MEC LIGHTFIELD TENT
By Theresa Lawrence
February 19, 2013
theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
5' 8" (1.73 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.
Manufacturer: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
|A light dusting
Year of Manufacture: 2005 (year purchased) - the new version: MEC Lightfield 2 has minimal changes from the original MEC Lightfield reviewed here, I will point these things out as I go along.
Manufacturer's Website: http://mec.ca
MSRP of Lightfield 2: CAD$379.00 (original was about the same, can't recall specifics)
Color : orange and yellow - new version is orange (fire) and grey (quarry)
Listed Weight of Lightfield 2: 3.8 kg (8.38 lbs)
Measured Weight of Original Lightfield: 3.9 kg (8.6 lbs) I lost the original stuff sack, the compression sack I measured with is likely heavier than the original since it has webbing and buckles.
Dimensions are listed for Lightfield 2 but I have verified they are the same as the original Lightfield.
Floor Dimensions: 2.3 x 1.38 m (7.55 x 4.53 ft)
Floor Area: 3.2 sq. m (10.5 sq.ft)
Interior Peak Height: 1.04 m (3.41 ft)
Packed Size: 54 x 18 x 18 cm (21.3 x 7.1 x 7.1 in)
Vestibules: 2 - primary 0.8 sq. m (2.62 sq. ft), secondary 0.4 sq. m (1.31 sq. ft)
Warranty: MEC's RockSolid Guarantee - if it hasn't met your expectations return it for refund, exchange, credit or repair.
The MEC Lightfield 2 Tent , like the original MEC Lightfield Tent reviewed here is a 2-person, 4-season shelter intended for expedition mountaineers and skiers. It has been constructed in a streamline fashion to withstand strong winds, storms and other wildly adverse elements. It consists of a canopy, fly, 4 poles, 12 pegs, 6 guy lines, a stuff sack, peg bag and pole bag. All together with the compression sack I use weighs in at 3.9 kg (8.6 lbs). The canopy is made from undyed 40-denier nylon and nylon mesh, the floor is 70-denier nylon, polyethylene coated with 10,000 mm waterproofness and the fly is 75-denier nylon, polyethylene coated with 2,000 mm waterproofness. The poles are listed as DAC Featherlite NSL 7001 T6 aluminum with a 9 mm (0.35 in) diameter. The pegs include: 4 Easton Gold tubular aluminum pegs and 8 aluminum wire pegs (the new Lightfield 2 comes with the same 4 Easton Gold pegs, but has 8 Y cross-section pegs instead of the wire aluminum). There are 2 large u-shaped doors at each end of the canopy leading to vestibules; the back vestibule smaller than the front. The canopy doors can also be peeled back to reveal a mesh window for ventilation, there is also one of these in the 'ceiling' for more ventilation. The new Lightfield 2 canopy is the same, except the u-shaped doors cover more area of the canopy. The tent is free standing without its pegs or fly.
I bought the original MEC Lightfield tent in 2005 and have used it extensively in all four seasons mostly in the Canadian Coast and Rocky Mountain Ranges for the past 7 years. From what information I've gathered the only differences with the new Lightfield 2 version are the size of the doors (bigger u-shaped doors to offer improved circulation) and the guy lines are supposedly stronger, are now reflective and have mitt-friendly tensioners. Apart from that, the footprint, volume and space are the same. In fact, I purchased a new Lightfield 2 fly this year for the original Lightfield and it fit perfectly. The fly material feels a bit more robust then its predecessor and the front windows are a tad smaller. I can't comment on the new version of guy lines because my new fly didn't come with any. I had to take them off the old fly and put them on the new one.
What I first learned about owning this tent was that MEC has outstanding customer service given what happened on its first trip. Here's what happened. I took the MEC Lightfield to Mt. Baker in Washington State. A successful summit of Mt. Baker, however, the tent, which was set up at the toe of the glacier on shale and well, fairly exposed, had a bit of an incident. We pegged it out, tied boulders the size of soccer balls to the guy lines and built a shallow boulder wall around it to protect it from the bullying winds. At 2:30 in the morning it looked secure as we began the glacier and summit ascent. When we got back to where the tent should have been at about noon, it wasn't there. Scanning the area downhill, we see its bright orange and yellow high visibility colors at the bottom of a gully ... with all 4 soccer ball boulders still attached to it. Seriously. We retrieved the Lightfield and found that the razor sharp shale rocks that cushioned its runway down hill had slit holes all through the fly, about 20 slits, gashes and holes all said and done. The rest of the tent was fine, it was just the fly that suffered. So, I brought my new tent back to MEC and while they couldn't fault the manufacturing of the fly for such an unexpected brush with shale, they did say they could fix it and ship it back to me for free. So about 2 weeks later I received my fly with about 20 colorful patches, it has had character ever since. The patches and fly have stood up to everything I could throw at for the past 7 years. Although I bought a new fly for this year, I think it probably could withstand another year, but some of the glue work on the patches was finally cracking. When I retired it, it still didn't leak, but I thought it was time for a shiny new tent (fly). I forgot how much the fly had faded when I received the vibrant new one, it did spend a good month in the desert with UV rays beating down on it day in and day out, although it did not seem to damage it, just faded the color.
