The Rab Summit Extreme is based on the older Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme but with a few changes. It is also the only tent in the world market constructed of the amazingly breathable eVENT fabric. Unfortunately, the current Easton 7075 aluminum poles are heavier and less strong than the previous Easton Carbon FX models. The Summit Extreme also retains the Outdoor Designs model’s small footprint and low 28 inch roof, making it tight for two hikers. However, the low profile design, 13 guy-out points, and dual “donut link” tieout points make it the ultimate tent for extreme alpine placements and brutal weather conditions. This tent has few (if any) peers.
- The only tent currently made of eVENT fabric – amazing breathability and condensation resistance
- Current eVENT fabric is noticeably more breathable than the previous Exchange Lite Gore-Tex version
- Dual sealed tie out points can anchor climbers directly to the mountain while inside the tent
- Low ceiling, stiff poles, and 13 guy-out points create exceptional high wind stability
- Very tough and durable
- Aluminum Easton 7075 poles will bend rather than break like the previous Easton Carbon FX poles
- Weighs less than 4 pounds – very lightweight for a tent that handles such extreme conditions
What’s Not So Good
- Expensive in the U.S.- $450 but very expensive in the UK – £350
- Very cramped quarters and a very low ceiling make it a better solo tent and passable for a pair only for the most focused summit attempts
- A full 10 ounces heavier than the earlier Gore-Tex and Easton Carbon FX-poled Outdoor Designs version
- Previous Easton Carbon FX poles were lighter and stronger
|2006 Rab Summit Extreme (www.rab.uk.com)|
|2 person single wall mountaineering tent|
|eVENT EV121: 112 g/ m2 weight with 40 denier nylon on the face. Breathability stats: MVTR using the Japanese B-2 method is 21997 grams over a 24 hour period|
Poles and Stakes
|Two Easton .340 in (8.64 mm) 7075 aluminum poles (ultimate tensile strength- poles- 96,000 psi, inserts- 96,000 psi), 16 aluminum V stakes 7 in (17.8 cm), seven standard adjustable guylines, seven elastic adjustable guylines|
|Length 82.7 in (210 cm), width 47.2 in (120 cm), height 33.7 in (85.5 cm)|
|17 in x 7 in x 7 in (43 x 18 x 18 cm)|
|Measured weight 4 lb 12.5 oz (2.17 g), manufacturer specification 4 lb 14.3 oz (2.22 kg)|
|Measured weight 3 lb 15.2 oz (1.79 kg); includes tent body, poles, six stakes, and two standard guylines|
|Total covered area 27.1 ft2 (2.52 m2), no vestibule|
Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|6.86 ft2/lb based on 27.1 ft2 and weight of 3.95 lb|
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|6.86 ft2/lb based on floor + no vestibule area and weight of 3.95 lb|
|$450 (£350- UK Market)|
The Rab Summit Extreme tent is a new version of the nearly-identical Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme that we reviewed in 2005. Like the original, the Rab tent is truly focused: it is built for lightweight climbs in the most extreme alpine environments. It is extremely stable in high winds, is very breathable to keep condensation at bay (even when cooking inside the tent), weighs less than four pounds, and offers a unique system that allows you to tie off to an outside anchor without opening the tent to outside weather. While it is not the ultimate all-round tent, for alpinists pushing the envelope, the Summit Extreme may have no peer.
The Summit Extreme from the right, rear, and left (note the 7 upper guyouts and 6 lower guyouts for a impressive total of 13).
While the footprint of the Summit Extreme is almost the same as a Black Diamond/Bibler I-Tent or an Integral Designs MK1 Lite, the 28 inch height is much lower (42 inches on the I-Tent and MK1 Lite). This difference in height also lowers the angle of the walls. This results in a tent that is difficult to sit up in and reduces usable space due to steeply-sloped walls. I spent many nights in the Summit Extreme with two people; while this is certainly reasonable for a summit attempt, it is very cramped – especially with no available vestibule. Even a solo hiker over 6 feet needs to sleep at an angle to avoid contacting the steeply-angled walls. Sleeping at an angle, though, creates plenty of room for a solo hiker and gear. Usable space can also be greatly increased by using the guyouts on the sides and back.
The benefit of this low roof, though, is the tent’s amazing wind stability. The Summit Extreme is able to spill winds due to the low height and low-angled walls, and the short poles deflect less than longer ones in high gusts. The complement of 13 guyout points (7 at the mid-tent and 6 on the ground) equate to a tent that stands up to high winds better than any two-pole wedge “bomber” tent that we’ve ever tested. With the Rab Summit Extreme (and the Outdoor Designs version before), I found myself searching for the most exposed sites to find the limits of its wind stability. Despite many nights in open mountain-top pitches in the Cascades in the middle of the winter and several nights spent on Rainier during storms, I hardly approached the limits of this tent; a ridge on K2 might be a better test (and this is the first tent I would bring to that setting).
Snow and rain can enter the open door but a large lower flap allows for a dry entry or exit in bad conditions.
Because the doorway has such a shallow angle and there is no vestibule, rain or snow can pour in the Summit Extreme’s door when it is open. To combat this, the doorway can be unzipped at the bottom and you can sneak under the large overlapping flap. During a storm, this is the only way to keep the inside of the tent dry. Despite its obvious high alpine focus, a mesh door is included to keep insects out when camping at lower elevations.
