This column is part of a series of gear reviews based on tests in the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a weeklong competitive event in southern Chile. The race stretched 300+ miles and included trekking, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, and wilderness navigation. Team GearJunkie.com took second place.
The ground squished with each step under my shoes. The sky was gray, low clouds pissing rain for hours as we trekked through an alien forest of dead trees, vines, thorns, moss, and branches coated in strange gelatinous grime.
It was the evening of our fifth day racing in southern Chile, where the competitive field for the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race had spread out so far we felt like we were racing alone. I was exhausted and pining for sleep. Fortunately, my team agreed to put up the tent after hours on the go.
For this wet part of the world, my team's tent of choice might seem odd. The Shangri-La 3 from GoLite LLC (www.golite.com) has no floor. It erects as a teepee with no windows in a hex-shape design. Three or four people lie tight inside, a single pole in the middle propping up the slanted roof.
In truth, we picked the Shangri-La 3 mainly for its light weight and small size. Packed up, the shelter measures just a little more than a foot long and just a few inches around. It weighs a scant 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Bonus: You can use a trekking pole in lieu of the included telescoping aluminum tent pole. We brought one foot-long section of the GoLite tent pole with us, leaving the bulk of the pole behind in favor of using a carbon-fiber trekking pole to hold the fabric high.
It rained all night on us in Patagonia, but the Shangri-La 3, made of silicone-impregnated nylon, kept us for the most part dry. GoLite sells a floor and a "nest" (which is like an internal tent body) for use with the Shangri-La 3. We left both items behind and camped only with the teepee fly overhead.
The floor and the nest make the Shangri-La 3 watertight and usable for four seasons. In our configuration -- with the single-ply fly only -- there are gaps around the bottom edges where the fabric hovers over the ground. Stakes pull it close to the dirt, though it's almost impossible to seal off from wind and sideways-blowing rain.
I woke up one morning with my feet poking out of the tent side. I could feel rain dripping on my toes. My upper body was cozy and dry under the fly, but my sleeping bag was moist at the foot -- user error for the most part, but hard to avoid when you cram four people into this tent.
Though it's marketed as a three-person model, my team was comfortable laying side by side four people wide. There's a quoted 59 square feet of space inside the tent, and the ceiling is about five feet high in the center. Cozy but doable if we propped our feet up on our backpacks.
Overall, for our application in the Wenger Patagonian Race, the Shangri-La tent was a winner. GoLite markets the tent as having "serious weather protection and unparalleled space-to-weight ratio." In Patagonia, as the wind whipped and the rain fell, the yellow teepee tent proved to be all that and more.
--Stephen Regenold is founder of Gear Junkie. Read more on Team GJ's experience in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race at GearJunkie.com/Patagonian-Race.