Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report – Part 3: The Mini-Reviews

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Tunnel Tents Tutorial and State of the Market Report – Part 3: The Mini-Reviews

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    Addie Bedford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Montana
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Gordon


    My experience has been that the inner tent dries out a bit if it has a GOOD DWR in the period between pitching it and going to sleep. With the two of us active and eating in the evening, enough heat seems to be generated. Not perfect, but it helps.

    The other advantage of keeping them together is the speed with which I can get Sue inside the tent. As soon as the two ends are pegged down, in she goes, while I do the guy ropes. By the time I am ready to get in, the vestibule is clear for me.


    Stuart Allie


    Locale: Australia


    Note that Fibraplex make replacement poles for the Nallo 3 and 4, but NOT for the Nallo 2. I'd be pretty confident that is because the curvature of the Nallo 2 poles is more than the fibraplex poles can handle.

    So if you use fibraplex pole sections to make a pole set for your Nallo 2 you will need some sort of elbow.

    At most you might save ~200g or so (say 6 oz). I've thought about this on-and-off and so far have decided it isn't worth it for me. But if you have a go at making a carbon pole set, please keep us informed on BPL!


    Gordon Bedford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Victoria, Australia


    Yes well to be honest I only separate if I consider the inner wet enough at pack up time.
    I had a Fairydown tunnel tent 20 years ago which was great except it was so difficult to connect inner to outer you could nearly die in the time it took. I sold it after one trip.


    I have been in contact with Fibraplex and they do have a Nallo 2 replacement set with bends as Roger suggested. I have added a third pole to my Nallo for the reasons of snow loading outlined by Roger. They have indicated I could replace this as well with one of their carbon bibre poles.

    This whole review is great for improving the knowledge and quality of tents.


    Stuart Allie


    Locale: Australia


    That's interesting news about fibraplex. If you do go that route, please let us know how it goes, as I'd be interested in a Nallo 2 pole set as well.


    James McIntosh


    Locale: Near Bass Strait

    Love my Olympus – and Minaret for going lighter.

    James McIntosh

    Miles Spathelf
    BPL Member


    Just wanted to add a thank you for all the effort you put forth in your designs and reviews of tunnel tents. My first tunnel is a Hilleberg that I love but is just a bit too heavy for summer use and compared to your winter tent…not quite as light. Cheers!

    Mary D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge

    Many thanks from me, also, to Roger and all the rest of you, for an enlightening and interesting series of articles, and for a great discussion! Roger, I especially appreciate your continued participation in the forum discussion, which required a lot of extra effort on your part. The articles and discussion have given me a lot of information for looking at tents in general.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Thanks Roger for a good review, "mini" though it was. I do like tunnel tents for their aerodynamics and even more for their roomy interior space.

    I think the main reason MSR made the Dragontail tent a single wall was to cut down on weight. As for the new pole clip arrangement, I agree, for a WINTER tent the pole sleeves should be a "requirement" – tunnel or dome. Sleeves also spread out the stress on the fabric in extreme winds.

    Even with my TT Moment 3 season tent I modified it to allow the "crossing pole" to go inside (then back out reinforced holes at each end) to more fully support the canopy in high winds or unexpectedly heavy snow.

    Paul McLaughlin
    BPL Member


    Roger, you decribe the Warmilte 2R in your mini-review as "deriving from the mid-2000's". I think you're a little off on your history there. That tent dates back to the 1960's at least – with the only difference being the fabric, as Silnylon was not avaialble then. Stephenson's were possibly the first to use silnylon in their tents, and had been using urethane-coated 1.1 oz nylon before that. And by the way, you may find this site interesting, as it contains many tidbits of backpacking gear history:

    I'm in agreement with you on the design shortcomings of the Warmlite tents. No vestibule just doesn't cut it for me. And they admitted to me in a response to an email query that the vents cannot remain open in the rain and snow. But I am interested in the poles, and have been for a while. I see you have a weight for the set of poles. Did you weigh just the larger front pole separately? My interest lies in making a tent similar in size to their 3R, which uses the 2R front pole at both ends. And I take note of your comment on the fragility of the thin-walled poles Warmlite is using.

    S. uedonim
    BPL Member


    Locale: UK

    Re: the lightwave tunnels, they've just released an interesting new 2 man model (the T2 Hyper) which has simultaneous or outer first pitch, unlike all their other models which are inner first only. No useful information about it yet, though, other than the fact that it seems size and cost comparable with the Nallo 2.

