Monday, 14 June 2010

Mountain Laurel Designs Sil-nylon DuoMid shelter review

Not a lot more needs to be written about the allure of modern, ultralight pyramid shelters than Ryan Jordan's eloquent piece here and more specifically about Mountain Laurel Design's DuoMid (albeit the cuben fibre model) on Andy Howell's blog here but suffice to say that the DuoMid really could be the 'one shelter to rule them all'. Sure there are occasions where I still like a more minimal, simple tarp (in high summer) and I'd prefer the rock solid protection of a true high mountain tent in the winter mountains of Norway but for 90% of the time this wonderful, simple, light and adaptable shelter is all I need.

The MLD workmanship is legendary and the design is elegantly simple. Customisation is also available and the 6-8 weeks delivery can feel delightfully painful. Big enough for two people at a pinch (although for extended use I would size up to the SuperMid to avoid possible companion conflict) it is a palace for one, especially in poor weather. No need for yoga poses when your getting changed. Plenty of room for spreading your gear out and even cooking inside if your stove can be trusted to behave itself. Rumour has it that it's the ultimate shelter for one man and his dog. Modular in the respect that you can use it with a choice of InnerNets, bivys and with or without a ground sheet, this shelter can cope with all kinds of weather. It goes up quickly and there is little to fuss with beyond learning to pitch it as tight as a drum. I chose yellow because I don't have to worry too much about being 'stealthy' over here and it's a beautifully sunny, happy place to wake up in. I chose Sil-nylon because it was far cheaper than cuben fibre and allegedly more durable. I understand I might have to fuss around with the pitch slightly more due to Sil-nylon's tendency to stretch a little on poor weather but that's ok with me. It's another piece of gear I would replace in a flash if I ever lost it and this reinforces my belief that this shelter is close to perfection.

Anyone want to buy a Laser Comp?!


Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

It looks like a really nice shelter! Certainly something I'm considering, but I'll probably get the Moment next. Thanks for the review and the great pictures.

harttj said...

So many choices, so little money! LOLLOL A problem for most of us I am sure.

Regardless, Ryan Jordan talks about a no-seeum mesh around the perimeter, but it is only available on the SoloMid at the moment. I also noticed on BL website that you, Joe, posted that you had thought the SoloMid was good as well.

I would guess that the SoloMid is more difficult to put up as it uses two poles, and has less space. It is lighter though and looks to room for gear with a little left over.

Sixmoons Oasis looks good as well. I wonder how they compare. Anyone reading this have opinions one way or the other?

mcalisterium said...

Cracking photos Joe.

I would've bought one of these over the Contrail, if I could have afforded to buy the mesh inner also, as it'd be essential in summer in Scotland.

Maybe I'll get one of these to replace the Akto for winter use at some point...

Joe Newton said...

Thomas - it's a very photogenic shape and colour I agree!

Life would be boring if we all bought the same stuff. I look forward to reading about your experiences with the Moment.

harttj - there are a lot of shelters but I want to limit myself to three!

If I recall the no-seeum perimeter mesh option is also available on the SpeedMid, the simplified version of the DuoMid.

I've changed my mind somewhat about the SoloMid. I still believe it's a great shelter but for me, if I wanted a tiny, ultralight solo shelter I'd rather use a tarp. In bad weather I'd rather have the space offered by DuoMid.

Fraser - you're too kind! Yeah, I plan to buy an InnerNet for the DuoMid eventually. For now I have my bug protection in the form of a 15g headnet for around camp and the mesh panel on my MLD Soul bivy when I'm sleeping.

Mark Roberts said...

I'm lookin forward to receiving mine in the next week or two!

harttj - the perimiter mesh is an order option on the DuoMid. Costs about $50 extra. I ordered it as the Mosquitoes in Lapland and Minnesota are at war with me.

harttj said...

Thanks for that tip Mark. Sadly, when I go to the MLD web page re DuoMid it does not give me that option, whereas the SoloMid web page does.

However, if people such as you and Ryan say it is there, what I will do is write and ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Joe Newton said...

Mark - the perimiter mesh would be a great option for Lapland in summer!

Harttj - drop Ron an e-mail and I am sure he could pretty much customise it any which way you want.

Mark Roberts said...

Yes, as Joe said, Ron will modify it pretty much to your specs, the tell you how to add the extra cost to your order.

