Gear Guy

MSR Hubba Hubba     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

What’s a bombproof tent for Moab’s dusty conditions?

I'm taking a trip to Moab in the spring, so I in the market for a one- or two-person three-season tent, around five pounds or so. I’m surprised by the number of tents comprised mostly of micro-mesh, like the MSR Hubba Hubba. As nice and ventilated as these tents are, I can't see them being well situated for use in a dusty, dry climate like Moab’s. I’ve also looked at Mountain Hardwear’s Hmerhead 2, which looks to have lots of ventilation, plus the ability to seal out dirt and dust. Is micro-mesh better at keeping dust and dirt out than one would think, or can you recommend some other tents to look at? Heather Dallas, Texas

A:Yeah, I see your point about the dust. But I think it’s less of an issue than you imagine. True, the MSR Hubba Hubba ($280, www.msrcorp.com) has a canopy (inner tent) that is almost entirely mesh. And no, I wouldn’t think you’d want to be sitting in that in a dust storm. However, its fly provides pretty full coverage, so it would certainly do a lot to keep dust off the fly. If it’s windy I can see some dust coming up under the fly, but I shouldn’t think a lot. And even if it does, the mesh will keep out all but the finest stuff.
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Mountain Hardwear’s Hammerhead 2 ($245, www.mountainhardwear.com) does indeed offer a bit more protection, although you can’t really seal up all the mesh panels (which also are on the canopy, not the fly, as with the Hubba Hubba). For real dust-proofness you need a “convertible" tent, such as Sierra Designs’ Omega ($289, www.sierradesigns.com). It has zip-out ripstop panels that can be used to cover the mesh, giving you a pretty tight seal against stuff blowing in from the outside. Of course, life is full of trade-offs, and in this case it is somewhat lower ventilation than the Hubba Hubba or the Hammerhead, and more weight (about seven pounds, versus less than five for the Hubba Hubba).

In any event, lots of blowing sand and dust is very, very bad for tents. It erodes the waterproof coating on the fly, clogs zippers, and generally makes a mess of things. So there aren’t any perfect solutions. Keep the tent as clean as possible, hand-washing it with warm water and mild detergent whenever it gets dirty. Line-dry (never machine-dry). And keep the zippers dry so they don’t collect crud.

For more bombproof tents and tips on keeping your backcountry palace sparkling, check out Outside’s 2004 Buyer’s Guide .

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