Are Dome Tents Best For Mountain Hiking?

Ben's Big Sky Hybrid Tent

I’m considering buying a one-person tent. I think I’m going to need it for my second trip to Mt. Whitney later this summer, but that’s sort of a new thing for me having gotten used to a tarp and bivy combo and before that a hammock. The only tents I have are for ‘family’ camping.

Here’s the problem I’m facing. Last year when I traveled to California to climb Mt. Whitney I took along my Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp and Mountain Laurel Designs bug bivy as my shelter combo. At the Whitney Portal campsite that was no problem at all because the ground there was a mixture of forest soil and the gravel the park system throws down to help reduce the wear and tear caused by backpackers. My titanium tent stakes went in easily and held up well keeping the tarp taught all night.

However, the next night at the Whitney Trail Camp (12,000 ft) where we were high above the tree line and on a surface of almost entirely rock, my tent stakes were impossible to drive into the ground in any usable fashion. Even my titanium nails, as strong as they are, could not be driven in using a rock as a hammer – that’s a huge problem to have with a tarp. Bad planning on my part I’ll freely admit.

Sunset Above Whitney Trail Camp

I ended up having to use a combination of buried tent stakes with large rocks placed on top to weigh them down and other large rocks with the cord wrapped around for holding out the corners and peaks of my tarp. It took a lot of effort to finally set up and barely held my tarp in place against the heavy winds that whip through the exposed camp site.

Another factor I had to contend with was the fact that I couldn’t easily choose which direction to set up my tarp according to the wind direction. There is incredibly limited space for tents or tarps, several of the spots that we found were not big enough to pitch my tarp, which resulted in a less than ideal configuration as my final location. It sucked, but I had no choice but to embraced it.

Is a Dome Tent the Better Option?
So, given that there is really no convenient or reliable way to stake out a tarp or other form of shelter that requires a taught pitch, is the dome tent option really the best direction for me to go this time round? This is where I’d like as much feedback and advice as possible. Your chance to really help me!

Rather than scour through all of the online gear reviews and websites looking for a ultralight dome tent option, I want to first turn to my you, my readers, and get your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on what you might do differently. Is there a UL dome tent option that you would recommend (personal experience would be preferred), should I forego a shelter entirely and try a bag/bivy, what are your thoughts?

I have some ideas of the general direction I want to go in, but I really want to hear from all of you before I make up my mind. Sure, I do a lot of backpacking and I’m always posting tips and tricks here on my blog – but I don’t know what I don’t know. As an added incentive, if I end up choosing a particular product that is recommended by you I’ll throw in a pretty sweet piece of gear as a way to say thank you!

So help a brother out, what shelters would you recommend I take a look at, or could I have done something differently and stuck with my trusty tarp? I’m all ears…

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  • http://www.journeymantraveller.com/ Andrew Mazibrada

    In terms of weight vs strength vs space, in my view the Terra Nova Laser Competition has yet to find an equal. It’s a little small though, so it is an acquired taste. That said, there is no better balance of all those factors in a one person tent. Cannot speak as to the Photon version or the Cuben fibre version. The basic Laser Comp is superb though. I ought to say I have not used it in strong wind but ask Terry (Terrybnd), Martin Rye (Summit and Valley) and Robin Evans (blogpackinglight) about their views of it.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks Maz. I have a Terra Nova Zephyros (the cheaper version of the Laser/Photo pattern) and love it, it’s super affordable. The only issue I have is that it requires some serious staking to hold its shape properly and that is where I am having the problem. The weight of the tent is less of an issue to be honest, I need a shelter that can be setup (and stay up) without the need for taught guylines – only dome tents can provide that – I think.

      The other issue I have with the Zephyros/Laser/Photon, now we’re on the subject, is that they require a sh*t load of tent stakes. Something like 10-12 if I remember correctly! Like I said I’m a fan of the shape and form factor, no question about it, but on a solid rock surface would I be able to pitch one?

  • http://www.journeymantraveller.com/ Maz

    In terms of weight vs strength vs space, in my view the Terra Nova Laser Competition has yet to find an equal. It’s a little small though, so it is an acquired taste. That said, there is no better balance of all those factors in a one person tent. Cannot speak as to the Photon version or the Cuben fibre version. The basic Laser Comp is superb though. I ought to say I have not used it in strong wind but ask Terry (Terrybnd), Martin Rye (Summit and Valley) and Robin Evans (blogpackinglight) about their views of it.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks Maz. I have a Terra Nova Zephyros (the cheaper version of the Laser/Photo pattern) and love it, it’s super affordable. The only issue I have is that it requires some serious staking to hold its shape properly and that is where I am having the problem. The weight of the tent is less of an issue to be honest, I need a shelter that can be setup (and stay up) without the need for taught guylines – only dome tents can provide that – I think.

