Henry Shires Cloudburst Tarptent Application
Dennis, I don't envy you with this one. Good luck with the selections. :)
**** Legal Mumbo-Jumbo ****
If selected I would prefer the sewn in flooring or the convertible floor
with the beak. I solemnly swear that I have read and understand the BGT
Survival Guide, v1202. Shane has my tester agreement on file.
**** Introduction and Tester Information ****
I have long been eyeing the Shires Tarptents as the perfect ground shelter
solution for all non-snow California conditions. Having backpacked with
several owners of Cloudbursts and other Tarptents in different areas of the
state I have observed first-hand how terrific these shelters are and would
love the opportunity to evaluate one.
Name: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Location: Los Altos, CA
Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)
Weight: 130 lb (64 kg)
I began backpacking in the summer of 2000 after moving to California. It was
something I had always wanted to do, but I had only car-camped with my
family while growing up in Michigan. My husband (then fiance) and I picked
up the hobby together, and the past several years have been a learning
experience for us both. Originally, we picked up most of our gear without
much knowledge about what was best for what we wanted. I am now in the
process of re-evaluating my entire backpacking setup to lower my pack
weight, make camp tasks more efficient, and be more comfortable in the
In addition to backpacking, we've become avid day hikers, snowshoers, snow
campers, and peak-baggers. I spend time outside during weekends year-round
in the deserts and mountains of California. Our weekend hikes are often
'spur-of-the-moment', and usually occur in and around Yosemite National
Park, Desolation Wilderness (near Lake Tahoe), and Sonora Pass in the
Sierra Nevada mountains, and Lassen National Park and Mt. Shasta area in the
**** Field Conditions ****
Although the test period for the Cloudburst will extend well into the winter
months, I will have plenty of opportunities to test this tent in a huuuuuge
variety of acceptable conditions, even when the snow is flying high above
me in the mountains.
In the near future (August through October) the Cloudburst would be mostly
used in the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades. I regularly visit places
such as Lassen National Park, Desolation Wilderness/Lake Tahoe region, and
Yosemite National Park. Conditions in these areas can vary widely, but
generally consist of dry glacier carved peaks and lakes above treeline, and
green pine forests below treeline. Conditions can be damp and buggy, windy
and cool, hot and dry, and occasionally afternoon thundershowers pop up.
Most of my trips are overnighters, and are of both the car camping and
backpacking variety, depending on the activities I plan on doing. I am also
hoping to work in the ~5 day Rae Lakes loop hike in Kings Canyon National
Park, if I can work my vacation days out just right.
Later in the testing period (the Long Term test phase), around November
through January, it would be used in entirely different conditions because
the mountains will be covered in snow. My husband and I have our traditional
Thanksgiving week tour of the California desert - each year we do a
variation on this trip, and it can take us anywhere from the east side of
the Sierra Nevada for hot-tubbing and bouldering, to hiking and 4WDing in
Death Valley, to rock climbing and mine exploring in Joshua Tree, to hiking
outside of Lone Pine, to dune climbing in Mojave, to hiking and wildlife
spotting Anza Borrego (and all of 'em if we're feeling ambitious). It is an
interesting time of the year in the desert - it can be well below freezing
at night and damp with low clouds (we've even woken up with a little
snow/freezing rain on the tent in Joshua Tree), or the typical desert
conditions of hot, dry, and sunny. At that time of year it is good to have
a flexible shelter because I never quite know what the weather deities are
going to throw at me.
During the remainder of the winter months I won't deny that I will spend
time in the snowy regions of the state, but the beauty of California is
that I don't HAVE to spend all of my time in the snow. The winter is the
best time to explore some lower elevations in the state (other than the
desert) when it isn't miserably dry and hot. Henry Coe state park, which
is hot and dry in the summer, is lush and beautiful in the winter, making
the winter months the best time for backpacking. Although it would be
cool, compared to most of the rest of the country it feels like summer!
Another place I would backpack in the winter is Pt Reyes National Seashore -
a place that is actually sunnier and less busy in the winter months than
the summer months! Pt. Reyes is a beautiful piece of land along the
Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. They have a few coastal backpack
camps, and conditions are usually windy and foggy. Winter in California's
lower elevations means rain, so I'll expect plenty of that during the test
There are always trips that pop up unplanned, so who knows what other
conditions I'll find myself in over the next six months!
**** Test Plan ****
It's pretty clear that I'll be able to expose the Cloudburst to all sorts of
conditions, but the more important question is what will I be evaluating
while using it?
* Spaciousness: I will use the Cloudburst as a solo shelter and as a double
shelter with my husband. I expect it to be plenty roomy for one, but
without a vestibule I wonder how spacious it is when the two of us are using
it. My husband is not a huge guy - with him at 5'8" and 155 lbs and me at
5'5" and 130 lbs we don't take up a lot of space, but both of us like to
keep a lot of gear in the tent with us at night. Plus, in the winter in
California rain is common, and I'd like to be able to keep as much gear as
possible in the Cloudburst without it getting wet.
How much usable floor space is there? How far from the edge before a
sleeping bag is rubbing up against the side, which is bad with
condensation? Is there room to sit up and play cards? If the weather is
bad can I spend time in the Cloudburst without cabin fever setting in?
