by Ryan Jordan | 2006-01-30 03:00:00-07
Bothy bags are day shelters designed for emergency (or lunchtime) refuge from winter storms, and are a favorite bit of kit for backcountry skiers and climbers on day tours. The bothy bag concept has been ingrained in European winter mountaineering for decades, but never really caught on in the US. The primary manfucturers of woven nylon bothy bags are European based: Vango and Terra Nova. American manufacturers include Hefty and Glad.
Two years ago Integral Designs introduced the Ski Guides Tarp. Dig a snow pit two feet deep, stick a ski in the middle, drape the tarp over it, and your party (4-6 people) sit on the edge of the pit with their feet down in it, securing the edge of the fabric under their bums. The whole bit takes around two minutes in principle, but because of group dynamics, is more realistically around five.
This is the basic premise behind the use of the Outdoor Research LightHaven shelter as well, with a bit more aesthetic appeal for the poor guy out in the storm taking pictures of the gig while those inside it are enjoying warm draws from their thermoses. Unlike the Ski Guides Tarp, which offers structure only with a ski pole and backs of the participants, the LightHaven gets its structure from two ski poles or skis to support the ridgeline and four "stakes" (ski poles, ice axes, skis, etc.). It looks like a mini-tent. Plus, it has a door to facilitate easy entry and exit, where escaping from the Ski Guides Tarp requires wriggling under the edge.
A circular rim of fabric along the inside the perimeter of the LightHaven offers dry bums for the whole group, and the remaining hole in the middle means the pit concept for dropping your feet still works. In fact, and this is where the two-pole (or ski) configuration of the LightHaven really shines - the supports don't need to go in the pit, which usually requires a bit of the pit in the very center to remain intact (in other words, what you actually dig is a donut shaped pit around the support pole/ski). In practice, that center plug often collapses because one of the oafs in your party accidentally kicks it and the whole bit comes toppling down.
Another problem with a traditional bothy shelter is that hanging out in it it sort of feels like being draped inside a big garbage bag, where the LightHaven provides a completely tensioned structure.
There is a price for all of these aesthetics: the LightHaven weighs 21.7 ounces, a significant penalty over the Ski Guides Tarp (13 oz) or the Terra Nova Bothy Bag 4 (16 oz) but lighter than the Vango 4-man bothy bag (Storm Shelter 400). But ease of setup, a supported structure, and door may be worth the extra weight, especially on day tours where a half pound may not be as important as on a backcountry expedition.
"Outdoor Research LightHaven Day Use Shelter (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2006)," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/outdoor_research_lighthaven_tent_orwm2006.html, 2006-01-30 03:00:00-07.