    The other issue I have with the Zephyros/Laser/Photon, now we’re on the subject, is that they require a sh*t load of tent stakes. Something like 10-12 if I remember correctly! Like I said I’m a fan of the shape and form factor, no question about it, but on a solid rock surface would I be able to pitch one?

  • http://www.facebook.com/burt.gummer.121 Burt Gummer

    I would choose a Small foot print tent such as the REI quarter Dome or smaller, then purchase a set of Kifaru Snow, Sand & Tundra Pins. Or keep with the ULTRA ULTRA Light and stay with all Kifaru and go with the ParaTarp/ParaHootch weighing in at 11 oz for the shelter and add 25 more oz with the Sand and Tundra Pin set for a total of 36 ounces for a shelter. Make sure Loop ends on the Ties so you can wrap around rocks.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Burt I agree on the small footprint dome tent suggestion, but how would a Kifaru tarp be any better to pitch on solid rock than my SpinnTwinn tarp? The problem of tying out the guylines would be the same no?

  • http://www.facebook.com/burt.gummer.121 Burt Gummer

    I would choose a Small foot print tent such as the REI quarter Dome or smaller, then purchase a set of Kifaru Snow, Sand & Tundra Pins. Or keep with the ULTRA ULTRA Light and stay with all Kifaru and go with the ParaTarp/ParaHootch weighing in at 11 oz for the shelter and add 25 more oz with the Sand and Tundra Pin set for a total of 36 ounces for a shelter. Make sure Loop ends on the Ties so you can wrap around rocks.

  • http://houltmac.com houltmac

    There are a lot of options out there and I realise that many UL guys will laugh at the thought of a “pop-up” tent, but hear me out.

    MSR produce a line of tents called the Hubba’s. They come in 1, 2 and 3 man varieties and while I use the 2 man I know Hendrik (hikinginfinland) has recommended the 1 man. These have a few benefits you may like such as options to use any combination of fly, inner and footprint to lighten the load. They also have quite vertical walls and can be entirely free standing. I’ve heard complaints regarding the number of guy ropes but it’s not been an issue in my experience and I’m sure you’d overcome it anyway.

    A new range has recently been released which are also interesting, but I only know the Hubba’s personally. They are fairly light, strong, versatile and while they may not be UL cool, they do fit the criteria while being far more comfortable than the Tera Nova’s (not that I’d say no to them either mind you).

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Now that you mention it, I do remember Hendrik writing about the Hubba. It’s definitely not a bad option considering the configuration choices that it offers. I could get a lot of other use out of it.

      Hendrik is a good person friend so I’ll chat with him about it and see what he says. Thanks for pointing this one out :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/lemeserve Lucas Meserve

        I use the 2 person version of MSR’s Hubba series for camping with friends. It is very fast to pitch and only needs to be staked out at the vestibule. I concur with houltmac’s description and have not had any issues with guy lines.

        Hendrik’s review is very well done: http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2010/04/msr-hubba-hp-2010-review.html

  • http://houltmac.com/ houltmac

    There are a lot of options out there and I realise that many UL guys will laugh at the thought of a “pop-up” tent, but hear me out.

    MSR produce a line of tents called the Hubba’s. They come in 1, 2 and 3 man varieties and while I use the 2 man I know Hendrik (hikinginfinland) has recommended the 1 man. These have a few benefits you may like such as options to use any combination of fly, inner and footprint to lighten the load. They also have quite vertical walls and can be entirely free standing. I’ve heard complaints regarding the number of guy ropes but it’s not been an issue in my experience and I’m sure you’d overcome it anyway.

    A new range has recently been released which are also interesting, but I only know the Hubba’s personally. They are fairly light, strong, versatile and while they may not be UL cool, they do fit the criteria while being far more comfortable than the Tera Nova’s (not that I’d say no to them either mind you).

  • Mrs Joy

    I have a Tarptent Rainbow which can be set up staked or not staked. I’ve set it up not staked several times when I encountered hard ground / bare rock. To use it without stakes, you attach your trekking poles across two end. It’s very roomy for a one man tent at 46″x104″, and weighs 34 oz including stakes. I liked it for an AT thruhike due to the room and setup options.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Mrs Joy – oh I really like the Tarptent Rainbow and how it can use the trekking poles at the ends :-) Thanks so much for sharing this and your experience with it. I love being able to ask you guys questions and get great feedback.

      • Bufford1234

        I’m using the Tarptent Rainbow also. Like most tents it’s best if you can stake it out but the trekking pole trick works great if you can’t use stakes. It’s a really great 1+ tent.

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          I do like how the trekking poles can be used with the Rainbow. That’s a couple of thumbs up for that model now :)

  • Mrs Joy

    I have a Tarptent Rainbow which can be set up staked or not staked. I’ve set it up not staked several times when I encountered hard ground / bare rock. To use it without stakes, you attach your trekking poles across two end. It’s very roomy for a one man tent at 46″x104″, and weighs 34 oz including stakes. I liked it for an AT thruhike due to the room and setup options.

