In choosing a lightweight, two-man tent for an extended trek there are many criteria to consider. Here’s a review of the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1, whcih served us exceptionally well on a traverse of the Pyrenees HRP.
I wanted our traverse of the Pyrenees HRP to be as pure as possible and that meant wild camping or bivouac as often as possible.
In choosing a mountain tent it is important to take into account the conditions. We knew that the Pyrenees could attract some serious weather at 2000m or above, but that in the summer season this would most likely be severe thunderstorms of short duration, when hopefully we would be camped somewhere low and safe. It was unlikely that we would have to cope with high winds.
For any backpacking trip, especially one as long as the Pyrenees HRP, I am a great believer in the transverse design, where two of us have separate entrances and our own porch, and cooking can be done inside whilst sitting comfortably. Other factors to consider were weight, and whether the tent should be able to be pitched fly first, which many consider to be an essential design for British conditions.
We considered tarps and ultralight shelters. We considered Alpkit’s prototype announced in 2010 (which I don’t think has materialised) and lightweight tents from many manufacturers.
But on Wayne’s recommendation we settled for the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1, which weighs in at an acceptable 1.5kgs (curiously the same as the combined weight of the cooking gear, which I carried whilst Wayne carried the tent).
Basic Design and Pitching
The tent has our preferred transverse design with two entrances. Two alloy poles connect to clips in the corners of the tray groundsheet and a crosspole creates additional headroom and rigidity when the inner is clipped up to the poles. The inner is made of a mix of mesh and ripstop nylon.
The flysheet drops over the inner and clips to the corners with tensionable straps. As one end of the inner is slightly wider, the fly has to be put on the correct way round, and the only way to tell easily which is correct is to use the small clear window as a guide – it always is on the left side of the wider end as you sleep, assuming that the wider end is the head end that is.
The fly is pegged at the doors and at the bottom at both ends. At the ends however, it sits too close to the mesh inner and touches if aligned into a wind. An extra guy and pegging point here would add very little to the weight and would be a useful enhancement.
Pitching takes less than two minutes on average in good conditions.
Use in Wet Conditions
Pitching the tent inner first in the wet was not difficult because the operation is very fast. The simple pole clips allowed the inner to be up and covered rapidly so that it didn’t become wet even in heavy rain. Striking the tent presented similarly no problems. We did attempt to drop the inner from under the fly, but with nothing to prevent the pole feet from springing outwards when unclipped, everything tended to collapse in a heap anyway.
The flysheet was waterproof and withstood two nights of exceptional rain at Hospitalet près l’Andorre with no leakage at all. The groundsheet became a little damp on the inside at times, but under our groundmats this was never an issue.
On most nights the underside of the flysheet gathered quite significant condensation, which may be due to the mesh design of the inner. We shook off most of the water but still had to pack the fly separately to avoid soaking the inner with it. Both the fly and inner dried fast when put up to the air on pitching.
Space and Comfort
We are both six feet tall, and I am broader across the shoulders than Wayne. The inner would have been a tight squeeze for two guys bigger than us in both length and breadth, but for us it was a perfect fit.
The door zips on the inner created a large entrance on both sides, and although the tent is low to the ground, sitting into the inner space was never difficult. Being able to arrange your own gear as you like it, and to come and go as you please for the obligatory night calls, makes for easier living with your partner without doubt, and I would never attempt a lengthy backpacking journey with two people in a tent with just one entrance. Sitting sideways on to the door makes both cooking and coming and going so much easier than having to crawl to one end of a tunnel.
The inner mesh was surprisingly warm when the doors were closed.
The porch areas are spacious enough for pack storage and for cooking, though the window side is slightly larger, so we tended to cook there if conditions were unsuitable for cooking outside. The dangers of cooking inside were apparent when Wayne allowed the mesh door to brush momentarily against the hot metal of the stove, melting a small hole in the mesh.
The inner has two large mesh pockets on each side for storage of small items, which created the impression of additional space.
In my view the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1 performed brilliantly for the HRP. There are always times when it would be an advantage to pitch fly first, but both pitching and striking the Skyledge proved fast enough for this not to be an issue. I would recommend the Skyledge 2.1 with no hesittation.