Mark Roberts said...

Yes, as Joe said, Ron will modify it pretty much to your specs, the tell you how to add the extra cost to your order.

Maz said...

I keep looking at the Duomid with a very much conflicted curiosity. Tarp shelters do in fact incessantly pique my interest and I'll admit to hitherto storing them under the tag "good weather only" but I think they have a place much of the year. Analysing the options, and working from the basis that my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 is perfect for me and weighs 970g with titanium pegs, and considering that I do not hike with trekking poles, tarps do not in fact make a huge dent in my pack weight - Duomid at 454g, trekking pole at 107g, Superlight Bivy at 195g = 756g. It's worth a look for me but the Fly Creek is a rather pleasant shelter too...

Joe Newton said...

Mark - Ron is good like that. If you can handle the 2 month waiting...

Maz - If you're happy with the Flycrek UL1 then stick with it! I had an ultralight 1 man tent and really enjoyed it too but the DuoMid made more sense to me because its much larger (I'm able to use it easily with two people), more modular and storm proven. I wouldn't call it a tarp either, more a single skin pyramid shelter. Some tarps would seriously dent your packweight. A cuben fibre 8x5 tarp would weigh-in well under 200g... :)

Martin Rye said...

Use for two - agree, don't understand how some say it is not good for that!!
Light - agree but all guy lines added and it does creep up in weight a bit
Room for one - agree it is a palace
Superb modular design - agree
Sil-nilon is abusable more than cuban - agree and good choice
Goes up quickly - agree
Sell a Laser Comp - done already
Trust a stove to behave - not a Caldera cone for me

So do I think it is a bomber shelter for all seasons and strong winds? Not sure Joe. It is not as a solid in the wind I think as some are making it out to be. I have pitched it high in some strong winds and sought sheltered spots ASAP. It is good in bad weather but when it is stinking I would seek safer spots down in the glen with protection. But in a Scarp I might stay high still. Thing is with such a light shelter the pack tends to be light as well. So who cares if you need to move on or down in bad weather to find a sheltered spot. A great shelter and I do like the yellow, much nicer than my olive brown. Then it does blend in well in the UK :)

Maz said...

It's that classic conflict between ultra-lightweight kit which often has compromises for the featherweight advantages and more conventional kit which can be more stable but tends to weigh more. Given it's all personal choice, I really want to give the duomid, or even a more lightweight shelter like the Spinntwinn, a go...

Joe Newton said...

Martin - agreed. In serious weather I would always search out a more suitable pitch (technique over technology) and to be honest, if it's stinking on a high camp I would rather find shelter and enjoy a camp fire than hide in my shelter listening to the seams strain ;-)

I always refer to this image though whenever anyone doubts the pyramid shelter...

For true Norwegian winter mountain use I will be using either a Black Diamond Firstlight or a Rab Summit Superlite this year. Bomber shelters!

Maz - a SpinnTwinn will be winging it's way to me shortly.

Mark Roberts said...

My four shelters are (in order of increasing weight) a SpinTwinn, a DuoMid (well, will be when it arrives), an Akto and a Haglöfs Genius 21.

I got the Genius years ago as a primary tent to replace some old thing that was useless. It's a truly bombproof, high-mountain, two-wall dome tent with storm skirts and everything. I was really happy with it until a couple of years ago when I realised carrying a 5 Kg tent for solo use was pretty daft. Plenty of room for me and the dog, but still...

I wanted a hardcore tent because I'd experienced some hardcore weather up in Lapland. So I began looking for a solo tent (this was before I got into more lightweight gear) and settled on a good old Akto, which I do like, and would still use in late autumn or winter. Just enough room for the the dog, too.

Then I got fed up with the weight of that and ordered a SpinnTwinn, which is awesome in the right conditions, and I think would even work at a stretch in the wrong conditions. But, the dog gets spooked by everything under it.

So... the DuoMid, which will be great for me and the dog, has the bug perimeter, and might even do most of the Akto's duties in winter. If I can fit my 6'2" frame in it with my wife then I can also retire the Genius for everything but Himalayan adventures, which, you know, don't exactly happen everyday.

That's it though. I will not be buying any more shelters.

traversejapan said...

Love the first picture, have you considered a career in marketing?

Joe Newton said...

