I'm considering buying a one-person tent. I think I'm going to need it for my second trip to Mt. Whitney later this summer, but that's sort of a new thing for me having gotten used to a tarp and bivy combo and before that a hammock. The only tents I have are for 'family' camping.
Here's the problem I'm facing. Last year when I traveled to California to climb Mt. Whitney I took along my Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp and Mountain Laurel Designs bug bivy as my shelter combo. At the Whitney Portal campsite that was no problem at all because the ground there was a mixture of forest soil and the gravel the park system throws down to help reduce the wear and tear caused by backpackers. My titanium tent stakes went in easily and held up well keeping the tarp taught all night.
However, the next night at the Whitney Trail Camp (12,000 ft) where we were high above the tree line and on a surface of almost entirely rock, my tent stakes were impossible to drive into the ground in any usable fashion. Even my titanium nails, as strong as they are, could not be driven in using a rock as a hammer - that's a huge problem to have with a tarp. Bad planning on my part I'll freely admit.
I ended up having to use a combination of buried tent stakes with large rocks placed on top to weigh them down and other large rocks with the cord wrapped around for holding out the corners and peaks of my tarp. It took a lot of effort to finally set up and barely held my tarp in place against the heavy winds that whip through the exposed camp site.
Another factor I had to contend with was the fact that I couldn't easily choose which direction to set up my tarp according to the wind direction. There is incredibly limited space for tents or tarps, several of the spots that we found were not big enough to pitch my tarp, which resulted in a less than ideal configuration as my final location. It sucked, but I had no choice but to embraced it.
Is a Dome Tent the Better Option?
So, given that there is really no convenient or reliable way to stake out a tarp or other form of shelter that requires a taught pitch, is the dome tent option really the best direction for me to go this time round? This is where I'd like as much feedback and advice as possible. Your chance to really help me!
Rather than scour through all of the online gear reviews and websites looking for a ultralight dome tent option, I want to first turn to my you, my readers, and get your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on what you might do differently. Is there a UL dome tent option that you would recommend (personal experience would be preferred), should I forego a shelter entirely and try a bag/bivy, what are your thoughts?
I have some ideas of the general direction I want to go in, but I really want to hear from all of you before I make up my mind. Sure, I do a lot of backpacking and I'm always posting tips and tricks here on my blog - but I don't know what I don't know. As an added incentive, if I end up choosing a particular product that is recommended by you I'll throw in a pretty sweet piece of gear as a way to say thank you!
So help a brother out, what shelters would you recommend I take a look at, or could I have done something differently and stuck with my trusty tarp? I'm all ears...
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Brian is a Charlotte based backpacker, gear junkie, runner, and CrossFit(er). Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the US for over 20 years, finally settling in North Carolina. He spends as much time backpacking as his busy work schedule and family life will allow.