Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First impression of the Tarptent Moment

Trying out a single wall tent is kind of inevitable if you're interested in reducing the weight of your pack. When starting out you'll hear people mention the big three: your pack, shelter and sleeping bag - these are the items that potentially can reduce your pack weight the most, and it's where you get the most bang for your buck. Paying for instance 20 dollars to reduce the weight of your spoon by fractions of an ounce isn't wise spending when a 100 dollars on of the big three can reduce the weight by several pounds.

So far I've gained some experience in using double wall tents, tarps and hammock setups. A single wall tent hasn't been in my posession until now. This summer I sprung for a Tarptent Moment, a state of the art solo single wall tent that has lots of good things going for it. I was going to wait for the accessory "clip-in liner" to be released for it, but in the end my curiosity got the best of me and I picked up a second hand Moment in the Gear Swap section of backpackinglight.com.

The Tarptent Moment was released in 2009, a year the designer Henry Shires released several models. Stated weight  is 810 grams including everything (!) and a very affordable price of 215 dollars. Mine weighs a bit over 900 grams now that it's been seam sealed and after I've added some extra guylines. Still very light compared to a traditional double wall backpacking tent that typically weighs 6 pounds, and a bomber solo double wall like the Hilleberg Akto which clocks in at 1.5 kilos (excellent tent by the way, I'm a happy owner of that too).

Some key features of the Moment are: a single arch pole, bathtub floor, mesh for mosquito protection, lots of ventilation options, silnylon fly and very fast and easy setup.

The first time I put it up I was very impressed by how easy and quick the process was, and how the adjustments on each end made it easy to get the fly drum tight, something that's important if you want a good nights sleep while experiencing high winds. I was also impressed by the amount of room inside and the features. I received it right before I left for Rondane, so I didn't get to test it before my recent trip visiting family in Northern Norway. While there I did an overnighter on the island Hugla.

The spot I chose was quite exposed to wind, but oh so scenic. I pitched the Moment while the sun was setting, bathing the surrounds islands and sea in beautiful light. A light fog hugging the mountains added to epic views, and strangely the wind was very, very light. That changed during the night though when it picked up and hit my shelter on the right side. I didn't bother to reposition it since it seemed to cope with it just fine, being guyed out on the sides as well as having an extra guy line (making it two) on the northern facing end, supported by one of my trekking poles. The shelter can be set up with just two stakes, and I have no doubt that would have worked just fine, but would probably meant more movement in the tent and more wind noise.

Small droplets of condensation formed on the fly during the night, but as soon as the sun went up over the horizon and heated my tent it evaporated. I would've never have seen the condensation if I had slept through the night (which I sadly almost never do while sleeping outdoors). I think I got a small part of my sleeping bag damp from touching the right side of the tent, but that was no issue, and wouldn't have happened if I had positioned the shelter with the end facing the wind. That would've provided better air flow through the tent too, probably reducing the amount of condensation, but frankly I don't worry too much about condensation, well, as long as it doesn't drop down on me. I don't see that being a problem in this case as most of it will just run down along the fly and never touch me. The fly itself is very tight so I don't see it being shaken to an extent that it will make it rain inside :). I plan to bring a towel or bandana next time so that I can wipe it down during the night if needed.

(photo from the book "Lighten up!")

So, like you've probably understood, exposure to condensation is one of the drawbacks to using a single wall tent. A double wall tent will also have condensation form on it, but you will be protected from it by the inner tent. The inner tent will also make the tent warmer. A single wall like the Moment, made up of non-breathable silnylon fabric, needs plenty of ventilation to try to reduce the condensation, and all that ventilation means that it will be drafty and colder. On the other hand it is roomier without the inner, but that is also needed so you don't brush into the condensation and get your bag or clothes wet. I highly recommend reading the article "Condensation in Single-walled Shelters: Contributing Factors and Tips for Reduction" on backpackinglight.com if you want to learn more about condensation issues in single wall tents and how to deal with it.

Some positives and negatives to sum up this first impression review:

  • Low weight
  • Affordable
  • Ridiculously easy and fast to set up, and only needing two stakes. Can be done in under 1 minute with practice.
  • Easton pole.
  • Rain protected entry
  • Good interior space
  • Nice features like pockets and lots of ventilation options
  • The way you can tighten the fly on each end is genius!
  • Just cool looking!