Mark - "I will not be buying any more shelters" - never say never! Once the gear bug bites...

Hamilton - thanks - no, never considered a career in marketing, not my style!

Andy Howell said...

Joe is not exaggerating. This is a fantastic shelter — who needs a Competition that is small, uncomfortable and twice the weight!

Martin Rye said...

“who needs a Competition that is small, uncomfortable and twice the weight!” - Don’t agree with that statement Andy.

If you had said light and spaces compared to a Competition I would say yes. Thing is you don’t need trekking poles to pitch a Laser Competition. You need them for a DuoMid. You don’t need trekking poles to walk. I think you are better of with them and so if you use poles then a DuoMid is a viable shelter. Comfort is debatable but I will come to that.

So Andy as I said on your blog correct weights are important. I will only do listed weight as specified by the manufacture. I have just allowed eight stakes to pitch it at 4 x 6g and 4 x 15g for 84g Also you have guy lines to add which pushes the weight up and then there is pole jack at 20g and the fact all trekking poles don’t include the basket weight.

Joe kit:

Sil-Niylon DuoMid 454g
Soul bivy 212g
One trekking pole 96g
Pegs 84g
Total 846g


Cuban DuoMid 340g
Soul bivy 212g
One Pacer pole 254g
Pegs 84g
Total 890g

Hardly half the weight to the Laser Competition owner who on the Challenge does not use trekking poles and walks over 20 summits on his crossing thinking what all the light pack brigade get out of it down in the glens and doing one or two tops over the fortnight. The Laser has less room but you can sit up in it. It has a good porch and you don’t need to be zipped up in a bivy every night. So comfort is debatable with some. I sold my Comp and use a DuoMid. You don’t carry much less in total weight of kit to use your shelter. Add in the extra weight of the guy lines, pole jack and it is surprising the weight that the DuoMid comes to. Andy you have another trekking pole and that takes it to 1144g total. Agree it is a fantastic shelter and Joe is right.

Matthias said...

I love these pictures, thinking of the duomid too!
greets from vienna, austria.

Joe Newton said...

Andy - I agree, I find the Laser Comp a bit small. It's only just big enough and I find getting changed in it a real pain. It isn't quite double the weight of the DuoMid but it takes much longer to put up and take down. I'm happy I've switched.

Martin - yeah, the weight difference is pretty close with mine and Andy's set-ups but a cuben DuoMid, with a 200g bivy and LT4s is starting to widen the gap, especially as I'll probably be talking poles anyway. The size issue though can't be ignored, it's so much roomier, to the point where it will serve as a two-person tent at a pinch. That makes financial sense for me too.

Matthias - thanks for visiting from Vienna! Glad you like the pictures.

Maz said...

I'm with Martin. My Fly Creek is 970g, perfect size for me and, as I do not use trekking poles, makes far more sense than the Duomid, or even the Solomid. Odd thing is - the Power Lizard is enormous and only 1040g - yet I find it too big! Having used the Fly Creek this weekend, I found it absolutely mint. No condensation, plenty of ventilation, and a cosy feel to it. You can put whatever figures you want but you cannot quantify the comfort factor - to adventure racers, the comfort is knowing that they are carrying the lightest shelter that will cope with their system and the elements that they can, to others the comfort is being in a large tent that gives them room to spread out and to others still, the feeling of openness that a tarp gives them is the comfort. I think you need to try them all, as Martin has done, and then make your decision. Anyone want to loan me a bivy and a Duomid...?!?!? ;-)

Martin Rye said...

Hold the back page. Andy uses aluminium Pacer poles which pumps up the weight to:

Cuban DuoMid 340g
Soul bivy 212g
One Pacer pole 325g
Pegs 84g
Total 961g

So add the other pole you get 1286. Then the 20g pole jack and add the basket weight and guy-lines with say 100g extra you have 1386. Call it 1.4k carried vs Maz or any Laser Comp user who does no carry trekking poles who have 400g less in total carried. Interesting comparison. Still I like the DuoMid and agree with you Joe it can work for two.

Mark Roberts said...

Joe - how is the buckle on your DuoMid? On mine, under pressure from a taut pitch, the upper 'tooth' slips out of the clasp.

Mark Roberts said...

PS - seems to be redirecting to a domain purchase site.

Joe Newton said...

