It is now 3 years since I started walking in the hills and mountains again, after a long break through work and family commitments. I have done many day walks in the winter period, but I have only started to do backpacking in the last year and none past November. Whilst I have a considerable amount of kit and certainly the correct clothing for winter, I cannot say that my current gear will be sufficient for winter backpacking.
It seems to me that I will require additional/replacement kit for this period. I have purchased my winter stove, the Primus Express Spider and tested for cold conditions by sticking it in the freezer see Cold Test post
Looking at the gear list, the big three – shelter, sleeping and backpacks is a natural place to start with. This post deals with shelter.
My current backpacking tent is the Vaude Power Lizard, which although has had some issues and I have modified it- is a good very light 1+ backpacking tent which packs small in my backpack, the OMM Jirishanca. I don’t know at this stage whether it is up to winter backpacking as the model only came out this year. Although I have slept in it in the snow several times at home – this is no real test for mountain conditions. It is clear that a number of bloggers do use similar design tents in the winter period, I am unsure what conditions they have encountered, particularly in relation to snow and strong winds.
My natural inclination is to be cautious – better safe than sorry, belt and braces type of chap I am. So it suggests to me that a single hoop is not right for the period (with the exception of the Scarp 1 by Tarptents which has the crossing poles for extra security and snow capabilities) and that a free-standing tent would be more suitable. Weight is important, but a safe, secure and restful night is more important.
So I am looking at three possibles –
Scarp 1 tent
Lots of useful reviews of the tent, the tent seems to be stable, can be pitched as tight as a drum, good amount of space, not as much as the Power Lizard, but adequate and has the option of the crossing poles. Looking at the design of the tent and reading reviews it seems that the crossing poles help with snow, but as far as I can see they don’t offer very much in helping against strong winds as the ends are not anchored to the ground. I have added up the weights of the tent, some heavier pegs and crossing poles and it looks like a total of around 1.9 kg. The cost, even with importing from the USA seems good value.
Soulo from Hilleberg
Hilleberg tents can be viewed at http://www.hilleberg.se/default-e.HTM
If I am following my belt and braces inclination, this seems to the tent. Bomb-proof, stable, easy to pitch, good space, free-standing, therefore good for snow – a tent you could take anywhere – well that’s what I have read. I have also read the spec – 2.2 kg – more than double the weight of my Power Lizard. However it is only 300g more than the Scarp 1 when you include the weight of the crossing poles. Great on paper – can I live with the weight and pack size ?
Nallo 2 from Hilleberg
This is another option from Hilleberg. On occasions, one of my sons comes with me on backpacking trips, so this would be an ideal 2 man winter tent or solo option. At 2.15 kg it is a little lighter than the Soulo. However, is the tunnel design as strong as the Soulo ? – probably not, but is it adequate ? I will have to do further research.
So which one ?
All three have good positive reasons for buying them with little downside. I am going to think a bit more about it – but I am moving towards the Soulo – it is that belt and braces option after all !!
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I’m putting together my winter kit particularly as I start expanding my skill base into winter mountaineering and hillwalking this year and into 2011. UL has taken a bit of a backseat (shock, horror) and I have started to look at functionality more crucially – Páramo Aspira Salopettes and Smock and Mountain Pull-On base/mid-layer, Scarpa Manta boots, Grivel G12 crampons, Black Diamond Raven Pro ice axe, Black Diamond Carbon Alpine poles (never been a pole user before so this is going to be interesting), Osprey Mutant pack.
I’ll be putting together a post soon on all of it as I start my new avenue of outdoors exploration. Love a bit of snow, me…
Maz – I think you are right, you do have to look at more substantial equipment.
Not sure how much walking I will do with ice axes – but I will look at Kahtoola microspikes /crampons at the very least. Are you going on any winter training courses ?
I look forward to your post on the subject .
I’ve studied these shelters only on paper, but my vote would go for the Soulo, mostly because it is free standing and has a reputation of being bomb proof – if only your knee can take the extra weight (I’d still consider it lightweight, even if it’s definitely not ultralightweight).