  • Need to seam seal it and test if afterwards to make sure it is completely watertight
  • Can experience so called "misting" in very heavy downpours even though the jury is still out on that one
  • Light materials so you need to be more careful when handling it and picking a spot
  • The door and ends have ribbons to tie them back, not hardware. This is of course to save weight, but it comes at the expense of usability - often you will have to retie them since the material is so slippery
  • at this time they're backordered 3-4 weeks if you order a new one direct from www.tarptent.com
  • Drafty (but you can reduce that by closing off the ends and the top vents, and by putting clothes or other items on the mesh at each side - but this will of course lead to less ventilation and thus more condensation buildup.)

All in all though, I really like this tent! I may be bringing this to the PCT in 2012 if I end up going.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Just spent four really nice days hiking with my brother in Rondane National Park, one of the many protected mountainous areas in Norway. The original plan was to spend 6 days there with 1-2 days staying in huts, and the rest in my tent. We ended up ending the trip after 4 days because of various reasons, but still had a great time taking in the great views. 

Anders arrived in Oslo a couple of days early so we had time to get the food sorted, and to do other errands. I had hoped to get my pack below 10 kg/20 pounds, but ended up at 12.5 kg which really isn't that bad considering I carried food and half of the Nallo 2 tent. Two years ago I carried close to 15 kg/30 pounds a when I just stayed in huts (!). I tried to convince Anders to use one of my UL packs, but he wanted to use my old Hagløfs SEC 85 pack which is like 6 pounds empty, and ended up with a starting weight of something like 15-16 kg.

The great thing about Rondane is that it is easily accessible by train. 3.5 hours relaxing on the train + a short (but expensive) taxi ride brought us to the trail head "Spranget", situated on a plateau with breathtaking views of many of the 2000m + peaks that can be found in the Rondane area.

From Spranget there is a gravel road to "Rondvassbu", the norwegian tourist association's flagship hut in Rondane. We left the road a bit before Rondvassbu and took a right into the long valley that leads to another great hut, "Bjørnhollia". Anders was already feeling the effects of carrying a heavy pack, telling me (after I asked him) that he was having sore tighs.

I was surprised to see 5-10 other tents in the valley as we hiked along it - I only saw 1 in 2008. One of them was really well camouflaged - see if you can spot it in the picture below.

After a couple of hours we made camp, my first time with a tent in the mountains.

Not very camouflaged as you can see. My bright red Nallo is almost polluting the views, but would of course be easy to spot if we were to need assistance from search & rescue:). When I bought it from a guy on ebay he used a green model in his ad, so I was surprised to see the color red when I opened the package. Oh well, great tent anyways.

Our spot was nice, but was also the hunting grounds of eager mosquitoes. We covered ourselves up with the hoodies and wind shirts which helped, and dreamt of knowing some kind of magical spell that would get rid of all bugs in our vicinity (the word "kill" would be a central part of the chant). It was our fault of course, camping a little bit too close to some marshy grounds. Some pasta and Mintuu lifted our spirits though and we got a good nights sleep.

The next day we proceeded down the valley and did a pit stop at the hut "Bjørnhollia" where I stayed in 2008. We bought some beers and chips and glanced at the weather forecast which didn't look very promising. Rain and heavy wind was the what we could expect for the next 24 hours, and that turned out to be correct. While there we weighed our packs. Mine was 12.5kgs and Anders's was a shocking (for a lightweight hiker like me) 18.5! Later I moved some of his stuff to my pack and carried his some of the way.

After a couple of hours we set up camp in the valley close to the mountain "Høgronden" and proceeded to get all our stuff in the tent, and too cook some food before the rain started. We could both feel that it was on its way.

A lot of rain fell during the night and the wind was pretty heavy, but we were both snug and dry in the Nallo 2 which behaved like a champ. Anders had to get out during the night and proceeded to get his boots soaked when he took an alternative route to the stream across a marshy bit, but no problem. One can't really expect to have dry feet on a trip like this. Still, his feet were drier than mine in his Scarpa light hiking boots, but mine (Viking Tracker trail runners) were lighter so I think I got some extra energy and flexibility from that.

The morning greeted us with low clouds and a wet tent, the outer tent that is. The inner was bone dry which was to be expected. We got some food in us and then proceeded to first pack the inner into a dry bag, and then the wet outer. A great feature compared to many american tents where the inner has to be set up first and therefore taken down last. Anders managed to empty the Platy preserve of almost a bottle of Mintuu when I asked him to empty the water reservoirs. Blasphemy I say, blasphemy! :)

We spent the day hiking to the staffed hut "Nedre Dørålseter" which tooks us about 7 hours, first in rain and fog, and then in blazing sunshine. We met many hikers on the way, going in both directions, and both from Norway and other European countries like Germany and the Netherlands. It's easy to spot male hikers from abroad since almost no norwegian males use walking poles - I don't know why, maybe it's kind of a macho thing? Mostly old people use walking poles in Norway.