* Packability: I carry several different packs and several different
combinations of gear. How easy is it to ease the Cloudburst into my
packing routine? What is the packing size, and how flexible is it (can it
be rolled up long and narrow or short and round)? How long are the poles
when disassembled? What kind of stuff sack works best? Does it come with
* Sand and dust: With a large part of the Cloudburst being mesh, how well
does the mesh protect from blowing sand (in coastal conditions) or dirt (in
desert conditions). Also, in Lassen National Park much of the ground is
made of a super fine volcanic ash - will I wake up with me (and my gear)
covered in it after a breezy night?
* Weatherproof: Wind - how strong of a wind can this stand up to? And at
what point do I need to seal up vents to prevent the tent fabric from
ripping etc? Actually, hopefully I won't have to test this! It appears
that wind direction will play an important role in choosing which direction
to orient this shelter. How much of
a problem is this when the wind is constantly changing directions? Are
there loops for extra stakes to help hold down the tarp in windy
conditions? (at the four corners and maybe along the sides?) Sun and heat -
does the Cloudburst provide a comfortable shelter from the sun and heat,
and not bake me? Rain - how does the Cloudburst handle rain? Does it get
in under the beak if the wind is not blowing at a constant direction? What
about under the mesh at the bottom?
* Bugproof: Is everything sewn/zipped together, or are some of the closures
not a complete seal?
* Breathability/venting: With large drops in temperature overnight,
condensation is frequently
a problem in this part of the country. Condensation is an issue that we
have to deal with more than I would like. How easily does the Cloudburst
vent? Are there different configurations I can use depending on the
* Ease of setup: The Tarptent website claims a 2 minute setup time. Is
this for one person? Is this with the sewn in floor? How much practice
does it take to pitch it this quickly? How easy is it to do in very windy
conditions? If a pole breaks, is it easy to find a workaround? In other
words, can I set it up without the pole(s)? How easy it to quickly set up
the roll-up side panels? Do they stay put? Does the hook side of the
velcro abrade the tent fabric when the panels aren't velcroed?
* Drying it out: How quick does the Tarptent dry out? It obviously needs to
be set up to dry
efficiently since only one side of the silnylon will dry at a time when laid
on the ground (or strapped to the outside of a pack).
* Quality/Craftsmanship: How solidly are the guyline anchors sewn in? Are
these easy to repair in
the field? Again, something I hope I don't *have* to test! Is there a
patch kit/silnet included? It is not a freestanding tent so stakes are
necessary for setup - how strong are stakes that ship with the cloudburst -
will they pull out of the ground easily? (I think it's the Ti needle stakes
that ship with 'em) How durable is the netting? This seems like the first
thing that would break down.
How durable is the sewn-in or convertible floor?
Does the silnylon have an extra UV coating? What about the netting? Does
the silnylon need to be covering up the netting in bright sunlight to keep
it from quickly breaking down? I always worry about that with the netting
on my other tents and pitch the rainfly for protection - there is no such
luxury with the Tarptents!
* Snow camping: The cloudburst is advertised as a 3+ season tent on the
Tarptent website. Now, this would not be my shelter of choice when heading
out in most high altitude winter conditions, but I would like to try it on
the snow on a mild night with no expected major precipitation.
How much can the tent be sealed off visually - for example, to change
clothes in a crowded campground.
How see-through is the fabric - namely how bright inside under a full moon?
Aesthetics of the color - is the grey depressing, or will it not bother me?
How does the entrance open? velcro or zippers? I am pretty sure I have seen
both, but I know for sure I have seen it with a zipper.
Is there a place to hang a lantern? Are there pockets on the inside for
keys and whatnot?
Is it easy to get in and out of in the dark? Do I have to undo the beak to
get in the Cloudburst?
Do the guy lines get in the way if I'm stumbling around camp in the dark?
**** Previously Written Reports ****
I am currently testing four items, and all are within the long term test
phase. Two of them (Magellan GPS and Kahtoolas) will be completing
Gregory Deva: http://tinyurl.com/47etz
Keen Newport H2s: http://tinyurl.com/3m735
Magellan SporTrak Color
Previously tested items:
POE Max Mtn
Petzl Myo 5
Bite X-Trac OS Sandals
Hennessy Expedition Asym Hammock
Wild Roses Sedona Rose P-Tights
PCT Guide - Southern California
Deuter Futura 32 Backpack
Leki Ultralite Ti Air Ergo Trekking Poles
Psolar.EX Face Mask
Lazerbrite LED flashlight
Backpacker's Pantry Foods
ULA Equipment P-2 Backpack
Princeton Tec Aurora Headlamp
Golite Hex 2 Shelter
Atlas 10-Series Snowshoes 2003-01-15
Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons 2002-04-01
Chaco Z2 Sandals 2002-04-02
Kelty Coyote 4500 2002-06-21
Marmot Never Summer Sleeping Bag 2002-10-14
Marmot Swallow 3+ Season Tent 2002-03-26
McNett Gore-Tex Repair Kit 2003-03-24
Nalgene 2 oz. Drop Dispensing Bottle 2002-11-12
Patagonia R2 Jacket 2003-03-26
REI MTS Midweight Tank Top 2003-02-05
Thanks for considering me Dennis!