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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > GoLite Xanadu Tent > Test Report by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Golite Xanadu 2+ 4-Season Tent
by Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Initial Report: February 21, 2008
Field Report: April 29, 2008
Long Term Report: July 1, 2008
Name: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)
I am usually a weekend warrior style backpacker, although I like to get out on longer trips a few times a year. California has such variety in scenery and terrain that I am never lacking in a place to visit, and most weekends find me off in the mountains exploring new (to me) trails and peaks. I follow lightweight, but not ultralight, backpacking techniques, but am known to carry a few luxury items from time to time. In addition to traditional backpacking I enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, and snow camping, as well as long day hikes, geocaching, and peak climbing. These activities are enough to keep me busy year-round in the great state of California.
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.golite.com
Year of Manufacture: 2007/2008
MSRP: $450.00 USD
February 21, 2008
The Xanadu is a lightweight 4-Season shelter, with a floor size and head space that is palatial for two people and snug for three. Golite describes this as a 2+ person tent. It seems reasonable to me to name it like this; a tent's interior space comfort can vary significantly based on the size of the people and gear that is inside the tent, and I've often found size estimates to be hopeful at best. From my initial inspection and setup the Xanadu 2+ seems much larger than other 2 person tents I've used, but I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable squeezing a third adult into the extra space.
The Xanadu 2+ is a single-walled tent, in that there is only one main body that is set up and no outer fly that is attached separately. The body of the Xanadu 2+ consists of three major materials: Epic, Silnylon, and no-see-um mesh. The Epic and Silnylon form the outside components and are waterproof. The footprint of the tent is a rectangle, and the narrower walls are made of a single layer of the Epic fabric, with a full-width vent made of the mesh with a silnylon flap. The wider walls are solely mesh on the inside, with large silnylon flaps forming the vestibules, almost looking like a double walled tent. Both sides of the tent have doors in the mesh and silnylon vestibules.
The doors in the mesh are enormous, and unzipping them is like taking an entire tent wall down. The silnylon vestibule wall zips down the middle and the flaps can be folded away, although one flap needs to be staked out to keep the vestibule secure (loops on both flaps make either flap an option for staking). When both doors are 'open' the tent is extremely open and airy - I imagine that this will be useful when drying out the tent after a night with high condensation. It also makes access to the inside of the tent extremely easy. Being able to do this from both sides means that me and my tent partner can access and arrange our gear without getting in each other's way, which is one of my pet peeves of sharing a tent.
The Xanadu 2+ has only two poles and they clip into the interior of the tent (described further in the next section) and cross once in the middle. The four corners can be staked out with the provided adjustable webbing loops and Y-stakes, and the narrower wall wide vents are staked out with reflective and adjustable trip tease. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the vestibule needs to be staked out, but adjustable webbing loops on both vestibule flaps allow me to have an option as to which side of the vestibule I want to use to get into the tent and which one will stay put as the staked side.
The interior of the Xanadu 2+ tent is simple and includes four mesh pockets as well as Velcro loops to hold the poles into place. There are grommets in each corner where I clip the poles into place.
The colors chosen for the Xanadu are interesting. There seem to be two camps when it comes to color choice: those who like to blend in to the surroundings and those who like to stand out. I have no preference and see advantages to both views. With a color that blends into the surroundings it is less offensive to others in the area and follows Leave No Trace ethics, while a brightly colored tent alerts people to your presence, possibly being of use in an emergency situation or preventing someone from inadvertently camping nearby. The silnylon on the Xanadu is grey (which is a perfect camouflage color in the Sierra Nevada granite high country), while the Epic is bright yellow, either alienating or pleasing both camps of color choice. Personally, I enjoy bright color in a 4-season tent, since it provides a cheerier atmosphere in a tent where I might have to spend a lot of time. It is also easier to see if I am returning to it in rough conditions, such as in a snow or rain storm.
The setup instructions provided with the Xanadu 2+ were very simple and straightforward. The steps are:
1. Stake out the four corners
2. Insert poles into the interior grommets and Velcro in.
3. Stake out the two vents and the vestibules.
It was easy to remember these steps and after skimming over them once I no longer needed the instruction sheet for the first setup attempt.