Martin - yeah I saw he used aluminium poles too, which he managed to bend! The two points I raise here is that the DuoMid can weigh more than a TN Laser Comp depending on the other equipment used but I don't consider trekking poles part of my shelter because I'm primarily using them for hiking. Also the DuoMid is twice the size of the Laser Comp and is not, I feel, therefore a direct comparison.

Mark - I hadn't noticed anything wrong with the buckle on my DuoMid. I will check it again when I next pitch it but that won't be for a couple of weeks. This weekend I'm using a SpinnTwinn.

I'm also aware about the redirection problems this blog is currently suffering. I bought a custom domain and between Blogger and they haven't managed to get all the redirection issues resolved. I'm working on it but may just switch back to a Blogger domain. The moral of the story? If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

Martin Rye said...

Domain name seems to take me to a odd website. On comparison Andy made the comparison against the Laser Comp. Shelters like the DuoMid make sense if you use trekking poles like we do.

What do you hope to get with the domain name change?

Joe Newton said...

Martin - the 'odd website' is a 'parked' page by the registrar of the domain I purchased the domain through Blogger but they're taking their sweet time sorting out the redirection. Blogger says my blog is 'in transition' and that this shouldn't take longer than three days.

I'm not sure I wanted much from a custom domain, just my little corner of cyberspace to call my own and $10 didn't seem much to pay to do that.

mtwarden said...

I'm getting close to pulling the trigger on a Duomid (and duo inner), but was a little concerned w/ the size for two. This would be our primary shelter for my wife and I (I use a poncho/tarp for solo trips)- she's on the small size- 5' 2", I'm 6'. We're currently using a small tent (MSR CR2) and are fine w/ the size- little snug overall, but has been fine for sleeping and just enough vestibule for our packs and shoes. Not looking for ultra roomy, just enough room to sleep and store gear.

Most of the reviews I've seen posted are from folks using it as a solo shelter, which no doubt it sounds like it's a winner. Would love to hear from folks who have used it for two.



Joe Newton said...

Mike - I've used the DuoMid for two people (I'm about 6'1" and my partner on that trip was 5'6") and we had plenty of room. We used two bivy bags instead of the InnerNet. I'm sure the DuoMid/InnerNet combo you propose will easily be big enough for the two of you. However, if you are buying the DuoMid to use only when backpacking as a couple then the SuperMid will offer more room, which will be beneficial on longer trips or during prolonged periods of bad weather.

I hope that helps.

mtwarden said...

Joe- thanks-that definitely helps! I was looking at the speed mid (kind of in between the super and duomid size wise, but lacks mid guys/peak vent) for a little more room. Ron said he could also make the inner net a little larger as well as the speed mid has more room.

I think I'm going to use the speed mid as plan B and give the Duo/inner tent a go as plan A- if it doesn't work out I'm sure I won't have any problem recouping most of my $.



Joe Newton said...

Mike - that's the beauty of working with companies like MLD - attention to detail and superb customer service. Let me know how you get on!

redrobin said...

Anybody considered the Zpack Hexamid??
I had an Oware cat-tarp2 and a Six Moons Solo enhanced. Both great but in search of lighter shelters I have just sold these and tossing up between "The One", SpinnTwin or Hexamid. I am leaning to the latter teamed up with my MacPac Adventure waterproof bag and tyvek ground sheet. Any comments from users appreciated

Dave Hanlon said...

Joe, Revisiting the idea of buying a mid. Looking for something for group winter use and the Golite Shangrila 5 has caught my eye. Nothing comes close to these shelters in terms of weight/space/cost. How's your mid shaping up? Have you used it in deep cold? Would you trust it in a heavy blow? Roger pointed out that teh new golite materials is just 15d silny. Sound flimsy to me. Whats teh MLD, 30d I would guess?

Joe Newton said...

Dave - I still love my DuoMid, it's such an adaptable shelter. MLD claim the silnylon they use is 1.4oz sq/yd. It doesn't state anywhere what this is in 'd'.

I've not used it in deep cold conditions but I know the guys over at BPL rated the old GoLite shelters (probably some still lying around in shops) for group trips and used them in some pretty harsh conditions -

Erin and Hig used their MLD 'Mid in some DIRE conditions on their epic 'A long trek home' hike a couple of years ago -