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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > MontBell Thunder Dome Tent > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

MontBell Thunder Dome 2 Tent

Test Series by Jennifer Koles

February 15, 2008

Skip to my Initial Report- October 2, 2007
Skip to my Field Report- January 8, 2008
Skip to my Long Term Report- February 15, 2008

Personal Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  33
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email address: jennksnowy at yahoo dot com
City, State, and Country:  Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Backpacking Background

I started taking overnight backpacking trips four years ago in the Uinta Mountain Range in Utah. I found myself taking entirely too much gear. I am finding out slowly how to minimize my needs and not require extra luxuries. My previous outdoor experiences consisted of 4-wheel-drive camping in primitive areas and day hiking. I use a four season convertible tent or a three season tent for my shelter. I plan to take more trips, increase my duration, and reduce my two to three day backpack base weight down from 17 lb (8 kg).

Initial Report

October 2, 2007

Product Information

Manufacturer: MontBell America, Inc.
Model: Thunder Dome 2 (2 person tent)
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer Website: www.montbell.com
Tent MSRP: $299.00 USD

Weight Listed on Website: 4 lb (1.81 kg) This is packaged weight which includes the tent body, rain fly, pole, 13 stakes, guy lines, and stuff sacks.
Actual Packaged Weight: 4 lb 0.20 oz (1.82 kg)

Listed Minimum Weight (tent body, rain fly, and pole): 3 lb 7 oz (1.56 kg)
Actual Minimum Weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg)

Listed Light and Fast Weight (rain fly, pole, 9 stakes, guy lines, and stuff sack): 2 lbs 14 oz (1.30 kg)

Floor Dimension Measurements Listed on Website: Length 85 in (216 cm) x Width 51 in (130 cm) x Height 42 in (107 cm)
Actual Floor Dimension Measurements (measured with the tent pitched): Length 83 in (211 cm) x Width 50 in (127 cm) x Height 41.5 in (105 cm)

Tent entry

Entry of the Thunder Dome 2

Other Actual Weights (these are without stuff sacks):
Pole:
13.80 oz (391 g)
Stakes (13):
5.65 oz (160 g)
Stakes (each): 0.40 oz (11 g)
Guy Lines:
0.65 oz (18.43)
Tent Body:
1 lb 7.45 oz (0.66 kg)
Rain Fly:
1 lb 2.40 oz (0.52 kg)

Ground Sheet (sold separately) Listed Weight: 10.4 oz (295 g)
Actual Ground Sheet Weight in Stuff Sack: 10.05 oz (285 g)
Ground Sheet Listed Dimensions: Length 48 in (122 cm) x Width 82 in (208 cm)
Ground Sheet Color: Olive Green
Ground Sheet MSRP: $25.00 USD

Warranty: Lifetime for material or manufacture defects.

Product Description

The MontBell Thunder Dome 2 is a two person, freestanding, 3-season, double wall tent that weighs in just over 4 lb (1.81 kg). The manufacturer claims this to be their lightest freestanding tent.

This tent uses a single pole system with a center hub. The center hub has connectors for four poles that are sectioned into five pieces each connected by elastic cords. These poles are connected perpendicularly by the cross socket. The manufacturer refers to this as a vertical cross system. The poles are DAC Featherlite NSL poles. These are lighter than traditional aluminum poles. The poles are a more vibrant dark green compared to the green/olive color of the tent.

The tent body is constructed of a 40 D rip-stop nylon that has a flame resistant finish. The nylon body is beige and a brownish olive green color. There is an abundance of lightweight no-see-um mesh on the tent body. The floor of the tent body is seam sealed and is constructed of 40 D rip-stop nylon with a 2,000 mm waterproof polyurethane coating with a flame resistant finish. There are four loops on the exterior of the tent, high in the corners. These loops are to run the guy lines through in the event the tent needs to be anchored. The manufacturer's name is embroidered on a maroon colored patch that is sewn to the front of the tent near the entry door.

This is not a fancy tent with a bunch of additions in the inside. This is a single door tent, but has ventilation mesh on the rear wall of the tent. There are two pockets inside the tent running along the length on opposite sides of the tent. The door can be stashed inside the pocket closest to the door. There are five small loops on the ceiling of the tent to hang accessories and a gear loft. The door opens with a dual zipper pull with florescent green cord loops. Two people sleep in this tent horizontal to the door. If two people are sleeping in the tent one must climb over the other to exit. I will be sleeping next to the door.

Packaged tent and rain fly. Gylines, stakes, and pole.

Packed rain fly and tent next to a Nalgene bottle for size. Guy lines, stakes, pole, and stuff sacks.

 

 

Pole center hub system

Pole hub system.

The tent body is staked out in the four corners by inserting the stakes through the florescent green stake out loops. There are two center black plastic nylon hooks at the apex of the tent to support the pole near the hub. The instructions indicate that the center hooks should be aligned on the same pole. I just think of it as having the hooks on opposite side of the hub. There are also a total of twelve additional plastic nylon hooks to secure the tent to the arms of the pole. The pole ends are inserted in to the grommets in the corner pull outs that have the FasTec buckle end attached. There are two grommet holes in each corner webbing strap.

