So, here's a companion topic to the one I started on "one pole or two?"
Since we excluded use as a shelter support from that thread, let's start one to discuss using hiking poles (single or paired) as supports for a shelter. The advantage, of course, is that you save the weight of tent poles and get double use from the hiking pole.
In addition to describing your favorite hiking-pole-supported shelter, we can discuss the relative merits of shelters that also need a specific pole in addition to the hiking poles (for example, the TarpTent Rainbow has its own pole set, but also uses hiking poles to optimize the setup.)
My own experience in this area is mostly using a pair of hiking poles to support a tarp. My particular favorite is the Granite Gear White Lightning tarp, a bit heavy but very convenient to use. I've also used the Integral Designs Silshelter with some success. Both were lighter than the tent I had previously used, though that advantage diminished a bit when I added in the weight of the groundcloth or, more often, bivy sack I also carried. I found, with the tarp, that the open ends and sides meant some rain could blow in during a bad storm - not a lot, but just enough that I wanted a light bivy to keep the rain off my sleeping bag. Also, where I hike, biting insects are a problem when it's. A bivy like the Integral Designs Salathe had a waist-length bug panel that was covered by a waterproof-breathable panel for rain, and it worked pretty well. (It also gave me the option of sleeping under the stars on a nice night.) One other advantage of a tarp is that, if you need to, it can be pitched over a small rock or bush in one corner of an otherwise-unusable shelter site - you can't really do that with a tent.
Eventually, both companies came out with floored "bug shelter" inserts - around the same time that the traditional tent companies started coming out with ultralight solo tents. As the weight advantage of the tarp/bivy-or-insert diminished, I eventually made the shift back to a traditional tent because I found it to be more convenient for the way I camp (personal preference, not any objective criteria, drove the switch.)
I briefly used a TarpTent Rainbow, which was a really nice, roomy solo shelter that used an arched tent pole for its main support; trekking poles could be used to turn the vestibule into a roomy porch roof or to make it a free-standing tent. In the end, I sacrificed a bit of weight and a lot of space and chose the Hubba (and eventually Carbon Reflex) because I preferred the all mesh inner with a separate fly that I didn't need to put on unless it was raining. Again, it was mostly a personal-preference choice, and not a case of one product being clearly superior to the other.
Had the tent manufacturers not come out with competitive-weight tents, I'd probably still be using my Silshelter/Salathe combo; at three pounds, it was as versatile as the tent I now use, and did everything I needed it to do. It wasn't as roomy as the Granite Gear rig, but it was roomy enough for a solo shelter and significantly more stormproof since the ends could be closed in. (Granite Gear now offers "Dodgers" which can be used to close the ends of the tarp - but add significantly more weight.)
I really believe that these tarp and shaped-tarp style shelters, supported by trekking poles, are viable options to consider. The Integral Designs combo is a bit pricey; if you're looking for a cheap but effective alternative, combine an inexpensive (relatively) 6x8 or 8x10 silnylon tarp with the REI Minimalist bivy sack. You may even be able to find cheaper alternatives on some of the "cottage industry" sites; I didn't try to do any research there, since other posters will no doubt cover their offerings.
Loc: Washington State, King County
You seem to have had a lot faster response to the "use of trekking poles" question (and I know I've seen that topic thoroughly discussed in several threads before, though possibly not on this forum).
So let me add to your list of "hiking pole shelters" what is essentially a double-walled option, the solo and two-person shelters by Lightheart Gear.
I've put a lot of miles on my Tarptent Contrail, and like that a lot; I'm thinking/hoping that I'll like my new Lightheart Solo even more this coming year (TBD, it's coming later this month or next month). I've also used a Gatewood Cape with success, a fine choice when a person understands and can work with/around the limitations.
Really, for trekking pole users it seems pretty sad to carry significant tent pole weight these days; I would expect that if anything such options will only expand in future.
Those are some nice-looking tents, and great weight for a solo shelter.
