Is there such a thing as a mini-tent for gear storage? Jim Roswell, Georgia
Alpine Cook Tent
What you end up with depends a lot on your end-use. Mountain Hardwear, for instance, makes what it calls an Alpine Cook Tent ($110; www.mountainhardwear.com). Its a small (about three-feet-square) tent with clear roof panels and little side ports for your arms and hands. Designed primarily for cooking at high altitudes or in lousy weather, it can also be used to dry out wet clothing or store gear. When buttoned up, its pretty much totally waterproof.
An alternative is to simply buy a super-light tent and use that as a gear-storage shelter. Integral Designs Silshelter ($160; www.integraldesigns.com), for instance, weighs just a pound (the Alpine Cook Tent weighs one pound, 12 ounces) yet has a floor footprint of about five by nine feet. Use a trekking pole and some stakes to set it up, or fabricate a pole specifically for the tent. Black Diamonds Beta Light ($160; www.bdel.com) weighs a bit more, but also is larger. It requires two poles or trekking poles.
Neither the Silshelter nor Beta Light have a floor (one is a $55 option on the Beta Light), so moisture could be a problem. But an inexpensive piece of plastic sheeting can be packed along and used as a floor. For the ultimate in weight and cost savings, pack a GoLite Ultra-Lite Poncho/Tarp ($45; www.golite.com) along with your ground sheeting. This sub-one-pound setup will keep your gear dry while you snooze more comfortably in your own tent.
For everything you need to know about tents, check out Outside Onlines all-new Tents Buying Guide.