- Oct 31, 2019 at 4:39 am #3616631Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
With cold temps and lots of condensation potential on the inside of a fly + blowing fine snow, I’d stay away from mesh-inner designs like the Portal. It’s a wind-resistant design that can handle some snow loading (assuming you deploy at least 4 of the 8 ridgeline guyline attachment points), but not a winter/snow tent. The fly is impossible to drop low unless you pile snow up against it, so it will let in spindrift, and the mesh inner won’t provide much of a cold buffer, or shelter against the condensation (whether wet or frost) that will rain into the inner tent.
The Chinook 1P, however – solid fabric inner tent, three pole crossing points – a good winter option for snow loading, warmth, and condensation management.Nov 1, 2019 at 12:08 am #3616763
Outside America, experienced Alpine tourers just about all use tunnel tents
Tarp tents, in their infinite variations, just don’t compare when the weather gets bad.
CheersNov 1, 2019 at 2:36 am #3616815bradmacmtBPL Member
Outside America, experienced Alpine tourers just about all use tunnel tents. Tarp tents, in their infinite variations, just don’t compare when the weather gets bad.
And no tunnel tent tent compares to the stability of a geodesic dome, or geodesic dome hybrid…Nov 1, 2019 at 4:10 am #3616841
And no tunnel tent tent compares to the stability of a geodesic dome
100 kph winds overnight for two nights running.
I agree that geodesic domes can be very robust, but they also weigh a LOT more than a good tunnel (all those poles you see).
CheersNov 1, 2019 at 4:42 am #3616844
“I agree that geodesic domes can be very robust, but they also weigh a LOT more than a good tunnel (all those poles you see).”
And for whatever reason, tunnels weigh a good bit more than well designed pop-ups, like the BSI Chinook 1P that Ryan mentioned. Ditto, for their 1P+ or 2P Chinooks.Nov 1, 2019 at 7:38 am #3616852
And for whatever reason, tunnels weigh a good bit more than well designed pop-ups
My red winter 2-man tent weighs 1.8 kg with all the poles. It is very comfortable inside.
Now this may be heavier than a 1-man pop-up, but would you trust such a pop-up in a 100 kph snow storm lasting all night?
CheersNov 1, 2019 at 12:11 pm #3616854Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Unfortunately for Lisa, your tunnel isn’t available for purchase and commercially available tunnel tents tend to be expensive and heavy. What are your recommendations for lightweight commercially available tunnel tents? Since they aren’t used much in the US, we probably don’t know very much about the state of the market and what tents are available (outside of Hilleburg).Nov 1, 2019 at 9:50 pm #3616908
@Brad (& Lisa)
Yeah, I know. I tried, twice, to get them produced, but failed.
First of all, I do not recommend a 1-man tunnel tent. A 1-man tunnel weighs nearly as much as a 2-man tunnel. Imho, the weight penalty is too high, but others may disagree.
In the realms of 2-man tunnels, we have the Macpac Olympus, one or two Hilleberg models, the Vango Tempest, the WE First Arrow, the Nigor Didis 2, in that order. There are others, of decreasing storm-worthiness and probably increasing weight. None are as cheap as a tarp, but what do you expect? The Vango is not expensive however.
No, I do not recommend the Stephensons Warmlite. The one I reviewed had really poor sewing and the design was not as good as any of the others – imho. The original models may have been better: I do not know.
I emphatically do NOT recommend any of the pop-up or wedge designs: they may be suitable for mild conditions deep in a sheltered forest, but I would not risk my neck.
My wife & I ‘lived’ in an Olympus for many years. It is a genuine 3-pole tunnel, while so many of the others are really just 2-pole ones. I would rate it at the top of the commercial scale. Yes, my 4-pole red winter tent would go beyond it, but it would cost a bit more if it was produced.
A caution should be made here, if you will forgive me. A tunnel tent is expensive and like any other bit of UL gear, needs some understanding and skill. It can be really easy to pitch IF you do it the right way, even in a bad storm, but it gets complicated if you don’t. Read our review of tunnels for more info on that.
CheersNov 2, 2019 at 12:25 am #3616927Edward John MBPL Member
I agree with you regarding snow load but I also agree with Roger about tunnel tents for touring
If I am going to be basecamping in the snow [ and I do a lot of this or used to while Yo-Yo skiing] i will use a big dome or a large hybrid but I have a selection of tunnel tents which I find superior for touring.
