Sneak Peak: 2013 Mountainsmith Gear
Published on 11/08/2012
By Peter Reese
Somewhere between insanely light and exceedingly practical is the reality zone in backcountry shelter. Homegrown, self-published books – and dozens of YouTube videos – allow the DIYer to craft a tarp-like structure for under $100.
Mountain Shelter LT
Once again, Mountainsmith shows up to make technical gear affordable in off-the-shelf products. Active Junky recommends putting down the scissors, seam tape and origami-like instructions in favor of the two-person MOUNTAIN SHELTER LT. A recent four-day excursion to bramble filled Appalachia found the MSLT nestling into a densely wooded river bottom site. Fellow students in a Pathfinder School course brought all manner of shelter so side-by-side comparisons became that much easier. Three seasons of adventure were indeed there to capture under this 40d sil-nylon pyramid of solid construction that’s supported by two, adjustable trekking poles or uprights cut on site. Carried as a 16.5” x 5” roll clocking in at 2 lbs. 1 oz., the LT emerged as a 142” x 54” x 84” umbrella of protection.
First-time assembly including guyline attachment took about 30 minutes, with subsequent pitching estimated at about 15 minutes on a cleared site. Aluminum v-stakes were adequate in heavy soil conditions but longer pins are advisable in loamy areas. As with any bottomless shelter, orientation of the LT is critical when wind and rain are anticipated. A lightweight ground cloth equipped with grommets served as the floor that resisted gusts and moving around under the LT.
A mid-week, all-night rain danced off the sides and offered less than 2” of intrusion under the perimeter. LT stood tall in the wind once trekking poles were adjusted properly and side pullouts were tightened to account for rope stretch. While testing focused on staked-out guylines, the LT is capable of pole-less erection using top and side attachment points. Note that regular retensioning was required as the lightweight tensionlock cord adjustments were the weak point of the system. The long, zippered door at the entrance made access easy and allowed extra airflow during stable weather. At the rear, the ventilation window helped manage temperature and condensation but its small size was a limiting factor.
Over the course of five nights, fellow students toured the tent with favorable reactions. Of note was the large front vestibule area that permitted pack storage and ready access to cooking gear. MSLT’s bright color and reflective guylines were pluses during night sojourns. Peers were shocked at the low price point of the SHELTER and vowed to learn more about Mountainsmith’s new and growing collection of lightweight gear.
Among those offerings is the HAZE, a 50-liter single compartment pack that strips off the ounces to fly fast in the backcountry. Testers have only begun to explore all the load management permutations of this 1 lb. 9 oz. offering that’s lighting up the gear review world.
Surprisingly, shoulders and hips rode in comfort thanks to plush padding that rivaled that of much heavier packs. Testers were enthralled with the scuba tank-like tubular exterior pockets that kept spare clothes, in-flight calories and navigation aids at the ready.
Active Junky wants to see this one on the Adventure Travel radar as a top pick. Capable of overhead or under seat cramming and jamming, this pack is one piece that should carry the essentials and never, ever get checked to keep the trip alive in a world of lost and stolen luggage.
Hydration? Check. Pole and exterior gear attachment points? Roger that. Beefy haul strap (critical in travel scenarios)? Affirmative. Driving rain is the only anticipated barrier to total performance as the HAZE trades a traditional full-on lid for a dust cover.
For the price of a bomber daypack, HAZE opens up a world of five day plus trip options. Smart packing is required, but Mountainsmith knocks down another barrier to getting light and getting free with this Active Junky-recommended pack.