  • Ahmad
    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Ahmad, I think you’re right. Any particular brand or model you can recommend?

      • Ahmad

        Not really, i don’t have any experience with them other than seeing them used in places where nothing could be staked down. If you know any serious Rock Climbers you should check with them and see what they do on their multi-day climbs. If you find some good brands I’d be really interested in seeing your reviews. Good Luck.

  • Ahmad
  • Joshua

    Check out a Stephenson’s Warmlite tent.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Joshua, I just looked and unless I’m missing something the Warmlite tents only come in two person and upward? Is there a one person version?

  • Joshua

    Check out a Stephenson’s Warmlite tent.

  • Ben

    Limited space, no way of driving stakes, high winds – Sounds like the ideal situation for using a gore-tex biv.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      A few people on my Facebook page also suggested bivy tents. I had them in the back of my mind as an option, but wasn’t actually going in that direction, but now you and others mention it I’ll definitely check into them further. Any particular brands or models you can recommend?

      • Ben

        I’m not really an ultralighter, mainly by virtue of cost, so I use the British army one. It’s basic (no hoop or mosquito net) and not especially light, but it’s cheap, capacious, uncomplicated and will take a lot of abuse on rough ground. I imagine the American forces have something similar to save you unnecessary shipping.

        In reasonable weather, it’s a marvellous way to camp. In poorer weather you can often set it up under some form of natural cover that a tent or tarp wouldn’t be able to take advantage of.

  • Ben

    Limited space, no way of driving stakes, high winds – Sounds like the ideal situation for using a gore-tex biv.

  • planB

    Many free standing tents do not have a free standing tent fly. A single wall tent or a tent where the fly attaches only to the inner tent would best suit your no-tent-stake aspirations.

    I use a Black Diamond Lighthouse tent( now discontinued and replaced with newer models). The only need for stakes on the Lighthouse is to keep it from blowing away in the wind. Considering the altitude you are camping at you may wish to forgo tents with netting walls and go with solid fabric.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      planB, and other suggestions for a good solid fabric free standing tent?

      • planB

        Significant altitude such as you are encountering reduces
        the margin for error in equipment selection. Below the treeline nature can
        provide sheltered areas and vegetation can be adapted to compensate for unexpected
        weather. Your tent should not only be practical for anticipated conditions but
        should also provide a safe shelter if the weather turns ‘interesting’. You
        stated weight was not as much an issue as in ultralight camping but of course
        weight is always a consideration. The weight gap between full featured
        bivi-bags and some light weight tents is narrowing. For the incremental
        weight gain I would chose a tent over a bivi.

        We all know about the mythical ‘two man tent’ that will
        actually just accommodate one child. It is important that the tent be long
        enough for your height plus sleeping bag insulation.

        If I had to replace my Lighthouse tent today I would purchase a
        Black Diamond HiLight or Firstlight tent. Both tents weigh about three pounds
        and are long enough to fit me. The HiLight is the successor to my Lighthouse
        tent and I hope the second generation has some incremental improvements.

        By the way I was not kidding about the tent blowing away in
        the wind. I always have one stake or guyline securely connecting the tent to
        the ground. These light weight tents could be used as kites.

  • planB

    Many free standing tents do not have a free standing tent
    fly. A single wall tent or a tent where
    the fly attaches only to the inner tent would best suit your no-tent-stake aspirations.
    I use a Black Diamond Lighthouse tent( now discontinued and replaced with newer
    models). The only need for stakes on the Lighthouse is to keep it from blowing
    away in the wind. Considering the altitude you are camping at you may wish to
    forgo tents with netting walls and go with solid fabric.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    A few people on my Facebook page also suggested bivy tents. I had them in the back of my mind as an option, but wasn’t actually going in that direction, but now you and others mention it I’ll definitely check into them further. Any particular brands or models you can recommend?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Joshua, I just looked and unless I’m missing something the Warmlite tents only come in two person and upward? Is there a one person version?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Ahmad, I think you’re right. Any particular brand or model you can recommend?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Mrs Joy – oh I really like the Tarptent Rainbow and how it can use the trekking poles at the ends :-) Thanks so much for sharing this and your experience with it. I love being able to ask you guys questions and get great feedback.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Now that you mention it, I do remember Hendrik writing about the Hubba. It’s definitely not a bad option considering the configuration choices that it offers. I could get a lot of other use out of it.

    Hendrik is a good person friend so I’ll chat with him about it and see what he says. Thanks for pointing this one out :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Burt I agree on the small footprint dome tent suggestion, but how would a Kifaru tarp be any better to pitch on solid rock than my SpinnTwinn tarp? The problem of tying out the guylines would be the same no?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    planB, and other suggestions for a good solid fabric free standing tent?

