Thursday, May 26, 2011

My tents and shelters

My first tent was a cheap ridge tent bought from a super market sometimes in latter half of the eighties. It was light, small and mostly kept the rain on the outside. Due to the singlewall construction and lack of proper ventilation it was very prone to condensation.

Halti Tunturihaukka 3

In the middle of the nineties I bought a three person Halti dome tent from Partiovaruste in Turku. It belonged to the Tunturihaukka series of gear specifically made for the scout shops in Finland. It was very much tent for the money. The weight was not entirely horrible, 2.8 kg, and it offered plenty of space for two persons, though it was slightly short for my 192 cm. The vestibule was small. The tent had fiber glass poles and was certainly not made to endure severe storms. Still, it served me well for a couple of years.

Hilleberg Nallo

The next tent, a Hilleberg Nallo 3, was also bought locally from Partiovaruste. It was the old model with two equal length poles. Again it had plenty of space for two persons and weighed 2.5 kg. It proved its worth in Lofoten when it rained continuously for five days and it was completely dry inside all the time. Like all tents of this type, it needed a little wind in order to avoid condensation. The details and usability of this tent showed the Hilleberg quality. I sold the tent when the family no longer consisted of only two persons.

Hilleberg Akto

For solo use I bought a Hilleberg Akto in 2002. It was the first model with the lighter material and highly placed vent. This tent also showed the Hilleberg attention to details and good solutions. It was big enough for me and at the time 1.5 kg for a fully storm proof four season solo tent was a good weight. I sold it last year when I wanted a lighter, roomier and more open shelter.

Tarptent Double Rainbow

After having sold the Akto tent I started looking for a replacement. I did take a look at different tarp solutions, but always thought the bug netting was a little clumsy, even though the idea of a tarp otherwise appealed to me. My requirements included space for me and one child, light weight and the possibility to open up the side panels completely to enjoy the views. Nothing meeting the requirements could be found locally, but I soon came upon two alternatives that seemed to combine the good part of tarps and tents, the Tarptent Double Rainbow and the Six Moon Design Lunar Duo. Both weighed around 1.2 kg and offered multiple configurations between fully closed down and fully open side panels. The Lunar Duo offered more space, but needed extra poles (and a little extra weight) to be erected. Since I don't have any walking poles when bikepacking, I decided to get the Double Rainbow. Some googling also showed the Double Rainbow to be suprisingly good in high winds (a lot more so than the Lunar Duo), which suited me fine. I ordered the tent directly from the manufacturer and got it within a few weeks.

An interesting detail in American tents is that they often need to be seam sealed. I seam sealed it thoroughly and later tested it on my backyard. After a day and night of rain a single drop had leaked in through the seam at one of the guy line attachment points along the ridge. I applied some more seam sealer at that particular place and now it should be completely waterproof.

This far I've been very satisfied with the tent, but I have not encountered any harsh weather with it yet. Condensation has not been a big problem, but I'm sure that it will suffer from condensation in certain circumstances (e.g rain and no wind). There is also a roof liner that can be attached to hooks in the roof, which in some situations could add a little warmth and reduce condensation. I have only tested the roof liner in the winter, though, which is not a valid test for a tent that is not a winter tent. The weight is 1150 g and 105 g for the liner.

Halti Alfa XPD 3

A couple of years ago I found a Partiovaruste special version of the Halti Alfa XPD 3 for a very good price (at Partiovaruste). The tent has the high quality outer tent of the ordinary Alfa XPD 3 and a cheaper inner tent from the ordinary Alfa tent. This is a three person tunnel tent with an extended vestibule and it should very storm proof due to the aerodynamic shape, top notch outer tent material and lots of guy lines. It has proved to be completely waterproof without any extra seam sealing. This tent weighs 3260 g, including 23 tent pegs and a heavy (110 g) stuffsack.

Golite Shangri-La 5

Despite having the Alfa XPD 3 tent I still wanted something that could fit the entire family of two adults and two boys currently aged six and seven. Locally the Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT was available, and a weight of 3.4 kg for a very capable and roomy four season tent is not too bad. It is expensive, though. I also checked out other lightweight alternatives: The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4 would be under 3 kg, but the inner first pitch is not really compatible with Nordic conditions. Tarptent Hogback sleeps four at the smallest possible footprint and 1.9 kg (!), but does not seem that roomy inside. I finally chose the the Golite Shangri-La 5 with a bug inner tent, since it offered both modularity and a good amount of space for a fairly good weight while being very different from the Alfa XPD 3 tunnel tent.

The Shangri-La 5 is a pyramid tent with a separate bug inner tent. The inner tent can be pitched afterwards inside the outer tent, a necessary feature since in rainy weather you want to keep them separated in the backpack to avoid getting the inner tent wet (been there, done that). It fits the entire family and feels very roomy inside due to the height. With the inner tent, there are two very long sleeping positions (lots of space left even for my 192 cm), one slightly shorter and one very short. Three long persons could also fit, but it is too small for four adults. The space does come at a cost: The footprint is big and will limit the available tent spots.

The first night with the Shangri-La was very promising: There was not a single drop of condensation anywhere, despite no wind and a temperature a few degrees above freezing. It remains to be seen how it performs in rain and heavy wind. Some reports show it to be very capable in high wind, though I think it needs to be staked down very good for that purpose.

The Shangri-La 5 has taped seems, but I applied some extra sealant on a few places with more stitching. The weight was close to the specs: Outer tent with extra guylines 880 g, tent pole 350 g, inner tent 1325 g and the 8 standard pegs in a bag 94 g. With 4 extra large ground pegs it weighs 2.7 kg, which I think is ok for the space. Two light two person tents would be a lighter solution, but I think the social aspect of the bigger tent is more important for family use.

Bivi bag

Finally, I'm quite fond of sleeping in a bivy bag outside the bug season and when there is low probability for precipitation. It really gets you closer to the surroundings. I use a cheap bivi bag from, which I've been quite satisfied with.


  1. Have to say that the Tarptent Rainbow Double's open side panels seems to be a really nice feature. I found one more alternative for my future tent: McKinley Compactlight 2. Not really a 4-season tent but could be good enough for me...

  2. Great information. That double rainbow looks like just what I am looking for.