The (privately-owned) hut "Nedre Dørålseter" is great, a bit expensive (695 nok per person in a 2 man room), but worth I think. It was nice to dry our gear and to get a shower. These staffed huts with their great service, views and food are some of the best places to stay if you're ever in Norway. The DNT hut "Øvre Dørålseter" is close to "Nedre Dørålseter" if you want somewhat cheaper accomodation. I've never stayed there myself, but it's probably great too.

The next day offered superb weather and great hiking conditions.

We decided to take the boat over "Rondvatnet" back to Rondvassbu, and then then maybe to climb one of the nearby peaks the other day. It's normally only a tree hour walk to the place where the boat leaves, but I think we spent 4-5 hours after taking a wrong turn and then picking a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the views. Too often these kinds of trips become a race to reach the next destination. It was nice to have the time to take pictures and look around.

The valley which leads to the shore is beautiful with lots of great places to pitch a shelter. I highly recommend starting a trip in Rondane by taking the boat from Rondvassbu and then speding the first night in this valley. We were only 6 people in the boat, a german couple and a norwegian couple, and me and Anders. The ride took only 20 mins and then we were in the midst of lots of people at Rondvassbu. A cool lady I had been chatting with at Dørålseter told me that the hut had 230 visitors the previours night, which is quite a lot considering the normal capacity is around 150 I think.

The weather forecast for the day after the next was poor and Anders felt like returning to Oslo, so that's what we did, spending the night on the plain close to the trail head. It's so nice to have a tent and being able to spend the night wherever you want. In Norway we have something called "Allemannsretten" which basically means its allowed to camp everyhwere (within reason of course).

The train ride back to Oslo was kind of funny since we got seats in a cart that allowed animal passengers. Close to us we had a rabbit and a bird as travel companions :).

So, what did I learn, or confirm, on this trip?
  • a merino hoody + a very breathable windshirt (we both used the Beartooth hoody and Montane windshirts) is an unbeatable combo. We both used it to good effect. The hoody makes it easy to regulate the temperature with the thumb loops, neck zipper and the balaclava hood. I also used a montane wind pant that worked great, even though it is obviously very susceptible to abrasion.
  • brought too much food and messed up the "food plan" by bringing fresh bread, sausage and some boiled eggs - those lasted a good while! Got to stick to the plan, man.
  • no need to carry any water. I used my Kuuksa to drink from the streams
  • probably better to experience the mountains by staying in the huts and buying all food there. I don't think my pack would've weighed more than around 5 kg then. That would've been great. Would have missed the close to nature experience of wild camping though
  • The Mariposa Plus worked great once more. I got some sore shoulders after 7 hours of hiking, but I guess that is to be expected. The foam padding in my shoulder straps kept sliding down, so I think I'll put at stich in there to keep them put.
  • Could have left several pieces of gear at home, for instance the MLD rain mitts, the fleece gloves, the fleece hat and the Buff. The hoody and the wind shirt was sufficient.
  • Hiking in trail runners worked great, but I don't think it is for beginners. We met a danish couple who spent a minute on traversing a rocky stretch (we used 10 secs), using heavy boots, walking poles and 100% focus on the task at hand. They needed the time and the gear they had for sure. I did feel a bit more vulnerable in the trail runners and did experience some discomfort when stepping on pointy rocks, but I'm definitely sold on using them instead of traditional boots.
  • The Nallo 2 is too small for two hikers and gear, even if you're sharing with family :). Next time we'll bring solo tents.
  • I knew this already: the weather in the mountains changes fast. One moment you're in the sun in shorts and the next you have to put on all your layers too stay warm. I don't think I would've been very comfortable under a tarp during the night where we experienced rain and wind, but I have to try it at some point. The inner of the Nallo 2 was a welcome place to hang out after a long day of hiking. Outside it was blowing and raining, and we even saw some sleet, while in the tent it was 15 degrees celsius and snug. I still have a lot of respect for the mountains and would recommend taking a tent rather than a tarp if you've never been there before.
  • The Snow Peak GS-100 gas stove I brought didn't was too sensitive to wind. Even while cooking in the vestibule you could hear it being affected by it. Will probably bring a Caldera Cone alcohol setup next time.

Well, I think that's all i wanted to report. I hope you liked it. Take care.