Archive for April, 2013

Gear Review: Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2

Posted in Gear Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 11, 2013 by moosetracksca

Winter camping just seems tougher: more layers of clothing; more specialized gear for safety and ease of travel; heavier boots for warmth and support; sturdier shelters to withstand wind and snow. Over the past few years, I’ve come to accept that a heavy pack for overnights is a standard of some sort for staying out in the cold. Not that I’ve ever been one to particularly be concerned with weight, no matter the time of year. But even my twisted mind occasionally yearns for a lighter load, especially when I’m caught up wallowing in an unconsolidated mess of snow and willows, battling to just get back up on my knees and roll ungracefully onto a firmer surface.

Usually one of the heaviest single items in my winter pack is my tent. Now, the Sierra being a fairly benign range weather-wise, there are often amazing windows of time where no tent is necessary at all. With a warm-enought sleeping bag, I’ve woken under a crystalline sky, the stars brilliantly piercing the black and shadows spreading along the twinkling snow surface. There’s a magic to the winter night that bites your nose as it pokes from the blowhole of your drawn sleeping bag.

But I also like to be a little warmer. And I still like to head up and away even if there is storm barreling in from the north and west.

Bring in the tents. For the past few years I’ve been using the Mountain Hardwear EV2 for all of my winter excursions. This bombproof shelter is about as solid as I’ve seen, and for a single person is perfect for sleeping, storing gear, and weathering all sorts of storms. It’s a little tight for two, and the pseudo-vestibule, while offering a few extra square feet of space, makes it a bit harder to enter/exit the small-ish door. But with plenty of ventilation, easy-to-attach poles (even with mittens), and plenty of guy-line attachments, the EV2 can withstand quite a bit of torture. It’s packed weight of 5lb 2oz reflects the bombproofness of this beast.

After a bit more research, I decided to get my hands on the newer MH Direkt 2 tent. Developed in conjunction with Mountaineer/Climber/Overall Superman Ueli Steck, this minimalist single-wall tent is designed specifically for “Ultra-Light High Altitude Alpine Climbing”. Over a few different weekends, I put this tent through some paces to see if it would suit me and the conditions I would typically face in the Sierra.

I think I’ll bullet-point this to make it easier:

Pluses:

– Yay for lightweight! At a packed weight of 2lb 15oz, it’s almost half of the EV2, while sacrificing only 9 sq ft of floor space (34ft^2 for the EV2 and 25ft^2 for the D2).

– Packaging: I lay the EV2, D2, and my BD bivy sack side by side on the floor, and the D2 was definitely closer to the bivy sack in size! (EV2 is 18″ long when packed, the D2 10″, poles attach on the outside)

– Interior space: OK, while the D2 is a bit smaller in square footage, the height is taller (45″ compared to 41″ in the EV2), which is lovely for sitting up or moving around the tent. The door is humongous compared to the EV2, making entry and exit a breeze. Sleeping two people in the D2 is also really comfortable, whereas the EV2 always felt a bit cramped to me. It would be crowded to bring gear into the tent with two, however.

– Construction: the canopy, reinforcement, and fly of both the EV2 and D2 are identical, so ideally would take the same sort of abuse. The only difference is the floor material (see below). The poles (3 for the EV2 and 2 for the D2) are also the same: Paleria ‘DAC Featherlightâ„¢ NSL.

Minuses:

– Pole attachments: small velcro tabs line the diagonals of the D2, and can be awkward to open/position if you are wearing liner gloves, much less something warmer like mittens. After wrestling the poles into position – and I do mean wrestle – it’s a pain to lock the velcro down properly. Also, in higher wind situations, the velcro will release and the poles will float away from the reinforced diagonals, not boding well for potential tent collapse in a full onslaught. Perhaps elastic tabs across the diagonals? I know this would pose some difficulty with setup, as the poles would have to be fed into the tent, but the stability would be worth it.

– Ventilation: with only a small mesh window on the top of the tent, the only other ventilation option is to crack the zipper at the top of the door. Believe me, in wind, this new flap will crack and snap all night. Also, we woke up after a wind/snow storm with a dusting inside the tent and all over us. The vents on the EV2 allow for many more options to minimize snow entry while still keeping the air flow moving.

– Flooring: The 30D Nylon Ripstop 2000mm Ether type PU/Sil FR is a bit more fragile than that of the EV2 (40D 3000mm). Anchoring the tent on a slab using larger granite rocks resulted in a few small wear holes on the windward side. Now, I don’t usually bring a ground cloth in winter, but if I start getting a few more holes here, it will be inevitable. So long, ultra-light!

– Packaging: while I love the smaller size of the packaged D2, it’s not really conducive to strapping it on the outside of the pack. I’ve taken to rolling it into a longer stuff sack along with the poles so it attaches securely. I suppose I could stuff it inside the pack, but that’s the trade-off, I guess, between tasty vittles and space for the tent. (Priorities!!)

– Anchor system: I do not, can not, am totally annoyed by companies selling winter tents with summer stakes. With all the innovation going into the construction of the tent, when are they going to make lightweight snow stakes and SELL THEM WITH THE TENT??? Extra guy lines is great, but the simple, straight stakes will do nothing in snow, much less some of the cruddy conditions we’ve seen in the Sierra for two seasons. This is almost motivating me to get my own 3D printer.

So, overall, for general use in the winter, and possibly beyond (it is a 4-season tent!), I would recommend the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2. The problems are surmountable, and here’s hoping to see improvements in the future. I expect this one’s going to see some mighty good winter sunrises and sunsets… and help keep my nose a little warmer.

Comparison photos can be found here:

MH Direkt 2

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