|Boulders secure the new tent
|A look into the front vestibule
After 7 years, the canopy is still in perfect condition, so with the new fly, it really feels like a brand new tent. All the zippers still function and the seams well sewn. After about 5 years, I had to replace the pegs. Some I lost and the others were no longer usable. The aluminum wire ones bent under pressure and the Easton Gold tubular aluminum ones tended to fracture or split under force. However, they lasted a long time and were inexpensive and readily available to replace. The poles still are intact, nothing broken, none have bent and the tent never folds under pressure of the wind.
Setting up the Lightfield is quick and easy even in horrible conditions. The poles quickly lengthen and attach to clips on the outside of the tent. It can easily be set up by one person with gloves on. The fly is a bit more tricky as it has to be stretched quite a bit, needs a bit more muscle. However, this kept the fly tight to the elements.
The venting has been excellent, options to unzip the fly at each vestibule allow air to circulate. Also, the canopy can be unzipped to just mesh at each door as well as the middle of the 'roof'. I found if they were kept closed, there was a lot of humidity resulting in condensation inside. I recommend using the vents always no matter how cold it is. In freezing conditions the condensation turns to frost on the inside of the tent. The fly is very insulating even with some venting. Camping at -11 C (12 F) outside, translated to 3 C (37 F) inside. I'm always very toasty with my negative rated sleeping bags since the temperature inside doesn't often stay at negative (C) temperatures when there are people in the tent.
The floor space is very roomy for 2 people and can easily fit 2 large, tall people. Two regular sleeping pads fit with another hand width on each side to spare for gear and also there is a spare foot or not quite so above or below the sleeping mats. I like the 2 gear pockets, one on each side of the tent. They are fairly large and can hold a number of small items that can be kept handy in the tent: a book, headlamp, gloves, beanie, socks all fit in at once.
The floor doesn't flood, but can be a bit damp where the sleeping mats were when camping on snow or in heavy rain. I would characterize this as seepage caused by the combined weight and warmth of sleeping on the mats since the rest of the floor has always been dry. There are internal guy line anchors for extra stabilization on the canopy ceiling, but I have never needed to use these. I've seen some tents flatten and fold from the wind, the streamline shape and design always makes this tent stand up straight.
Sometimes the guy lines proved to be a little short and when setting up in snow it always occurs to me to ask why a 4-season tent wouldn't have a better option for pegging out in snow? I've used ski poles, skis, ice axes and snow picks to peg, which is fine when I'm at camp, but during the day I bring these things with me when I leave base camp, so what's left is inadequate pegs that are meant for ground, not much help in 2 meters (6.6 ft) of snow. The new Lightfield 2 version comes with Y cross-section pegs that may grip to snow better, but I haven't tried these, so cannot say if this is so. In the past I've attached small whiffle balls (light plastic balls with holes) to the corners and guy lines so they can be stomped on and packed deep into the snow, which works pretty well and might be a suggestion for something like this to come with a 4-season tent.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
The MEC Lightfield is exceptionally durable, I have had it for 7 years and in that time it has been well used in all 4 seasons, mostly for mountaineering. It is still going strong and I just bought a new fly, so I anticipate another 7 years. The canopy is still in excellent condition, most of the wear has been on the fly including fading of color due to UV, but otherwise still performs and doesn't leak.
|The new fly
- Lots of room and head space for 2 people makes it a comfortable shelter
- Lightweight for its size and strength
- Easy to set up, free standing
- High visibility colors
- 2 vestibules; back one for storing backpacks and boots, front for cooking in bad weather and room for putting on boots
- Water, wind, element proof (except for floor seepage under the mats)
- Warm and insulating
- Side pockets
- Excellent venting
- Aluminum wire pegs inadequate for snow and bend easy under pressure (the new version has upgraded to Y cross-section pegs)
- The fly can be a bit stiff to stretch/ put on
Read more reviews of MEC gear
Read more gear reviews by Theresa Lawrence