FR - MontBell Thunder Dome 2 - Lyon
- For your editor's blue pencil. Complete html version in the Tests
folder at http://tinyurl.com/384zdn. Richard
January 2, 2008
Prior to taking the Thunder Dome into the field I pitched the tent
in my yard in MontBell's "Light and Fast" configuration, using the
ground sheet as a floor. I believe that MontBell intended this
(though it's not included in the contents listed on the website), as
adding the weight of the ground sheet almost exactly corrects the
discrepancy between its listed and measured weights in my Initial
Report. Also the webbing strips on the ground sheet's corners,
identical to those on the tent body, can be used to set the poles.
In this set-up the guy lines are helpful in maintaining tension on
During this exercise I noticed one design detail I missed when
preparing my Initial Report. The underside of the fly has four
small hook-and-loop fasteners, one for each arm of the pole. These
allow me to secure the fly to the tent poles in the Light and Fast
configuration. When the tent body is used its hooks make these
superfluous. The fasteners are sewn on to small fabric tabs which
in turn are sewn to the tent seam, presumably to reduce the
likelihood of condensation seeping through the seam and onto the
pole and to allow a bit more flexibility when attaching the tent
I've taken the Thunder Dome on two two-night backpacking trips,
using it as a two-person shelter in the Texas Hill Country in late
October and as a solo shelter in the Kiamichi Wilderness in Oklahoma
in mid-November. On both occasions I used the full tent, with
stakes and ground sheet. I followed MontBell's ground sheet
instructions by placing the shiny side down with the small MontBell
tag in the front. The favorable conditions prompted me to stake
only the corners of the tent and the left side of the vestibule (two
stakes), six stakes in all, making a hybrid between the full tent
and MontBell's "minimum weight."
We had wonderful backpacking weather in the Hill Country, with
daytime temperatures that didn't exceed 70 F (21 C) and chilly
evenings at 40 F (5 C), very light wind, clear and dry weather, and
a full moon. This was an easy two mile (3 km) hike and we set up
camp in a meadow at the edge of a small forest. Our tent site was
on flat grassy ground. With the cloudless skies we added the fly
only when we were ready to retire for the night, and removed it in
the mornings at breakfast.
In mid-November I did a three-day, two-night backpack on the
Oklahoma section of the Ouachita Trail, from Pashubbe trailhead to
the Arkansas state line, starting at about 1000 ft (300 m) with a
net 1200 ft (350 m) elevation gain over fourteen miles (22 km). It
was overcast the entire time in camp and on the trail, with
occasional pockets of ground fog. Also it was warm and humid, up to
80 F (27 C) during the day and not much below 60 F (16 C) at night.
We had two brief rain showers the second night. On this trip I used
the Thunder Dome as a solo shelter, pitching it on dirt with a small
amount of leaves and forest duff.
A non-backpacking night in the Thunder Dome is addressed
under "Condensation" below.
Size. The Thunder Dome provides enough room for two adult campers
and a moderate amount of gear. Though my hiking partner on the Hill
Country trip had car-camped and was used to sleeping in a tent, she
is new to backpacking; this was why we selected a short and easy
route. She carried only a day pack, which we stored inside the
tent. Also inside, in addition to our sleeping pads and bags, each
of us had a rain jacket, a small stuff sack with spare clothes and
socks, a water bottle, and a book. We weren't unpleasantly cramped
sleeping side by side; there was sufficient room even at the
shoulder point not to require head-to-foot arrangements. The
vestibule was used to store my pack and boots and her hiking shoes.
I think my 6'4" (1.91 m) height may be the maximum for comfortable
two-person use, though, as my head or feet occasionally brushed a
tent end through the night. A very little bit taller and I'd have
had to do some poaching. Even at this limit, though, the high side
wall angles meant that the side of the tent didn't extend over my
face. I'm mildly claustrophobic but didn't feel at all confined.
On the Oklahoma hike the Thunder Dome was spacious for one, with
weekend pack, boots, and camp/water shoes in the vestibule.
Design. The two-man tent that has been my favorite for ten years
has, like the Thunder Dome, a canopy design, a term I use to
describe shelters that have a door along the "long" side. Also like
the Thunder Dome, that other tent has only one door. This makes me
all too experienced at sleeping parallel to the door and, when
necessary, climbing over a prone colleague at night to get outside
to answer nature's call. If my backpacking partner is another guy,
I exercise owner's prerogative to sleep next to the door but,
gentleman that I am, I yield pride of place to a female companion as
I did in the Hill Country. Not that it matters much in terms of
disturbance. Speaking as one also experienced in being climbed over
in these close quarters, it's a rare occasion that the inside
camper's leaving his sleeping bag and carefully crawling out of the
tent can be done noiselessly enough to avoid awakening his tent mate
even if actual physical contact is avoided. So it proved to be in
the Thunder Dome, even though we carefully chose to sleep with our
heads at the end of the tent corresponding to the open side of the
vestibule and left the vestibule door open. The large tent door and
relatively high vestibule ceiling made this task as manageable, but
it remains an inconvenience.
That said, I've been very favorably impressed with the Thunder
Dome's design. There's little wasted floor space and every one of
the tent's few features is useful and easy to use. High walls
angles and a 40+ inch (1 m+) ceiling mean ample room for two people
to sit up comfortably, even to change clothes inside at the same
time. I used the loop at the top of the dome to hang a battery
lantern. The storage pockets are large and allow each camper to
store numerous small and oft-needed items in one place. The pocket
on the front of the tent can be used to stash the door when it's
unzipped. If I haven't completely staked out the vestibule I can
stow its short section (on the right when facing the tent) between
the two walls.