The door is super-robust with large dual zippers for the storm and screen doors, wide seam seal taping, and large 4-inch zipper flaps with Velcro closures. Note the feet of a 6 foot climber touching the door when stretched out (left)
Another downside of the low angles and side guy-outs (when in use) is a roof that is flatter than taller wedge tents. The Summit Extreme is very strong and stands up well to snow loading, but doesn’t shed snow as well as steeper-roofed tents (but it is much better than hoop tents such as the Hilleberg Akto). Occasionally banging on the walls easily keeps the roof clear during winter storms.
The lower angle of the roofline (due to a low 28 inch height) adds stability in winds but causes more snow to pile up during heavy snowfall.
The two biggest changes with the new Rab Summit Extreme are the poles and the tent fabric:
The former Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme came with Easton Carbon FX poles while the current Rab version comes with more-standard Easton 7075 aluminum poles. According to Easton, the 0.340-inch aluminum poles have an ultimate tensile strength (PSI) of 96,000 while the Carbon FX are 200,000 – a full 208% stronger. Both pole sets share the same aluminum ferrules though, and those have a 96,000 PSI strength, making the weak point the same. When testing the Outdoor Designs tent, I accidentally fell on it, breaking one of the aluminum ferrules but leaving the carbon shaft intact. The bottom line is that the carbon poles used in the previous version are stronger, more rigid, and lighter. I feel the switch to Easton 7075 poles is a downgrade.
While the previous tent had walls constructed of Gore-Tex, Rab switched to eVENT fabric for the new Summit Extreme. As stated in our recent article “The eVENT Single Wall Tent: Here, Then Gone – What’s Replacing It?”, this tent is the only tent in the world currently constructed in eVENT, falling into the class of “bivy shelter” due to its low height. The use of eVENT is a serious bonus for the tent – it is amazingly breathable while remaining completely waterproof. While I was impressed with the previous Gore-Tex version, I was stunned by the breathability of this tent. In the field, I only experienced minimal condensation in the form of frost inside the tent and almost zero condensation in above-freezing conditions, including wet Cascade snowstorms.
Boiling water for over 10 minutes in the sealed Rab Summit Extreme eVENT tent left virtually no condensation…amazing!
At home, I tested the breathability by boiling water in the sealed tent for several 10-15 minute sessions. When finished, I collected condensation with a paper towel to weigh the total condensation. Each time, I was only able to detect moisture on the aluminum poles and on the seam tape – total condensation only measured 0.1 oz after a 15 minute boil. I simply could not make condensation occur in these conditions.
Given the right conditions, condensation will occur with any tent. However, I found condensaton extremely difficult to find under any conditions in the Summit Extreme. At the risk of exaggeration, I think eVENT is a magic fabric in a single wall tent, so it’s a shame it’s is only available on this one tent.
The side and rear guyouts add a great deal of interior space in the Rab Summit Extreme. When the door is cracked open, the rear vent allows sufficient airflow to cook inside the tent.
When you need extra ventilation, such as when cooking inside the tent, open the rear vent and crack the door open at the top – the doorway will still be protected by the flap. Hanging stove systems or lanterns hang lower than normal due to the low ceiling height. Move in the tent with care when using these systems (a partner melted a synthetic jacket when brushing past a lantern).
The dual donut system of the Rab Summit Extreme is unchanged from the Outdoor Designs version (shown). Two climbers can tie off to the mountain completely independently of the tent.
A unique feature of the Summit Extreme, shared by the older Outdoor Designs model, is the dual “donut link” sealed tie-in points. These points are created by hollow fabric loops that are sewn to the tent walls; one on top of the tent (hoop outside the tent) and one on the side (hoop inside the tent). To use these, you run a sling through the donut link on the inside of the tent and girth hitch the sling via the enclosed fabric hoop outside of the tent. Next you anchor the outside sling and tie into the inside sling. This system effectively removes the tent from the system WITHOUT having to pass a rope or runner through an opening in the tent (the entire tent could disintegrate and you’d still be safely anchored). This means that you can pitch the tent on a highly exposed ridge, on a big wall porta-ledge, or in an area of extreme wind with you and your partner secured directly to the mountain, upping security in extreme conditions dramatically. This feature makes the Summit Extreme the most secure tent on the market for really sketchy pitches.
At $450 in the U.S. and £350 in the U. K., the Rab Summit Extreme is a very expensive tent. However, it is a great value when compared with the Bibler I-tent ($540) and Integral Designs MK1L Lite ($600) and offers features such as eVENT fabric and tie-in points that those other tents don’t. The new Mountain Hardware Bunker ($450) is the only tent on the market that is made with a similar focus but it is a solo tent. For a party that needs these features and space for two climbers, the Rab Summit is an excellent value. For more casual mountaineers, however, a less narrowly-focused tent would be a better choice.
The Rab Summit Extreme is a tent with a narrow focus – extreme alpine-style mountaineering – and it fills this niche without compromise. If you need the best tent with regard to low weight, wind stability, breathability, and anchoring options, this tent is your choice. You may have to accept compromises elsewhere (usable space, vestibule, expense) but if my life was on the line, this is the first tent I would choose.
Recommendations for Improvement
I would appreciate a higher ceiling on most occasions but that would compromise wind stability (and it would also eliminate Rab’s ability to use eVENT fabric). If you want a higher roof, go with another tent.
My only real gripe is the change from the stronger Easton Carbon FX poles to more-standard Easton 7075 aluminum poles. Rab may have made this change fearing that carbon poles are weaker than aluminum, but that is simply not the case; the Carbon FX poles are much stronger, more rigid, and are also lighter. In a tent this focused and expensive, the Easton Carbon FX poles are simply a better choice.