The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Mountain Hardwear Spire 2 Tent: Rugged and Lightweight
Posted on: December 17, 2007
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Lightweight at about 4.5 pounds. Watertight. Tough, durable, double-walled. It was too good to be true... on the whole, Mountain Hardwear's Spire 2 lightweight expedition tent fit all the specs I could hope for here in the Bugaboos, where rugged weather comes standard.
On my first trip into the Park with the Spire 2, it was nice to know (but not notice) that I was carrying a shelter that should hold up to most any conditions. Later that evening I was even more grateful, as the first waves of a three-day storm battered us. And so, the weather cooperated for the test but not for climbing. It rained and snowed and bellowed for eighty hours, which is how long we stuck it out before retreating to the valley. It was a cozy three days.
Yes, cozy. Although the design gives plenty of headroom for sitting up, two average-sized sleeping mats barely fit the width. Even with two side entryways and two vestibules it seemed like my partner and I were constantly battling for our portion of the 26 square feet of floor space (the vestibules give about 11 more square feet each). The trim footprint would have been welcome, however, had we been on a small ledge up high, which was where our imaginations were.
Thankfully, Mountain Hardwear guarantees this tent to be watertight, and they come through on their guarantee. The fly is made from 40D nylon ripstop, strong yet light. The body is also made from a highly compressible 40D nylon ripstop with Mountain Hardwear's DWR finish, and the floor is 70D nylon with a waterproof coating, which is how they keep the weight low while still creating a weather-tight abode. We stayed dry through some torrential downpours, despite not being able to get the fly as taut as we would have liked. In fact, this would prove be to my biggest gripe with the tent, after trying it out again in the Rockies and the Selkirks—I could not get the fly to fit tightly. It still kept me dry, but when a breeze picked up, the flapping of the fly was enough to send me over the edge. As if the crappy weather weren't bad enough!
It also would be nicer if the fly fit closer to the ground; with the vestibule pulled tight it was still several inches off the deck. Other gripes I had were with the design. Although the vestibules seem quite large on paper, because they were on the side of the tent they quickly tapered and didn't offer as much usable space as a vestibule in the front and back might have offered. Second, the triangular interior mesh pockets seemed an inefficient use of materials—I would have preferred an "attic" shelf, or conventional rectangular pockets.
What I did like was its weight, which is comparable to other single-wall tents on the market, yet the Spire 2 offers protection from extended periods of foul weather that only a double wall can. And despite the fly issue, the tent's structure was super sturdy: wind, snow, sleet or hail—bring it on.
Additionally, there was no seepage from the walls or floor. It is easy to set up with gloves on. And the price, at $425, is hard to beat. For backcountry skiing, winter mountaineering and sitting out bad weather, or alpine climbing where you are carrying your home on your back, the Spire 2 is versatile enough to do it all.
Pros: Lightweight; double-wall design effectively keeps all elements out; sturdy materials and structure.
Cons: Fly sits too high above ground and is difficult to get tight; design of vestibule and interior pockets could improve.