I do believe the Nallo can take the winter conditions as well, but pitching a tunnel in the snow… hmm, people seem to succeed in doing that, but I’d rather have a free standing tent in winter conditions. Then again, you already have the Power Lizard, which is a tunnel (ok, single hoop but anyway).
I also think that the Scarp comes too close to the Power Lizard, even if you can of course use the extra set of poles to make the Scarp free standing.
So the combination of having the Power Lizard (summer use, when you are two) and the Soulo (winter use, on rocky ground/cliffs – can also be used by two if you don’t use the inner) seems best in my opinion!
Hope I didn’t confuse you more 🙂
Maria – thanks for your thoughts- particularly from someone who will experience more snow than me. I hope that my knee problem will disappear over time with regular exercise. But it is in my thoughts regarding weight carried. You will see in Martin’s comment, some valid observations regarding the conditions that we might meet in a typical UK winter. Although the last two winters have seen deep snow – may not happen again for a number of years. I think strong winds are more the issue. If I went for the Soulo – I could cope with anything even if it was overkill sometimes. That is what is attracting me to it.
How much winter walking will you do and where? High Cairngorms in full winter conditions is going to call for different kit to a night out in the Lakes in calm weather. If you camp lower in bad weather your current tent will be fine. Steve Perry used a Laser on his winter Munro trip.
I am planning winter walks this year. Long one as well. Thing is most of that is valley and passes and some high bits. I doubt I will take nothing more than I do now except a warmer sleeping bag, down jacket and Ice axe and crampons to fit trail shoes or mids for snow covered passes. I missed getting out in the white stuff the last couple years. You plan to go and when its good the roads are snowed in anyway. Or the snow is not there and it is a mild winter. Who knows what you will find come January?
Martin – good points. Always difficult to know the conditions for a UK winter. I got out quite a bit in the snow last winter. Some of the snow was very deep – up to the tops of drystone walls. The winds were very strong on some walks. My son and I had to dig out a “snow cave” when we stopped for lunch walking in the North Penines – the wind was that strong. We had to abandoned the walk – the snow was thigh deep in places, we needed snow shoes !! I don’t know how to insert a picture into comments – so I will post the snow cave pics.
We may get a mild winter or not – who knows as you said. Some more thinking yet and thanks for your comments – always good to get other people’s view points
Whenever people talk about winter capabilities of tents they seem to assume the possibility of a near-Arctic experience with serious blizzards and strong winds etc.. Are you really going to be out in such conditions?. If the forecast predicted anything approaching that I wouldn’t be on the hill (obviously I know that mountain conditions can change suddenly, but the forecast is rarely that wrong for a small number of days ahead). If you are doing a long distance walk in winter it’s a different matter, anything can happen several days away, but that’s unusual here I think.
I have no reservations about using the LaserComp when it’s snowing and fairly blustery (provided I remember to block up the gap around the bottom of the fly!), which is the most adverse situation I’m likely to be in.
Geoff – you may be right. I guess I don’t know the capabilities of a single hoop tent. I suppose my concerns are not so much that the tent will not stand up to strong winds and snow, it is whether, you can really get the tent tight enough to stop flapping or humming that I have read about and therefore whether you will get a decent nights sleep.
I own and am using the Nallo and the Soulo in the winter, mainly on snow-shoeing trips in the Alps.
Both have worked flawlessly in quite rough conditions (high winds, very cold and plenty of snow), however I’ve always taken care about where I’ve pitched the tent and how. On a couple of occasions, I’m sure this has played a major role.
Saying that, despite the fact that both of the tents have always worked, when I know I will be in more exposed terrain and/or worse weather, I tend to choose the Soulo.
I guess it’s more of a psychological thing. The way it’s built ought to give me more room for making mistakes in adverse weather, so therefore it gives me that feeling of extra safety margin.
If I could only choose one of the two tents, I’d have a very tough time. Thinking about expenses and versatility, I’d say I lean towards the Nallo. With it, I can go in mozzie-infested places together with my better half, and as long as I’m careful about where and how I pitch the tent, it’ll stand up to fairly tough winter conditions. But as said, for those exposed winter conditions, the Soulo is still my preferred choice.
