The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is built with a single focus – to climb to the world’s toughest summits.
The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is a tent that was created for a singular purpose – to climb serious mountains quickly with the lightest weight and greatest level of security possible. It weighs in at just about 3.25 pounds, making it among the lightest two-person bomber mountaineering tents on the market. The Summit Extreme is constructed of Exchange Lite Gore-Tex, which is highly breathable and gas permeable, and has a large rear vent; both factors greatly minimize condensation. (Exchange Lite Gore-Tex is not available in tents sold in the U.S.; Outdoor Designs is manufactured in the U.K.) It uses Easton 340 Carbon FX poles which are 35% lighter but 208% stronger than similar aluminum models. The Summit Extreme has an extremely low profile at 28 inches, 13 stake out points, and can handle the strongest of winds. It has a small footprint and can be pitched in very small spots (even most double porta-ledges). A unique feature is the dual sealed tie out points, allowing two climbers to be directly anchored to the mountain without having to open the tent to pass a rope or slings.
However, in its singular focus, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme has some serious downsides. The 28-inch roof is very short, making sitting up impossible. This low height also creates low angled walls which, while adding to its wind stability, greatly minimize usable space. This tent is very cramped for two people. It also has no vestibule, making this a better solo tent unless you have a very focused pair of climbers who are willing to accept the cramped quarters. There is a mosquito mesh door on the front but this is not a tent you’d want to spend a lot of time in while waiting out the bugs in lowland areas. At $660 USD, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is also a very expensive tent. That said, the price is right, and the design is right, if you need a tent that offers an unparalleled mix of light weight, high security, breathability, and wind stability. It begs to be taken up the most serious mountains in the world.
- Ultralight mountaineering tent at just 3.25 pounds minimum package
- Easton Carbon fiber poles are 35% lighter and 208% stronger than aluminum models
- Exchange Lite Gore-Tex is highly breathable and virtually eliminates condensation
- Dual sealed tie out points to anchor climbers directly to the mountain
- Very cramped quarters and a very low ceiling make this a better solo tent and passable for a pair of climbers only for the most focused summit attempts
- Low ceiling, stiff poles, and 13 guy out points create exceptionally high wind stability
- Very tough and durable
- Made in the U.K. – Gore-Tex tents not available in the U.S.
- Not cheap at $660 but a good value for climbers that need its features
- The Summit Extreme has no equal in its niche – light weight, secure, breathable, and stable
• Tent Type
|Single wall with floor, mountaineering tent|
• Fabric Description
|Tent body: Exchange Lite Gore-Tex – 15,000 mm Hydrostatic Head, O2 and CO2 gas permeable; Tent floor: coated nylon – 10,000 mm Hydrostatic Head|
• Pole Material
|Carbon fiber, Easton 340 Carbon FX (ultimate tensile strength poles – 200,000 psi, inserts – 96,000 psi)|
• Weight Full Package
• Weight Minimum Package
• Floor/ Vestibule Area
• Floor Area/Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio
• Model Year
Usable Features / Ease of Use
The rear vent can be held open by attaching it to the guyline and is fully adjustable from within the tent. Note the elastic section of the guyline for flex during high winds.
Setting up the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is very easy. Like other single wall wedge designs, the poles are set up outside the tent, slipped inside, and flexed into their corner spots. Pole tips are placed into the corner grommets (two are provided for tensioning options or for running a double pole set for extra strength). The 10 Velcro tabs are then attached. A minimum of six stakes are recommended to achieve the maximum stability and floor space (one at each corner and two for the side guy outs). In really nasty conditions, I was even able to set the tent up from inside, although it’s usually easier from the outside because of the small interior space.
The poles are Easton 340 Carbon FX models which are 35% lighter than similar gauge aluminum poles but 208% stronger. In fact, these poles are twice as strong as ANY OTHER POLE EASTON MAKES. Their weakness is in their standard Easton aluminum inserts, which are half the strength of the pole material (see Durability below).
The tent material is Gore-Tex Exchange Lite, a waterproof/breathable fabric that is also oxygen and carbon dioxide permeable, allowing for totally sealed usage for extended periods. All seams are seam taped and the corners have deep, reinforced pole pockets.
The dual tie in loops are found on the top and side of the tent.
There is one door that has an inner mosquito/spindrift netting door. Door seams are covered by two overlapping 3.5 inch wide flaps that are Velcro closed. A rear vent is placed low in the tent for high/low air flow with the front door. This vent can be sealed closed by a cordlock, but is not backed with mesh. The vent is easily adjusted from inside and attaches to the rear guyline for maximum ventilation.
The author hanging out with the top tie in use. I am directly tied off with zero load on the tent and no opening in the top. Another loop on the side gives another secure tie-off.
A unique feature of the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is the dual sealed tie points. These points are created by fabric hoops that are sewn to the tent walls, creating sealed elbow macaroni-shaped hoops. One hoop is located on top of the tent (hoop outside the tent) and the other is at the base of the tent side (hoop inside the tent). These two fabric tubes allow the climber(s) to tie into the tube with a runner and then to tie into an anchor on the outside of the tent. This system effectively removes the tent from the system WITHOUT having to pass a rope or runner through an opening in the tent. This means that you can pitch the tent on a highly exposed ridge, on a big wall porta-ledge (it fits most double porta-ledges), or in an area of extreme wind and secure yourself directly to the mountain, increasing security in extreme conditions dramatically.
