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If you’re shooting for objectives that are unatainable as a day trip, or just trying to get away from the masses and sleep under the stars, chances are you’ve questioned your sleep system. The art of packing and selecting camping equipment is one which is continually assessed and re-assesed by snow campers new and old. Goals of cutting weight, increasing comfort and maintaining packability are always at the top of everyone’s list.

Knowing that many of us don’t have a budget to figure things out by trial and error, we reached out to Industry Experts Cam Brensinger (CEO & Founder of Nemo Equipment) and Ben Saunders (North American Sales Manager of Nemo Equipment) to anwser some basic questions when it come to shelters, bags and pads. In this segment we learn about some of the challenges that winter campers face when it comes to shelters and some of the solutions that Nemo Equipment has developed.

Nemo Equipment

With so many people already having 3-season tents for backpacking, what differentiates a 3-Season from a 4-Season tent? When does a 4-season tent become necessary?

Most 4 season tents are really 1 season tents. The term is used to describe tents that can handle the wind, snow loads and extreme temps of winter. If you’re heading into winter conditions, you’ll want a tent designed for that purpose. Usually these tents have stronger fabrics, steeper profiles for shedding snow, additional guy out points, a stronger pole frame and often will have ripstop fabric on the inner canopy instead of no-see-um mesh, and full coverage rain flys. Some will also have snow skirts for sealing out wind and spindrift. Outside of extreme conditions, a well designed 3 season tent will stand up to just about everything, except a heavy snowfall.

Generally, 3 season tents are going to be lighter and less expensive. If you’re expecting high, sustained winds or snowfall greater than an inch or two, I would bring a 4 season tent. Otherwise, you might be able to enjoy the lower weight and greater versatility of a 3 season design. Just keep in mind that Mother Nature doesn’t always deliver what we expect, and in the winter especially, I would favor being over prepared.

While looking at 4-season tents, some are listed as single walled and others as double walled. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Condensation is unavoidable in some conditions. Basically, you breath out about a liter of water during the night while sleeping, plus the moisture that leaves your sleeping bag from sweat and wet clothing. At night, once you’re zipped in your bag and retaining most of your body heat, the temperature inside your tent becomes essentially the same as the outside air. When all that moisture leaving your warm sleeping bag hits the tent walls, tent poles, even the no-see-um mesh, it condenses and freezes and creates little frost crystals. We’ve all experienced waking up in what looks like an ice cave. Sometimes a double walled tent, meaning a separate inner tent and fly, does a better job of hiding that condensation and frost by allowing most of it to pass through the inner tent, out of sight, and land on the inside of the fly. But double walled designs are generally heavier and more prone to retaining water weight on a multi-night trip. We have a solution to frost we strongly feel is the best available. Our Tenshi™ single wall tent comes with a Condensation Curtain™ that isolates the area you breathe to a small portion of the tent. All the frost ends up in a small zone near the front door. Plus the tent is made of a waterproof/breathable fabric that doesn’t retain moisture or adhere to frost. In the morning, you can slide to the other side of the curtain to get dressed without worrying about frost, and later you can pull the curtain out and shake it out or dry it in the sun.

The Condensation Curtain™ helps keep moisture created by normal breathing contained in a small portion of the tent. The curtain has a tieback loop for easy stowage when not in use.

The Condensation Curtain™ helps keep moisture created by normal breathing contained in a small portion of the tent. The curtain has a tieback loop for easy stowage when not in use.

 

How does Nemo Equipment address condensation when designing their tents (single wall & dual wall,) and bivies? What can users do to prevent or minimize condensation?

In many cases, there’s nothing you can do to prevent condensation altogether. But good air circulation helps a lot. The reality is, in the winter we have to bring our wet gear into our sleeping bags to dry it out, producing a great deal of humidity. The warm air in our sleeping bags can hold a lot more moisture than the cold dry air outside. So when that warm, humid air leaves our bag, it looks for anything cold to condense on. There’s a lot of talk about breathability of tent fabrics, and it does make some difference, but if you leave vents open in your tent, you’ll find frost forms even on the no-see-um, which is about as “breathable” as tent materials get. Bringing a sleeping bag with waterproof/breathable shell fabric is a good safeguard against condensation on tent walls, and so is a good routine in the morning for getting dressed, shaking things out and keeping things as dry as possible.