But almost any tent will work to some degree most of the time if good site selection is followed and the weather report is good
Winter camping is not about UL Per Se but UltraLight for the conditions and comfort level desired/required
Personally I think Helsport tents are slightly better designed than Hilleberg but it is a very minor degree of difference and down to preference regarding snow skirts and ventilation flowNov 2, 2019 at 1:51 am #3616933
I like the Helsport Patagonia 3-man tent, but at 6.5 kg (w poles) it is just a bit too heavy.
They have some tunnel/domes that don’t look too bad, but they are still a bit heavy (eg Himalaya X-trem at 4.05 kg). The Spizbergen has 3 poles plus vestibule, but it is 5.7 kg for a 3-man version. Of course, if you are in a 3-man group and pulling pulks, the weight may be fine.
However, some of the others (eg Lofoten) are really 2-pole tents with an extra pole for a large vestibule. The gap between the two main poles covering the sleeping chamber seems to be >2 m, which imho is way in excess of what is stable in a storm if the wind is not dead astern.
Yes, I place a lot of importance on the between-pole gap – from experience. If it is >1 m, that’s not good enough imho. It is going to bulge and flap.
CheersNov 2, 2019 at 4:02 am #3616944Tipi WalterBPL Member
I’ve been living in a Hilleberg tunnel tent for many years in all conditions—just got back from a hellish October 24-27 windstorm in the mountains of NC—wx radio blurted out something about “gusts up to 80mph”—think I got 70mph.
But like with any tent, even the best—it gets UV damage resulting in more and more porous fly material—and then leaks happen not due to holes but due to rain load and fabric permeability.
We all dreamed about getting a North Face VE24 back in the day—but nowadays I require a tent that is not saturated with flame retardants ergo the Hillie. North Face and the Trangos of Mt Hardwear I believe still use flame retardants in their tents. All my old Mt Hardwear tents have the peculiar and irritating stank. It’s all right I guess for a weekend trip but not for 150 nights a year.Nov 2, 2019 at 4:54 am #3616946Edward John MBPL Member
The Lofoten is fine and strong in the wind; even side on. As you point out tho it isn’t designed to resist snow loading and the Patagonia doesn’t come with an extended vestibule version.
Getting the weight down is important but going stupid light is not the safest or most comfortable option. I have a “Ski Last Degree” flyer on my desk as I type. They use Hilleberg 4-person KeronGT tents as 2 person tents, I can guess why but that would be my own comfort level of spaceNov 2, 2019 at 7:21 am #3616953
“Now this may be heavier than a 1-man pop-up, but would you trust such a pop-up in a 100 kph snow storm lasting all night.”
I would not be foolish enough to go backpacking in the mountains in a 100 kph wind and snow storm lasting all night.
Still, I think you have a point. It is possible to get nailed by the weather even when things don’t look anything like what you describe. A good example: When I did volunteer work for the Cohos Trail in northernmost NH, a group of young and strong guys decided to do the first through hike of the 160 mile trail in winter. It was in the depth of winter, but there was a thaw, the weather was clear and almost balmy, and nothing awful was predicted.
So they set out. While the trail goes near, but not over the very top of Mt Washington, they took a detour and headed up. They got blasted by heavy sleet and wind driven rain, and without reaching the top, retreated frozen and soaked to the skin. Fortunately, the Cohos Trial leads almost to the back door of the Mt Washington Hotel, a very classy place, and they came in the back service entrance and asked for shelter. Probably in view of their condition, they were provided a place to stay for the night, without which there might have been fatalities. They also were able to continue, the weather northward improved, and they completed the trail, but not without availing themselves of additional facilities. All of this provoked a bit of a scandal, but I mention the episode to underscore your premise that ‘things can go wrong’ very unpredictably.
However, I firmly believe that most tents, including tunnels, could be made lighter, without sacrificing safety. Indeed, you have reminded us on occasion that this website is about backpacking LIGHT. And just because a tent has a bit of framework inside it does not mean that it can be readily dismissed as a ‘pop-up’. The quality of the design and the materials are more important to me than the particular pigeon hole into which the tent has been classified. And I believe that a tent that you would call a ‘pop-up’ need not necessarily be unsuitable for winter weather. Ryan has been a very active trekker in all weather in northern climes, and he would probably not suggest the Big Sky tent if it were otherwise.
But as you suggest, one must be sure of an adequate shelter before venturing far into backcountry in winter, and so should not make choices of critical gear without first getting to know its strengths and limitations in challenging, but somewhat less hostile conditions. So agree with you, but intend to keep working on a light 1-2P tent that ‘pops up’ and is suitable for 4 seasons in places where people go backpacking, albeit not on climbing expeditions.Nov 2, 2019 at 7:46 am #3616954
It is possible to get nailed by the weather even when things don’t look anything like what you describe.