The Summit Extreme comes with standard v-stakes and a set of guylines. Also included are guylines with thick elastic hoops at one end which allow the tent to give a bit during high winds. These elastic guylines were a blessing during one 60+ mph night, allowing the fully guyed-out tent to give during gusts, helping maintain solid anchor placements. Three reasonably lightweight and durable stuff sacks are also included, although the pole sack is too short for the carbon poles.
Weight / Sizing / Usable Space
At around 3 pounds 4 ounces for the complete tent, this is one of the lightest tents that can truly be considered “bomber.” The floor space is also reasonable, measuring 1 inch wider and 1 inch longer than a comparable Integral Designs MK1 Lite. However, because of the very short 28 inch roof (compared to 42 inches on the MK1 Lite), the walls are at a low angle. This cuts way down on usable space, making this tent very small for two people. As a solo tent, usable space in the Summit Extreme was better, but at 6’2″ tall, I slept at an angle to be most comfortable. I could not fully sit up in the tent, and with a partner it was necessary to take turns getting ready or organizing gear.
There is no vestibule and precious little space for gear inside. If there are two of you, compromises will be a necessity.
The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is a tiny tent – very low to the ground and very cramped for two hikers. My wife and I survived in the tent during condensation testing on the Olympic Coast – cramped but with extremely minimal condensation despite completely sealing the tent in constant rains.
The Summit Extreme has low angled walls, stiff Easton carbon fiber poles, and 13 guy outs, creating exceptional wind stability.
Although the low height and low angle walls cut down on usable space, they absolutely shine when the wind picks up. Despite the fact that two-pole designs tend to not be the best when winds pick up because of side deflection, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme does very well with high winds, due to its sloped walls that easily spill wind. With 50-60 mph gusts on a mountain ridge in the Cascades, the tent barely moved. The side guy outs added to the stability of the tent. In fact, much higher winds would be needed to fully test the upper limits of wind stability with the Summit Extreme. This is the first tent I’ve used that I would take for an overnight in a storm on the summit of Rainier or a high camp in the Himalaya.
The Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme sheds snow easily. However, the low roof creates a tiny flat spot on the top of the tent. During snow storms, I had to occasionally knock snow off the roof. Nothing abnormal resulted from these light snow loads and the tent could handle far greater snow loads with ease.
Ventilation / Condensation Resistance
The Gore-Tex Exchange Lite fabric is second in breathability only to eVENT in waterproof/breathable tent fabrics. However, the only full eVENT tent currently available is the Nemo Tenshi and only for a limited time. Further, because of fire codes, Gore-Tex tents are not available from North American companies. To find Gore-Tex tents you have to look at brands outside of North America such as Outdoor Designs (U.K.), Terra Nova (U.K.), MacPac (Australia), or Montbell-Japan. But when it comes to breathability and condensation resistance, it is well worth it to track down a Gore-Tex tent.
Little more than minor condensation along the poles was ever achieved during field usage of the Summit Extreme. This includes a very wet trip in the Olympic National Park; despite constant drizzle, still air, two people in the tent, and keeping it completely sealed, very little condensing occurred in the tent and not enough to run down the sides (a huge difference from the condensation found on the large volume silnylon tent pitched next to us). Even during condensation testing in my backyard when I boiled water in the tent for 15 minutes (not recommended), the condensation was remarkably low and dried within 20 minutes after shutting off the stove.
By opening the rear vent and cracking the door, cross ventilation was sufficient for airing out the tent if one is forced to cook inside the tent (once again, not recommended). However, finding space for cooking is a different matter.
The Summit Extreme tent is designed to survive bug season but not to be comfortable in it. The door has bug netting and the fabric is breathable. However, the tiny tent is just a step ahead of a bivy for comfort when being swarmed. The rear vent without netting makes it impossible to achieve cross-venting at these times. However, adding netting to this vent would make it impossible to adjust the vent from inside the tent, a compromise not acceptable with the focus of the Summit Extreme.
While on a climbing trip, I fell hard on the tent while walking on ice in my boot liners, breaking a pole insert (which are half the strength of the carbon poles). I ended the trip fine and Easton had a new section to me in just three days, no questions asked. Believe me – this was not the fault of the pole. It is interesting to note that it was not the carbon pole that snapped but the aluminum insert, proving the strength of the carbon shafts.
The Gore-Tex fabric is very tough, both inside and out, and showed zero wear after several months of field testing. Even when a sharp piece of aluminum shoved into the tent fabric from the broken pole, I was amazed that no damaged occurred. Same goes with the floor which shows no wear despite being pitched directly on ice and rock on many occasions. This tent will last through many tough summit bids.
At $660, the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme is an expensive and specifically-focused tent and is $100-$200 more expensive than its nearest competitors from Integral Designs and Bibler. That said, there really is no competitor for the Outdoor Designs Summit Extreme. It can go with you on the most challenging alpine routes and keep you alive with its wind stability, moisture-passing walls, durability, and dual tie out loops. For climbers that put themselves on the toughest routes, this tent is an excellent value. If you are a casual mountaineer, however, your money will be better spent on a more comfortable, less expensive, and less narrowly-focused tent.
Recommendations for Improvement
The inside pockets need more reinforcement on the corners so they don’t pull away from the inside of the tent (a minor issue). Other than that, there is no need for additional improvements. Sure, it would be nice to have more headroom or more usable space but that would miss the point of the Summit Extreme.
If you’re looking for a more well-rounded tent, the Summit Raider is also available from Outdoor Designs. It features aluminum poles, a more comfortable 41 inch ceiling, the same Gore-Tex walls, and at a weight penalty of less than 1 pound.