My Wild Camping Tents…. A Confession and a Justification
I think I’ve got far too many tents. Here’s my justification, mainly to myself, why I need each one of them and whether or not I can justify shelling out for another one any time soon!
1 -Bivvy bag –the lightest option, and usually one for the summer months for me, camping on summits in decent weather. I currently have a Rab Suvival Zone as well a Mountain Equipment Ion bivvy which is much better thanks to the hood.
1b – Golite Poncho Tarp – as an extra to the Bivvy Bag, this provides a bit more shelter, but the bivvy bag is still an essential item even when using this.
2 – Hooped Bivvy Tent (Nemo GOGO EX – 1000g) Bought on eBay as a novelty item as it’s an inflatable tent, but one I’ve slowly fallen in love with. It’s not the lightest tent available and there’s barely any room in it, so it’s rather an inconvenience that I’ve grown rather attached to this. I can barely cook in the porch, but the tent opens up wonderfully and you can be lying there in your sleeping bag while surrounded by the mountains. That makes this tent worth keeping, even if I do want to get hold of a Laser Ultra at half the weight and twice the space.
3 – Terra Nova Laser – Hooped Tent. 1300g. Heavy today, but state of the art in 2005 when I bought it! It’s an enormously spacious tent for one with plenty of room to cook in the porch and spread out. Both the porch doors open out giving you an exceptionally wide view. Unfortunately, the newer, lighter models don’t offer this with only one door, and don’t offer enough benefit for me to upgrade. I’d love to buy an updated version of this exact same tent if it came in at about 800g.
4 – TN Voyager. Semi-Geodesic (1800g) This tent has been useful over 6 years, being my main 2 man and foul weather tent until last year. It has been out in snow and is light enough for one under those conditions. Probably surplus to requirements now, but I’m keeping hold of it until I’m happy that the next tent survives foul weather.
5 – Go Lite Shangri La 3 (1800g) A tipi tent that provides bags of room. It’s absolute luxury for one, comfortable for two and while a three man tent, not easy to fit three in. It is meant to be usable all year round, especially in snow, but I’m still getting the hang of this tent as it does need a bit of getting used to pitching well. You can reduce the weight significantly if you use walking poles to support the tent (using an adapter to connect two poles) as well, bringing the tent weight to around a kilo. You can also get a smaller inner or nest for one which reduces the weight slightly, providing a huge porch space. Finally, making this an exceptionally versatile shelter, it can be used without the inner as a fly only shelter. GoLite also produce larger versions of the ShangriLa which prove to be exceptionally light shelters for the size and could even be carried as a communal meeting space if you’re camping in a large group (maybe mention this in the individual section)
6 – Mountain Hardwear – Trango 4 – 5kilos! This is a huge tent, but bombproof. I found in the past that having a small 2 man tent in winter can be dangerous as it’s difficult to move about and as a result of that you may start cooling down. It’s a 4 man tent with two porches, and has so far been used by a maximum of 2 people in comfort. Of course, it is rather heavy, but that’s the price paid for the security of a tent that’s built for conditions in the Himalaya.
Whether there’s any logic in my choice of tents, it’s difficult to say. Weight does play a part, along with functionality, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. My kit isn’t the lightest for the sake of being the lightest. I could just use my bivvy bag in all conditions and be uncomfortable if that were the case. The choice it seems boils down to finding a tent that’s reasonably light and then has some features such as the wide porch of the Laser, or the ability to lie with my head outside (Nemo) that appeals. I’ve also, largely gone for tents that are much larger than I really need, so I’ll admit that I like to spread out a little.
So for me it seems that a tent needs to be :
- As light as possible
- Provides a really good view from the sleeping bag (I like to breakfast in my bag)
- Has a lot of floor space. I’m an untidy camper. I pack with precision, but that’s usually lost one I’m in the tent
- And it goes without saying that the tent should be suitable to the conditions you expect to use it in
These are just my criteria. They probably won’t suit you, or they may. You may want to go for the lightest possible tent, forgo the view and the space and that’s fine. I’d like to do that occasionally as well, but as the funds we have for this pastime are finite then I have to consider if it’s worth buying yet another tent for £600 in order to say I’ve got the world’s lightest tent? Or do you go for a bit more weight and be damned? I’ve taken the ShangriLa 3 on long solo trips, where it’s an absolute extravagance, but added only 500g to my pack weight. In the big scheme of things, that’s nothing as you can pee and reduce your overall weight by more.
If a tent weighs in at more than a kilo each, you need to consider what that extra weight brings. Often it’s a matter of a lower price, with the lower end of the market providing decent tents that weigh nearer 2 kilos. Personally, I go for the extra space that the extra weights provide, along with the view…
A Note on tent weights.
Firstly, ignore any descriptive tent weights and insist on proper weights. A quick internet search will bring up ‘ultralight’ tents that weigh more than my entire overnight pack. If they don’t boast the weight then it’s probably not really geared towards the wild camper or backpacker and is more than likely to be too heavy.
You’ve got the weight of the tent, now you notice there’s two given, usually a Pack and a Trail weight. Common sense suggests that the trail weight is the one you need, but that is the weight of the tent and poles only, with the exclusion of the stuff sacks and crucially the pegs! The pack weight may be a good 3-400g heavier and may include repair kits and so on. More and more manufacturers are now advertising the lowest usable weight – which is the best to compare like for like, though you’ll need to read carefully in order to determine what they’ve included and excluded. There may even be a minimum weight that might exclude the use of a pole in order to achieve. It’s a minefield, tread carefully.