Lightweight Camping Shelter Buyers Guide
Shelter, one of five of the basic human needs. Lucky for you when the going gets tough either on the overnight hike or the month long alpine expedition, we've hand selected the best of the best when it comes to portable shelters. It can be difficult knowing which type of shelter is best for your outdoor adventures and there is really nothing worse than being caught out in the mountains with the wrong gear. Have no fear the buyer’s guide to shelters is here!
Three key questions to ask yourself when considering which lightweight camping shelter is best for you;
- How many people need to fit in this shelter?
- What climate or seasons do you plan to use this shelter in?
- After safety, is saving weight the most important thing and something you'd be willing to compromise some comfort for?
They are the classic choice for hikers, backpackers, and general outdoor kinds of people. The tents we sell range from one person tents all the way up to four-person tents. So, it is important to decide early on how many people are sharing the space. Once you know how many people are sharing the tent, you need to decide what seasons will this tent be used in. We offer 3 season tents and 4 season tents
Three seasons vs. Four seasons; What’s the difference?
The key differences between the two styles of tent is the amount of ventilation the inner tent can provide and the strength of the tent. Four season tents are also referred to as “Full Nylon” tents, as the inners of the tents are made completely from nylon with no large mesh panels. The nylon keeps the tent warmer during the winter and prevents any snow or spindrift from sneaking in via the gaps between the fly and the inner tent. Often a good four season tent will have reasonable options for ventilation should you want it so if you are planning to get outdoors all year round, no matter the weather, a four season tent is the way to go. The added strength in four season tents is to both help resist higher winds agains the tent and hold more weight of snow on top of the tent.
Three Season tents are more temperate weather friendly. The mesh walls and roof allow for great breathability during the warmer nights, reducing the amount of condensation build up overnight. The mesh walls also cut down on grams, making the tent ultralight weight.
A Breakdown of All the Tents Currently Sold at Mountain Equipment
Fast and ultra-light weight, the bivy bag is perfect for a solo sleeper. Maybe you’re a minimalist, maybe you hate sharing or maybe you are looking for the most efficient way to get shelter. Regardless of your reasons the bivy might be perfect for you. Ideal for bike adventures, mountaineering, adventure racing or lightweight hiking.
While bivy bags do offer the best bomb proof shelter for the lowest weight and pack size, it is worth knowing what you are compromising on. The two main things you will quickly find out the first time you use a bivy bag is that there's no where to really cook in shelter and it can be difficult drying yourself off, getting changed and packing your bag in the shelter. If you can be willing to deal with those things however you are getting full four season protection for well under 1kg.
The type of fabric makes up a large part of what differentiates bivy bag models. Once you have decided the bivy bag is for you, you should next ask yourself what climate are you planning to camp in?
|Climate||Bivy Bag Model|
|Hot and tropical?||Try the Bug Bivy|
|High altitudes and volatile weather conditions?||Try the Alpine Bivy|
|From above the snow line to lower altitudes with humid climates?||Try the Ventair Bivy|
|All rounder with minimal weight?||Try the Helium Bivy|
Tarps are extremely versatile shelters, they can be paired with another shelter, like a bivy, hammock or tent for extra coverage from the elements. Or they can be used as a shelter on their own for sleeping and hanging out under in more warmer climates. Rain or shine, a tarp has got you comfortable and covered but it's worth noting that if you are using a tarp on its own then the thing they lack is the ability to retain heat and hold out the wind.
When choosing a tarp consider;
- Material size
- Attachment points
We carry a couple different types of tarps. Each caters to different needs, whether you want a solo tarp, larger tarps in varying sizes and even tarps that can be worn as rain ponchos.
Uneven, rocky slope? Wet, squishy mud? Snake and spider infested bush? All examples of less than ideal sleeping conditions. Unless you have a hammock. Who wouldn’t want to be rocked to sleep under the stars?
The hammock is a great lightweight shelter if you want to stay off the ground. The light weight and hassle free setup makes the hammock ideal for a chill camping trip. They offer amazing weight saving too when compared to a tent. Not only are you saving on the weight of the poles and structure but in a lot of cases the weight of your sleeping mat as well.
Before picking up a hammock consider the following;
- What size of hammock do I need? Regular or Wide?
- Will there be trees strong enough to suspend my hammock?
- What is the weather forecast? Do I need a tarp for rain? Will the wind be really strong? What is the overnight low?
Hammocks are ideal for weight weenies on fast and light adventures or more casual camping in pleasant weather, but they are easily customisable to suit more adverse weather. Adding a tarp if rain is expected or adding a bug net when it’s hot, allows the hammock to adapt to most weathers. Additional suspension kits can be added to the set up if the trees are further apart. On their own, hammocks are terrible insulators, which makes them great for warm weather camping. In the cold though you will need to insulate the bottom of it. This can either be done by sticking an insulated sleeping mat inside the hammock, or by wrapping a windproof insulator around the outside of the hammock.
Sleeping well and being protected from the elements can make or break a trip. That's why Mountain Equipment is dedicated to making sure you get the perfect gear for your outdoor escapades. If you find yourself still overwhelmed with choice, feel free to come into the shops and get a feel for the equipment yourself. There is nothing quite like some hands-on learning and our staff members will be happy to walk you though any products in store.
Written By: Hazel Sherritt