    What's with the lack of 2-door tunnels in the market, though? HB have the Kaitum and Keron and Macpac has the slightly useless rear door on the Olympus, but the offerings beyond that seem nonexistent. I'd consider cost or weight or complexity to be an issue, but even competent tent manufacturers like Lightwave and Helsport don't seem to bother, despite their offerings including heavy, complex and expensive tents.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Paul

    Now where did I get 'the mid-2000s' from???? Dunno, and I will plead guilty here. Yeah – from back in the hippy era! Late 50s, early 60s.

    The History of Gear web site – yes, I am familiar with it. Fascinating stuff.

    > Did you weigh just the larger front pole separately?
    No, but since you ask: 196 g and 72 g.


    Dan Healy


    Locale: Queensland

    Another take on Australian weather.

    Australia is the flattest, driest continent on the planet. There are relatively small areas above the treeline where, like other countries, the weather in winter brings challenges. However if your country has peaks over 3000m and is closer to the poles then you will in all likelihood have more severe conditions than Australian high country. Also, if because of altitude or distance, you cannot get to a decent coffee shop within a days walk from that area you might consider the ruggedness of your lightweight materials.

    Another take on the Wilderness Equipment ‘First Arrow’ tunnel tent.

    The guy who designs Wilderness Equipment (WE) is a bit of a legend in some circles. He has designed packs and equipment for Australian Special Forces, Australian Antarctic expeditions, various mining companies, governments etc. His stuff is known as bombproof expedition worthy gear. His expedition backpack harness with two independently rotating hip wings is rated by many people as the best in the world with daylight second – if carrying a lot of weight is what has to happen in your line of work. It is never light though. WE expedition equipment is designed to survive very rough country for extended periods of time for many years. Many people over the years have exhorted Ian to come up with a range of gear with lighter materials. For the last 15 years I have got responses usually along the lines of ‘equipment needs to last more than a couple of years of serious use’, ‘… ok for recreational users’… sustainability of products is better for the environment is another one. He has an ‘institutional’ range of gear for schools etc that is for beginners. This article is the first I have heard that the reason for the weight of expedition type tents as being ‘for novices’. Seemingly it is quite the opposite. ‘Novices’ generally do not buy expensive expedition tents that are twice the price of other, already expensive, tents in the store. Similar size expedition type tents from Macpac and Hilleberg are of a comparable weight and are using similar materials.

    All WE designs using his engineering background are worth looking at closely and have many outstanding features.

    The WE First Arrow is a case in point.

    … another look at the specs… Stripped down for carrying 2.95kg sans ti pegs and 9in stakes. The WE site has 3kg listed as min weight which maybe is with pegs. This is the biggest of the tents tested. External width at 171cm (67.3in) height 120cm (47.25in) middle pole approx 95cm, end pole at 70cm (27.5in) Not sure how Caffin measured the interior in his review. My ruler says 110cm (43in) height at the peak, 90cm middle, 62cm (24in) at the foot end. 155cm widest internal to 110cm at the wide point of the foot end. So about 51cm each at the shoulder for 3 – tight and 2cm each less than Hilleberg 3 person – but ok … with height of 110cm x 155cm at the business end stretching to 90cm at the centre it allowed 2 big blokes and one 5’9” to cook and eat sitting up with a bit of care for two wet nights a few years back.

    … another look at the design… I owned the Macpac Olympus and it is and was a very good tent despite the original design being from around the 80’s – like the WE. Here is why I sold it and bought the more expensive WE tent.

    Like most high middle or non tapered tunnel designs the ventilation in the Macpac type tents can be a serious problem and a pain. It left a lot of condensation in the tent which froze or dripped onto the inner. The First Arrow is a tapered ie a rising roof design which is a very much drier tent.

    “… the continuously rising shape of the tent to the high point in the cut-away eave provides the best possible still air convective ventilation and a direct exhaust path for cooking vapours rising from the vestibule. Even at low wind speeds the low pressure created over the main vestibule positively sucks air through the tent. With other designs the top part of the tent must flood with warm moist air before it reaches down to vent level.” … I would add wetting the inner in the process.

    The venting is very clever system protected by ‘eyebrows’ that also do double duty as tension spreading for the multiple guy ropes for very stable end to end tensioning. The flow thru of this system is so efficient that this tent also excels in humid tropical downpours.

