Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gear talk: Our new tent

Since Jodi and I have recommitted ourselves to foot-powered travel, I started thinking about ways to shave weight from our packs.  We've already purchased a couple of REI Flash Packs, which we like very much, and these save us about 3 lbs. over our previous Dana Astralplanes (no longer in production), which are huge, more than needed for backpacking.  We used these for mega mountaineering loads, but even then, they're probably heavier than they need to be.  Then I considered the tent.  We own several, and they've all been great performers--a couple of Sierra Designs (one and three person models), two Mountain Hardware (one and two person models), the Big Agnes used on our recent Rocky Mountain tour, an old Black Diamond Megamid, and, featured above, the new Black Diamond Betamid Light.  I know, I know.  That's a boat load of tents, but keep in mind we've been at this outdoor adventure thang for decades, and we tend not to sell or give away gear as often as we should.  This has proved useful with the Vision Quest outings because now we have some good gear to loan out.  With cycle touring, I tend not to worry about a few extra pounds, but when the weight is bearing directly on shoulders, backs, hips and knees, those pounds really start to count, hence the new tent.

I researched many models, and the Betamid plus bug liner seemed to be the best compromise for us between weight, cost and function.  Taken altogether, including stakes, the tent clocks in at about 3.75 lbs.--a full two pounds lighter than our Mtn. Hardware or "light" Big Agnes.  If we decided to go without the bug liner and use a light tarp for a floor, we can get the tent weight down to about 1 lb. 10 oz.  That's some insane weight savings.  A big part of the weight savings is accomplished by using trekking poles for tent poles.  We've been pole converts for sometime. 

They provide greater stability and help take the load off knees during steep descents.  Also, using poles engages the arms and shoulders for a better workout and aid in ascending, too.  So if you're going to be hiking with poles, why not use them as part of the tent?  There are lighter tents out there, but size is a consideration.  I'm 6'4", and we hike with good ol' Django, so the super light micro-tents were out.  Also, we wanted secure bug protection for some outings.  The bug liner can be pitched alone or left behind--very flexible system.  In the picture below, with brewski to set scale, the small bag is the actual tent.  The bigger bag is the bug liner:

The tent body is that fancy new sil-nylon, incredibly tough and waterproof.  The big grey tarp we used to cover the trikes on the Rocky Mountain tour was of the same material.  The one drawback is that the material, for some reason, cannot be factory seam sealed, so that duty falls to me.  Tomorrow, I'll pitch the tent inside out on the lawn and go to work.  It's best to have tension on the seems so that the sealer can properly penetrate.  Note:  You need special sealant for sil-nylon.  This tent is not free standing, so a minimum of six stakes is required, but we've found that our so-called "free standing" tents need staking, too, so that's a wash.

I can't wait to take this new rig out into the field.  Soon we'll do a little overnight in the local mountains, which will be the subject of another post.  Don't touch that dial (yoiks! dated reference, boyz and girlz).

Carry on...

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