  • Ben

    I’m not really an ultralighter, mainly by virtue of cost, so I use the British army one. It’s basic (no hoop or mosquito net) and not especially light, but it’s cheap, capacious, uncomplicated and will take a lot of abuse on rough ground. I imagine the American forces have something similar to save you unnecessary shipping.

    In reasonable weather, it’s a marvellous way to camp. In poorer weather you can often set it up under some form of natural cover that a tent or tarp wouldn’t be able to take advantage of.

  • Glen Van Peski

    Do you need a tent at all? If the chances are reasonable that the weather will be nice, you might just go with your bivy. If you happen to get rain, then you put a polycryo over your head. Not optimal, but I’ve spent unexpected rainy nights under a piece of plastic. Normally I would say pick a different campsite that’s more conducive to tarps, but I presume either you’re not planning the trip, or have other reasons for wanting to stay in a particular location.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I’m leaning toward the bivy option too. The route/trail that we are taking only leaves the Whitney Trail camp as our only location to camp before the summit. Last year the weather was exceptional, and if we had similar weather this year a bivy would be fine. Maybe it’s a matter of less is more, and I don’t need to take anything other than my bag and bivy?

      • Glen Van Peski

        That would probably be my strategy. I would think it’s a risk worth taking. Especially since you’re coming down the next day. Absolute worst case seems like you get a little damp if you get dumped on, maybe you spend a miserable night, but it seems like a low risk, well worth leaving 2 – 3 pounds of tent at home. But that’s just me, YMMV/HYOH, etc.

        • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

          I’m with Glen here. Take your tarp, and attach stones as pegs in case it look like it will rain, otherwise the bivy should be fine on its own. That way you don’t spend any money on something that you’d only use a few times and is otherwise collecting dust.

          • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

            I’m all for saving money and using what I have. Last year I tried using rocks to tie the tarp out with, bloody big rocks too, but during the night they all worked loose because of the relentless high winds – that made a for a very rough night.

            I think this time I might just go the bivy route and use what I have. Less is more and it’s only a few nights – what’s the worst that can happen (don’t answer that!) ^BG

          • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

            Maybe if you make the guylines really long, so that you can easily & securely attach them to rocks, maybe that would work? And of course just the bivy is great =)

          • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

            The guylines on my SpinnTwinn are already very long. I think it was a combination of me being tired and lightheaded from the altitude that resulted in a sloppy setup. That said, I’m seriously considering just going with the bag and bivy option.

  • Glen Van Peski

    Do you need a tent at all? If the chances are reasonable that the weather will be nice, you might just go with your bivy. If you happen to get rain, then you put a polycryo over your head. Not optimal, but I’ve spent unexpected rainy nights under a piece of plastic. Normally I would say pick a different campsite that’s more conducive to tarps, but I presume either you’re not planning the trip, or have other reasons for wanting to stay in a particular location.

  • http://www.nivaun.com/ Tim Todd

    People camp differently to accommodate the way they perceive and experience the wilderness. Their chosen gear usually reflects this. There really is no such thing as the perfect shelter. It may work great one day but then meet its limitations the next. We tend to like tents based on what we are willing to call comfort or suffering. My comfort level will be another persons suffering. Because of this, a dome tent may or may not be the best for mountain hiking. A lot depends heavily on our wilderness skills and comfort levels.

    My favorite tent is the Gossamer Gear Squall. It’s a huge tent for 1.5-lb but it is not freestanding. However, I have never been in a place I could not pitch it, even without stakes. When I need a smaller footprint to pitch I usually use a tarp or just forgo shelter all together.

    With the limited information I have about how you camp, I would think that the Tarptent Rainbow would work great for you. The versatility of setup is amazing for the weight. And can even be set up freestanding if needed. I have and use one on occasion when I camp with my wife.

    Good luck! I think figuring out what to get and take is half the fun of camping. It really makes us soul search our relationship with nature.

  • http://www.nivaun.com/ Tim Todd

    People camp differently to accommodate the way they perceive and experience the wilderness. Their chosen gear usually reflects this. There really is no such thing as the perfect shelter. It may work great one day but then meet its limitations the next. We tend to like tents based on what we are willing to call comfort or suffering. My comfort level will be another persons suffering. Because of this, a dome tent may or may not be the best for mountain hiking. A lot depends heavily on our wilderness skills and comfort levels.

    My favorite tent is the Gossamer Gear Squall. It’s a huge tent for 1.5-lb but it is not freestanding. However, I have never been in a place I could not pitch it, even without stakes. When I need a smaller footprint to pitch I usually use a tarp or just forgo shelter all together.

    With the limited information I have about how you camp, I would think that the Tarptent Rainbow would work great for you. The versatility of setup is amazing for the weight. And can even be set up freestanding if needed. I have and use one on occasion when I camp with my wife.

    Good luck! I think figuring out what to get and take is half the fun of camping. It really makes us soul search our relationship with nature.