Enviromental Conditions Favoring Condensation

As air temperature cools during the night, relative humidity tends to increase because the amount of water vapor in the air stays the same, but the total amount of water vapor that can be held by the air decreases. In cases like these, condensation often occurs. The worst cases of condensation occur during cool temperatures, high humidity, and very little wind. On cool, still nights, there is no air circulation between the warm air inside and the cool air outside. Without a shell fabric that transports water vapor out, condensation can quickly accumulate on interior surfaces of the tent. Certain environmental conditions such as subzero climate and heavy rainfall increase condensation. In high altitude, the decrease in atmospheric pressure reduces the resistance to water vapor, also increasing condensation. – Nemo Equipment

 

Splitters with long approaches or multi day traverses are all about the “Light is Right” philosophy. When keeping weight to a minimum, the options become limited to bivies, single wall tents, or floorless shelters. How would you compare the three?

A single wall tent will definitely provide you with the best balance of weight, protection and comfort. A bivy bag is rarely the best solution. The lack of air circulation creates a condensation problem, plus they’re claustrophobic and tough to manage if it’s raining or snowing. The exception would be our Gogo™ Elite shelter which is really an innovative hybrid between a small tent and bivy and offers air circulation around your sleeping bag and a small vestibule at a weight lower than most traditional bivy bags. Floorless shelters can be a great asset if used appropriately. They offer the greatest interior volume at a given weight. But the lack of a floor leaves exposure to snow and wind that has to be dealt with. Often times, these make great common areas for expeditions or mess tents, but require the right gear and skills to be the right choice for overnight shelter.

Tent Setup Tips

  • Set up your tent correctly with proper tension. A nice taut tent body that is staked and guyed out well will prevent water from pooling and let the fabric breath.
  •  Pitch your tent away from bodies of water.
  •  Set up your tent on high ground where it is more likely to see some wind. As a rule of thumb, if the wind is roaring outside, pitch the shortest end of the tent into the wind to take advantage of aerodynamics. If conditions are calmer, face the largest vents or mesh areas into the wind so there is good cross ventilation.
  •  Use windows, doors, and vents to achieve optimum airflow. Create a passive “high-low” air flow system where cool air enters from ground-level vents and hot air is expelled through roof levels openings.
  •  Avoid keeping your wet gear inside the tent to dry.
  •  If there is condensation on your walls when you wake up in the morning, wipe down the interior or shake off the moisture before packing up the tent. Resist the urge to throw your gear in the corner until your next trip — hang up the tent in a dry, well-ventilated area or be prepared to face the wrath of mold and mildew your next time out.

 

Gogo™ Elite

Gogo 5

• The LIGHTEST AND SMALLEST packing shelter in NEMO’s entire line.

• Uses NEMO’s revolutionary AIRSUPPORTED TECHNOLOGY® to inflate the airbeam structure in seconds.

• CONSTRUCTED FROM OSMO™ ELITE W/B, one of the lightest waterproof/breathable tent fabrics on the market that enables water vapor to be transported out at an incredible rate

Specs

Capacity                        1P
Minimum Weight       1 lb, 4 oz / 560 g
On the Fly Weight      N/A
Trail Weight                 1 lb, 13 oz / 800 g
Floor Dimensions       108 x 41 in / 274 x 104 cm
Floor Area                    19 sq ft / 1.8 sq m
Vestibule Area             5 sq ft / 0.4 sq m
Interior Height            27 in / 69 cm
Number of Doors        1
Frame Description     2 in / 5 cm dia Airbeam
Packed Size                  4 x 6 dia / 10 x 15 cm dia
Shell Fabric                  10D OSMO™ Elite W/B
Vestibule Fabric          10D PU Nylon Ripstop
Fly Fabric                     10D PU Nylon Ripstop
Canopy Fabric             N/A
Floor Fabric                 20D PU Nylon Ripstop
Color                             Elite Yellow

Kunai™

kunai1

•The most versatile tent on the market for BACKPACKING YEAR-ROUND.

• Double wall construction keeps condensation at bay in humid conditions.

