Top

Archive | Shelters

Top: A Cuben laminate with 150d black face polyester face fabric. Bottom: The 210d Robic nylon that is standard on ULA packs.

Reader question: Are Cuben Fiber shelters & backpacks worth the cost?

A question from reader Patrick H.: Most backpackers who look beyond REI while researching gear have probably learned of Cuben Fiber, either in a standalone conversation or as a fabric option for shelters, backpacks, and accessories made by cottage brands like Hammock Gear, Katabatic Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs and others. Cuben stands out, partly because equipment made with it is exorbitantly […]

Continue Reading
Bottom to top: 1.5-mm sheated Dyneema, 2-mm reflective nylon,  3-mm nylon, and a Bic pen for scale

Top picks: Stakes & guylines for backpacking tents, tarps & hammocks

I will finish this series on backpacking shelter systems with a discussion of stakes and guylines, which have a critical role but which are normally treated as an afterthought. To maximize the usability and performance of your tent, tarp, or hammock, give them some attention. Stakes If stakes are included with the purchase of a shelter, […]

Continue Reading
Nitro Joe with a mid tent made of DCF. It was September so he left the matching inner tent at home.

If cost were no object: My go-to backpacking shelter systems, gone ultralight

The backpacking shelters that I presented in this series — a modular tent, tarp & bivy, and hammock — are middle-of-the-road systems. They are not ultralight or excessively heavy, not cheap or prohibitively expensive, and not benchmark-setting or under-performers. This was intentional on my part. While they reflect what I personally use (in most cases, […]

Continue Reading
An ultralight hammock setup, with a 5.5-oz tarp made of Dyneema Composite Fabric. Hex-shaped tarps are popular among hammock users, but more rectangular-shaped tarps double better as hammock & ground tarps.

Gear List || Backpacking Hammock: Forest & high-use zone specialist

A night of quality sleep in the backcountry depends on multiple factors. A shelter and sleep system that defend against precipitation, wind, insects, groundwater, and cold are the most obvious prerequisites. But equally important is campsite selection, or the art of finding a comfortable location where you can hang your hat. When using ground-based shelters […]

Continue Reading
A tarp & bivy offers full -- albeit adequate -- protection against precip, insects, groundwater, and wind. It's an ultralight and compact package that will be too minimalist for most.

Gear List || Backpacking Tarp & Bivy: Ultralight minimalism

In a normal winter, the Sierra Nevada, Pacific Northwest, and Rocky Mountains get hammered by systems that roll off the Pacific Ocean and drop hundreds of inches of snow. The summers, however, are sunny and dry, with only occasional precipitation related to the North American monsoon. Storms can be violent, but they are normally short-lived and […]

Continue Reading
One of my three go-to shelter systems: the Sierra Designs High Route Tent, which has a full-sided 22-oz fly and interchangeable 14-oz inner tent.

Gear List || One-shelter quiver: Modular double-wall backpacking tent

What is a backpacking tent? I’ll define it as a full-sided, fixed-shaped, and holistically designed portable shelter that protects its occupants from precipitation, wind, groundwater, and insects. A few models do not fulfill this entire description, but it generally works. Tents grossly outsell tarps, hammocks, and bivy sacks. This is partly due to deeply embedded mindsets (“I […]

Continue Reading
This single-wall tent has an integrated fly, floor, and bug netting. If these protections are needed or wanted full-time, this is a good setup. But other users may want more modularity so that, for example, the bug netting can be left behind on bug-free trips.

6 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Backpacking Tent, Tarp, Hammock or Bivy

Questions are normally followed up with answers. But one question that will simply beget more questions is, “What shelter should I buy for backpacking?” Actually, there is an answer, but it’s not helpful: “I don’t know.” Because to nudge you in the right direction I need more information about your preferences, intentions, and budget. And […]

Continue Reading