    The ingenious vestibule design allows one or two entries or the entire front flap to zip down. The huge entry space allows for such easy entry and egress that helps make the livability of this design a joy to use. No more shuffling around when the second person needs to exit while the first person was cooking, a problem that occurs with most tunnels according to Caffin.

    Small details
    Like the Hilleberg and Macpac tents WE uses thick hard abrasion resistant guy ropes – less worries about guys abrading on rock ‘pegs’ and at 5000m base camps where average wind speed can be 40knots for days on end – these type of conditions are beyond an overnight winter storm at 50m above tree line – you might even describe it as 5th season perhaps.
    WE’s guys are attached with doubled 4mm shockcord to better control wind forces and loosening guys. They are reflective for the entire length – higlighting guy ropes at low vis.
    Like Macpac the guy attachment point is one very wide piece of fabric doubled over not two small ones.
    Ian at WE is obsessive about new materials and ideas. Every few years there are updates and small redesigns. Gone is the silconised nylon fly to be replaced by a 30d ripstop polyester with silicone elastomer facing and polyether based PU back coating. A deep, unstressed tub floor, 100d nylon with 8,000mm HH coating that is folded not cut and sewn at the corners. These types of tubs are not light but they will handle rough sites where light materials won’t.
    Scandium poles – marginally better performance than alu but, unlike carbon, will tend only to crease and fold when stressed too far that may allow for pole sleeves to rescue the situation.
    Features like good big hardy zippers and decent pole sleeves like Macpac and Hilleberg that will stand up to some abuse that will inevitably occur in sub zero conditions at altitude with a decent alpine breeze where it just taken 2hours to travel 150m and the penalty for failure is extreme.
    Like the Macpac it is easy to unclip the front end of the ground sheet to roll it back. In the WE this makes a very large vestibule space that two can sit and prep.
    Custom alterations – eg snow skirts can be sewn in.

    In many people’s view the Wilderness Equipment First Arrow is a premier expedition tent with design features that make it superior to others of this genre in important areas – albeit more expensive than most.

    It seems to be a common thing that good designers are not necessarily the best marketers. Wilderness Equipment would be better known if the founder was more ‘accommodating’ and didn’t p!ss reviewers off so often and was able to explain his product to those selling it. Maybe engineers think that just because they have a good product it should sell itself.

    First Arrow too much tent? WE also do a smaller 2 pole version – the Second Arrow tent – a 2 man tent about the same size and weight as a Hilleberg Nallo 2 or Macpac Minaret.2nd Arrow in snow

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Dan

    I had better say up front that I have known Ian Maley (WE owner) for many, many years.

    > Many people over the years have exhorted Ian to come up with a range of gear with
    > lighter materials.
    Yup. Me too. Same goes for One Planet.

    > This article is the first I have heard that the reason for the weight of expedition
    > type tents as being ‘for novices’.
    Well, calling all that gear 'expedition' may be part of the perception problem. It IS sold in standard retail outlets, and yes, novices DO buy it. And they do stick the poles through the wall of the sleeve and demand their money back. (Source: Ian Maley.)

    As to the other points you made – to each his own style. No problem.

    Btw – nice photo – where?


    Ren Stimpy


    I have been using Warmlite tents now for over 20 years. Over the time I 'collected' 3 Warmlite tents (2,3 and 5) as well as several tarps and a couple tents from other manufacturers. Yet I keep coming back to these tents as my main goto tent.

    First let's talk about the negatives:

    1. I agree with you about the stitching 'look' but it has not affected me in practical terms while out there camping.

    2. Also, in these days of taped seams, getting a tent that needs to be seam sealed is a bit of a drag.

    3. If you absolutely must have a freestanding tent then a tube tent is obviously not for you.

    Now the positives:
    The Warmlite tents are by far the fastest pitching shelters that I have ever used and seen compared to what I own or what my friends own.

    When you're being chased by mosquitoes in the wind river range or when you're caught by a rainstorm or when you're pitching a shelter in 30 knot winds – the warmlite tent is up in no time. Two hoops and 3 stakes, no messing with attaching a fly and you can retension the tent from the inside while out of the elements. I can have the tent pitched in 3 to 5 minutes.

