TBT Gear: SMD Wild Oasis

I tend to go through phases with my shelters.

Sometimes I want the simplicity of a flat tarp.

Or perhaps something better suited for shoulder season.

Or maybe I just want a straight up tent if making base camp or sharing a shelter with someone else.

All depends on what I am doing, who I am with, the type of terrain, etc.

In the past year or so I’ve been going on some mixed conditions trips.

Where it would be convenient to have something to set up quickly,  have a shelter that is under a pound, has some bug netting, and could be used well into shoulder season. Back to a quiver of one…or close to it.

Then I remembered something in the bottom of my gear tote. Something I have not used for a while: The Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis.

The zipper failed on a Utah trip, so I went back to using a tarp mainly. No coincidence, my day job starting ramping up  and being very busy at the same time… 🙂

So why am I revisiting this shelter? I have some trips planned where I think the versatility, lightness, and small footprint will be desirable.

The shelter is essentially a pyramid tarp shelter. And is a direct descendant of the SMD Gatewood Cape still being sold by SMD.

I used the SMD Gatewood Cape quite successfully on my CDT trek. And I loved it as a shelter.

Gatewood Cape in Glacier National Park

It served me well for four months of hiking. And even handled some moderate snow loads.

The local newspaper editor at that time captioned me as an extra from a Lord of The Rings movie. He later admitted he had a particular character in mind. 🙂

What did I not like about it? The poncho aspect. I never did care for ponchos.  I found most ponchos are not the best cut for my 5’6″ frame. I know some people love them, but I’ve personally found them awkward to use.

Two or three years later, The SMD Wild Oasis was available. Almost the exact same cut as the Gatewood Cape but made to be just a shelter. And had the added perk of bug netting.  Under a pound (about 14 oz with some bank line for cordage) and makes a nice little shelter.

I purchased a Wild Oasis in 2008 and used it quite a bit. Most notably on my Benton Mackaye Trail trip and the Tahoe Rim Trail among other trips during a glorious year of unemployment back in 2009 – 2010.

The Wild Oasis was a crackerjack shelter that worked well for a variety of conditions. And was set up quickly.

On the BMT. The shelter is a bit more taut when the door is fully zippered.

Though not spacious, it was space enough. Again, I am only 5’6″. I never felt as if I was confined too much. Taller people may have felt differently!

So why did I stop using it? The zipper broke, my tarp was available, and I switched to another shelter for deeper shoulder season.

But I missed the versatility, simplicity, and small footprint versus other shelters in my quiver. And, again, with some possible trips coming up, I think the SMD Wild Oasis will be put to more use this Summer and well into Fall. SMD repaired the zipper for free (Thanks!), and I rediscovered just how much I like this shelter. And when I compare the cordage and (possible) bug netting added even to a DCF tarp, the weight penalty of the Wild Oasis vs. an 8’x10′ tarp is not quite as pronounced. I could go smaller with a tarp of course but would want a bivvy sack. Call it a wash…

Extended a bit for better ventilation. The front door is set up for “light precip” via an awning, so condensation will not be as pronounced. If mosquitoes or heavier rain were more of an issue, I’d be zipped up.

I think I’ll go back to using Wild Oasis shelter again. This shelter and its close sibling served me well for many nights in the backcountry through different conditions.  I suspect it will continue to do for some planned trips.

Why am I using this shelter again? It is a light quiver of one for many different situations. Useful for some possible planned trips to come. And, I don’t need to buy more gear. 🙂

What alternatives are there to this shelter?  This shelter is no longer made.  EDIT: As noted in the comments, the Deschutes Plus is very similar, however. The SMD Gatewood Cape is, as mentioned, the predecessor and still available.    Mountain Laurel Designs also a few similar shelters. 

Disclosure: I purchased this shelter with my funds.


9 Replies to “TBT Gear: SMD Wild Oasis”

  1. I’ve used a Wild Oasis for years and loved it. Under a pound for full bug and rain protection even in fairly nasty conditions is pretty solid. I recently “upgraded” to a cuben shelter for truly stormy conditions, and that shelter is actually heavier than my Wild Oasis. The Wild Oasis is everything that I need with no extras or frills.

    I will say that this shelter is NOT for larger people. I’m 5’7″ so it’s fine for me, but if I were five inches taller I’d think about getting a larger shelter.

    And no, SMD is not paying me to say this 🙂

    1. It is a bit different: You need buy separate bug netting, has a floor, different shape. It is not as simple or light. “Constructed from tough but light Silicone Nylon, the Deschutes Tarp weights 13 ounces and is quite affordable. When mated with the Ser2enity NetTent you have a double wall solo tent, that weighs a mere 24 ounces.”

      EDIT: I see the plus actually has bug netting if a tad heavier. Mea culpa.

  2. Wow! I bought a Wild Oasis in 2008 too!

    Like you I later switched to a flat tarp, an 8′ x 10′ cuben tarp that weighed 1/2 of the Wild Oasis. Then even later dug out the Wild Oasis and started using it again. The Wild Oasis is easy to set up, and provides very good coverage. I am 5’11” and that is about the limit for the Wild Oasis, which Six Moon Designs has replaced with the somewhat larger Deschutes.

    The SMD Deschutes is the same design, only it is a bit larger (that’s a good thing), and does not have the perimeter bug netting, which I didn’t really need. SMD used make the Deschutes in silnylon AND Cuben, but apparently has discontinued the Cuben version after CubenTech was purchased by Dyneema and Cuben cloth became more expensive and more difficult to source.

    Two years ago I bought a Cuben Deschutes and it has been my go-to shelter for most trips ever since. Part of this decision was due to giving my Wild Oasis to a young man who is just starting to backpack and could not afford a shelter.

    And, as you mention, Six Moons Designs has pretty good customer service.

    Somewhere on my blog is a detailed review of the Deschutes with comparisons to the Wild Oasis and the zPacks Hexamid, which is very, very similar to the SMD shelter. The appeal of the Deschutes (or Wild Oasis if one can buy a used version) is they are light, inexpensive, easy to pitch, and will last longer than most crazy expensive cuben pyramid shelters.

    As usual, good post.

  3. Thanks! I know Henry Shires is shying away from DCF for many of the reasons you cited.

    His AMA on Reddit was interesting:

    The pertinent info:
    Why don’t you make Tarptents in Cuben fiber?
    We don’t make cuben fiber products due to the extreme fabric expense, problems with seam taping and poor abrasion resistance. Not only is cuben fiber nearly 5x the price of the fabric we use now, but cuben fiber seams behave poorly under stress and must be seam taped. That’s not too hard for simple shelters with straight seams but very labor intensive for more complex shelters with curved seams such as the Double Rainbow (and many more). Our prices would likely triple for curved shelters, an outcome which would violate everything we strive for in making affordable shelters. Finally, weight wise, using cuben fiber would mean a typical weight reduction of 4-6 ounces ( ~150g, a gulp of water or perhaps 3 candy bars) and we would argue that no one can notice that kind of weight difference in a loaded pack.

    [–]Henry_S_Tarptent[S] 45 points 16 days ago
    Yes, our opinion hasn’t changed. Cuben, now Dyneema, is stupid expensive and we will continue to offer affordable and high performance shelters.

  4. About four years ago I got a Gatewood Cape with matching bug net. Didn’t know what I was doing and tore the netting. SMD repaired that for free too. Can’t beat that.

  5. I have the Deschutes plus and had the netting ruined while drying the tarp in the yard after a trip. A cat from the neighborhood got in and panicked and tore the netting. Took a few hours to replace it. I really love this tarp so far.

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