Every year, around both the holiday season and before backpacking season starts, there is a spate of TOP TEN PIECES OF GEAR posts.
Nearly one new piece of gear per month to test?
Here are the shelters I’ve used consistently since I first wrote this article back in 2016. I’ve changed it a little bit since then since I tend to backpack almost exclusively with one person since 2018.
So here’s my contribution…done in my way.
In no particular order –
~ Updated April 2020 ~
Pyramid tarps are perhaps the most versatile shelter of all time. With proper pitching, they can handle moderate snow loads, does well in the wind, have a small footprint, and set up quickly.
My pyramid tarp of choice is my circa 2008 Six Moon Design Wild Oasis. I’ve used it all over the Intermountain West, on longer hikes such as Utah or New Mexico, and even in the Canadian Rockies for solo treks.
I could save a literal couple of ounces with the new DCF version, but $500 to shave 2 oz. is a bit too much for this ex-IT Monkey!
EDIT MAY 2020: Well, what can I say. Joan shocked me by purchasing one of the sly for my birthday. Thank you, dear! 🙂
As of this writing (April 2020), we’ve only had the tent since December 2019. No matter. Read my sorta-review/relationship musings on it: This tent is quick to set up, only makes a 2 lb carry for me (1 pound for Joan), and prevents some “spirited discussions” we’ve had when we are cold hungry, tired, and just want to set up the shelter.
We drink our whiskey and cider quicker. And that’s what is essential, right?
At sub-3lbs, single wall, free-standing shelter ideally suited for winter backpacking when on the move and not making an extended basecamp. Technically the tent is for two people, really better suited for one. At the end of a day of winter backpacking, esp on skis, I just want to set up something quick, get in my bag and get dinner going. The Black Diamond Firstlight fills that role. A bit of a splurge because the ideal range of use is limited; for snowy winter backpacking. Does not breathe well, but in the cold and dry Intermountain West winters, that is fine.
4. REI HooDoo 3
A cheat because I use the REI HooDoo 3 backpacking tent for…CAR CAMPING!
The circa 2010, no longer made, tent makes an excellent car camping tent. Unlike many tents made for car camping, this tent sheds wind, light snow, and makes a stable set up. The two vestibules are always handy, and the three-person setup makes a spacious tent for two. When I traveled solo across the US for a good portion of 2018, I used a small beach chair inside and found the tent a palace.
A good car camping tent extends our outdoor time. When we road trip, we make a comfortable base camp in between backpacking trips and find we are not roughing it with our deluxe road trip/car camping setup. It saves us money, we are outside more, and we enjoy going to places that aren’t necessarily car camping destinations.
In the decade since I’ve owned this tent, I lost count the number of nights spent in BLM land after a trip, spending a weekend at a national monument, or meeting up with dear friends for an outdoor-focused holiday gathering – this shelter has served me, and now us, well.
5. through 10.
None. Zip. That’s it. No more backpacking shelters to list.
I’ve used the shelters above the most over the years. And I don’t see a need to upgrade currently. (Unless we get involved in more “spirited discussions” due to a shelter set up!) We have other shelters in our collection from our collected years of backpacking, but we don’t use them much anymore, if at all. The major exception is the hammock setup Joan uses for her solo trips such as her 600 miles PCT section hike last summer.
In any case, how many backpacking shelters can a single person or even two people have, use, and evaluate in a given year? 🙂
For now, these shelters are what I use for solo, couples, snow-based, and basecamp style trips. If Joan decides that skiing in with a backpack makes more sense for overnight trips, than perhaps someday there will be a number five pick.
Until them, If I want to do the BEST TENTS OF 2021, better start buying up more gear.
Or maybe not.
I like what we have. 🙂
Disclosure: We purchased all these shelters with our funds.