The first set up took me approximately ten minutes since I was carefully inspecting the tent and taking pictures. Staking out the four corners was simple and familiar - the stakes and adjustable webbing loops haven't changed much from another GoLite shelter that I tested around six years ago and have used regularly since then.
Inserting the poles was a new experience for me - I've never used a tent where the poles are setup on the inside of the tent. I put one of the two poles together and then had to figure out how to easily get to the inside of the tent - first I had to unzip a vestibule and then the enormous mesh door. The grommets for the pole tips are in the inside corners, and I admit I did this a bit stupidly the first time. I crawled through the collapsed tent to the far side and inserted a pole tip, then lifted the pole and inserted the other end in the grommet on the opposite and near side. I then did the same thing with the other pole. Crawling into the collapsed tent to do this was annoying and very static - my hair was standing on end! It was only after I set it up that I realized it would have been much simpler to open the other door and vestibule and access the far-side grommets from that door instead of by crawling through the tent. But, at least I know what I'd do if it was raining and I wanted to stay dry while setting up the tent!
I'm a long-time user of Silnylon shelters, but I've never used an Epic tent before and the feel of the material was surprising to me. It was soft and almost tissue-like in feel. I'm curious about the durability of this material and will be watching it carefully. I will be especially careful when inserting the poles - I don't want a pole to pop loose and poke through this fabric!
Breaking the tent down is very simple - just the reverse process of setting it up. I folded the tent 3-fold and rolled it up with the poles in the middle. This fit in the provided storage sack perfectly and with room to spare.
Expected Field Conditions and Test Plan
As a 4-Season shelter, I intend to put the Xanadu to the test in a wide variety of conditions. As a resident of California I have all kinds of terrain and weather available to me, and will be using this tent in the snow, wind, and rain, as long as conditions cooperate. The test period will span the end of winter and into late spring, and this is the prime time of year for this kind of tent in this state. I try to get out to the mountains at least twice a month, usually more, but decisions as to weekend destinations are not normally made until the last minute and are based on weather conditions. I don't mind camping in bad snow, but I do mind driving in it! Some trips are set in stone, and not only will I get the Xanadu out snow camping in the Sierra Nevada and Northern California, but it will also be used for a late May four-day backpack along the Lost Coast, one of the windiest and rainiest locations in the state.
Since this is advertised as a four season tent, my testing will be focused on its weather-worthiness and comfort in less than ideal conditions. One thing that has my immediate interest is the wide vents along the narrow wall. There is a large amount of no-see-um mesh exposed here with no way to seal off the vent from the inside, and from experiences in other tents this has me concerned about spin drift in snowstorms. At the same time, this enormous vent should help with the condensation that is so typical in the winter and I'm eager to see how this tent handles this, expecting positive results.
Other things that will be tested are the ability to set the Xanadu 2+ up in the wind, and once it is set up, how it handles a constant barrage of wind and sand (which will be an issue on the Lost Coast in May). In addition to the wind and sand (and possible rain), hopefully I'll get snowed on in the Sierra a few times and can see how the tent breathes and sloughs off snow.
I'm really excited to get this tent out to see what it can do. Check back here in two months for my Field Report.
During the Field Test Period I have used the Golite Xanadu on four trips for a total of five nights in the tent. Over these five nights the Xanadu has been pitched on snow, in the sand, in wind and dust, and on sharp, pokey grass.
My first outing with the Xanadu was to Dewey Point in Yosemite National Park in mid-February. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect for a snowshoe overnighter - in fact, if anything it could have been a bit cooler. We set up camp near the rim of Yosemite Valley, and even in our slightly exposed location it was calm with no wind. The snow was fresh but settled, allowing for easy digging and compression for staking, and the conditions stayed this way all weekend. In all, it was a perfect first trip for the Xanadu so I could get used to setting it up without worrying about difficult conditions.
The next time I used the Xanadu was in early March. It was pitched on sand (similar to pitching on snow) at a campground in Pinnacles National Monument. The conditions were also near perfect, with warm and still sunny days and clear calm nights.