Hope this helps more than confuses.
Karl – thank you for your input. I think you are right that certain tents psychologically give you a feeling of safety. The Soulo I am sure is that sort of tent. Great design and features, if a little heavy compared to my Power Lizard.
Karl hinted at the cost of a Soulo. I took one look and decided not to buy one. However, in its favour, you can use it when the ground is too frozen to get pegs in. Last winter, I wrote off half of my pegs in one night because they had to go in to get my Akto upright.
Despite that, I’ll be trying an MLD Trailstar this winter. The price of tents is too high for me at the moment.
Yes, the price is rather high and I don’t know whether I will buy one yet, or continue on with my Power Lizard through the winter. OK it is expensive but I will be able to use it in any conditions, including frozen ground and I guess the quality of the tent means I could use for quite a few years.
I had at look at your blog – great photos and I like post on British Guitar Greats
Thank you for the kind comment. I can’t help wondering how well known Ollie Halsall would be if American, but the Americans probably have plenty of major talents who never gain the recognition they deserve – Hector Qirko for example, although I see his band has just won a prize of some sort. Must investigate.
Back to the business in hand. I must say this series of posts on winter gear has brought out some great ideas from the old guard. Great reading.
This reply is going to show my age! My introduction to a lot of bands goes back to the mid 70’s (and I can link camping into this as well , so it is not completely off the subject), was in Summer Camps with the Scouts. Some of the older guys would bring enormous collections of cassette tapes which they play at night as we lay in our Patrol Tents and this being this era a lot of prog rock and jazz rock, so it would be ELP, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Caravan, Camel, Gong ( Steve Hillage) as well as more main stream stuff – Led Zep, The Who and stuff like Brand X, ( John Goodsall) – although this may be later on – I can’t remember -I am sure I saw them live once in late 70’s – memory is going 🙂 Not sure if we played any bands Ollie Halsall was in.
we share a similar thought process as you have discovered on my blog too 🙂
The weight thing with the Soulo isnt a deal breaker especially if you are having a second tent to take out with you when you think the Lizard wont cope. I have seen a lizard in a bad blow and think it flaps more than a laser comp IMHO.
If you are prepared to spend a little to make the Soulo your home, you can get carbon poles for when you think the conditions will be benign,. From memory that chops off 300g from the overall weight. Also leave the inner at home in the summer and take an MLD bug bivvy or similar. That will save a further 300g or so. That drops the weight down to below the magic 1.5kg and still gives you a rock solid freestanding tent.
Also I cant emphasis how easy it is to pitch a Soulo (and I have pitched a fair few different tents in my time). Its something that you will appreciate in the winter especially when your hands are numb and its blowing a gale in the rain…believe me!
Yes I am a bit of a belt and braces sort of man. I think you are right, it is good to sit out a storm and think this is the best. It was you who put me onto this, when I read your post a number of months ago. I really not sure that my single hoop tent would stand up to the weather. The Lizard is great for weight and space, however it is a 3 seasons tent even with the Power Frame.
Have I misread or has no one mentioned the Akto?!? I know it’s single hoop but it’s almost bombproof & 1.5kg…
Maz – good point – I made the assumption that the Akto being single hoop would be insufficient to stand up to any weather conditions. However may be suitable. Perhaps I will contact Hilleberg.
I know it’s 1.5kg and the Scarp is lighter but Alan Rayner set me thinking about Hydrostatic Head – the Scarp does not fare too well in that area when compared against the Akto.
Yes- hydrostatic head is often overlooked. What is the HH on the Scarp ? The HH on the Atko and Soulo using Kerlon 1200 fabric is 3000mm and 5000mm for groundsheet. I was lead to believe that you need at least 2000mm and with wind driven rain 3000mm would be ideal I know that my Power Lizard is 3000mm on the flysheet and 10,000mm on the groundsheet.
I read recently that the Scarp was much lower – my Fly Creek is 1200mm on both but that suits me ok for 3-season use. For winter use, I am looking into the Akto.
Maz not made my mind up yet – could be Akto or Soulo