Recommended Pyramid Shelters

Recommended Pyramid Shelters

A pyramid shelter is likely your lightest effective shelter, unless the weather forecast is for constant, pouring-down rain or there are going to be a bunch of bugs (and there is an optional Innernet to handle that). This is the collective wisdom of literally decades of experience by most of the people I hike with.  I know that many readers may still be unconvinced on this point. If so, you can jump to the Tent and Tarp Tents sections.

Recommended Pyramid Shelters

Pyramid shelters give you the maximum coverage and storm protection for the minimum weight. Consider the palatial 65+ ft2 floor area and 5+ feet of headroom for the 1.5 pound Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL (only 1 lb if you get it in Cuben Fiber). If you like to sleep out under the stars you can leave these shelters at the bottom of your pack, greatly reducing the time to setup and breakdown camp and without the weight penalty of carrying an unused conventional tent. (A two-person tarp weighs 8-12 oz and takes up virtually zero pack volume.) Many of pyramid shelters and shaped tarp shelters come with an optional “Innernest” which has full mosquito netting and a bathtub floor, effectively making them a tent when needed. But giving you the option of leaving the Innernest at home, saving the weight and volume.

supermid-dry-inside

MLD SuperMid kept Don and I sheltered and dry from a freak and exceptionally violent Sierra storm at 11,000 feet. For a couple of hours we had 50mph winds, tons of rain and horizontal hail up to the size of quarters.

Mountain Laurel Designs produces some of the finest Pyramid Shelters anywhere. Of note are the 11 ounce MLD SoloMid 2016, and for two people the DuoMid XL, or their largest shelter the SuperMid. I have used all these MLD Pyramid Shelters on trips to Alaska, Patagonia, the Sierras, major European treks and around the world—with good results even in challenging circumstances. These pyramids use your trekking poles for a center pole like a circus tent. Like many shelters in this section you have the option of Cuben Fiber, which while expensive (especially for larger pyramids) is light, incredibly strong, and waterproof. Cuben Fiber also doesn’t stretch, even when wet which means you don’t have to constantly re-tension guylines if it’s raining or just damp and dewey overnight. My Solomid 2016 is in Cuben, but my DuoMid XL is in the more cost effective Pro Silnylon.

hmg-mid

HMG Pyramids use Cuben Fiber and are exceptionally strong and light.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear produces excellent and light Cuben fiber Pyramid Shelters. They make two pyramid shelters, the 1 pound UltaMid 2-Person, and the 1.3 pound UltaMid 4-Person. Both have an optional bug mesh and floor insert. HMG shelters are only available in their CF8 Cuben Fiber. “Cuben Fiber is lightweight, highly durable, and is 50-70% lighter than Kevlar, four times stronger than Kevlar, and allows flex without losing strength. It also weighs less than Silnylon, it floats on water, is 100% waterproof and has high chemical and UV resistance.” While this provides exceptional performance and low weight, it is also expensive. There is is no lower cost Silnylon option for HMG shelters.

The My Trail Co pyramid shelters are a good deal at since their price includes with everything you’d ever need: inner nest, pole, states and stuff sacks.

My Trail Co Pyramid 4 and Pyramid 4 Shelters (by founder of GoLite) are other options for pyramid shelters. If you want both the pyramid and inner nest they are a great deal.

 

11 replies
  1. Howard Hayden
    Howard Hayden says:

    If you leave your cooking ware outside of your tent at night, the ‘meese’ will jump in and out, looking for tidbits that remain from your high-end Mountain House Turkey Dinner. I just put all food prep stuff in a stuff sack and hang it high and outside. Some critters like to seek and eat food at night when I am trying to sleep. Your reviews are excellent Some of these tents are rather expensive, but that is not your fault, just the nature of the industry. Thank you for incredible effort and understanding of gear.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Steven, if you think you have the skills to use a a big tarp go for it. They do require some skill to pitch and are not as wind and snow resistant as Pyramid shelters — but they work! Ounce for ounce, tarps are the lightest shelters out there. They give great views and have great ventilation. Pitched high they have a ton of livable area. Pitched low the provide good protection from wind and rain. Tarps like this take up little room in you pack and can be pulled out of a outside backpack pocket and pitched in jut a few minutes to weather a rain burst. Then they can just as easily bet folded back into an outside pocket of your backpack — away from all your dry gear inside the pack.

      Tarps like this work great in areas of intermittent rain, e.g. the afternoon T-storms typical of summer in the Sierras and Rockies and areas that have low bug pressure (Desert Southwest, or Rockies and Sierras past early season mosquitoes). Note: that this covers the bulk of the hiking season for many locations in the US. We have used tarps quite successfully to protect two people and gear in many high mountain rages, above treeline and in some strong storms — even snow. Alison use them very often in the High Sierras here where rain is infrequent and we are mostly sleeping out under the stars in just a bivy. But Tarps work better in protected areas (they are awesome if you have tress like the pic for the DD tarp) but can be pitched low and stable enough on flat/unprotected areas to get by if the wind is not too ferocious. Your call. Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan & alison

      Reply
      • Steven
        Steven says:

        Thanks Alain!!
        Price in consideration it’s hard justifying a Solomid…need some more research.
        Thanks for your great reply!

        Reply
  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    Hi Alan,

    I just got a duomid xl. having a little trouble lashing my trekking poles together to keep the pitch taught. any suggestions or strategies you usually use?

    Thanks!
    Eric

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Eric,
      and apologies for the delayed reply, I was out on a 350 mile trip. Anyway there is a very simple solution. MLD makes a pole connector (I believe it ships free with the DuoMid XL and SuperMid). No URL for it on the MLD site so if you need to order just do a custom gear charge for $10. Picture of it is below. It works great and always comes with our DuoMid XL. Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan & alison

      MLD Pole Connector

      Reply
  3. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Hi Alan,

    Would you use a pyramid shelter on a 4-season (think 2-3 day snowshoe) trip, or if not, what would you consider? Ideally I’d like to have one shelter for all seasons.

    Thanks in advance,
    Jeff

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Jeff Pyramid shelters are excellent winter shelters assuming your snow anchor skills are up to snuff. E.g. snow stakes, using trekking poles, a buried branch etc. for anchors. Properly anchored they can withstand a lot of snow and wind. They are frequently use in Alaska and other place for winter trips. That being said, it does take a bit of extra time to set one up vs. freestanding shelter like a BD FirstLight. That is you’ll likely be in your shelter sooner in a light freestanding tent, albeit with a lot less floor area and headroom vs. the dugout area under a pyramid shelter. Best, -alan

      Reply
  4. Michael
    Michael says:

    Alan,

    I’ve been eyeing the MLD pyramid shelters for quite some time. It seems like you’re a fan of mids as a shelter for almost any set of conditions. If you were taking a shelter for two in the Sierras for 3+ season use, would you reach for the Duomid XL or the Supermid?

    Thanks,

    Michael

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Good Q Michael, I would choose the Supermid. That is what Don and I have used for almost all of our Sierra trips together. More room is almost always better. Best, -alan

      Reply

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