    There is absolutely no need for additional guy lines or for 3rd pole. The tent works fine as designed and thankfully this simplicity contributes to a quick up and down of the pitch.

    I love the integrated fly design. The inner wall (second wall) shields you from any condensation issues. Typically one sleeps in the area between the hoops where the two walls are. The single walled entrance space is supposed to be the 'vestibule'. The space outside under the flap can store your shoes if you desire.

    Because the tent is contain to one piece it is also very easy to dry it. Just hang it from a clothesline at home. This also helps keeping it clean of sand and debris. You can just shake it all out of the tent or just leave it hanging on the clothes line and gravity will take care of it.

    The 2 series tent sleeps two people comfortably. We've had one night where we had 3 people side by side and a 5 year old child facing oposite way. By comparison the 4 person Big Agnes Copper Spur I have (and like) fits 3 people and one must rely on the tight vestibule space for equipment.

    Last weekend I was pitching a tarp on a beach in strong winds. It was to be used for shade while the 3R waited to be pitched later for sleeping. The amount of stakes, guy lines and stakes and hardship that a single person needs to go through is almost comical when compared to the quick pitch of the Warmlite tents.

    I've had a 2RD for over 20 years, 3RLW for 10 years and 5XW for over 5 years. This summer I will be replacing the 2 series with a new tent.

    Stuart Murphy
    BPL Member


    Hi Roger,

    WE have released 20D sil/sil versions of their Arrow tents… the First arrow now comes in at 2.3kg gross according to their website (total packed weight)… which is extremely light for a 3 pole tent of that size.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Stuart

    > 2.3kg gross … which is extremely light for a 3 pole tent of that size.
    My 3-pole tunnel tent weighs 1.26 kg. And it takes storms.
    Blowed if I can work out where all the weight in that 2.3 kg must be.


    David Ure


    "My 3-pole tunnel tent weighs 1.26 kg. And it takes storms."

    Roger, are you bringing these to market for the masses?

    David Ure


    Didn't think so. Given that, we should probably discuss tents that are actually available for use.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Dave

    > are you bringing these to market for the masses?
    I have tried, via Easton, but the company changed direction. Sigh.


    David Ure


    Have you thought about joint venturing with one of the familiar US cottage companies? i.e. Tarptent? We have so few tunnel tents available in North America; it would be nice to have options other than Hilleberg.


    "Have you thought about joint venturing with one of the familiar US cottage companies? i.e. Tarptent? We have so few tunnel tents available in North America; it would be nice to have options other than Hilleberg."


    Will Penney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Europe

    Hi Roger and others:  I note that your (Roger’s) red winter tent has sod cloths / snow valences all the way around.  The Olympus featured has them only around the vestibule.  Hilleberg has none -on any tunnel or geodesic tent in their range. I see this variation in apporach between brands throughout the market, for othewise similar tents.  Some brands have none, some only at the vestibules, some all the way around. Why?

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North

    I have seen Hillebergs with snow valances, it’s an extra that can be purchased directly from them.

    I am complete convert to tunnels tents for non solo use, they are great. I brought my buddy and his son on their 1st winter camping trip this weekend and they were absolutely amazed by the space in my Keron (also have an Anjan for 3 season trips).





    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Sod cloths and snow valences:

    First of all, I have absolutely no idea why Macpac put the sod cloth at the lee end of the Olympus in the latest version. Really wierd, and incomprehensible.

    Second, why have them at all? Have a look at our article When Things Go Wrong and you will see why. The photo just before the heading “Day 3” says it all. Without a sod cloth at the windward end you can get spindrift blowing through the tent in unholy quantities. It can flatten the inner tent when it builds up. Sure, you can build walls of snow blocks around the tent to block the wind, but when it gets bad the wind etchs those walls away very quickly. Large ice blocks might work much better than snow blocks, but you don’t always have that option.

    Someone suggested that Australia is a flat country and that other places have bigger mountains and worse weather. Chuckle. The Main Range is an interesting place. You have several hundred kilometres of huge valley pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind. At the East end that valley narrows and then abruptly terminates in a high headwall: the Main Range. It’s the mouth of a funnel. You can have a ‘normal’ storm 100 km to the W, but when it reaches the crest of the Main Range it can be clocking over 200 kph. Top recorded wind speed up there is something like 230+ kph. Mind you, the South Island of New Zealand is in a similar boat. I believe the peaks of one or two mountains in USA also cop this.



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