Tents & Shelter

Why I Chose It

I’m not independently wealthy so my money needs to stretch.  This was a Craigslist find for $100.  Normal price is $350, but I’ve seen it on sale for $250.

It has heavy duty construction and replacement parts are easy to get.  I can put it up by myself and the 4-person model should be roomy enough over the long term.

Thoughts After Using

This tent was amazing. I had a broken pole right off the bat which my repair kit took care of no problem.  Setup/Takedown is about 20 minutes working alone.

High winds and heavy rain didn’t phase this thing. No leaks and very good at keeping sand/dirt out. I”m trying to find something to complain about, but coming up empty.

Why I Chose It

The Alaskan Guide is too heavy to take backpacking at 25 lbs.  This Mountainsmith was a compromise between weight and price at 5 lbs and $100.

It’s specs are almost identical to the best selling REI Half Dome 2 Plus at about half the price.  The construction quality might not be quite as good, but I’m guessing most tents that weigh 5 lbs aren’t going to be the most durable anyways.  I guess I’ll find out.

Thoughts After Using

Only had a chance to use this on my first night.  Most of my hikes ended up being 8-10 mile day hikes.

I didn’t sleep well at all the night I did use it.  That was more from not being able to use the cot and trying to find the optimum inflation level for my sleeping pad.  Space seemed adequate for 1 person, but obviously I’ll have to spend some more time with it.

Why I Chose It

The E-Z Up seems to be the most popular in this category, but I chose the Alcove instead for a few reasons.

The Alcove is 15 lbs compared to 35 lbs and really easy to put up by yourself if you attach the fabric to the frame on the ground first.  With the Windwalls on there doesn’t seem to be any problems with shade coverage.  However, there are concerns about construction quality.

Thoughts After Using

This was both my favorite and least favorite piece of gear.  When it was usable it was terrific, but often times it was too windy to have up.

There was also major water pooling with just the 6 bungee cords.  I doubled up to 12, but still had some collection.  The durability concerns were a problem as well.  Sudden high winds ripped the stitching on the Windwalls.  The actual Alcove itself help up fine however.

Why I Chose It

I made a number of mods to the shelters before leaving.   The Alaskan Guide and Mountainsmith had all the important seams sealed, however the Alcove did not have any factory sealing.

The Alaskan Guide came with a bottle of seam sealer and a repair kit.  However, I wasn’t sure if the adhesive had expired so I went ahead and purchased a new bottle and applied to the seam that runs straight down the middle at the top of the Alcove.

Thoughts After Using

As mentioned above I had problems with water pooling, but this sealer did a find job of preventing leaks.

Towards the end of my trip though I did start to get a tiny bit of seepage after some heavy rains in Sedona.  After 100 days of everyday use it was probably in need of a fresh coat.

Why I Chose It

The seam I sealed is the one that runs right on top of the center pole in this picture.  The Alcove also needed more work as many people have complained water pools on the roof when it rains.

The solution, according to the internet, is creating rafters with 36 inch bungee cords.  I bought 6 total and put 3 on each side.  Home Depot and Walmart sell bungee cords for less than $2 a piece.

Thoughts After Using

Doubling up to 12 bungees eliminated most of the pooling, but with 6 cords on each side the strain on the railings was visible.

Some on the internet have opted for PVC piping instead of bungees to remedy this.  I’ll have to look into that before heading out again.   I’ll also have to look into REI’s one year return policy for the damaged Windwalls.

Why I Chose It

I also ran into issues with the stake situation.  The stakes that came with the Alaskan Guide were fine, but the Mountainsmith stakes were very flimsy.

The Alcove also included only 4 stakes, but needs to be guyed out in order to stop the water pooling.  So, I needed to purchase around a dozen stakes.  This can get expensive with lightweight aluminum.  I just went with steel from Walmart at $.70 each.

Thoughts After Using

Was impressed with the performance of these stakes for their size and price.  The only time they worked loosed was in extreme winds combined with some rocky ground.

The much larger and heavier (and pricier) stakes of the Alaskan Guide obviously performed better under the same conditions.