Just so. In our Australian Alps the weather can go from blue sky to a hailstorm in about 20 minutes – been there, done that, without full gear too! (A short side excursion in fine weather …)
I believe that a tent that you would call a ‘pop-up’ need not necessarily be unsuitable for winter weather.
It all depends on the fabric span between poles and the length of the poles. If the unsupported span is >1 m, bad news imho. If the poles go right across the persons length, they will be wobbly: also bad news.
I guess it also depends on what you mean by ‘winter weather’. Our Main Range can be a similar to Mt Washington: it lies right across the narrow end of a west-facing funnel.
Incidentally, if you look at the pictures in my tunnel tent article, you will see that the way I pitch a tunnel does make it ‘pop up’. Not quite what you meant though. :)
I have not tested any Big Sky tents, but it looks to me as though they all have large (>1 m) unsupported fabric spans and very long bendy poles. Wobbly in the wind. My 2c.
Ryan has been a very active trekker in all weather in northern climes
Chuckle. Ryan has one of the few tunnel tents I made and sold. It is a large ‘1-man’ version.
CheersNov 5, 2019 at 6:04 am #3617368
Believe me, I read your excellent 3 part article on tunnels when posted, and have studied it several times since, so am familiar with it. Ditto, re the “When Things Go Wrong” article. The goal of a one-motion pitch seduced me to take a detour with a plan for a ‘clamshell’ tent that was proposed in a post earlier this year. The rather cool response to that post may have nudged me back toward a ‘pop-up’ design.
Agree about fabric spans and pole lengths also. Even though the ridge of my solo still in progress is only 36″, decided to add a carbon ridge pole. The weight penalty will be under an ounce, which is pretty cheap considering the added strength of the structure. But don’t think a 3d ground-to-ground hoop pole is worth the weight just to support vestibules with seams that follow the same path that naked guy lines would.
Am fussing now with the simplest way to have short extensions from each end of the ridge pole hold up the vent awnings. Steve Noall’s solution on his Solitary Base was a good one, but the KIS goal is no elbows, just a straight pole, that flexes of course, it being a ‘pop-up’.
As far as wobbly-ness is concerned, you might recall that my XX prototype canopy came out very stable with pole crossings on each side of the ridge. You could not see that from the photos in the 2011 post, so guess it is just a matter of whether folks believe it or not. The design has since been through many incarnations, most intended to simplify a quick pitch.
Not sure I see any unsupported long spans in the solo versions of the Big Sky Chinook tents, and not being an engineer, cannot tell how much the third pole keeps the tent from being wobbly. But in fairness, as with a tunnel, guy lines add a lot of stability to a two pole wedge tent. That much I know from my modified One Planet Goondie.
I recall the photo posted of Ryan with your solo tunnel. I think for a solo, shoulder room is not at quite the same premium as with your two person design. So just flexed hoops are simpler, as with this early attempt to make a tunnel out of tarp. Never felt cramped with it. The problems were the condensation, and water blowing in under the awnings (not shown) at each end:
Granted, the center sections of each pole were made of fiberglass that was more flexible than the outer alloy sections, and that also increased shoulder room a mite.Nov 5, 2019 at 6:50 am #3617370
Mixed mode poles eh? Yeah, room for exploration there. Interesting idea.
From a purely selfish PoV, modelling the differing elasticities in my tent design program could be a challenge. (Tough) :)
As for the Big Sky Chinook tents, yes, both 1P and 2P have long diagonal poles going the full diagonal length of the sleeper. They do have this curious 3rd pole which has elbows in it. Hard to tell from the small plan drawings they show, but it seems that the elbows happen where the 3rd pole crosses the 1st two. I think it will be just as flappy in bad weather as almost any other pop-up.
CheersNov 6, 2019 at 12:16 am #3617414
“As for the Big Sky Chinook tents, yes, both 1P and 2P have long diagonal poles going the full diagonal length of the sleeper. … I think it will be just as flappy in bad weather as almost any other pop-up.”
That’s a good description of the classic wedge dome shape. One reason for flapping may be the nylon material sagging when it gets wet. But you may be saying that the crossed diagonal poles also have a role to play in flapping because of their length, or for some other reason.
So hypothetically, if the nylon is replaced by 20D polyester (as Snow Peak and others have done), or by some means of limiting nylon sag, and the long arched poles are guyed out diagonally in four directions, would the tent still be as flappy in bad weather? And if you stick a wicket in a pop-up (forgive the phrasing), wouldn’t that also reduce flapping, not to mention adding stability to the vestibules?