Like you, I've seen both topics discussed a lot in various threads; what I was hoping to do here was a continuation of something Jimshaw suggested several months back: collect all of those pieces and parts of discussions in one thread, oriented to beginners (with the possibility that, at some point, the moderators might decide it was worthwhile to "pin" selected threads at the top of the beginner's section to perhaps cut down on the amount of re-hashing that gets done.)
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I have three Tarptents: a Squall 2, a Rainshadow and the Tarptent/Gossamer Gear Squall Classic. All three use a hiking pole for front end support. The Squall 2 and Rainshadow can be used with one pole, but two provide a much more stable pitch, especially for the Rainshadow. The first two tents are for going out with the grandkids, although I sometimes take the Squall 2 for short base camp style trips to have more space inside. The Squall Classic (designed by Henry Shires of Tarptent but manufactured by Gossamer Gear) is the tent I use most for backpacking--it's the perfect size for me and my dog and weighs only 25.5 oz.
I really like all three tents, although I wish the first two had a zipper closure for the vestibule instead of the stupid velcro (I hate velcro!). The Squall Classic does have a zippered vestibule and it's wonderful!
All the manufacturers who make trekking-pole supported tents and tarps will sell poles for those who don't hike with trekking poles. For those of us who do use trekking poles for hiking, using them saves on weight and provides a sturdier pole.
The one problem with this setup is when you have a layover day and leave the tent set up while you go day hiking. The alternatives are to remove the pole from the tent and put a few rocks on it to hold it down, find a stick of the correct length, or dayhike without trekking poles. None of these alternatives is 100% satisfactory!
There are now so many styles of tents and tarps that use trekking poles that listing them would take a long time, especially since another "cottage" firm or two will have started up before you finish typing the list!
BrianLe, please let us know how the Lightheart Solo works for you! It's one of the few double-wall tents that uses trekking poles. I understand you plan to use it on the CDT? That certainly will provide a good test!
Edited by OregonMouse (01/11/1102:56 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
I too use a shelter that requires trekking poles rather than regular poles and I just wouldn't go back to a traditional tent because of the weight and ease of setup that these types of shelters provide.
In the majority of the three seasons I will use Gossamer Gear's SpinnTwinn tarp and in the winter where I expect moderate snow and/or strong winds then I will use my MLD DuoMid. Both of these I use with my TiGoat Bivy. Both set-ups with bivy and line included weigh around 20oz-- give or take a couple of ounce.
I carry a staff (hoe handle) for hiking and protection so I am not sure I would tie it up under a shelter. I guess it could be jerked out and used in an emergency while in camp. My tarp is supported by my chimney.
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
10 years ago there weren't a lot of options. Today, we have a a lot of options. The ultralight shelter section of my web pages have my observations about a number of shelters.
These days I primarily use Zpacks Hexamid (12.6oz including groundcloth and stakes) though I switch to a MLD SuperFly (think GoLite Shangri-La 2 made out of spinnaker with bug netting around the perimeter but weights around 18oz) if I am expecting really nasty weather, or if I am sharing a shelter with someone. The lightheart gear solo awning provides double walled ease of use at the weight of many single walled ultralight shelters, and the MLD DuoMid + innernet provides arguably the most versatile shelter system around. All good choices.
Glenn, a few years ago I made a "Robinson Poncho Shelter" from sil-nylon. I use it when hammocking is not an option, or I'm trying to cut weight to a minimum (it's a 7 oz. shelter!). I normally use one "trekking pole" and a local stick to support it. The nice thing about this design is that it can be pitched many ways depending on the weather. If your hiking partner has something similar, a respectable tent can be formed with the two halves. I'll probably make another this year, I like 'em so much. Here mine:
Loc: Washington State, King County
"BrianLe, please let us know how the Lightheart Solo works for you! It's one of the few double-wall tents that uses trekking poles. I understand you plan to use it on the CDT? That certainly will provide a good test!"
Hi OM. I'll try to remember to do so; plan is to be out from June through Oct or Nov, so that's a long time to forget about this thread!
I don't have the tent yet; I'm getting a partly cuben-fiber model, and there's a delay in getting that fabric.