Two weeks later the Xanadu came along on a three day trip to Lava Beds National Monument. It was pitched on a Friday afternoon at our base camp, and remained pitched there while we were off exploring caves throughout the weekend. This was the first time that the Xanadu faced challenging conditions in the form of wind and dust. Temperatures were around freezing and below for the entire weekend, and strong winds would stir up the volcanic dust every afternoon.
The most recent outing for the Xanadu was on an overnight backpack to Cache Creek Natural Area, a grassy, oak-dotted low-mountain landscape just west of California's central valley. The winds were also strong on this trip, but fortunately we were not faced with the addition of dust. Rather, we had to deal with pitching out tents on sharp and pokey grass!
The Xanadu has been used as a two person shelter on each of these trips.
I've found that setting up the Xanadu is getting easier with each attempt. At the beginning I was a bit nervous about how I had to bend the poles to get them around the door and into the corner grommets, but this feels normal now. It is best to pack the tent away with the doors and vestibules open, so that when I next roll it out I don't have to dig through the pile of Epic, mesh, and silnylon to find the zippers and open it up to get the poles inside. When the poles are snapped into the grommets they don't naturally fall into place - I have to tug them into the right place and wrap the hook and loop fastener loops around them to get them to stay.
Breaking down the Xanadu is pretty quick. It folds in thirds which can be measured out perfectly with the collapsed poles. One thing I really like is that the stuff sack isn't too small. The manufacturers of so many tents and sleeping bags that I own have tried to save a half ounce by making the stuffsack almost too small, and I'm probably damaging my gear by trying to shove things into these tiny bags. The Xanadu stuffsack is just the right size so that when I fold the tent in thirds and roll it up, it slides into the bag perfectly.
With its large, wall-sized mesh doors, the Xanadu can create a great feel of openness for a tent. When the doors are unzipped, even with the vestibules closed, it feels more like a tarp or a tarptent. At Cache Creek, we had a whole afternoon for lounging around aftefstuggr our hike was cut short by an impassable creek. It was windy and a bit chilly, so I decided to retire to the Xanadu for a short nap and perhaps some reading. I got in the tent and opened both doors but left the vestibules closed for wind protection. I had a gentle breeze inside the tent when the wind made it through the vents and under the vestibules, but the sun warmed me through the yellow fabric and I had a cavernous space since there were no 'walls' between me and the vestibules. It was quite comfortable.
On the other hand, the giant mesh doors can be a bit annoying as well. In order to get in an out of the tent I have to unzip the door almost all the way. There is no way to collapse the door from the middle for easy entry or exit. Fortunately, with the dual doors, I only have to struggle with getting myself out of the door, there is no need to climb over the other occupant to get in and out of the tent.
This leads me to the next feature: dual entry. Dual entry is a huge plus for me. I love that my husband and I can both be fidgety with our gear or get in and out of a tent without bothering or crawling all over each other. I am very much a 'nester' when it comes to my tent - I like all of my gear to be arranged and organized in my personal space, and I'm never quite comfortable when sharing a small, confined tent. I don't get this feeling at all in the Xanadu - it's incredibly spacious for two people and their gear, and each person can access their side of the tent without bothering the other. The pockets aid in organization, and having them at each corner means that it doesn't matter at which end we put our heads.
The Xanadu, with the doors down and vestibules open - it's very airy and spacious!
Condensation has been an issue on every night I've spent in the Xanadu. On each trip I've woken up to wet walls, even when the vents are fully open and the wind is blowing freely all night. Condensation even beads up on the interior poles. The condensation issues are the most extreme on the inside of the vestibule doors, especially at the top. The material in this area is silynylon so there is no breathability, and the moisture builds up until it drips onto the mesh below, and sometimes all the way into the tent. When I get out of the tent in the morning it is a struggle to unzip the vestibule in a way that prevents all of this moisture from raining on myself and my sleeping bag. I have yet to be successful with this move. Once the sun has a chance to work the Epic fabric usually dries quickly, but it is difficult to get the silnylon to dry in a reasonable amount of time. I usually have to pack it up and finish drying it out at home.
