FIELD REPORT - REI CIRQUE ASL 2 TENT - ANDY MYTYS
- FIELD REPORT - REI CIRQUE ASL 2 TENT - ANDY MYTYS
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Field Report: - February 5, 2008
Field Locations and Conditions:
October 10-14, 2007 - High Country Pathway, Pigeon River Country State
Forest, Montmorency County, Michigan
Hike Description: A five-day hike along a 74 mile (120 km) loop
through rolling glacial moraines, outwash plains, floodings, and
swamps. Flat campsites were not difficult to find, though sometimes
the shelter was pitched in a field of waist-high grass. Soil
conditions were sandy.
Nightly Temperature Range: 25° F / -4° C to 46° F / 8° C
Humidity: 60 - 100%
Dew Point Conditions: As it rained at least a little on each night of
this trip, wet conditions were always present. Low temperatures and
high levels of humidity overnight meant that the tent was never dry by
the morning. I had to pack a wet tent each morning and, at best, find
a moment to dry it during the day.
Precipitation: Used during periods of heavy rain and nonstop rain
throughout the night.
Maximum Wind Speed: 10 mph / 16 km/h
November 9-11, 2007 - North Country Trail, Manistee National Forest,
Newaygo County, Michigan
Hike Description: A three-day trail maintenance session along a 6.3
mile (10 km) section of the NCT. This section of the NCT is comprised
mainly of deciduous forest with some areas of pine plantation. The
shelter was pitched in a flat area with sandy soil conditions.
Nightly Temperature Range: 21° F / -6° C to 41° F / 5° C
Humidity: 80 - 100%
Dew Point Conditions: Light rain and fog were present throughout each
night, so wet and damp conditions prevailed.
Precipitation: Light rain for short periods of time throughout the night.
Maximum Wind Speed: 10 mph / 16 kph
January 31 - February 1, 2008 - Waterloo State Recreation Area,
Jackson County, Michigan
Hike Description: An overnight jaunt into the Waterloo Recreation Area.
Nightly Temperature Range: 24° F / -4° C to 28° F / -2° C
Humidity: 57 - 93%
Precipitation: 3 inches (7.5 cm) of snowfall overnight. The snow was
wet enough to be balled up in my gloves, but it would not hold
together well when rolled on the ground. I could make a snowball, but
making a snowman was difficult.
Maximum Wind Speed: 18 mph / 30 km/h
Pitching the Cirque:
The Cirque has proven to be easy enough to pitch in the field, and
I've found that I can even leave the fly attached to the tent when I'm
packing it, saving me a few steps when setting it back up and, should
it be raining outside, providing some protection to the inner tent
body during setup.
When sharing the setup task with someone who's new to the tent, the
procedure is straightforward and easy to explain. I found that the
colored pole tips and sections of webbing aided in explaining the
While getting the tent set up, staked down, and pitched taught is easy
enough, I did find that centering the fly onto the inner tent body was
a little tricky. There are a two pairs of Velcro tabs on the fly that
attach to the tent body below the awning, and additional Velcro tabs
that lock the fly to the tent body at the end of each tent pole
sleeve. These Velcro tabs can be difficult to find and attach if the
fly is placed onto a standing tent. This is yet another reason to have
the tent fly attached to the body before setting up the tent. During
those times when I was forced to pack a wet tent, I hung the fly and
tent body out to dry separately as soon as the weather was appropriate
- I always made sure to attach the Velcro tabs on the fly to the tent
body before packing the tent up again though.
While the Cirque is billed as a 2-person tent, I found that it is
really best suited for one.
Both myself and my wife have what I would consider a thin build yet,
lying in the tent in with our sleeping bags touching, we found that
the sides of our bags that faced the tent walls brushed up against
them. This was the case while using sleeping bags with a mere 5 inches
(13 cm) of loft - bags that I consider to be more appropriate for
spring and fall. With winter conditions often bringing about sub-zero
(below -18° C) temperatures, the bags used in such extremes contain
even more loft, which exasperates the problem further. The space issue
I found was limited to the width of the Cirque - both my wife and I
were more than happy with the amount of headroom the shelter offered,
as well as the overall length of the tent.
The width issue was so pronounced, however, that my wife and I
developed a "never again" or "only in emergencies" attitude towards
using the Cirque in a two-person capacity. The primary reason for this
is that, by morning, we found that the sides facing the tent walls
were soaked with moisture. My wife got the worst of this effect - as
she tends to twist and turn her sleeping bag around her as she sleeps.
As a result, most of the surface area of her bag was wet by morning.
