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This article discusses research we are doing with university students to look at existing standards of design, manufacturing, and materials of ultralight shelters and relate these standards to observed performance in response to adverse environmental conditions.

Shelters of interest to the ultralight backpacking community may be characterized by one or more of the following attributes:

  1. The use of lightweight fabrics to save weight;
  2. The use of construction techniques that are less reinforced to save weight;
  3. The use of construction techniques that are less sophisticated due to the lack of availability of commercial equipment, the desire to minimize labor costs, or design and/or manufacturing inexperience.
  4. The use of minimal structure (e.g., pole supports) to save weight and increase simplicity.

The combination of these factors results in a product market that is challenging to analyze, because of the wide variability in materials, style, design, and manufacturing quality. In addition, because most of these products are sold direct via the websites of cottage manufacturers, the consumer doesn't have the ability to carefully inspect the products prior to purchase.

Finally, as the trend towards ultralight backpacking continues to expand, users are either trying to extend their ultralight shelters into "shoulder seasons" and even winter, or they desire to add another ultralight shelter to their inventory to handle stormy conditions that may challenge a shelter's design. The two primary storm conditions we are interested in include snow loading and wind resistance.

Thus, we embark on a new journey to investigate the storm resistance of ultralight shelters.


  • Introduction
  • Modes of Failure
  • Design Considerations
  • Snow Loading
  • Wind Loading
  • Failure Limitation Hypothesis: It's All About the Fabric
    • Inadequate Staking
    • Pole Breakage
    • Seam Failure
    • Fabric Panel Failure
  • Designing for Fabric Panel Tension
  • Testing Methodology
  • Summary

# WORDS: 4290

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