Mountain hardware lightpath2 tent

Review: Mountain Hardwear Lightpath 2

Ever since I got my Lightpath 2 tent (by Mountain Hardwear) I’ve wanted to pitch it, so when I got the opportunity to do so at our office retreat at Sattal Christian Ashram I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately time was short and I had to pitch and strike my tent (and trek to and fro) within an hour. Cyclone Phyan did not help matters much and there was a steady drizzle which broke only on the last two days of our stay at Sattal. One of the dry days was used up to visit Nainital. So I had to do this on the last day -bunking church and barely managing to pitch and strike the tent before it was time to head back to Delhi.

When I chose this 3 season – 2 person backpacking tent, I was unable to find any reviews online (unless they were those 5 liner store reviews) so I was very apprehensive about what I would get. I had never bought a tent before and wasn’t sure of what to look for in one. The only thing I was sure of was that I needed something compact and light to carry around. Buying from Moosejaw was the easy part, their excellent quality packing, customer service and timely delivery on my previous purchase had put my heart at ease, so I went ahead and bought it from them. They didn’t disappoint me.

The tent is basically supported by two different sized collapsible shock corded semi-circular poles which works like a skeletal frame for it. Stakes however are still needed to hold up the tent. In other words -this tent is not free standing.

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Spreading out the footprint while carefully feeling for sharp rocks, roots or other sharp man made objects

The footprint which is an optional extra buy is slightly smaller than the floor of the tent to prevent water run off from the rain fly accumulating under the tent floor. But before that, the usual precautions when choosing a site for pitching a tent… away from strong winds, low lying areas where water collects or where flash floods might wash away the tent. Then there are those sites which are prone to avalanches, land slides and falling rocks. In addition, I made sure I didn’t pitch under a tree which had branches big enough to brain me in case it detached from the tree. A footprint is a good investment, as ultralight synthetic fabrics are quite thin and delicate and having a hole in the tent floor would be quite uncomfortable when it rains.

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On top of the footprint goes the bath tub floor of the tent which needs to be carefully aligned with the footprint below

Next the poles have to be assembled. The instructions caution against allowing the poles to snap into shape during assembly under the force of the elastic bands, so the shock corded poles have to be gently assembled instead of letting them snap together of their own volition.

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Pole Assembly: The poles tether the footprint and the floor at four points -2 for each pole

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Close up of how the ground sheet (black strap), tent floor (bluish thinner strap) & rain fly (Black plastic clip held by my thumb) come together

 The poles go into either ends of the floor into the round hole in the (black) plastic clip and then into the  grommet/eyelet on the strap connected to the footprint. The other D shaped hole on the plastic connector is where the plastic clips from the rain fly anchor.

The spring action of the now bow shaped poles keeps the footprint and floor taut -at least breadth wise in the same fashion that a bow keeps the bow string taut.

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Assembling the poles : The plastic clips on the top of the net click onto the pole
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The tent however is not free standing and therefore must be staked. The supplied tent pegs are quite skinny, so pegging into soft or wet ground is difficult. Thankfully it wasn’t windy
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Rear three quarter view of the tent without the rain fly. This configuration is good for the summers, the bug net keeping out flying insects and other creepy crawlies.
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Once the rain fly is on, things do get a bit claustrophobic

 

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Seating space is just about adequate, so apart from lying down, a tall person would not be able to do much, if they were hunkering down in the tent due to bad weather.

Could not finish pitching before the sun came up in strength and was totally exhausted and sweating. It was soft and springy inside though -thanks to the grass and  pine needles.

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I love its shape. However I later realized that it can get as hot as an oven even around 9 am when the rain fly is on… It is definitely not a shelter from the sun. You would need to carry an extra tarp for shelter from the sun.
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This shows how important it is to have good long stakes with a large surface area… Once the stakes are pulled out, the tent just flops over… this could be a possible scene when there are high winds

 

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Packs quite small and can be attached with my back pack quite easily and doubles up as a pillow in the train.