In fact, Mark Verber had some unhappy wind experience with the tent, and wind is a big factor on the CDT. Judy Gross (of Lightheart Gear) has assured me that she'll have a nice velcro piece sewn in to prevent the issue that Mark had. Sounds like he had some pretty fierce winds.
Always a bit of an adventure with new gear, but folks have been using Lightheart tents for a while now, mostly on the AT I think (with good reviews). A friend hiked the CDT in 2009 using just a SMD Wild Oasis --- next to that the Lightheart Solo will seem like a 4-season tent! :-)
Once I bought into the UL ethos of multi-use, I started playing with different shelters that used trekking poles for support and haven't really looked back. For small weekend trips where the forecast looks OK, I'll use my poncho (Equinox) as a tarp supplemented by an Equinox bivy for some extra splash protection. For longer trips or where serious rain may be an issue I have a TT Contrail that I've enjoyed immensely so far.
Now, my technique for pitching said shelters is definitely not perfected yet, but I do feel that there's a difference in visceral "bombproofness" when comparing the 2p 3-pole, 4 pound double-wall tent with my tarp/bivy setup or even the Contrail. But I've also discovered that bombproofness isn't always what you think it needs to be, and the satisfaction I get from getting as much use out of everything I'm carrying makes up for any cerebral fears of flimsiness. I have been considering the SMD Gatewood Cape to replace my Equinox poncho and leaving the bivy sack at home. Brian, could you elaborate on the limitations you spoke of earlier with this shelter?
Loc: Washington State, King County
"I have been considering the SMD Gatewood Cape to replace my Equinox poncho and leaving the bivy sack at home. Brian, could you elaborate on the limitations you spoke of earlier with this shelter?"
I'm about 5' 10" tall, and I have to take care to avoid touching the foot of my sleeping bag or my head to the (single) wall of the tent. This varies somewhat; I've read of people 6' tall being happy with this tent. In part I think it depends on how thick your sleeping pad is (my Neo-air raises me up closer to sloping wall fabric).
There's some fiddle factor when you want to convert poncho/cape into tent and back again. Not a big deal but a little fiddling in each direction, and some small ancillary bits that have to be stored somewhere and found when you want to convert it into tent mode.
Some folks like to have rain gear to use when camped, for example, to use the bathroom or whatever. One can carry a very light so-called "disposeable" poncho for this purpose, but that still adds an ounce or two of weight.
As a poncho it's a little weird. It doesn't vent at all around the sleeves as does a normal poncho, but has a front zip (which of course is also the tent door zip). I like to belt a poncho (to include the G.C.) with a sort of shock-cord belt to keep it under control in wind. Combining this plus my use of trekking poles means I have to sort of hitch up the G.C. such that I get less coverage of my upper legs than I do with a conventional poncho. My normal (Golite) poncho provides ventilation that I like a bit better, and serves better as a "rain jacket plus rain skirt plus pack cover" --- the rain skirt part isn't as good for me with the G.C.
As with any poncho, there are no sleeves; in cold weather it can be nice to have something covering your arms without adding a layer to the torso to do so. I bought some tyvek sleeves online, and while they look a bit weird, they do okay to augment the G.C. With, of course, yet slightly more fiddle factor and very minor weight hit.
For buggy times, SMD sells an inner bug tent that is designed to work with the G.C. Some folks just use a head net, but I like to have a bug free environment in which to eat, sleep, whatever. The inner tent of course adds weight, but it is also a pretty tight space. If I sit up inside that, the netting inevitably drapes onto me in places, which could mean in really buggy times the chance of being bitten through (little experience personally on this aspect, however). One good thing about the inner net tent is that it keeps your bag from touching the tent wall and getting wet from condensation.
Finally, an issue I encountered on the Appalachian Trail nearly a year ago now was that if the trail isn't brushed out well (had a lot of blowdowns to navigate) then when it's raining or snowing out you put not only your only raingear at risk in such conditions but also your only shelter --- the flipside of the dual use benefit (dual risk).
