First impressions: Wild Oasis DCF

This article is not a review. Just my first impressions of the DCF (Cuben Fiber) version of this shelter I’ve used in two different forms since 2006. So I figure I can at least give my initial thoughts based on experience. It took me nine years to review the silnylon version of the Wild Oasis. :)

Back in 2006, I thru-hiked the CDT. Ancient times by modern thru-hiking standards. But my overall gear list from that time still reflects what I use today: Frameless pack, foam pad, trail runners, etc., and a pyramid tarp.

I think pyramid style tarps are the most versatile shelters being light, quick to set up, small footprint, sheds light snow, and much space for its weight.

And the shelter I used? The still-made (if modified from 2006) Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape.

The SMD Gatewood Cape in Glacier National Park

I loved this simple shelter for the four months I backpacked on the CDT. I used separate bug netting, but otherwise, the shelter worked very well. I am only 5’6″, so I found it did not work well as rain gear for me, however. It dragged too much for my shorter build.

In 2008, SMD came out with the Wild Oasis, which essentially ended up being the non-poncho version of the Gatewood Cape but with bug netting on the edges of shelter. Made of silnylon and only 14 oz and compact, the Wild Oasis made for a versatile shelter in all kinds of conditions. I used it for a while, had a hiatus with it when the zipper broke, repaired it, and used it in places as diverse as my across Utah walk, the Great Divide Trail in Canada, my loop last year in New Mexico, and the Benton Mackaye Trail back in 2009. A slightly larger version of this shelter is still available as the Deschutes Plus.

In the Colorado Sangres, 2017. I used a hiking pole to extend the canopy a bit.

Consider the amount of use I put the shelter through over the years; it held up remarkably well. I gave the Wild Oasis to some close friends and I am sure their two growing boys (one is now a full-fledged teenager) will get some use out of it, too.

This anecdote brings me to my birthday gift from Joan: The 2020 version of the Wild Oasis made of DCF.

I noticed on our USPS delivery notices that I had a package coming to me from Beaverton, OR. Joan can’t play poker because I said: “I wonder if SMD is sending me gear to test?” Joan said, “HOW DID YOU FIGURE IT OUT ???!?!!” I smiled as she accidentally confirmed she bought me a cool gift. 🙂

I could never justify the more expensive DCF version for myself. Joan knew that and surprised me with this gift. At 12 oz, it is a slightly lighter but near-identical shelter to the previous silnylon namesake that gave me so much great use.

In the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab. And the mountains from the mailbox photo.

But more than the weight, it is the DCF that makes this shelter a potential winner in the long run (er…hike?). DCF sags less, does not wet out as quickly vs. silnylon, and ends up being a more weatherproof shelter overall.

But some nice touches make the DCF version of this shelter an improvement over its predecessor in other ways, too:

  • As you can see in the photo above, the front guy line attaches to the front vestibule area and makes a tauter pitch easier.
  • Speaking of which, I like the snaps vs. the toggles to keep the vestibule area rolled up easier, tighter, and quicker.

  • The pole now sets up logically with the handle resting underneath the top of the shelter rather than the point. More stable as you can jam the pole a bit into the ground and less likely to poke a hole in the fabric.

  • There are attachments for additional guylines. Useful for an even tighter and more weather-worthy pitch esp in windy conditions.

  • This version of the Wild Oasis sets up even quicker due to the snaps than my previous version of the Wild Oasis. Like the last version of the Wild Oasis, people around 6′ tall or more might find this shelter a little snug esp if lowered to the ground for more weather protection. At 5’6″, I find this shelter spacious for my needs, though.
  • A nit to pick: I am not sure why there are fixed loops at the end of the guylines for the tent stakes. I did not realize there were fixed loops for the stakes until I took the shelter in the field. Most users of this shelter, I suspect, will add their preferred version of line-locks or use a form of a taut line or trucker’s hitch.

Overall? At nearly $500, the SMD Wild Oasis ain’t exactly cheap. But if used regularly, and you can afford the price, the dollar per night ratio works out in the end much as with items such as packs or a good quilt.

I don’t see why this version won’t prove to be another simple, weather-worthy, and versatile shelter with the bonus of the DCF properties. And one I’ll use a lot. I suspect I’ll use this version of my long time favorite solo shelter for many years to come. Expect a full review around the year 2030! 😉
Disclosure: Joan purchased this shelter for me. We received no discount.

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Karl Gottshalk
Karl Gottshalk
3 years ago