MountainSmith Mountain Shelter 2

MountainSmith Mountain Shelter 2

We were able to spend 6 nights in the Sierra Nevada with the MountainSmith Mountain Shelter 2.  

It was summer, windy at night, temps in the low 30s, and some cloudiness.  The elevation of our trip was 8000-11,000′. This shelter is a tarp held up by two hiking poles and 13 stakes.  I set it up 5 times, and it became easier each time. It weighs 1 lb 15 oz and costs around $100.  It packs up very compactly, and sleeps 2 comfortably.  Its a really good option for a light and cheap shelter, and I’d recommend it. It doesn’t have a floor, and you would need to get a ground cloth, which might add 6 oz to the total weight.   Read more

Shock cords for tent lines

Shock cords for tent lines

For several years I’ve been using shock cords on my tent lines.  They are sold in fishing stores as snubbers, and they come in various sizes.  For fishing they serve to absorb some shock when a really big fish hits a line, so the line doesn’t snap.  In tents, they also serve to absorb some impact, such as when a tent is in a severe wind gust.  With the snubbers, my tent has survived micro bursts, wind storms, and being knocked around by wind for hours. Read more

Scout Parents Guide to Backpacking Gear

Scout Parents Guide to Backpacking Gear

This post iswritten for Scouts and their parents who are new to Troop 100 or new to backpacking. The target audiences is the parent of a young scout who is new to backpacking.

The main point to note about buying equipment for your Scout is to not rush out and buy a lot of the wrong types of equipment. What I place as important goals in this effort is

  1. buying the right equipment, so that the parent doesn’t have to turn around and buy another piece of equipment unnecessarily.  The goal is to buy the right equipment the first time

2. buying light and compact equipment, in order to keep a young scout’s pack weight down, and so the gear fits in a small pack

3. buying only the necessary equipment, and delay buying the extra stuff

Sleeping Bag:

If there is one piece of equipment that a parent should try to get right to first time, that is the scout’s sleeping bag. When your son starts scouting he might be a small guy of 11 years old and may weight less than eighty pounds. It is incredible how these boys grow during the next four of five years.  The right sleeping bag will serve his needs throughout his scouting years and into his adult life.  The alternative is to buy several bags as he grows.  Of course the first method is way cheaper. Read more

Free Standing Dome Tent, 1948

This may be the mother of all free standing dome tents.  It is a free standing tent, which uses arched poles attached to the floor of the tent, with the tent body attached to the poles along the length of the poles.  At the top a line attaches the tip of the tent to the poles.  The poles are made in sections for compact size when transporting the tent.  The patent was filed in 1948.


Tent and a View

Here is an interesting tent from 1891.  In fair weather the side can be opened up, and when it is raining the side rolls down for full protection.  This idea is pretty similar to some modern ultralight tents, like the Tarptent tent shown below which has a side that opens, or that can be closed by rolling down the flaps and zipping them together to form an enclosed threshold.  This tent is by Tarptent, which has a number of models that look very light and innovative.



Tarp Tent Ultralight Tent

Here is a look at two contrasting tent styles.  The 1891 camping tent uses one central pole, four corner stakes, and two guy lines.  It has lots of headroom, and would be a comfortable tent, probably for horse packing or car camping.  The lower figure shows that this tent is a veritable hotel room, and might sleep 4.


A total opposite design philosophy is seen in the ultralight Rainbow Tent by Tarptent. This tent sleeps 1, weighs less than 2 pounds, and has one pole curving side to side, and a cross pole that forms the center beam of the tent ceiling.  If you attach hiking poles to the corners the tent becomes freestanding, but you can also just stake the corners.



The Contrail, Single Wall Tent

The Contrail, Single Wall Tent

Henry Shires at Tarptent, makers of innovative ultralight backpacking tents, was inspired by the design of the 1891 canvas tent below to take that design and improve it quite a bit.


According to Henry:

“The key improvements over the 1891 shelter include the integrated rear carbon fiber struts, catenary ridgelines, swept “wings” which better stabilize the tent front, do away with any center stake or guyline and add gear storage, and the copious venting with full bug protection and integrated flooring.  Not to mention the weight, which at 1.5 lbs is superlight.”


This tent is called the Contrail.  The pole for this can be a single a hiking pole, a stick found on the trail, or you can take a very light 2-ounce pole.   There is no front guyline to trip over or duck under.   The headrom at entry is excellent, as is the elbow room (66″ across front door) and rectangular foot room.  The width of the floor eliminates any chance of the bag contacting the walls, and leaves room for a dog to join the boss in the tent.


There is excellent ventilation as the back wall can be folded open, and the packed size is tiny at 14″ x 4″ x 4″.

The tent is a stretched pyramid design with end corner 14″  carbon fiber struts, which fit in protective sleeves.  The rear floor edge is inset 10″ from the tent dripline.   Setup is extremely quick, and uses only 4-stakes in the sub 2 minutes setup time.


Front beak provides 10 square feet of protected gear space. The high beak vent allows flowthrough ventilation.


The rear storm flap rolls up or down (from inside) as needed.  It also suppports tip side up or handle side up trekking poles (not shown in these photos).   The 7-foot floor cradles a “long” sleeping bag (shown) with ease. At 1.5 pounds, this makes a great weatherproof ultralight tent.