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Shelter Comparison: Mids vs. the High Route Tent

By Andrew Skurka / March 10, 2017 /

This post was prompted by an email from reader Jim that started with, Jim was deliberating between the purchase of a High Route and a more traditional pyramid-shaped shelter (“mid”), and he hoped that I would shed insight on the differences. While I have discussed them in multiple places, I have not yet written a dedicated…

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

By Andrew Skurka / March 8, 2017 /

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…

Inventory update: High Route Tent

By Andrew Skurka / February 20, 2017 /

Update (Feb 26): The High Route is currently back in stock. For about a month the Sierra Designs High Route Tent has been unavailable: The gearing-up season has already started, and I’ve received a few direct inquiries about when it will become available again, which means that probably a few more people are wondering the same.…

Getting it right: Four prototype designs of the High Route Tent

By Andrew Skurka / January 30, 2017 /

Over at the Sierra Designs blog I just published a design history of the High Route Tent 1FL. From my initial primitive sketch, it took four major prototypes to get it right. If you are interested in shelter design or want to better understand how the High Route Tent came to be, have a read.

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

By Andrew Skurka / November 26, 2016 /

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,…

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

By Andrew Skurka / November 23, 2016 /

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,…

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

By Andrew Skurka / November 21, 2016 /

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…

Gear List || Backpacking Tarp & Bivy: Ultralight minimalism

By Andrew Skurka / November 20, 2016 /

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…

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

By Andrew Skurka / November 15, 2016 /

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…

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

By Andrew Skurka / November 14, 2016 /

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…