My problem with this is that the three full length poles, the two diagonals and the wicket, add too much weight, as the poles, even carbon ones, are the heaviest challenge in a light weight design. But wonder if the total length of the poles in your tunnels is more or less than the two diagonals and the wicket for the Chinook 2P tent.
Also, Franco’s Pinon Escalante tent appears to have three full poles and no elbows. I’m no engineer, but the Pinon structure appears to yield more stability than just adding a wicket.
Given that Big Sky has addressed the dry entry and dry pitch problems with pop-ups, and the Pinon may address some others, what remains to be done for pop-up fans. Maybe dropping the total pole length, and thus weight a bit. But are you saying that diagonally crossed poles are just inherently not as stable as tunnels, even when guyed out? That’s the issue I’m not clear about. If we knew the answer, it would be much easier to compare tunnels and more advanced 1-2P wedge tents.Nov 6, 2019 at 1:43 am #3617423
are you saying that diagonally crossed poles are just inherently not as stable as tunnels, even when guyed out?
Yes. That is exactly what I am saying.
There are some sound engineering reasons why this is so. There is also my testing of some pop-ups (sent to me for testing) which did have a reasonable number of guy ropes.
* The first reason is just the sheer length of the poles on a pop-up. They are much longer than on a tunnel, and hence much more bendy.
* The second reason is how the fabric supports the poles. On a pop-up with the poles threaded into sleeves on the fly, the bracing (two wings of fabric around the sleeve) is at a right angle. Once the pole is pushed in a bit, that bracing is lost, and the pole can flex all over the place. Contrast this with a bracing the poles get in a tunnel tent: the fabric bracing does not lose its effect when the poles move. (I don’t even mention pop-ups with throw-over fly sheets.)
* The third reason is the curvature in the poles. In a tunnel tent the curve is a short tight circle or ellipse with high strength; in a pop-up it is a long curve with little strength.
This diagram is taken from Part 1 of our series on tunnel tents and it is to scale, illustrating the pole curves. It makes my point.
So why does the fabric on a pop-up flap? Because it is unsupported, and as soon as the pole moves slightly the fabric is loose. Of course it is going to flap! This picture, also from the above series, illustrates this:
Pop-up on the left, collapsing; tunnel on the right, standing, at a higher wind speed.
It is worth noting that the typical poles on a pop-up have to be at least 9 mm for the tent to stay up; I use 7.5 mm poles on my tunnels and they take 100 kph all-night storms.
the poles, even carbon ones, are the heaviest challenge in a light weight design.
Forgive me if I soapbox a little here. The poles are what keep the tent functional in bad weather. To complain about their weight seems to me to be putting ‘UL status’ above real needs. My blue (3-season) tunnel weighs 1.34 kg for a TWO-man tent. Is that all that heavy given its reliability?
To be sure, a light tarp and some trekking poles may be all that one needs in summer time in forested country: that’s fine. But in the mountains here in Oz we can have a snow or hail storm right in the middle of the summer at a 1/2 hr notice: I cannot afford the risk.
CheersNov 7, 2019 at 7:25 am #3617593
Thank you, Roger. Much food for further thought. But I did read and study the articles. Honest. Will respond, though.Nov 7, 2019 at 4:07 pm #3617632Matt DirksenBPL Member
@namelesswayLocale: Mid Atlantic
“are you saying that diagonally crossed poles are just inherently not as stable as tunnels, even when guyed out?
Yes. That is exactly what I am saying.
There are some sound engineering reasons why this is so.”
So, I know you’ve stepped on this soapbox many times on BPL before, but as an architect, your above statement leaves me somewhat confused and intrigued.
Clearly, a single arched pole subjected to a force vector in a single direction has a high degree of stability (per it’s weight). But I don’t understand how it is “inherently more stable” than a crossed pole design. It may be in a single dimension, but tents are three dimensional structures. Especially if pole intersections are tightened as to prevent the poles from shifting around (not that this is a standard feature on geodesic tents).
Granted, longer poles would not be as strong on their own, but the combinations of intersections make a big difference on overall multi-dimensional stability – especially from forces in multiple directions. I suppose that the added weight of the extra poles may not actually add up to a more weight efficient design perhaps, but I still don’t understand why this would make it less inherently less stable.
Again, I’m not a PE, but I’m regularly obliged to interpret structural analysis reports from engineers which work with me on a regular basis. This discussion has intrigued me for years, and I’d love to see more of the data behind it if you (or any structural engineers on BPL) might have some calcs to share. While I’ve thoroughly consumed what you have eloquently published about tunnel designs, is there any resource which shows a similar analysis of geodesic tent designs? I’m sure somewhere out there, 1+1 might possibly equal 2.5.