Why I Chose It

All 3 shelters came with a few guylines included, but again like with the stakes there wasn’t enough.  550 paracord is cheap and does the job well.

I don’t think I need military spec for what I”m doing so I just went to Home Depot and picked up 50 ft for $4.  Walmart brand was the same price, but the Home Depot package said it was mold and mildew resistant so that swayed me whether it matters or not.

Thoughts After Using

The only thing I ended up using this rope for was to run a couple guylines off the Alcove.  It did that fine with no problems.

I did have one knot come undone, but that was because of my knot tying skills and not any fault of the cord.  Thought I would use this item more than I did.  My cat also says it’s almost as good as yarn for playing with.

Why I Chose It

I mentioned earlier the accessories and replacement parts for the Alaskan Guide were easy to find.  However, as of right now, the official footprint is back ordered for the 4-person model.

I went down to Walmart again, and got a 8′ x 10′ general purpose tarp to use as a footprint and for other purposes.  It was $6 or $7.  Home Depot has the same tarp just in different packing for the same price.  This one has grommets, some of them don’t though.

Thoughts After Using

For the price, I was a little skeptical how this tarp would hold up.  It surprised me with it’s durability though.

I think this may have been the ideal thickness for using it just as a footprint underneath the tent.  Not sure how it wold fair for different applications, but it did everything I asked of it.

Why I Chose It

The Mountainsmith Morrison also has a footprint available.  It uses a special color coding system with the poles and tent to make it super easy to setup.

It’s very lightweight compared to the above tarp and I figured it would be nice when hiking to have something to sit on or put gear on while having lunch or setting up camp. With a coupon it was $20, a bit pricey, but I hope to use it for multiple purposes.

Thoughts After Using

Can’t give an assessment of this because it was one of the items that accidentally got left behind.  I had a false start when first embarking where I had to double back and unpack everything which caused the confusion.

Considering how many items were in my inventory, I thought it was a minor success that only 2 or 3 small things were forgotten.

Why I Chose It

When I bought the Alaskan Guide the inside needed to be cleaned out.  I’ll also be doing regular cleaning, so I needed a small dust pan and brush.

I may have overpaid for this at $9, but it’s supposed to work extremely well.  Home Depot and WalMart sell similar looking sets for around $5.  I plan to also use the brush to make cleaning the ground tarps easier when packing up camp.

Thoughts After Using

The design of the tent did a very good job keeping debris out, so I didn’t end up using this as much as I thought.

I was also paranoid about having food in or near where I was sleeping so I didn’t have those issues to deal with either. When I did use it, I thought it was great. How much better than a $5 model I can’t say though.

Why I Chose It

Replacement poles for the Alaskan Guide are fairly inexpensive.  The previous owner lost or broke the fly pole and it was only $7 for a new one.

I”m not sure about the Mountainsmith poles, but it’s good to have a repair kit around anyways.  There’s videos on Youtube showing how to repair a pole in just a few minutes.  This Coghlan’s kit was only $2 when I bought it.  Good insurance at that price.

Thoughts After Using

I”m really glad I had this because the first night I went to pitch the Alaskan Guide one of the poles had broken, probably through packing/unpacking.

It took me longer than it should have because I accidentally included one of the spare pole sections into it causing it to be over-length and having to start over.  The string inside the pole is what actually snapped and not the pole itself.

Why I Chose It

Lastly, in this category, I picked up some repair tape.  Some of my items have specialty repair kits included like the sleeping pad and Alaskan guide, but it’s nice to have something for the rest of the gear.

This is supposed to work on jackets, backpacks, sleeping bags and more.  Hopefully, I won’t need it.  There was a coupon when I bought it so it was only $4.

Thoughts After Using

Tried to use this to repair the Windwalls for the Alcove that ripped under high winds.  It was a very large separation in the fabric so I would have needed to use the whole roll to properly repair it.

I attempted to use several strategically placed smaller pieces , but this had virtually no effect in restoring the functioning.  Can’t comment on it’s performance otherwise.