Every year, around both the holiday season and before backpacking season starts, there is a spate of TOP TEN PIECES OF GEAR posts.
Nearly one new piece of gear per month to test?
So here’s my contribution…done in my own way.
As Dave C said of the simple flat tarp, “it is shit that works“. Simple. Effective. Light. Comes in options from a nylon tarp found at Wally World or a hardware store, to the old reliable of my silnylon tarp to the more exotic and lighter, but expensive Cubic Zirconia Dynamic Fiber (or whatever they call cuben fiber now…) Feeling salty? There are some minimalist shelters that are essentially tarps, too.
For shoulder season, buggy times of the year or my increasingly rare group trips (when I can’t use a large footprint), the SMD Skyscape Trekker is a reasonably light solo shelter. A little funky to set up at first, but once the learning curve is achieved, it is a nice little shelter. The Skyscape Scout is 10 oz more in weight and $100 less but is otherwise the same shelter. A good choice if looking for a budget shelter that is still effective.
The Lunar Duo is my two person backpacking shelter of choice. Once in a great while, I’ll take a friend, but more often than not, the Lunar Duo is used with a past partner. The Lunar Duo is a lightweight tent that is spacious for two, sturdy and does not feel too minimalist. And has two separate, and relationship saving, vestibules. Fantastic.
At sub-3lbs, single wall, free standing shelter ideally suited for winter backpacking when on the move and not making an extended basecamp. Technically the shelter is for two people; really better suited for one. At the end of a day of winter backpacking, I just want to set up something quick, get in my bag and get dinner going. The Black Diamond Firstlight fills that role. A bit of a splurge because the range of use is limited..for winter backpacking only. Does not breathe well, but in the cold and dry Colorado winters that is fine. The addition of a candle lantern makes the long winter nights a bit cheerier and helps cut down on condensation, too.
5 through 10.
None. Zip. That’s it. No more backpacking shelters to list.
How many backpacking shelters can a single person have, use and truly evaluate in a given year? 🙂 Even if I was lucky enough to get out every time I wanted to as a working stiff, there is only so much saved up in the time bank to give truly meaningful reviews. When I do have time, I’d rather take the gear I know and trust. And when I can get out again on a trip of a few weeks, there will only be one shelter taken. I am more likely to try out new gear when it is time to replace existing gear or when there is a niche to fill (such as our car camping tent).
Honorable Mention – Kelty Zen
The Kelty Zen is the oldest shelter I own. I rarely use it for backpacking any more personally. Hence the honorable mention. For some reason, though, I always find a use for this tent. It is the tent I loan out, tend to use on overnight trail work trips and is perfect for road trips/solo car camping. Simple and quick to set up and still weather proof years later. A good, solid, tried and true design. Still sold as essentially the same tent in the form of the ALPS Mountaineering Mystique for $120.
….and those are my favorite backpacking shelters of all time. Not by coincidence, they are also the only ones I own and use currently. The winter tent is the only new shelter. The Skyscape is two years old, the Lunar Duo and the REI tent are about five years old each. I’ve been using a tarp since 2001. And the Kelty Zen is as old as many backpackers now…. (Off. Lawn. Now.)
If I want to do the BEST TENTS OF 2017 I better start buying up more gear.
Or maybe not.
I like what I have.