So there we were, triumphantly standing on an 11,000-ft. mountain pass during the Great Golden Trout Expedition of 2006. My friend and I were both at a loss for words, or more correctly, we were at a loss for breath. We had trekked several arduous miles to get to this spectacular view overlooking the golden trout hideaway. Words did not come easy during that hike. When you're climbing straight up, words aren't necessary. We knew what each other was thinking – "It sure was a good thing we packed light."
That trip was the first high-elevation, high-intensity backpacking trip I had ever attempted. One good thing about working at Cabela's is that you know plenty of people who have done this kind of thing before. Rookies who want to learn more about a new outdoor endeavor just search out the experience of knowledgeable co-workers who may be as close as the next cubicle.
My cubicle compadres gave me plenty of recommendations for the expedition. First and foremost, they told me I'd have to pack light. Carrying the weight of my Cabela's Alaskan Guide tent at high elevations would be great endurance training for the Olympics, but I'm not game for that kind of torture. It was time for me to find a lightweight shelter made especially for backpacking.
One thing you should know is that I am extremely diligent in researching a purchase before I make a buying decision. This is true for everything from a new car to a new pair of hiking boots. Though I do try to limit this compulsive behavior to items $50 and above. So when I went in search of a lightweight shelter, I was going to find out all I could about which one best fit my needs. I decided on the Cabela's XPG Ultralight Tent. It's another research project that ended with long-term satisfaction.
Bivy vs. Tent
When considering a shelter for backpacking there are two ways you can go – bivouac or tent. Bivies make perfect sense for anyone who wants sleeping quarters with absolute minimal weight. I was concerned about weight, but I was equally concerned about weather. Rain showers and thunderstorms don't take a hiatus during my hiking trips. Knowing this, I like being able to store my gear in my tent and still have enough room to fit me. That way, if it decides to rain, I'll be prepared. When I need a change of clothes on a rainy morning, it's all right there. The rain fly on the XPG does have a vestibule sized to fit extra gear without the need to bring it inside the tent. I find this convenient for heavily soiled gear like boots that I wouldn't want to bring into a clean tent.
The difference between a good bivy and the XPG Ultralight is about four pounds. I know that every ounce matters, but I consider the extra four pounds a small tradeoff for the convenience of a spacious shelter that will stand up to most weather conditions.
Tents are notoriously undersized for their recommended capacity. Most people don't realize that tent sizing recommendations actually refer to how many hobbits can comfortably fit inside. It may be true that you can squish six people into a six-person tent, but who really wants to be squeezed into a tent like meat in a sandwich? Then you have the whole feet-next-to-face issue. The feet may be inside a sleeping bag, but some odors know no bounds.
Here's how it works: Six-person tents are better for two to four people. Two to three can fit comfortably in a four-person model and a two-person tent is ideal for one, including all your gear. This is why I own the two-person XPG model. I would suggest the one-person XPG tent to someone with minimal gear, or who is only spending one or two days in the backcountry at a time. The three-person model will be great for sleeping two.Design and Setup
The first thing I noticed when setting up the XPG was the light weight of each component. This is especially true with the DAC Featherlite® poles. Two poles are used in a cross-brace design. The tent uses quick-connect clips for attachment to the poles. These clips make it extremely efficient and easy to set up.
The advantage of the XPG design is its versatility. Use it with the fly for complete weather protection or you can go without the fly on those warm summer nights when you need all the ventilation you can get. Single-wall tents do offer quicker set-up time but won't ventilate as well in warm conditions.
The fabric used in the floor of this tent is thin in order to keep weight to a minimum. It is waterproof and has a "bathtub" design to keep moisture from seeping in. I have never had any problem with wear or leakage in my XPG, however I strongly recommend the use of a floor protector with these tents for extra protection against abrasion. I have used one with mine from the start.Conclusion
Hiking into the backcountry requires specialized gear. A backpacking shelter has to be lightweight and it has to satisfy the specific needs of the camper. For me, no shelter does these two things better than the XPG Ultralight Tent from Cabela's.
Click this link to purchase: Cabela's XPG™ Ultralight Tent