Thursday 5 June 2008

Blinded by the light.......weight

Those who have been reading thus far will have noticed that I've had an epiphany on the benefits of lightweight hiking and wild camping. I may have started with the gentle musings of a man on a budget wild camping mission, but there comes a time in a man's life when he must give way to destiny.....or just plain old sensibility.

Since my first wild camping trip in Buttermere earlier this year I've read so much about the various ways people tackle their lightweight issues and about the equipment they use. Despite my new found appreciation of the lightweight movement, I still have this issue with the expense of it all and so I'll be attempting to shed the lbs whilst not spending too much of them!
I've long since known that my 3 heaviest items of equipment are my backpack, my sleeping bag and my tent and quite rightly this is where cost per gram of weight saved is highest. I've wanted a lighter tent than my heavy (but quite frankly bomb-proof) Coleman phact x2 but it wasn't just the money hindering my acquisition of a featherweight shelter. I hike with a friend and we have become accustomed to the space, comfort and stability provided by lead lined Coleman - to go lightweight on a budget means a sacrifice of at least one of these. Paul and I decided after the Hay on Wye trip that a new tent was in order to save weight and that we'd go 50:50 on the cost of a new one. This has widened our options a little but out of principal we decided that we'd try and keep the budget as low as possible and see what we could come up with.
Its a difficult area - lightweight tents. Those who have gone through the process already will no doubt know that choosing a lightweight tent is not an easy process and inevitably ends in a real struggle between very few contenders. A lot of people in the UK trust the new classics, like the Terra Nova Laser (all derivatives) and the Hilleburg Atko for good reason but I wanted something different. I need a true two person shelter that is quick to pitch and has the stability to withstand the variable weather conditions in the UK. The two person thing is the real sticking point since the price shoots up as soon as you cross the threshold from a 1 person lightweight enclosure to a reasonable two person lightweight design. The Terra Nova Solar 2.2 would be my ideal hiking home but principal of the budget dictates that this is not a contender. I should mention before going any further that I'm having to make further sacrifices on the features in order to get the space and performance to match the price. I've considered everything from the Hunka bivvy from Alpkit with a tarp, to a full on Tarptent from Henry Shires. Thinking 3-4 season use I wasn't convinced the Tarptent would be up to weather challenges in the UK (besides the reduced space due to the single skin condensation issues) and the Hunka is a different idea altogether! I was then looking at the Terra Nova Laser but this is a real squeeze for two men.

I came across Big Agnes when reading one of the outdoor forums but initially had dismissed it as it was very expensive to buy in the UK and there wasn't much UK experience with them. I managed to read the review and watch a few videos from Hike-Lite about the Seedhouse SL 2 and this renewed my interest. The design should be stable and the guying points have been improved in the latest design to ensure good performance in the wind. There seems to be enough room for two sleeping mats side by side so we should both squeeze in easily. What remains to be seen is the how the tent stands up to sustained rain intervals since the flysheet has a hydrostatic head of just 1200mm. I'm not sure if this will ever be a problem but this is one of the sacrifices required for a tent weighing a mere 1350g! This would be significant for me and Paul as it would reduce our pack weights by 1300g each - not to mention the reduced size of the the packed tent. Its been difficult to get any reviews from owners in the UK but the consensus is that the Seedhouse is well constructed, designed and has proven itself so far.

So, the tent is a viable option but the price in the UK is around 275 quids, bad times! I had a bit of a search and I
managed to find an outdoors supplier in the States who would ship to UK for a gob-smacking price (due to the $ exchange rate). The result is that in a week or so a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 shall be arriving on my doorstep for the princely sum of around £80 inc of UK import Duty (Paul picking up the other £80 of course). A true bargain!

Tent down, pack and sleeping bag to sort but I'm well on the road to a lightweight expedition.

I'll post some pics and my initial thoughts once it arrives and I have chance to erect it. I'm might kiss that courier when he finally delivers it!


Anonymous said...

The Seedouse 2 is not the Seedhouse SL2 - it's a cheaper (and heavier!) model that retails for £170 or less in the UK....
see -

Marcus said...

Hi there.

Thanks for the info, I have amended the post to take account of the missing "SL" in the latter paragraphs.

The Seedhouse 2 is indeed heavier and cheaper and so I was even more pleased when I found the SL2 for that price!

I guess there is around a 3-4 days more waiting around before it arrives in the post but it going up as soon as I've signed for it!!