M Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report - Part 1: Definition and Pitching

by Roger Caffin

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Article Summary:

This series is part tutorial, part survey, and part opinion piece. I have allowed my opinions to come through a bit more strongly than normal here. You have been warned! In Part 1 I start by defining the essentials of a tunnel tent and show how easy it is to pitch one in bad weather. In Part 2 I explore in more detail some features of a tunnel tent and list them for a number of tunnel tents from around the world. Part 3 consists of mini-reviews for each tent listed.

The world tent scene is a fascinating one. In Europe and other countries around the world where bad weather can be relied upon, the tunnel tent design is an accepted standard for quality. But try to find tunnel tents in America and you will be surprised at the almost complete dearth of serious models. Why is this so? We believe there are good reasons for it and will explain them here.

Among those who know and use tunnel tents, it is accepted that they are some of the most robust lightweight designs available. They can be challenged for robustness by the geodesic dome design, but you will find that the latter are usually a few kilograms - or worse - heavier than the tunnels. Typically, a good tunnel tent is designed for two people: any smaller becomes very inefficient, any larger and it is not as robust. We explain why shortly. A few samples are shown above - not the full range tested in this survey. There are robust geodesic domes capable of holding four, five, or even six people, thus reducing the weight per person, but they take up a lot of ground space and are usually reserved for high-altitude expeditions where porters carry them. They aren't light. For instance, the Mountain Hardwear Satellite 6 (a six-man tent) weighs 14.45 kg (~32 lb). That's 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) per person! Curiously, it is still technically a 'pop-up,' as the inner tent is clipped to the poles and the fly thrown over. I guess if you have six people sleeping in the tent, you can have six people helping to pitch it.

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