Overall a very light & good tent for backpacking, I leave the poles assembled  at home as per the manufacturers instructions and hang them on opposite wall supported by two nails each. The tent is very light to carry and the packed tent can be used as a pillow when travelling by bus or train. Being light probably also translates as being delicate and it does not have a very great or probably no UV protection. The accompanying (good) literature, points out that at high altitudes the tent would not last more than a month before it gives up the ghost and so  advises users to strike tent in the mornings to avoid exposing it unnecessarily to the suns rays. Although this is disappointing, I hope to use it carefully in this matter and make it last as long as possible as I paid over Rs. 12,000 which in Indian rupees is a large sum of money. I’m also going to use my wood burning stove (The Bushbuddy) as far as possible from the tent or even my Trangia meth burner as it is quite easy to tip over

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Not as spacious as it looks -especially when you move your backpack in. I don’t think more than a single person can sleep in it -unless probably it is a newly married couple.

Although this is not a full fledged review, I will keep adding details about its performance under real use in the days to come. I was unable to carry my sleeping bag & pad this time due to space constraints and I had planned to spend the night in the tent.  Going by the design, the condensation should form on the inside of the rain fly and follow it to the ground outside the floor area, -unless it forms on the flat area of  the mosquito net -floor assembly  in spite of the ventilation,. Personally I am happy with the quality of the product and would gladly recommend it to others. However do remember that although it is rated for two people, practically it is suitable only for one person and their belongings. Two sleeping bags can be accommodated in the tent (with all gear placed outside the tent), but it would be uncomfortable (especially in the hot months) or difficult for two people to sit knee to knee facing each other under the highest point of the tent. Without a rain fly it  also makes for a great summer tent with all its mosquito/bug proof netting. Wish it was free standing though… I’ll have to look out for another free standing mosquito net when I’m not ultralight trekking.

Pros:

  • Lightweight, good as a single backpackers tent
  • Good quality materials
  • Bath tub floor -keeps flowing water on the ground out of the tent. (Haven’t yet used it in the rains)
  • You don’t need to read the manual to be able to set it up.

Cons:

  • Short tent pegs, do not hold well in wet and sandy soils
  • Stuff sack is made from tent material and not robust enough to take traveling wear and tear.
  • Not really adequate for two persons although you could sleep two to prove a point.
  • Setting up and striking down the tent is time consuming
  • Not free standing
  • Low ceiling
  • Shape of the tent allows only one short person to sit at the entrance.
  • Good only for sleeping or reading while lying down. Getting into the tent will be the last thing I’ll do before going to bed. Unless the weather is really bad.

All said and done, I am pleased with Mountain Hardware’s quality and attention to detail. I plan to buy more of their products at a later date.

Note: I have not yet been able to test the tent in adverse weather. Once I do, I will update this whole post. Unfortunately, none of my friends want to go camping in adverse weather and camping out alone in the places I want to go camping  is not advisable.

Hands On: [21st to 24th April 2011] [Camping trip to Yamuna bridge, Pokhri]

Observations:

  • In comparison to the free standing dome tents of my friends, I found my tent to be difficult (time consuming) to setup. By the time I was done, they had already setup their tents, collected firewood and were heating up dinner. [Probably they divided up the tasks]
  • The height of the tent being low, the tent needs to be setup on all fours or in a squatting position which is difficult after an arduous trek. This makes the tent a no no for seniors or those with big bellies.
  • The compactness of the tent turns into a shortcoming as it is virtually impractical to do anything useful in the tent apart from sleeping and reading.
  • Since it is rated as a two person tent, it can sleep two technically, however two people cannot sit upright in this tent as it resembles a super bivvy bag with a higher ceiling. A newly married couple should have no trouble using this in winter though 😉
  • This tent is comfortable only for a single person provided they are not too tall and accommodates their rucksack etc.. In case of an emergency, two people can sleep side by side provided all their belongings are chucked out of the tent.
  • The bug netting works like a dream.
  • The tent became unbearably hot with the rain fly on at 9 am in the morning, but others in their dome tents experienced the same. However I should mention that they come from Mussoorie, a hill station, so they feel hot even if they see the sun from afar. I stay in hot Delhi, so if I felt hot, it must have been really hot in mine.
  • This tent could be pretty cozy for winter camping. This is just a guess
  • Had no rain, snow or wind so cannot comment on  its performance in adverse conditions.
  • The cover tore on first use as it snagged on something. I’m planning to discard it and use it for patching the tent if required and get a denim cover made to house the tent.
  • Could not pitch my tent with the others due to the sandy river bank and had to pitch it away at a distance.

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