  • Korpijaakko

    I assume you want something that, in theory, doesn’t need any pegs. What comes to my mind:

    Going light: Single skin dome style mountain shelter/tent. Something like Black Diamond single skin tents or the MHW Direkt 2. (I like the idea of being able to pitch the tent from outside.)

    Or go heavy and bombproof: Buy an expensive free-standing two-layered dome like Hilleberg Unna or Soulo. Those are superb tents but the bomber design and comfort comes with cost (both in bucks and pounds). And with these there is also the option of leaving inner at home and only pitching the 100% free-standing fly and thus saving weight.

    Both options would also work in winter if you’d need a shelter for snowy mountain trips.

    Or go with a bivy bag if it’s a short trip and you expect good weather.

  • Korpijaakko

    I assume you want something that, in theory, doesn’t need any pegs. What comes to my mind:

    Going light: Single skin dome style mountain shelter/tent. Something like Black Diamond single skin tents or the MHW Direkt 2. (I like the idea of being able to pitch the tent from outside.)

    Or go heavy and bombproof: Buy an expensive free-standing two-layered dome like Hilleberg Unna or Soulo. Those are superb tents but the bomber design and comfort comes with cost (both in bucks and pounds). And with these there is also the option of leaving inner at home and only pitching the 100% free-standing fly and thus saving weight.

    Both options would also work in winter if you’d need a shelter for snowy mountain trips.

    Or go with a bivy bag if it’s a short trip and you expect good weather.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’m leaning toward the bivy option too. The route/trail that we are taking only leaves the Whitney Trail camp as our only location to camp before the summit. Last year the weather was exceptional, and if we had similar weather this year a bivy would be fine. Maybe it’s a matter of less is more, and I don’t need to take anything other than my bag and bivy?

  • Glen Van Peski

    That would probably be my strategy. I would think it’s a risk worth taking. Especially since you’re coming down the next day. Absolute worst case seems like you get a little damp if you get dumped on, maybe you spend a miserable night, but it seems like a low risk, well worth leaving 2 – 3 pounds of tent at home. But that’s just me, YMMV/HYOH, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.bishop.18 Allen Bishop

    Brian,
    You could go with a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, it would give you the option of having the bug screen at the portal and then just carry the “fast fly” (fly and footprint only) at a price of 26 ounces.
    If the weather report is favorable you could always go with a cowboy set up using a sheet of Tyvek that you can roll up in if needed for just a few ounces, I’m sure you wouldn’t be the first to do that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.bishop.18 Allen Bishop

    Brian,
    You could go with a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, it would give you the option of having the bug screen at the portal and then just carry the “fast fly” (fly and footprint only) at a price of 26 ounces.
    If the weather report is favorable you could always go with a cowboy set up using a sheet of Tyvek that you can roll up in if needed for just a few ounces, I’m sure you wouldn’t be the first to do that.

  • planB

    Significant altitude such as you are encountering reduces
    the margin for error in equipment selection. Below the treeline nature can
    provide sheltered areas and vegetation can be adapted to compensate for unexpected
    weather. Your tent should not only be practical for anticipated conditions but
    should also provide a safe shelter if the weather turns ‘interesting’. You
    stated weight was not as much an issue as in ultralight camping but of course
    weight is always a consideration. The weight gap between full featured
    bivi-bags and some light weight tents is narrowing. For the incremental
    weight gain I would chose a tent over a bivi.

    We all know about the mythical ‘two man tent’ that will
    actually just accommodate one child. It is important that the tent be long
    enough for your height plus sleeping bag insulation.

    If I had to replace my Lighthouse tent today I would purchase a
    Black Diamond HiLight or Firstlight tent. Both tents weigh about three pounds
    and are long enough to fit me. The HiLight is the successor to my Lighthouse
    tent and I hope the second generation has some incremental improvements.

    By the way I was not kidding about the tent blowing away in
    the wind. I always have one stake or guyline securely connecting the tent to
    the ground. These light weight tents could be used as kites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lemeserve Lucas Meserve

    I use the 2 person version of MSR’s Hubba series for camping with friends. It is very fast to pitch and only needs to be staked out at the vestibule. I concur with houltmac’s description and have not had any issues with guy lines.

    Hendrik’s review is very well done: http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2010/04/msr-hubba-hp-2010-review.html

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    I’m with Glen here. Take your tarp, and attach stones as pegs in case it look like it will rain, otherwise the bivy should be fine on its own. That way you don’t spend any money on something that you’d only use a few times and is otherwise collecting dust.

  • http://twitter.com/nhandberry Nathan Handberry

    I’d probably agree with Glen. For one trip I’d hate to purchase anything I wouldn’t use the rest of the time. When in doubt go without! I’m a fan of the fast fly setups as ours (Big Agnes Seedhouse and Copper Spur) work well especially with dogs. You could check the closest REI to rent a dome tent with fast fly option.