Due to the coatings on the fabric of our sleeping bags, the insulation
inside never got wet, but we did spend quite a bit of time in the
morning soaking up the moisture from our bags and allowing our bags to
dry before packing them up. Given the reduced amount of daylight in
the winter, I'd rather spend my time on the trail than dealing with
On the contrary, using the Cirque as a solo shelter is an absolute
luxury. I could position myself at the center of the floor and have
plenty of room to my sides, such that touching a side wall was not a
concern. As I use long versions of sleeping bags and I tend to sleep
with by arms folded under my head, I find that I use up the length on
most tents - the Cirque is no exception. What I really like about the
Cirque is the size of the mesh pockets found at the head and foot of
the tent. They are almost as wide as the wall itself, and they're tall
too. I could easily fold up my hiking pants and store them in this
pocket overnight. What I found was that the material of the pants made
for an excellent buffer between the inside of the tent and moisture on
its outside wall, such that when the foot of my bag brushed up against
the pants there was never any moisture transferred onto the bag as
often happens when my bag brushes up against the bare wall of the tent.
Using the Cirque as a solo shelter also allowed for plenty extra space
inside, something that I appreciated as I found the vestibules to be a
bit on the small side given the way I like to spread my gear out. It
goes without saying that, without a partner in the tent with me, I had
all the room I needed to change clothes, read, clean my camera gear,
and take care of other light chores.
Doors and Windows:
The size of the Cirque's doors is generous, and I found that I could
easily open them and either access gear in the vestibule or exit the
tent itself, without hitting the doorwalls and causing rain or snow
that accumulated on the outside of the tent to fall on me.
I found that the zippers on the two door panels tended to stick,
particularly when moving around the curved portions of the zipper
track. Opening and closing the tent's doors is a two-hand job, where
one hand has to maneuver the zipper while the other holds the
surrounding fabric tight. While this can be classified as an
annoyance, it is not a characteristic that I expected to find on a
tent that costs almost $250.
As the days are short this time of year, I really haven't found the
skylight/window of the Cirque to be of much use. As shown in the image
to the right, the panel of fabric that the skylight is installed on
does not have as sharp of a downward angle as the panel on the
opposite side of the fly's roofline - in fact, it is near flat in
areas. The close-up of this area, shown in the red circle, shows the
affect of this flat area in the form of raindrops that have pooled
together. What will happen when snow falls on the Cirque? Read on!
I'm very pleased by how much body heat the Cirque traps inside of it.
I've measured a good 15° F (8° C) variance between temperatures inside
and outside the shelter when all the panels are closed. What's
especially nice about this characteristic is that I can go out in mild
winter conditions using a 3-season sleeping bag rated in the 15° to
20° F range (-10° to -7° C) and feel secure which, compared to
carrying a loftier option, saves on both weight and space in my pack.
I've been fortunate enough to encounter rain on almost every night
I've spent in the Cirque. The seams are waterproof, and the tent fly
is sized appropriately - no rain found its way onto the inner walls of
the tent, even when driving winds were present.
When used in the rain, the only real issue I've found with the Cirque
has been with the fly. Many of its panels are rather loose when fitted
over the tent and they cannot be tightened using existing pullouts. As
the fly's nylon fabric stretches when wet, it eventually sags down to
the point that it touches the inner body of the tent, resulting in wet
spots forming on the walls of the tent. This affect is pictured in the
image, above, highlighted in the circle labeled "Wet From Fly."
In The Snow:
The Cirque's problems really come to light after some snow has
As seen in the image to the left, the vestibule, side wall, and roof
each have a considerable amount of snow accumulated on them. The roof
panel shown here is the side with the steeper angle to it - the
"flatter" side didn't shed much snow at all.
The vestibule only has a single point of attachment at the ground
level - at its center - so there's really not much to support the
fabric and keep it from stretching and sagging. Room inside the
vestibule suffers as a result. This characteristic can be mitigated to
some degree with some proactive measures, such as propping a pack up
against the wall of the vestibule to give it a bit of support.
In the image to the right, the "flat" section of the roof is shown -
the slice of snow at the left corner of the roof is almost 2 inches (5
cm) thick! This amount of snow easily caused the panel of the fly to
sag down and press against the ceiling of the inner tent. As this area
is directly over the ceiling's mesh panel, interior ventilation and
airflow was cut off to a great degree, causing condensation levels
inside the tent to noticeably increase.
In the image to the left, the shadow that's circled is snow that's
accumulated on the outside of the fly - its weight has caused the fly
to be pressed against the side wall of the inner tent. Now, there's
even more of the inner tent's surface area that can wet out when
touched, and the "dry zone" for two people has been further decreased.
The level of ventilation that can be realized inside the Cirque
impresses me. On wet, foggy mornings where I expected to see the
inside walls of the Cirque dripping in condensation, there was none. I
was able to keep interior condensation minimized by exposing the mesh
inside doorwalls and opening the tops of each vestibule below the
awning of the Cirque, allowing for cross ventilation to occur. Even
when there was little in the way of a breeze present, I could exposed
the mesh panel along the ceiling, allowing any moisture exhaled in my
breath to be pumped out of the tent.