The mesh tent body makes a great sitting or napping area during the
day views, breezes, and bug protection. I'm looking forward to
taking advantage of this next summer for a screened sleeping
The single pole has been no more difficult to assemble than any
other shock-corded pole, and it makes pitching the Thunder Dome a
snap. No fumbling to screw in sections or frustration from color-
coordinating or other gimmicks that require more than my limited
mechanical skills and more patience than I usually have. Even when
I had to do it at night on the Oklahoma trip I was able to pitch the
entire tent in a very few minutes. Because it's so easy to attach
the fly with the buckles I have had no worries leaving the fly off
for daytime ventilation when I'm in or near camp. So far the pole
has shown no signs of bending out of shape and the arms bend easily
to fit into the corner grommets.
Ventilation/Condensation. Really good. No condensation between the
walls when used for two of us at 40 F (5 C), which was below the dew
point, or, more surprisingly, with the rain and humidity in
Oklahoma. The second rain shower woke me that night at about 2.00
am; four hours later the tent was dry, inside and out, without any
help from the sun. Some of my fellow campers with similarly-sized
tents complained of condensation. This speaks well of the fabric in
the Thunder Dome. On both trips I left the vestibule door unzipped,
but as noted in my Initial Report with the fly attached I am at
least partially dependent on the fabric's breathability for
Taking advantage (?) of a rainy Saturday night at home in December,
I slept in the Thunder Dome in my backyard to see how well the
fabric breathed in cooler temperatures, a low of 36 F (2 C) to be
precise, with a few scattered rain showers. I was by myself (having
yet to find anyone else who'd pass up a readily available warm, dry,
indoor bed for backyard camping in the rain). I left only a couple
of inches (~5 cm) of the outer door open at the top. My night's
sleep was undisturbed by any leaks in the tent thanks to MontBell's
seam-sealing. When I awoke at about 5 am I noticed a thin film of
condensation on the underside of the outer tent wall, none of which
had reached the beading stage or fallen on to the mesh of the fly.
I left the tent up while I gave my dogs and myself breakfast and a
walk. At 8 am, temperature up a few degrees, though the morning
remained muggy the film was gone.
This staged overnight disabused my expectation, stated in my Initial
Report, that I could not set up the Thunder Dome in the rain without
getting some precipitation in the tent. Because the pole goes
between the fly and tent body I cannot store the two walls
connected. Some indoor practice led me to an acceptable alternative
that worked on the rainy Saturday night: pitching the fly with just
the ground sheet, taking the tent body inside and then, starting
with the ones at the dome, attaching the hooks to the poles. This
was actually fairly easy to do once I aligned the tent body with the
fly. There's enough room under the fly to clip the hooks on three
arms of the pole without leaving shelter. I then stepped outside to
attach the hooks on the front right arm. Once the hooks are
connected I can move the pole ends from the ground sheet grommets to
the tent body grommets and then stake out the tent. There are
several inches/centimeters of open space between the hem of the fly
and the ground, allowing me easily to switch three connectors from
inside the tent, saving the right front one for after completing the
hook connections. I couldn't figure out a way to manage a dry floor
without the ground sheet, whose buckle receptacles are needed to
hold the fly in place while setting the tent body.
Size. I'm a big man and my habit of using two-man tents when solo
camping has spoiled me; I like to stretch out in a tent. So it's a
real compliment when I say that a two-man tent suffices for two.
Weight. A true shelter for two at just over four pounds (1.8 kg)
including ground sheet.
Mesh tent body.
Exceptionally easy to pitch and strike.
A means of avoiding the midnight crawl-over. Now that it's turning
cooler a pee bottle should reduce this problem. A second door would
solve it but add the weight of two long zippers.
I like to be able to see out. There's no visibility if the
vestibule door is closed. If not a door on the rear wall, I'd like
a window on the fly.
* * * * * * * * *
This concludes my Field Report. Check back in late February for my
Long Term Report. Thanks again to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org
for the testing opportunity.
Here are your official edits for your MontBell Thunder Dome tent.
Try as I might, I couldn't find a single. Great report and it sounds
like it's working out great for you!
Upload when ready!
MontBell Thunder Dome 2 Monitor
Can you delete my current Test Report so that I can upload the IR/FR
combined? I guess with the Christmas recess it's been too long. Thanks
and regards, Richard
--- In email@example.com, Mark Wood <mwood_bgt@...>
> Here are your official edits for your MontBell Thunder Dome tent.
> Try as I might, I couldn't find a single. Great report and it
> like it's working out great for you!
> Upload when ready!
> Mark Wood
> MontBell Thunder Dome 2 Monitor
- Could some moderator delete Richard's Montbell Thunder Dome Tent report
ps. Richard -- I'm the monitor but not cool enough to have the power to
delete things. Hopefully this will take care of it for you.
> Can you delete my current Test Report so that I can upload the IR/FR
> combined? I guess with the Christmas recess it's been too long. Thanks
> and regards, Richard
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Wood <mwood_bgt@...>
>> Here are your official edits for your MontBell Thunder Dome tent.
>> Try as I might, I couldn't find a single. Great report and it
>> like it's working out great for you!
>> Upload when ready!
>> Mark Wood
>> MontBell Thunder Dome 2 Monitor
> Yahoo! Groups Links
- --- In email@example.com, Mark Wood <mwood_bgt@...>
> Could some moderator delete Richard's Montbell Thunder Dome Tent