  • http://twitter.com/nhandberry Nathan Handberry

    I’d probably agree with Glen. For one trip I’d hate to purchase anything I wouldn’t use the rest of the time. When in doubt go without! I’m a fan of the fast fly setups as ours (Big Agnes Seedhouse and Copper Spur) work well especially with dogs. You could check the closest REI to rent a dome tent with fast fly option.

  • DD Longlegs

    I did a lot of research before buying the Hubba 2-man for a month-long trip to the Mexican desert last November. Light, roomy, held up extremely well under cold and extreme winds, great reviews. Enough height to sit up or kneel comfortably (I am tall) and not constricted due to near vertical walls. It is very light but not ultra UL, poles were short enough to fit in my carry on bag, it did not add significantly to my weight (I had less than 20 lb total), I plan to use it in the high alpine here in northern British Columbia this summer and would highly recommend it. If you are shorter you could get the Hubba 1 but I liked the extra space for not much extra weight. And I hate being “purist” on weight just to end up soaked and cold, which also at high altitude can create hypothermia issues.

  • DD Longlegs

    I did a lot of research before buying the Hubba 2-man for a month-long trip to the Mexican desert last November. Light, roomy, held up extremely well under cold and extreme winds, great reviews. Enough height to sit up or kneel comfortably (I am tall) and not constricted due to near vertical walls. It is very light but not ultra UL, poles were short enough to fit in my carry on bag, it did not add significantly to my weight (I had less than 20 lb total), I plan to use it in the high alpine here in northern British Columbia this summer and would highly recommend it. If you are shorter you could get the Hubba 1 but I liked the extra space for not much extra weight. And I hate being “purist” on weight just to end up soaked and cold, which also at high altitude can create hypothermia issues.

  • Ahmad

    Not really, i don’t have any experience with them other than seeing them used in places where nothing could be staked down. If you know any serious Rock Climbers you should check with them and see what they do on their multi-day climbs. If you find some good brands I’d be really interested in seeing your reviews. Good Luck.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’m all for saving money and using what I have. Last year I tried using rocks to tie the tarp out with, bloody big rocks too, but during the night they all worked loose because of the relentless high winds – that made a for a very rough night.

    I think this time I might just go the bivy route and use what I have. Less is more and it’s only a few nights – what’s the worst that can happen (don’t answer that!) ^BG

  • http://www.hikinginfinland.com/ Hendrik Morkel

    Maybe if you make the guylines really long, so that you can easily & securely attach them to rocks, maybe that would work? And of course just the bivy is great =)

  • Sidney Earnest

    Even though a dome is freestanding, doesn’t it need staking to prevent it from taking you on an unplanned and potentially dangerous kite ride?
    I like the bivy option.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Well I’ve seen many a dome tent blown away in medium to high winds, but if you place your pack inside that solves the problem.

      I’m already leaning toward the bivy option myself too! If you have any bivys to suggest I’d love to hear?

  • Sidney Earnest

    Even though a dome is freestanding, doesn’t it need staking to prevent it from taking you on an unplanned and potentially dangerous kite ride?
    I like the bivy option.

  • Steve Whittingham

    The lightest, and easiest way to tackle your problem, is to find a rock (see Youtube Mulhacen in winter), this is my preferred method. I do, in winter, sometimes carry a tent, for emergency use. Of course, you have to select your sleeping spot with a little care. The tent I used was a Gelert Solo, it’s VERY cheap, but weighs 1.5 kilos, and doesn’t have much room in it. I have recently purchased a Terra Nova Competition 1, which has more space (and packs smaller), is just under 1 kilo, but much more expensive. I love the tent, but a rock is still my preferred option.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Find a rock?

  • Steve Whittingham

    The lightest, and easiest way to tackle your problem, is to find a rock (see Youtube Mulhacen in winter), this is my preferred method. I do, in winter, sometimes carry a tent, for emergency use. Of course, you have to select your sleeping spot with a little care. The tent I used was a Gelert Solo, it’s VERY cheap, but weighs 1.5 kilos, and doesn’t have much room in it. I have recently purchased a Terra Nova Competition 1, which has more space (and packs smaller), is just under 1 kilo, but much more expensive. I love the tent, but a rock is still my preferred option.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jpersonna John Personna

    I use a Tarptent Moment. I’ve had good luck putting a big rock, or stack, in the triangle of lines coming from the ends, to assist or replace the 2 stakes. Those lines are almost perfect for a rock loop, without modification.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thanks John, I’m beginning to think that my rock loop technique might not have been all that great. I was a little lightheaded and tired when I did it, but that’s no excuse. How is the Tarptent Moment in high winds?

      • http://profiles.google.com/jpersonna John Personna

        Sorry for the delay. I’ve only had mine in medium winds, but there are quite a few loops for secondary lines etc. When I was at Whitney’s Trail Camp I used all those and tied it down pretty well, since it was unattended for a day. I learned sailing to never cut line, and so had 50 feet running from loop to rock to loop. When you’re there, and have room, you can rotate the Moment in-line with the wind, of course.

