RE: A friend and I are hoping to do some backpacking in Scotland around September. I've been looking at tents to buy, but I can't decide whether to go for a semi-geodesic or a tunnel design - which one would you recommend?
I think tunnels are being rather put down in this answer: "stability" and "strength" are not the same thing, as a tunnel can absorb wind hits by moving more easily than a geodesic. This means they're certainly *noisier* than a geodesic, but that doesn't mean they'll fail. Consider, for example, the fact that tunnels like the Hilleberg Keron are tents of choice for unsupported polar expeditions where tent failure is simply not an option. A well executed tunnel can be an incredibly strong tent.
Where geodesics really score is snow loading, which really isn't much of an issue in the UK as even if it does snow it won't be in the sort of quantities to make a problem for a decent tunnel tent, or really awkward pitches on places like shingle beaches, but that's not usually an issue for backpacking as you've usually got some choice of pitches. And of course if a flapping (but not collapsing!) tent bothers your sleep too much then the extra weight of a quieter geo makes sense. They're also better for base camps, as you don't have to carry them around so much and the longer term effects of guys slackening over time will affect them less, but that's not much of an issue for backpacking! It's often a fallacy to assume that just because Tent X is a tunnel it is necessarily weaker than geodesic Tent Y, but lots of people make that assumption.
I own a geodesic I use for sea kayaking, as the weight and bulk are not an issue and I have comparatively little choice of campsite. For walking I'll go with my tunnel tent as there's more space and less weight and I'm still confident it'll take some serious flak. If I had one tent for everything it would be a tunnel: less weight for the same space with similar toughness (as opposed to stability) makes it easier to carry, and that actually makes it a more flexible shelter in my book. For years my only tent was a single-hoop Spacepacker, and it took gales and blizzards high on the Ben and was pitched successfully on Norwegian skerries with hardly any soil. I know from that that tunnels (stronger and more stable than a single hoop) actually work in a lot of places that people assume they won't.
We use a Hillelberg Kaitum as our primary Weapon Of Choice. It's lighter than most geodesics and has a lot more space than those that are lighter. I also trust it for high camping in all but the worst conditions in Scotland, and would trust it a lot further than a lot of geos or semi-geos.
27 November 2008 10:39