe me - this was not the fault of the pole. It is interesting to note that it was not the carbon pole that snapped but the aluminum insert, proving the strength of the carbon shafts.

The Gore-Tex fabric is very tough, both inside and out, and showed zero wear after several months of field testing. Even when a sharp piece of aluminum shoved into the tent fabric from the broken pole, I was amazed that no damaged occurred. Same goes with the floor which shows no wear despite being pitched directly on ice and rock on many occasions. This tent will last through many tough summit bids.

Value

At $660, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is an expensive and specifically-focused tent and is $100-$200 more expensive than its nearest competitors from Integral Designs and Bibler. That said, there really is no competitor for the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme. It can go with you on the most challenging alpine routes and keep you alive with its wind stability, moisture-passing walls, durability, and dual tie out loops. For climbers that put themselves on the toughest routes, this tent is an excellent value. If you are a casual mountaineer, however, your money will be better spent on a more comfortable, less expensive, and less narrowly-focused tent.

Recommendations for Improvement

The inside pockets need more reinforcement on the corners so they don't pull away from the inside of the tent (a minor issue). Other than that, there is no need for additional improvements. Sure, it would be nice to have more headroom or more usable space but that would miss the point of the Summit Extreme.

If you're looking for a more well-rounded tent, the Summit Raider is also available from Outdoor Designs. It features aluminum poles, a more comfortable 41 inch ceiling, the same Gore-Tex walls, and at a weight penalty of less than 1 pound.


Citation

"Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme Tent REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/outdoor_designs_summit_extreme_tent_review.html, 2005-08-03 03:00:00-06.

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Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions?
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Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: 2 person bomber tents on 01/29/2009 15:57:53 MST Print View

>Stephenson Warmlite beats all the others-lighter, more floor space, less condensation, easy set up , and great visibilty with side windows (and don't have to put on fly if it rains). Why is it so consistently ignored by BPL?

I suspect the biggest reason is that Stephenson's are unwilling to provide demo tents for review.

The Warmlite is solid in the wind IF staked very tautly (and re-staked as it cools and sags), and IF the wind is coming from only one direction. But I did not find it was a nice place to hang out in a storm...too much condensation and the rain/snow pouring into the tent whenever you open the vestibule makes for a wet existence. The Nallo2 is the best lightweight tent I've used in these conditions (MacPac tunnels the best if I disregard weight). Although it also needs solid staking, at least with the Nallo2 there are also side guy-outs to cope with changing wind directions, a breathable inner to keep the condensation at bay, a covered vestibule entry to keep rain/snow out, a bathtub floor, and insect mesh on the inner door to help with venting (and insect control!).

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Ultralight in Ultra-Foul Conditions? on 01/29/2009 16:19:41 MST Print View

Stephenson's Warmlite did provide a 2X for review and this was included in the State of the Market Report: Single Wall Tents (2008), which was published last November. I agree with Alison's comments - the Warmlite is stable when staked correctly but the lack of a vestibule and the door opening over the groundsheet means it's not as easy to live in during a storm than a tent like the Nallo 2.

T. Sedlak
(busotti) - F
Stephenson's, Hilleberg, Big Sky, Tarptent on 08/18/2009 12:49:25 MDT Print View

I have slept in a variety of tents including Stephenson’s (Warmlite 2R), Hilleberg (Jannu), Big Sky (Evolution), and Tarptent (Squall 2). Here are some thoughts for those interested.

The most bomber and well constructed is the Hilleberg. The weight on these tents is the higher end of the spectrum, but a Hilleberg is what I want for potentially serious weather. As the inner and outer tents are attached you can set up in a storm and still keep the inside dry. They are very warm and the ventilation is not the greatest. There is condensation but not extreme. The big bathtub floor is very waterproof. The vestibule is handy. You can fully open/close the vents from inside. Definitely not a warm weather tent (too warm), and I would not recommend Hilleberg if you camp in warm weather (65-70 degrees F or higher). I tried out an Unna, too; very spacious for one, but no formal vestibule (you can improvise one by detatching an inner tent corner). Unna ventilation is not great for warm weather and bugs. Some of the Hillebergs use pole clips (Jannu) and some pole sleeves (Unna). I found the clips much easier to deal with.

Stephenson’s Warmlite 2RS. This is an ingenious design that has many clever aspects I haven’t seen elsewhere. For instance the inner and outer zippers are staggered such that the outer zipper serves as a rain flap for the inner. The poles are pre-bent so as to give better strength (so obvious, but so few tents do this). It is huge for the weight, fully bugproof. The optional windows give great ventilation and the tent is warm when all sealed up. It is not quite fully double walled. The front and back ends are single walled and prone to condensation. I weathered a severe 14 hour rainstorm in this and water did come through the silnylon floor through hydrostatic pressure, but this was an extreme circumstance (I wasn’t on fully flat ground and pooling under the tent occurred). The vestibule is extremely small (boots only), but the inside is gigantic. The outer tent window has to be zipped closed from the outside, an inconvenience for unexpected rain. There is a photo gallery of a guy who solo climbed Denali using a Warmlite. Overall an extremely versatile tent. (http://www.terragalleria.com/mountain/info/ice/mk2.html). Also: http://www.terragalleria.com/mountain/mountain-area.mckinley.html

The tarptent is the lightest, but I would not use this if I were concerned about severe weather. I am not a big fan of all the tinkering needed to get this set up with an optimal pitch. Spindrift or rain with a bit of wind could be a problem as the mesh on the tent sides are a little exposed. For most circumstances this is a great choice (warm summer weather).

The Big Sky tents are great all around. I used mine for the entire John Muir Trail. The fly is not attached and set up in a storm would get the inner tent wet (the inner is basically all mesh on top). Easy and REPRODUCIBLE set up are strong pluses, as is the light weight. Severe rain or mountain weather might be a little dicey, but for general backpacking this is a great choice. The very small vestibules won’t keep much out of the rain except something the size of boots or a small pack.

Overall, there is no perfect tent for every circumstance. Everyone is different in where they draw their own personal line for tradeoffs, such as lighter weight at the expense of a miserable, wet night.