Sunday, November 6, 2011

Four Season TarpTents and Question

I used to sew lots of ultralight backpacking gear. One of my most successful designs in terms of weight to square foot living space was the BrawnyTarptent.
This photo of it in Yosemite in winter was sent to me by a very satisfied customer.
The main thing with four season gear is it's ability to shrug off snow, hold up to freezing temperatures changing structures integrity and the comfort level the shelter offers.

Of course, there are always trade offs. This tarp tent weighs 21 ounces and packs to the size of a bag of bagels. One reason its so light is you use your hiking poles or suspend the apex from a branch. Hence, the support of shock corded poles is eliminated along with that weight.

I love this South Col tent. It accommodates 2-3 people, double walled, two generous vestibules, and is free standing.

Its a pretty massive structure and good for base camping. It weighs over 9 pounds. I would use it in severe conditions. Being a dome, it will shed snow, however a person would still have to shake it off periodically if the snow were wet. The poles could conceivably break. I always bring repair sleeves, which are short metal sleeves about 5-6 inches long. In the event of breakage, slip the sleeve (cut from old hiking poles) over the fracture.

In winter a person is tempted to cook inside, out of the wind. Be aware of carbon monoxide and burning issues.

I don't recommend cooking in a tent, and have done a video on that issue. See other winter camping suggestions on this blog.

Dropping a tent usually means dealing with frost, cold fingers, perhaps melting snow. I use a separate set of gloves, or tough it out bare handed so my hiking gloves are dry.
I love a larger than normal stuff sack for silnylon structures in winter so I don't have to fight with the shelter packing up because sometimes the inside is coated in frost.

One technique I've used is bringing an ultralight tarp to configure over my ultralight silnylon tent. It sheds snow, creates a double wall effect and adds enough extra warmth to merit the weight. A 5 x 10 works for me on a solo structure.

As you can see, winter, or four season tents need not be elaborate, just be sure the structure can shed snow and hold up to the contractions of severe cold. If you're anticipating freezing rain, I would definitely go with a tarp canopy, but be very sure to allow fresh air into the shelter.

I heard a woman layered plastic over her tent and suffocated. Maybe its a myth, but its a warning to the wise, cause I'm not going to test that theory.

I have slept under the stars in minus six degrees in northern Wisconsin. Shelter is necessary, just be sure you can still breathe.

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