During snowfall, I continued to use the vestibule openings for
ventilation, and while I wouldn't classify the snow outside as
"spindrift," there was wind present and the inside of the vestibule
remained snow-free. Unfortunately, the sagging tent fly caused the
ceiling vent to be effectively closed, and I did notice increased
levels of condensation inside as a result. As I was using the shelter
in a solo capacity though, this really wasn't a concern.
Having two vestibules certainly is a joy, particularly in acclimate
weather. I was always able to find an area under one vestibule or the
other that was sheltered enough to where I could comfortably cook my
dinner underneath, with the vestibule door opened to some degree for
ventilation and fire safety. While cooking, I used fuel sources with
controlled flames, such as Esbit fuel tablets or canister stoves - I
NEVER cook with a white gas stove under a vestibule due to the flame's
As mentioned in my Initial Report, the Cirque's vestibules are small,
especially when the additional gear needed in the wintertime comes
along for the ride. When I used the Cirque with my wife, we would each
have to make due with just one vestibule, with no real room to spill
over into the cramped quarters of the tent or into each others
vestibules. I felt better when she exclaimed that her vestibule was
too small as well. I pretty much kept the bulk of my gear inside my
pack and stored that under the vestibule - whenever I needed something
I had to dig through the pack, rather than being able to just spread
out a few essentials under the vestibule as I'm accustomed to doing.
Since neither my wife nor I feel that the Cirque is a two-person tent
anymore, and I don't hike with anyone smaller than my wife, the Cirque
has now been converted to my personal winter palace. Used as a solo
shelter, I have lots of extra space inside, and two vestibules for my
gear. No more complaints, I suppose.
I've already mentioned how much I like the large mesh pockets found at
the head and foot end of the Cirque. They can hold LOTS of items for
quick and easy access. In the field, they've proven to be really
practical. As mentioned above, I like storing my hiking pants in the
foot pocket, to take care of that "wet footbox" I often have on my
sleeping bag by the morning. The pockets have lots of room to store
both small and large items alike. I typically have a pack towel,
handkerchief, wristwatch, flashlight, hat, neck gaiter, and other
items that I might need at night inside - and that's just in one
pocket. I also typically use one of the small loops hanging off of the
ceiling to hang my eyeglasses from, and another to hang a ditty bag of
miscellaneous items from.
In my Initial Report, I commented on how I disliked the stakes that
came with the Cirque. The stakes tended to painfully press into the
skin of my hands when I pressed them into the ground, and they even
tore into the tread of my running shoe when I tried using my foot
instead. As much as I dislike these stakes for 3-season use, in
subfreezing temperatures they've proven to be very appropriate. Their
3-sided design eats into frozen ground much better than traditional
"peg" designs, though I have to find a rock or carry a hammer to pound
them into the ground. In the morning, they easily pull out, even if
there's been a little "thaw and freeze" that has occurred. I think
I'll keep using these stakes during the winter, and move to a
different design in the warmer months.
In addition to the improvements suggested in the Initial Report, I
feel that the following changes would improve the Cirque significantly:
* Increase the slope of the roof panel that the "skylight" is
installed on so that it does a better job of shedding rain and snow.
* Improve the zipper track so movement is smooth and can be operated
with one hand.
* Either increase the width of the floor or the angle of the side
walls so that two people can sleep in the Cirque without their
sleeping bags touching the side walls.
* Consider simply narrowing the width of the floor, which would
increase the slope of the side walls, improving the snow-shedding
capabilities of the Cirque - in short, make a one-person version of
this tent and realize better performance at the same time.
Thoughts Thus Far:
I feel that the REI Cirque is a shelter with numerous trade-offs.
While the tent is relatively lightweight for a four-season shelter, it
must be recognized that the shortcuts taken to achieve this weight
(e.g. a two poles freestanding design) result in there being less
overall support to key areas of the tent, such as the fly and
vestibule. The Cirque has thus far withstood strong gusts of wind and
supported limited accumulation of wet snow without incident. In cold
temperatures, it holds in heat admirably. It has a flexible
ventilation system that allows for a variable amount of airflow proven
to be effective in combating interior condensation. For the solo
hiker, it is a spacious shelter.
I can only say that I do not feel that the Cirque is in any way a
two-person shelter and that, given any sort of snow accumulation,
ventilation options are reduced with the result being an increased
level of interior condensation.
This concludes my Field Report. The Long-Term Report will be appended
to this report in approximately one month from the date of this
report. Please check back then for further information.
- End of Field Report -