MattNov 7, 2019 at 8:31 pm #3617668
A dominant factor in stability is the length of the pole; a close second is the way the pole is supported sideways.
Have a look at that diagram again. It is to scale. The poles on the pop-ups and domes are much longer than on a tunnel. They will flex a lot more. That is unavoidable.
The idea that crossing the poles will add strength to them has no basis in engineering unless they are rigidly coupled together at the crossing points. There are some geo domes which do this with a ‘hub’ at the top. Also a few pop-ups have a hub at the top to join 3 poles together. But the poles are still much longer and more flexible.
The curvature in a tunnel is much higher than in a dome or pop-up. If you press down on the top of a tunnel pole you will have to press very hard to get much movement, but it does not take much force on a dome to make the top or middle of the pole actually reverse its curvature: to buckle.
Now look at both designs from above. On a dome or pop-up, the poles are at corners. The fabric goes around the poles at right angles. If you push the pole sideways the fabric can NOT prevent that movement, even if there is a guy rope going out along the diagonal.
If necessary, the long pole may even buckle sideways in a bit of an S-curve. We have seen that sort of buckling on many photos of pop-ups or domes under severe winds.
But with a tunnel you can NOT push the pole sideways along the axis of the tent or get it to buckle sideways: the fabric prevents that. You could try pushing the pole inwards, but that is directly against the guy rope, and also against the bending force in the pole due to the higher curvature.
Does this help?
CheersNov 8, 2019 at 2:20 am #3617716Franco DarioliBPL Member
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
From Hilleberg :
“THE IDEA BEHIND THE TARRA was to create a kind of hybrid “tunnel dome” model, with a tunnel tent’s usable roominess and the static strength of a dome. The resulting boxy inner tent has near vertical walls, while the four pole structure boasts five crossing points for an exceptionally strong structure”
Maybe the advertising department came up with that description and the designers than obliged.
I don’t know, I am confused now.Nov 8, 2019 at 3:11 am #3617726
I dare say the advertising dept bears a lot of blame here, but even I would have to admit that the 4 poles will have some strength. Why they could not have made it a simple tunnel I do not know.
Maybe I DO know. The extra length on the poles is bad in my eyes, but it would permit the pole to curve enough, whereas a straight-across tunnel pole might have had difficulties. (I use elbows.)
The reference to ‘crossing points’ is however just marketing spin. The poles can slide past each other so there is no extra strength gained. I guess if other vendors can crap on about them, so can Hilleberg. And why they went for clips rather than simple sleeves I cannot imagine. Ah yes: crossing sleeved poles is tricky for the customer.
I do not like their ventilation system: a spindrift access point! It will flap in the wind. The side entry they show can really suffer in high wind with rain. You would have to pull the groundsheet back – if you can.
What really worries me about the picture you show is the nearly total lack of guy rope attachment points! That is just amazing: pure marketing. It cannot be a ‘free-standing’ tent anyhow, so the absence is inexplicable, and ridiculous.
CheersNov 8, 2019 at 3:48 am #3617737Franco DarioliBPL Member
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
“Why they could not have made it a simple tunnel I do not know”
the Tarra is a 2 person tent .
Hilleberg make several “simple” 2 person tunnel tents, however they also make domes and that hybrid dome/tunell.
Somehow it seems pretty easy for me to understand why but it will remain a mystery for some.
Anyway as for you worries about guyout points, well you could have googled that but I did it for you :
here is a video if that photo is not all that clear
Nov 8, 2019 at 4:24 am #3617744
A FEW guy ropes, I concede the point. I would prefer more. I have 4 double guy ropes on each side, plus 3 at the windward end and 2 at the lee end. As I have said before (boring?), it sat there in a 100 kph storm all night with barely a tremor.
In fact, when I saw it showing any movement at all from inside, I had to check. I found that 6 out of 8 Spectra side guys had broken by fraying over the sharp edges of the Ti snow stakes (my fault for leaving them sharp). The 20 mm thick ice layers along the guys had given a lot of wind resistance. But the tent still just sat there. All that concerned me was that, in the 100 kph snow storm, I could not find the snow stakes and recover them!
Very long poles he was using, weren’t they? Long, and very bendy. And they have to go up unsupported.
And while he made a good show of pitching the tent, I would like to see him do that in a bad storm. The half-erect tent looked, well, fragile, with some very high stress points. I am not keen on the sort of design that makes pitching and striking the tent tricky in bad weather.
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