Icelandic Adventure: Picking the Right Tent

A human being can survive 3 minutes without air on in icy water, 3 hours without a shelter in a harsh environment, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Having this in mind, I set up on the journey to find the only thing that will provide me a shelter during my Laugavegur trail: a tent.

I read a lot of online material about tents, and narrowed down the criteria I need to decide upon: rain protection, strength, weight and of course the price of the tent.

Requirements

One thing to keep in mind is the purpose of a tent. A tent is not supposed to keep me warm, but rather protect from the elements. My main requirement is that the tent will be able to endure Icelandic winds and heavy rainfall.

Image result for landmannalaugar bad weather
A typical stormy weather in Landmannalaugar, Iceland – where my trek will begin. I don’t want to end up like that guy in the green tent. Photo: screen shot from a video by Alexandre Vigner.

Rain protection & strength

Not all tents are born equal. The fabric of the tent is supposed to keep me safe from the water, and all manufacturers throw quite a lot of technical information about the fabric the tent is made of – the type, thickness/density and water resistance.

First, there is this number, 15D or 10D or 20D. D stands for Denier – which is a unit of density. Larger denier is often correlated with stronger yarn, especially if it is the same material. Denser material will result in stronger fabric, which will weigh more.

Second, there is waterproofing rating, measured in mm (millimeters), and usually goes between 800 mm and 10,000 mm. It measures how much water pressure (column of water) the fabric can withstand for at least one minute, before a single drop appears through the fabric.

It is said that any fly above 3,000 mm and floors above 5,000 mm should keep you dry during heavy rain.

Third, there is the structural strength of the tent. The tent can be either based on dedicated tent poles, or trekking poles. Tents based on trekking poles tend to be quite strong, and often used in backcountry. However, the downside is that if you break your trekking pole, you will not be able to set up the tent. On the other hand, I feel that I trust more a trekking pole, stakes and guy lines, than much thinner dedicated tent poles.

So, I decided to opt in for a trekking pole tent, with a single trekking pole required to set up – so I will have a spare if one of my trekking poles break during the hike.

Weight

I want a light tent, since I am trying to reduce the weight I am carrying with me. Not quite sure I will be able to go ultra-light, but definitely light.

My requirement from the tent is that it will weigh up to 1 kg. It is easier meet this requirement with a trekking pole tent, since I don’t need to carry dedicated poles, and it will also allow me to either opt in for a stronger fabric, or reduce the tent price.

Price

There are a lot of good and light tents out there. People swear by tents like Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL, MSR Hubba Hubba or Zpacks Duplex. These are all great tents, with one small drawback — they are quite expensive, ranging between $250 and $800. I did not want to spend so much money on a tent, and I limited my budget to $150.

The search

So, I am looking for cheap tent, with a single trekking pole design, with fly above 3,000 mm and floors above 5,000 mm, that is made from a strong-enough material and structure to withstand strong winds.

I headed into the wilderness of Chinese manufactured goods. Aliexpress, here I come!

Meet 3F Lanshan 1 tent. It is a 3 season silnylon tent, with a 15D / 5,000 mm fly and 20D / 8,000 mm tent floor. Without the stakes, rope and the stuffsack, it weighs 770 grams, offers good protection against wind and rain, and it is based on a single trekking pole. As long as the walking pole doesn’t snap, the guy lines don’t tear, and the ground nails don’t come out, the tent should be standing well.

3F Lanshan 1, $100 on AliExpress

Just to be on the safe side, I threw in a 3,000 mm silnylon footprint (additional 140 grams, not sure I will pack it).

The tent comes with basic tent nails, and from I what read, the ground in Iceland might be too hard and diverse for these nails. I added additional 10 tri-beam tent pegs, 18 cm long, made from 7075 aluminium alloy, also from Aliexpress. They resemble MSR groundhogs, and weigh 13g per piece.

So, here we go. 770 gr of the tent + (maybe) 140 gram of the footprint + 130 gram from the tent pegs, and probably around 50 gram for guylines, a total of ~1,100 gram, and can reduced to less than 1kg if I ditch the footprint.

Once I will get back from Iceland, I will follow up on how the tent performed.

Edit: I have tested this tent in my backyard through 80 km/h (50 mp/h) winds and rain. Click here for the initial impressions.

In the next chapter, I will be updating about my rain gear for Laugavegur.

Please join me on my trail updates and gear reviews, as I make my way into the world of hiking.

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