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          Thanks for taking the time to follow up John, and thanks for the photo you sent me – I’m going to add that ad the bottom of the blog post if that’s okay?

          As I said previously, the length of the guylines was not the problem, I think I did a lousy job of setting up my rocks – partly due to exhaustion and partly because I hadn’t had to use that technique in some time. Ugg!

  • http://profiles.google.com/jpersonna John Personna

    I use a Tarptent Moment. I’ve had good luck putting a big rock, or stack, in the triangle of lines coming from the ends, to assist or replace the 2 stakes. Those lines are almost perfect for a rock loop, without modification.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks John, I’m beginning to think that my rock loop technique might not have been all that great. I was a little lightheaded and tired when I did it, but that’s no excuse. How is the Tarptent Moment in high winds?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jpersonna John Personna

    Sorry for the delay. I’ve only had mine in medium winds, but there are quite a few loops for secondary lines etc. When I was at Whitney’s Trail Camp I used all those and tied it down pretty well, since it was unattended for a day. I learned sailing to never cut line, and so had 50 feet running from loop to rock to loop. When you’re there, and have room, you can rotate the Moment in-line with the wind, of course.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks for taking the time to follow up John, and thanks for the photo you sent me – I’m going to add that ad the bottom of the blog post if that’s okay?

    As I said previously, the length of the guylines was not the problem, I think I did a lousy job of setting up my rocks – partly due to exhaustion and partly because I hadn’t had to use that technique in some time. Ugg!

  • Bufford1234

    I’m using the Tarptent Rainbow also. Like most tents it’s best if you can stake it out but the trekking pole trick works great if you can’t use stakes. It’s a really great 1+ tent.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I do like how the trekking poles can be used with the Rainbow. That’s a couple of thumbs up for that model now :)

  • http://twitter.com/hyaker hyaker

    I’m sure you already decided on your approach but just curious if anyone has tried bringing some lightweight bags( i.e. USPS ditty bags or something) you could guy off to. Then you could put weights on top of or in the bags to secure your tarp in lieu of stakes. Guess it depends on what terrain you expect to be in. Never tried it myself, just brainstorming

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      It’s not a bad idea at all. I haven’t tried that and don’t know how securely it would hold my SpinnTwinn? Once it gets some wind under it that thing is like a huge spinnaker sail and could pull a car!

  • http://twitter.com/hyaker hyaker

    I’m sure you already decided on your approach but just curious if anyone has tried bringing some lightweight bags( i.e. USPS ditty bags or something) you could guy off to. Then you could put weights on top of or in the bags to secure your tarp in lieu of stakes. Guess it depends on what terrain you expect to be in. Never tried it myself, just brainstorming

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    It’s not a bad idea at all. I haven’t tried that and don’t know how securely it would hold my SpinnTwinn? Once it gets some wind under it that thing is like a huge spinnaker sail and could pull a car!

  • Mineralogy Mike

    Do it in one day and don’t worry about sleeping arrangements at all. Everything you need for a one-day summit will fit in a Rik Sak!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I spoke to a bunch of one-dayers on my trip. Every one of them said they would never do it again and recommended against it. I’m in exceptionally good physical shape now, a year later, thanks to my GORUCK Challenge training, but that has little to nothing to do with altitude sickness which kicked my ass last time.

      I want to take my time to enjoy the surroundings, the scenery is to die for (bad choice of words) and shoving it into one day with a large portion of that in the dark via headlamp seems like a complete waist (to me). If others want to do that then I agree, fast and light wins – just not for me and my hiking partner.

  • Mineralogy Mike

    Do it in one day and don’t worry about sleeping arrangements at all. Everything you need for a one-day summit will fit in a Rik Sak!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daryl.davis Daryl Davis

    Great discussion! I’ve been debating the same issue. I’m making my first attempt at Mt. Whitney at the end of September, having been largely absent from the back country for the past decade.

    Though I’ve come to prefer a sleeping bag/tarp combo for most trips, I’m purchasing a dome tent for Mt. Whitney. My reasons are based on my research of the climb, not actual experience, so if I’m wrong please let me know.
    A lot of the normal advice about UL backpacking (or backpacking generally) doesn’t seem to work as well on the main Mt. Whitney trail (MT, for short). The number of legal campsites on the MT is limited; several likely sites have been closed due to overuse. Trail Camp is the last camp on the MT, a little more than half way to the summit. In addition to the problems you mentioned, Trail Camp is crowded. Getting a prime spot to pitch a tarp or tent is a real crap shoot.

    I have firsthand experience– a deer hunting trip in Trinity National Forest comes to mind–with how quickly the weather can turn rubbish at the upper elevations. I don’t want to count on waking up quickly enough to adjust the pitch on my tarp, or even being able to adjust the pitch, before getting soaked through.