I do not believe this is a four season tent. I am not basing this on actual performance in bad, four-season weather since the weather has not provided me the testing opportunity, but it is based on my observations in milder weather along with my experiences in serious winter conditions. From these observations and experiences, I would not be comfortable taking the Xanadu out into stormy winter conditions even if the weather gives me an opportunity to do so in the Long Term testing period.
I make this conclusion mainly from my experience in the Xanadu at Lava Beds. The tent was set up over two nights in our basecamp while we explored area caves. The ground in this area is dusty with decayed lava rock. At different times of day the wind would whip through camp, but not to an unbearable degree. Early on the first evening I stuck my head into the Xanadu to grab a jacket and realized that everything was covered with dust. This was after it had only been set up for about two hours. Even though the tent was thoroughly secured and closed, the wind was strong enough to drive dust through the side vents, and under the vestibule through the mesh walls. The Xanadu provides no way of closing off the side vents, let alone the giant mesh walls. I spent the weekend keeping my gear put away to keep it from getting dusty inside the tent.
I've been in winter storms in tents with similar (but much smaller) vent designs and had serious problems with spindrift being pushed through the mesh by wind. This leads to the unfortunate and potentially dangerous situation of wet sleeping bags and gear. Having been in this situation before with much smaller vents, the large mesh walls and side vents on the Xanadu concern me. They have proven to allow in massive amounts of dust when the wind wasn't as strong as I have encountered it in winter storms - I don't want the same thing to happen when I'm in the snow. If I had the ability to close off the side vents or had more protection on the mesh walls, this wouldn't be as much of a concern and I would feel comfortable at least testing this in real winter conditions.
The following photo shows the wide vent on the end of the tent, and how much of the inside of the tent it exposes to sprindrift. This photo was taken at Lava Beds after I noticed dust all over the sleeping bag.
The Xanadu, to me, is like a very robust tarptent. It has some of the same issues as tarps and tarptents, namely the 'leak' of dust (and likely snow) and condensation on the silnylon, but also many of the same positives such as openness and space. It is much stronger and sturdier than a tarp or tarptent due to the poles and shape and I would feel comfortable taking this out in rougher conditions than I would a tarp or tarptent, but this is at the cost of weight, of course!
I'll be taking the Xanadu out on several more trips in the coming months. Most exciting for testing is a four day trip to the Lost Coast of Northern California. I should encounter some vicious wind, possibly rain, and definitely tricky pitching situations on the beach, and it will be interesting to see how the Xanadu performs. Check back here in two months for my Long Term Report.
For Long Term testing, I used the Golite Xanadu on a trip to the Lost Coast of Northern California. The Lost Coast provided a perfect testing opportunity for the Xanadu. It was a four day, three night trip on the remote, rugged coast. Only about 25 miles (40 km) long, the stretch of Lost Coast that we hiked took four days due to tide considerations and the slow-going beach hiking that is the terrain for over 50% of the distance. Each of the three nights provided wildly different conditions and terrain, making each tent pitch an exercise in creativity and patience. I'll break down my experiences with the Xanadu by each night, since they were all so different:
We hiked the Lost Coast from North to South, and the north end of the stretch is usually quite windy due to the way that the coast angles. Our campsite for the night was at a rather elaborate driftwood beach shelter, where we crammed in several tents to keep them out of the wind. The sand was somewhat damp and packed, allowing for the use of the regular stakes provided with the tent, and due to the wind I chose to use every available tie-out loop. The tie-out points were tied to driftwood logs and rocks in the shelter using a few different styles of reflective rope. Even in the relative protection of the shelter, the wind was blasting and the tent needed to be as secure as possible. With the stakes in the sand, and the tie-outs used, the Xanadu remained in place through the blasting wind, and was even sturdy enough that I was able to fall asleep easily - usually a wind-shaken tent keeps me wide awake. I never needed to reset the tie outs or restake a stake - everything stayed put quite securely. I was very happy with the wind-worthiness of the Xanadu, especially since this is usually my biggest concern when heading to the Lost Coast. The picture to the left shows the Xanadu set up in the beach shelter on this night, and how I tied out the various lines to rocks and driftwood.
Based on my previous problems with dust blowing into the Xanadu I was a bit worried about eating sand all night. Fortunately, the sand granules were big enough that they weren't blown through the mesh like the finer dust I encountered on a previous trip.
