Which tent should I use on Denali?

I’m planning a climbing trip on Mount Denali and shopping for a three-person tent. Will Sierra Designs’ Alpha stand up against the high wind? Also, what are your thoughts about tent poles reinforced with short "legs,” like on Sierra Designs’ Stretch Dome? Dmitri Bloomington, Indiana


Denali. Where good tents go to die. You don’t mess around with tents when you go there. You buy the most rugged tent you can, then spend half your time digging it in for protection. Winds of 170 mph or so have been recorded there (admittedly in winter). During May and June, winds of 60 or 70 mph are not at all unusual.

Sierra Designs Internal Guy Kit

Internal Guy Kit

With that in mind, Sierra Design’s Alpha ($350; is a fine tent, and might well work on Denali. But, to me, it’s just a little on the light side. Chiefly, it’s too well-ventilated for temperatures far below zero. And the vestibule does not have its own pole, so it will be a bit cramped for the inevitable in-tent cooking (warning: can lead to death from carbon monoxide). Plus it could use an extra pole for Denali’s winds.

Better in the Sierra Designs’ line is the proven Stretch Dome ($470). It’s a real expedition tent, with four big poles holding it up, a windtight canopy, and a big pole-supported vestibule. It sleeps three, meaning for two it’s just about right on Denali (you’ll have all sorts of gear inside the tent, plus super-fat sleeping bags). Yeah, it weighs two pounds more than the Alpha, but that’s the way it goes.

The North Face’s VE-25 ($499; is another classic high-mountain tent and a proven performer in Denali. I used a VE-25 when I climbed it eight or nine years ago. I especially liked its dual doors and dual vestibules.

Lastly, Mountain Hardwear’s Trango 3.1 ($550; is no stranger to Denali. It’s a four-pole design with poles made from light, tough Scandium. And, like other tents of this caliber, it has a roomy, pole-supported vestibule.

Any pole reinforcements are fine, as they help stabilize the tent. Sierra Designs also sells gadgets called Grip Clips ($12 for four) that act as guy-out points anywhere on the rainfly. They also sell a four-pack Internal Guy Kit ($10), which adds even more stability in high winds. You will ALWAYS want to carefully guy-out your tent when climbing Denali. Take a set of either small snow flukes to use as anchors, or a set of stuff sacks that can be filled with snow, attached to guylines, and buried.

Good luck!

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Filed To: Tents
Lead Photo: courtesy, Sierra Designs
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