• Tapered profile, aggressive brow pole, wind-blocking inner tent, and dimensionally stable seam reinforcement KEEP YOU PROTECTED from snow and strong gusts.

Specs

Capacity                                          2P
Minimum Weight                         4 lbs 0 oz / 1.8 kg
On the Fly Weight                        3lbs 1.2 oz / 1.4 kg
Trail Weight                                  4 lbs 10 oz / 2.1 kg
Floor Dimensions                        85 in x 51 (footwidth) 42 in / 216 cm x 130 (footwidth) 107 cm
Floor Area                                     27 sq ft / 2.5 sq m
Vestibule Area                              7 sq ft / 0.7 sq m
Interior Height                             42 in / 107 cm
Number of Doors                         1
Frame Description                      2 DAC 9.0mm Featherlite NSL
Packed Size                                   7.5 x 6 in dia / 19 x 15 cm dia
Shell Fabric                                  N/A
Vestibule Fabric                          20D PU Nylon Ripstop (1500mm)
Fly Fabric                                     20D PU Nylon Ripstop (1500mm)
Canopy Fabric                             20D Nylon Ripstop / No see um mesh
Floor Fabric                                 30D PU Nylon Ripstop (3000mm)
Color                                             Skyburst Orange

Moki™

Moki 1

• A PERFECT BASE CAMP for extended adventures with an abundance of internal space and external storage to wait out storms and live comfortably.

• Over half of the single wall exterior is CONVERTIBLE TO MESH, which gives you the flexibility and comfort you need in any climate.

• ENHANCE YOUR LIVING AREA to have more communal space, alternate entrances, and extra storage by adding another vestibule or connecting two Moki™ tents.

Specs

Capacity                               3P
Minimum Weight              8 lbs, 7 oz / 3.8 kg
On the Fly Weight             N/A
Trail Weight                       11 lbs, 14 oz / 5.4 kg
Floor Dimensions             90 x 75 in / 229 x 191 cm
Floor Area                          43 sq ft / 4.0 sq m
Vestibule Area                   12 sq ft / 1.1 sq m
Interior Height                  48 in / 122 cm
Number of Doors              2
Frame Description            5 DAC 9 / 9.6 / 10.25 mm Featherlite® NSL
Packed Size                        18 x 8 in dia / 46 x 20 cm dia
Shell Fabric                        40D OSMO™ W/B (4000mm)
Vestibule Fabric                30D PU Nylon Ripstop (1500mm)
Fly Fabric                           30D PU Nylon Ripstop
Canopy Fabric                   N/A
Floor Fabric                      70D PU Nylon Ripstop (5000mm)
Color                                  Skyburst Orange

Tenshi™

 

Tenshi 1

• THE MOST AWARDED MOUNTAINEERING TENT including Editor’s Choice from Climbing, Best in Gear from Rock and Ice, and Editor’s Choice from Backcountry.

• The INNOVATIVE CONDENSATION CURTAIN protects your gear from frost and damage by partitioning moisture created by breathing to a small portion of the tent.

• INCL UDED VESTIBULE, STUFF SACKS, AND OTHER ACCESSORIES give you versatility that other tents in this category don’t provide.

Specs

Capacity                            2P
Minimum Weight           4 lbs, 6 oz / 2.0 kg
On the Fly Weight          N/A
Trail Weight                    7 lbs, 3 oz / 3.3 kg
Floor Dimensions          84 x 47 in / 213 x 119 cm
Floor Area                       28 sq ft / 2.6 sq m
Vestibule Area                11 sq ft / 1.0 sq m
Interior Height               42 in / 107 cm
Number of Doors           1
Frame Description        2 DAC 8.84 mm Featherlite
Packed Size                     15 x 7 in dia / 38 x 18 cm dia
Shell Fabric                    40D OSMO™ W/B (4000mm)
Vestibule Fabric            30D PU Nylon Ripstop (1500mm)
Fly Fabric                       N/A
Canopy Fabric               N/A
Floor Fabric                  70D PU Nylon Ripstop (5000mm)
Color                              Skyburst Orange

About The Author

Colin Balke is a content editor for Splitboard.com who lives in Northern California. When not plucking away on a keyboard, he can be found splitboarding, camping, backpacking, or hanging out with family and friends.

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