To be clear, none of the above is meant as criticism of this very clever dual-use piece of equipment. All gear items incorporate some sort of compromises, I'm just doing my best here to list all those that I can think of for the Gatewood Cape. If none of those give you pause, then it's a great "shaped tarp", much better, easier to "pitch right" IMO than a typical tarp, and of course it's also a useful poncho. I used it in England on the Coast-to-Coast trail this past September, on the theory that it served as a sort of emergency shelter for myself and my wife at need. Never had to use it in that way, but I definitely did use it as a poncho on a number of days. I think that for day hikes it's a nice option too, for a really credible emergency shelter combined with rain gear. And at this time of year I think it combines nicely with a bivy sack for winter camping (to be clear, not a 4-season wind-proof shelter, use in winter conditions at your own discretion and using your own experience as a guide ...).
I agree with BrianLe on his assessment of the Gatewood Cape. I have one and like it a lot; but only under certain circumstances. For much of the country in which I hike it is ideal. I would not use it in, say, the PNW.
A significant portion of my hiking now is either in the Arizona mountains, the Grand Canyon or the Sierra Nevada. I no longer do any winter camping and I tend to confine my "hinge season" hiking to Arizona. This means that the rain I encounter in most of my hiking will be afternoon thunderstorms. For these conditions the Gatewood Cape works well, with a caveat.
Over the years I have shrunk. When I was in the Army, many years ago, I was 5' 11"; now that I am in my 70's I am 5' 9". I can sleep in the Gatewood without touching the silnylon fabric. When I use the net tent, I do touch the netting at one end or the other. Taller people may not be able to use this item.
I have modified my Cape/Net-tent a little. I have extended the elastic loops on the Net Tent so I can use the same stakes used for the Cape pitch regardless of how high or low the Cape is set up. Before this I needed two extra stakes to set up the Net Tent. I have also sewn in Velcro tabs to hold the netting out on the side of the Net Tent opposite the door. This helps keep it out of ones face when sitting up.
I also agree with BrianLe's assessment of the Cape as rain gear. I would not want to use it all day, day after day. It is great for shedding a thunderstorm but not for use all day. And risking ones shelter using it as rain gear in brushy country is not a good idea.
Oh, and incidentally, my Gatewood cape (12.45 oz) and Serenity Net-Tent (7.47 oz) weigh, in combination, about 2 oz more than advertised with all the rigging and minor (<0.5 oz) modifications in place.
I am considering a hiking pole shelter like one of the ones produced by tarptent, but I also like the "poncho shelter" designs. I like the hiking pole solutions because it just doesn't make sense to me to have tent poles if hiking poles can be used instead.
I think I would prefer the poncho shelter for when I'm going lite and fast or for overnights and day hikes.
I'm 6' tall, so I wonder if the GC dimensions can be alterered to allow more room.
The problems with the poncho, such as poor underarm ventilation worry me though. If I would have to carry a disposable poncho, then I think something like the contrail would weigh as much as the poncho + bug net solution, and have a bathtub style floor to boot!
I still like the idea of the GC as an emergency shelter though...
I really like the idea of the gatewood, but my issue with it is bugs - unfortunately in a lot of my hiking areas mosquitos are a serious serious thing - and by the time I get a serenity net tent in it I am just about up to the weight of the full on lunar solo - which I have, and like a lot.
Now, having said that what's interesting is that it fills a niche for me that I find I am using less and less. here's the shelters I own that I will use in a year:
1) SMD lunar solo 2) Black Diamond One Shot 3) Speer 8.5C hammock (with tarp) 4) WBB Blackbird hammock (with tarp)
Now interestingly those are in order of weight, from lightest to heaviest.
Most of the time If I am in sheltered campsites (with trees) I end up taking the hammock.
If I am going to be in campsites where hammocking is a problem I take the tent - but at least this year a lot of those trips I've been in some pretty exposed places. I've had the lunar solo and the one shot in both places, but prefer the one shot in really bad wind. So when I take a ground dwelling shelter, lately, I've been taking the one shot more.
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