Rating: 4 / 5
Gatewood Cape Review
I was excited to get my new Gatewood cape in the mail today. Overall, it seems constructed with care and besides a few concerns (discussed with below) it is exactly as expected - it’s a wad of sil-nylon in a pyramidal shape with a few strings and toggles here and there screaming for experimentation.
Pulled it out of the bag and was delighted to see the integrated stuff sack. No more loosing the stuff sack, or more to the point, one less thing to keep track of.
Setup is understandable if you think about it for a few minutes. The colored harness for the trek pole mounts in the head area of the cape and provides the single center-support for the tarp. I found the colored webbing a nice touch, although I wonder if there could be a lighter way to create this harness – it seemed to me that the webbing is a bit overkill for the intended purpose. Once inserted, however, it works well and supports the cape as expected.
I staked out the two sides and then the back. I was a bit confused with how the front guyline is supposed to work (still am). I’m sure with time this will become second nature, but I think the instructions could really benefit from some diagrams/photos for initial orientation.
I then staked out the remaining corners and crawled inside, giddy as a school-boy.
There is plenty of room inside for one plus gear. I find that if one follows the direction and angles the pole away from the center, you can maximize said space.
The hood ties off nicely, and the opening angles down, so there isn’t any real chance of water leaking in, although I can see it flopping around in a strong wind and might have to think about how to secure it better with the drawstring.
The integrated stuf sack can also serve as a pocket for things you don’t want to leave lying around inside the tent. Nice.
I was happily surprised to find a toggle to secure one end of the door just like normal tents – leaving this open for normal sleeping will provide extra ventilation and access in and out was easy. I'd forgotten it was in the pictures on the website (on rollover).
There are two snaps on the inside that I have not quite figured out. Must be to secure the back under the pack when worn as a cape, but again I think they are over-done. My Equinox poncho/tarp has a couple of Velcro pieces that serve a simliar function just fine with that unit and I’m eying those heavy metal snaps with what can only be described as slightly neurotic UL suspicion.
There is also a Velcro closure at the bottom of the zipper, which I suppose serves to secure the end if you want to zip the door partially open. Again, it seems overly wide, but at least it isn’t a big metal snap <grin>.
I have not experimented much with guying out the sides, as is recommended in the directions for extra support in wind.
Overall I’m very impressed with it as a shelter and am exited to get out and give it a go soon.
It certainly feels a bit more awkward than the poncho/tarp when worn as rain gear. The arm slits just don’t feel as good as those big open sides, although in the wind it might be a bonus. I expect they will feel odd in the standard swinging motion of hiking, especially with the required trek pole.
You can see the slits in the picture - they shouldn't be a problem in tent mode due to tension on the seams.
I tried it on with a pack and the aforementioned snaps are a bit confusing. I thought they would suck in the cape in the back so it wasn’t so billowy, but when snapped to each other promptly worked their way under the bottom of my pack and I can see them becoming an irritant under there. I snapped it in front to see if that was the right way, but then finding the arm slits was very difficult.
Update: After talking with Ron at SMD, he informs me that the grosgrain straps from the bottom are to be snapped into the snaps instead of what I was doing. This makes more sense, although I think velcro would be a better choice here for weight savings.
As expected, it certainly provides less ventilation than the aforementioned poncho/tarp, and it remains to be seen under real world conditions how much this matters or how much the zipper allows for ventilation.
In my experience, I don’t spend a lot of time with rain gear on (traditionally I've spend alot of time in the desert). I wear it on occasion, and since recently moving to the Pacific Northwest I’ll probably be wearing it more in the future, but I’m not as concerned with the cape portion as the shelter. The former will do in a pinch, the latter is essential in my book.
I still need to understand exactly how the front guylines work but I’m sure I’ll get some emails in short order detailing just that.
I also noted that one needs to seam seal the cape - the instructions mention this. I’ve never done this, and am not to excited to do it either. I’m not even sure how to do it, but Ron does provide a link to his website with sealer making instructions and hopefully directions on how to do it. Wish me luck.
Initially I’m pleased, if not ecstatic. We will see how the first trip with it goes.
It’s a bit heavier than I’d like, but not seriously so. My equinox tarp/poncho comes it at 10.5 oz and the Gatewood cape comes in at just over 2 oz more. But you get more coverage when in shelter mode, so I consider that a good deal.
Total weight: 12.6 oz.
That includes the cape in integrated suff sack, a small silnylon sack for 6 BMW ti-stakes and the pole harness.
Initial Rating: 4 out of 5.
I am curretnly rating it as such, but that may change after some usage. I intend it to be my standard shelter/raingear of choice going forward, so I'll update this when I've spent some time in/under it.
Here is a gallery with pictures:
Note: the hiking pole in the following pictures is not setup according to the directions (and its obvious when you put it together). My trek pole has a DIY monopod mount on the top, and I set that into the mounting harness - its stable and works, but you can't see it in the picture and doing so on a regular pole would *not* work.
Gatewood Cape Picture Gallery