Re-Engineering Shelter

I’ve reached some conclusions on lowering the weight and improving my shelter/sleep options. I’m eventually aiming at trying an AT through-hike (or at least long-section hike), and haven’t been totally happy with my current approach. It’s slightly too heavy, reasonably water resistant, not warm enough and a bit small (though the six moons luna solo is not tiny).

Currently I use a luna solo (2. lbs +- (830 g) + stakes), and a nooksack (2.5 lbs) synthetic bag (too cold for late fall/early spring let alone winter) for the base system. My synthetic 15 degree bag is about 3.5-4 lbs and doesn’t compress as well as the nooksack.

My new system will be: Etowah 8×10 sylon tarp (13oz (390g) + lines + stakes), western mountaineering Apache MF bag (2.1 lbs, 15 degree), thin plastic drop sheet (1-2 oz). Possibly adding a bivy sack (1.2 lbs).


  • lighter weight -  even with a bivy sack it is lighter.
  • warmer – as long as down works.
  • more dry space. – especially important with extended rainy weeks.
  • versatility. Tarps can be put up in all sorts of configurations and to block shelter openings.


  • Is down going to work – even with highly water resistant microfiber shells?  Back in the old days I had nasty experiences with down.  But many people swear by the western mountaineering bags and few seem to swear at them.
  • Bugs.  No insect screen.
  • Really inclement weather?  Tarps work in almost any weather, but are harder to use in truely bad weather.

I’ll know this weekend if it works under less than lethal conditions – more after that.

How’d it work?

Didn’t try the tarp as we had access to an adirondack shelter.  The bag was very warm (to about -5C or 20F) and repelled snow nicely.  I had to move because it was waking me up by drifting onto my face.  My breath condensed on the outside – resulting in a layer of ice that could be brushed off – but did not seem to saturate the down in the first tube of the bag.   Down compresses more than synthetics, so one surprise to me was how much more of a pad is probably a good idea with this bag.  (my normal sleeping pad was less warm and comfortable than usual).

Written by Rob in: backpacking,engineering,outdoors |


  • Hey thanks for the post.Many people don’t state advantages and disadvantages so well as you have done over here.Look forward to more such useful posts from you.

    Comment | December 8, 2009
  • How do you like the luna solo? I’ve used one before and didn’t think it was all that amazing.

    Comment | February 6, 2011
  • Rob

    I mostly like the luna solo – in the southern usa the bug screen is often necessary and it is very weather resistant. It has it’s downsides which is why I keep looking for something better. These are: it’s small, a bit prone to condensation as it is hard to set up high enough to have much ventilation, the front beak is a bit awkward in the rain, and it could be lighter.

    It did survive a severe thunderstorm where every other tent in my son’s troop failed. The small footprint is a mixed blessing – if you are always alone or on big sites then its not a benefit, but I’ve had to squeeze in to a small site on a scout trip and that’s been helpful.

    so overall I’m happy with it, but not completely satisfied.

    Comment | March 23, 2011

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