I woke around 3 am to find that the wind had stopped but a light rain was falling. By morning, we were clouded in and a light rain/mist was continuing to fall. I wiped down the Xanadu with a pack towel and was surprised at how dirty it was! I didn't see all that dark dust even on the yellow and light grey exterior. I think it was remainders of the fine dust from my previous outings. The Xanadu was packed away still a bit damp, but I knew I'd be setting it up soon in the next campsite.
Night 2: Rain at Spanish Creek
We arrived at the next campsite with the rain still drizzling. Most of us were soaked to the bone since it was that coastal misty rain that seems to get into everything. It was also pretty chilly, around 50 degrees F (10 C). The wind was still blowing but much milder than the previous night. We were also able to head a few hundred feet up a canyon to get off the beach and out of the direct wind, also allowing us to pitch on normal dirt and not sand.
My goal was to get the tent set up to have a place to lay out my wet gear, get into some dry clothes, and warm up. I'm pretty quick at setting up the Xanadu now, but due to the way the doors work, it is difficult to keep things completely dry on the interior during my quick setup. I had also had this problem when getting in and out of the tent in the morning when it was wet. The top of the door and vestibule leans back over the mesh wall, so if it is jarred even slightly when wet, which it is every time I'm opening the door (it is wet either inside due to condensation, or outside due to rain), it drips into the tent. When setting up the tent, I kept all of my gear put away until the tent was completely set up, then I used my pack towel to mop up the drips that had gotten inside before unpacking the rest of my gear. The drips are annoying and inconvenient at worst, but I haven't had the Xanadu out in a downpour yet - I'm sure it would be more than inconvenient to have to open the vestibule to that, only to have it all come in the mesh wall.
Night 3: Sun and Sand at Shipman Creek
The third day dawned warm and sunny, and in no time the Xanadu and the rest of my gear was mostly dry from the previous day's damp. We packed up and hurried to our last night's campsite, which was at a creek mouth where there was a small break in the narrow beach. This last stretch is tricky with high tide, and we needed to camp at this small area to keep ourselves out of the high tide water. Usually, the Lost Coast is a remote, lonely, unvisited place, but since this was over a holiday weekend we encountered an amazing amount of people. Given the limited camp space along this last stretch, we got moving early to secure the final campsite, with plans to relax in camp that afternoon.
We arrived at Shipman Creek and found space to camp above the high tide line. Not only was it a good campsite, the sun was shining and we took the afternoon off to enjoy the beach and the sun. The only tricky part of this campsite was pitching a tent. The Xanadu can be set up mostly free-standing, but given the finicky winds of the Lost Coast I didn't want to do this. Fortunately I had thrown in a few snow stakes in case I had to pitch in soft sand. I used the snow stakes on the four corners of the tent, and then tied out the vestibule using Kelty Trip tease, rocks, and driftwood.
In order to dry out the last bit of remaining damp in the tent and my gear, I opened up the Xanadu for the afternoon, letting the sun work its magic. When the sun got a bit intense, I retired inside the tent with my book, enjoying the view from my 'front porch'. As stated in my Field Report, this is my favorite thing about the Xanadu - it opens up so well, becoming an airy and bright shelter, perfect for these conditions.
The first photo below shows the Xanadu opened up to air out, and the second photo is my 'front porch' view from the Xanadu when the wall is down and the vestibule is open.
The conclusions of my Field Report still stand. I feel that the Xanadu is a compromise between a robust four season shelter and a lightweight single walled tarptent style tent, but it doesn't really fit in either niche. For a trip like the Lost Coast, where I had some brutal winds to deal with, I felt much safer and comfortable in the Xanadu than I would have in one of my light weight shelters. But, for the most part, the trips I take don't fit well into this niche. I'm either going to carry a much lighter weight tarptent-style shelter, or I'm going to carry a more robust four season shelter (see my field report for more information on the Xanadu's winter storm worthiness). However, for simple overnight winter trips where I'm not expecting a storm, or for coastal trips where wind is an issue, the Xanadu will be my shelter of choice. Thanks to Golite for allowing me to test this interesting shelter.
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