    For those who still say, “Pick a sheltered spot,” remember that Trail Camp is at 12,040 feet, well above tree line, solid granite, and exposed. High winds, rain, cold, and lightning all have to factor into one’s thinking. For these reasons, especially the one about lightning, I want a tent that can be struck quickly if I decide it’s time to retreat down to Outpost Camp (2.5 miles, 10,360 feet). The Big Sky Mirage Brian’s friend had on their trip last year looks appealing.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      You are spot on with your reasoning and research. Trail Camp is not the place for a tarp setup IMHO.

      I attracted a lot of attention from other campers when I was setting up, many of which were curious about my tarp. Thinking back on it I think they were more curious about what idiot was setting up a tarp in a place like that :-]

      I’m thinking of taking a bivy this go around, but haven’t decided on which one yet. If anyone has and bivy suggestions I’d love to hear…

  • http://www.facebook.com/daryl.davis Daryl Davis

    Great discussion! I’ve been debating the same issue. I’m making my first attempt at Mt. Whitney at the end of September, having been largely absent from the back country for the past decade.

    Though I’ve come to prefer a sleeping bag/tarp combo for most trips, I’m purchasing a dome tent for Mt. Whitney. My reasons are based on my research of the climb, not actual experience, so if I’m wrong please let me know.
    A lot of the normal advice about UL backpacking (or backpacking generally) doesn’t seem to work as well on the main Mt. Whitney trail (MT, for short). The number of legal campsites on the MT is limited; several likely sites have been closed due to overuse. Trail Camp is the last camp on the MT, a little more than half way to the summit. In addition to the problems you mentioned, Trail Camp is crowded. Getting a prime spot to pitch a tarp or tent is a real crap shoot.

    I have firsthand experience– a deer hunting trip in Trinity National Forest comes to mind–with how quickly the weather can turn rubbish at the upper elevations. I don’t want to count on waking up quickly enough to adjust the pitch on my tarp, or even being able to adjust the pitch, before getting soaked through.

    For those who still say, “Pick a sheltered spot,” remember that Trail Camp is at 12,040 feet, well above tree line, solid granite, and exposed. High winds, rain, cold, and lightning all have to factor into one’s thinking. For these reasons, especially the one about lightning, I want a tent that can be struck quickly if I decide it’s time to retreat down to Outpost Camp (2.5 miles, 10,360 feet). The Big Sky Mirage Brian’s friend had on their trip last year looks appealing.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I spoke to a bunch of one-dayers on my trip. Every one of them said they would never do it again and recommended against it. I’m in exceptionally good physical shape now, a year later, thanks to my GORUCK Challenge training, but that has little to nothing to do with altitude sickness which kicked my ass last time.

    I want to take my time to enjoy the surroundings, the scenery is to die for (bad choice of words) and shoving it into one day with a large portion of that in the dark via headlamp seems like a complete waist (to me). If others want to do that then I agree, fast and light wins – just not for me and my hiking partner.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    You are spot on with your reasoning and research. Trail Camp is not the place for a tarp setup IMHO.

    I attracted a lot of attention from other campers when I was setting up, many of which were curious about my tarp. Thinking back on it I think they were more curious about what idiot was setting up a tarp in a place like that :-]

    I’m thinking of taking a bivy this go around, but haven’t decided on which one yet. If anyone has and bivy suggestions I’d love to hear…

  • Geek Girl

    I know this is well after your trip, but just wanted to post this in case it helps someone else.

    I too, had a bad night at Trail Camp, but in a Dome tent. The night I was there, the winds gusted to 50mph, but that is not that unusual. Even with ear plugs, the insane winds caused nonstop flapping of the tent, and caused a poor nights sleep, which is already difficult for me at altitude. The next day, I was exhausted, and it cost me the summit.

    The next year, I tried a bivy, but awoke to horrible condensation, even though it was vented, not to mention, it was a bit claustrophobic, and since I tend to turn a lot in my sleep, it wasn’t very comfortable.

    This year, at the suggestion of one of the rangers, I decided to camp 1/2 mile further down at Consultation lake, (complying with the 100 yard rule) and it was pure heaven. Because it’s much more sheltered, there were no horrible winds, almost no people (a LOT less noise), and it didn’t reek of urine the way Trail Camp does. I was able to bring my Tarptent Contrail, I got a much better nights sleep, and that really made a difference for me. I still had to tie the guylines to rocks, (and then place several on top) but it was a much more comfortable setup, and only an extra 1/2 mile in the morning.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. It’s fantastic information that I know many people will find useful. The second time I hiked Whitney I had a very similar conversation with my trail partner, but we decided to camp at Trail Camp anyway. Consultation lake is beautiful and not all that far away, staying the night there instead of the Trail Camp would be my plan “if” there is ever a next time.

      So, did you get to the summit this year?

      • Geek Girl

        I sure did! It was amazing, but a short stay, as the weather was coming in, and I was worried about lightning.