Friday, 20 May 2011

The tale of two shelters

As I commence my planning for Lapland 2011, my mind turns to shelters. Last year I took my Stephenson Warmlite and I was happy with it, but with a total weight of 1400 grams, I felt that I could go lighter this year, especially as I am planning a longer trip and therefore need to carry more food.

My requirements for a shelter are

1. Most campsites will be above tree line and therefore exposed and probably windy.
2. It is mosquito season and their numbers can be large.
3. It will rain.
4. I anticipate, because of 2 and 3, I will need to cook (with care) inside the tent.

I have spent a lot of time looking at different options, including

Chris Townsend's use of the Go Lite Shangri-La1 (SL1) on the Pacific Northwest trail.
Dondo's use of the GoLite Shangri-La2 (SL2), which led me to look more closely at the use of the Black Diamond BetaLight.
Ryan's appreciation for yellow pyramids with bug netting around the base, which led me to look at the MLD SpeedMid.

So after some playing around I have come down to deciding between;

MLD Speedmid, with perimeter netting and side tieouts (added after photo was taken) weighs in at (678 gms), though I do have some concerns about ingress of insects around the floor, which should not happen, but it could. I could add an SMD Meteor Bivy (223 gms) or possibly take a Gossamer Gear Bug Canopy (72 gms) as extra insurance.


I could take a GoLite SL 2 which weighs (606 gms) and combined with a MLD Solo Innernet (260 gms)

Weight wise the minimum weight would be 750 gms for the SpeedMid with GG netting whereas the SL2 with the innernet would be 866 gms, a 110 gm weight difference. For comparison purposes, the GoLite Shangri-La 1 with Aplinlite 1.25 bug inner weighs 826 gms.

Lets take a closer look, the shelters are similar in many respects, both are pyramid types

Floor Area

SL 2 approx 4 square meters (43 sq ft.)

Speed Mid approx 5.5 sq metres (60 sq ft)

The useable floor area is another matter, with the steeper sides of the SL2 most of the floor space is useable whereas the sloping sides of the SpeedMid limit the edges to storage only.

Internal Height (when staked to the ground)

SL 2 122 cm (4 ft.)
but with two poles it feels like there is more height.

Speed Mid 137 cm (4.5 ft)

Sloping sides, (when staked to the ground)

SL 2 the long sides of the shelter have an approximate angle of 63 degrees

Speed Mid, the sides of the SpeedMid have an approximate angle of 44 degrees, thus reducing the useable space at the edges of the floor.

Side Panel Area

The side panel area is important when considering shifting winds the side panel areas are

SL 2 approx. 3.26 sq. meters (35 sq ft.)

Speed Mid approx. 1.7 sq. metres (17.4 sq ft)

As you can see from the numbers the side area is lower for the Speed Mid, however, if the SL 2 is placed with the rear into the wind (and the wind direction does not change) then the area is approximately 1.6 sq metres (18.5 sq ft)

So good shelter placement is more important when it comes to the SL 2.

Entry and exit
As shown in the photographs above the SpeedMid provides the opportunity for opening of the front of the shelter to give expansive views, whereas the SL 2 is more restricted.

In wet weather entry and exit can take place with some spray entering when the door is open, this maybe more of a problem in the SL 2 if the inner net is placed as shown in the photo above, but locating it on the opposite side will reduce the potential for spray on the inner net.

Aside from all these numbers perhaps one of the most important aspects is, How does it feel? Therein lies my dilemma, the benefits of the Speedmid include space to move around with out being confined to an inner net, whereas the SL2 does provide a restricted space, especially if the bug inner is deployed. The SL2 provides more useable headroom, the SL2 has vents which allow for some ventilation, especially when cooking. The SL2 has a two way door zip, also useful when cooking, something I prefer to the Speed Mids one way zip.

Both Shelters have side panel tie outs.
Both shelters require a similar number of stakes.
Both shelters can be erected quickly by staking down the four corners and inserting the pole(s).

May be the choice comes down to if I want bright yellow then the MLD Speedmid is the one, subdued yellow then its the SL 2.

There again, maybe I take the SL 1 and a Katabatic Bristlecone bivy weighing in at 700 gms.

So what do you think and why?