The rain fly is constructed of 30 D rip-stop nylon that is seam sealed and also has a 1,500 mm waterproof polyurethane coating with a flame resistant finish. The rain fly is very plain with no window or ventilation opening. The rain fly attaches to the tent body or ground cloth using the FasTec connector buckles. The tension of the rain fly is adjusted by tugging the webbing straps that are connected to the FasTec buckles. There are four hook and loop type fasteners on the inside of the fly that attach at midpoint to the four pole sections when used in a fast fly set-up. The vestibule opens off center to the front with a zipper that is protected by a storm flap. The vestibule door can be rolled up and secured out of the way with the use of two toggles and fabric loops. The rain fly is an olive/forest green and tan color. The manufacturer's name is in tan on the sides of the rain fly. A diamond shaped logo is on the font (door area) of the rain fly.

The manufacturer included in this test an optional ground cloth. This allows the use of the fly alone without the tent body. It also helps protect the floor from damage. The ground cloth has one stake down loop at each corner with a FasTec fastener attached to webbing strap with two grommet holes on each strap for the pole ends. These FasTec buckles can also be used to secure the rain fly when the tent body is in place.

The tent package came with thirteen stakes constructed of 7075 aluminum alloy. They measure 6.75 in (17.15 cm) in length. It also comes with four florescent green, reflective guy lines with runners attached.

There is a stuff sack included for the poles, stakes and guy lines, and one for the tent. The stakes and guy lines were in one small stuff sacks. The sacks are made of nylon material with cord lock closures to secure the contents inside the sacks. The tent and rain fly sack has a dual cord lock closure that serves as a compression sack.

First Time Setting Up The Tent

It was a piece of cake to set up the tent. I pitched the tent very quickly. I believed the single pole design helped with that. To set up the tent the four corners should be staked out. Then the pole should be unfolded so that all the ends are connected. I then clipped the two center hooks on the opposite sides of the hub. Then I placed the pole ends into the grommets on the corner webbing straps. The remaining plastic hooks were clipped to the pole. I then staked out the four corners of the tent taut. All done! It was a very quick and easy process. I do not even need to carry the directions with me to pitch the tent in the field the first time. Sometimes there are so many poles that I can easily get confused when setting up a tent.

Initial Impression

I reviewed the manufacturer's website prior to receiving the tent. The tent in reality looks like the same tent that is pictured on the website as far as design goes. There is an Adobe file that can be downloaded with the tent pitching instructions that are the same as the instructions included with the tent. The website also lists the features of the tent along with the specifications.

I am very pleased with my initial views of this product. This tent is very lightweight and very easy to pitch.

 

Field Report

January 8, 2008

Testing Locations

During the past two months the Thunder Dome 2 was tested in the following locations:

American Fork Canyon, Utah in the Wasatch Mountain Range: This was an overnight trip the day after a snow storm. Starting elevation of 6,800 ft (2,073 m) up to about 8,400 ft (2,560 m) with temperatures 37 F (3 C) in the day and just below 32 F (0 C) at night. The terrain was snow covered dirt and rock. There was approximately 3 to 4 in (8 to 10 cm) of snow on the ground.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: This was a one night trip with the camp elevation at 8,000 ft (2,438 m). The daytime temperatures were from 36 F (2 C) and a nighttime temperature of 5 F (-15 C). There was snow on the ground from a trace amount to almost 3 ft (1 m) drifts.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah: This was a three day trip with the elevation averaging around 3,900 ft (1,189 m) at both camp locations. The daytime temperatures were between 55 F (13 C) to 60 F (16 C). The nighttime lows reached 27 F (-3 C). The weather was sunny and clear skies.

Performance in the Field

I must say that I am very impressed with this tent. In a nutshell it sets up very quickly and does not have any major condensation issues. During the past two months I have used the tent in a winter desert climate and a winter mountain climate with minimal snow on the ground.

The Thunder Dome 2 was used on all occasions with the ground cloth during the testing period. The manufacturer states in the instructions to set up the tent with the label of the ground cloth facing up and towards the door of the tent. I can not figure out what the difference would be if the label was placed on the opposite side of the door as the ground cloth is an even rectangle.

I can set this tent up quickly with minimal effort. While testing the tent in Southern Utah I was with a group of my friends and we had a contest of who could set their tent up the fastest. Well, I won. But, I was also the only person with a one pole tent design. Most of the other people had a two pole tent design. This tent is definitely the fastest one I have ever pitched. Plus it is easy to pitch. There is one main pole with four sections that go into the corner webbing straps. Then I just clip the nylon hooks into place and I am done. Let me put it this way, I do not use many brain cells to figure out how it pitch this tent.

Two average persons can fit in it comfortably, although two winter bags fill it up pretty well. I used the tent with two -20 F (-28 C) bags and it was slightly cramped. Even a person with a height of 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) can fit comfortably inside the tent. Even with two people inside the Thunder Dome 2 some gear can still be stashed inside the tent. We put our necessities inside the tent (jackets, extra clothing, head lamps, and water bottles). The packs were stored inside the vestibule. I have also used the Thunder Dome 2 as a solo shelter. As a solo shelter I can fit all my gear inside the tent comfortably. I found that I can easily sit up inside the tent to get dressed without being cramped.

During one night inside the Thunder Dome 2 I decided to leave the door open because I like to be able to look outside my shelter at night. In the past some of the tents I used had windows and some do not. I am torn on whether I prefer a window or not. Sometimes they are so small that they are useless and they do make a shelter weigh more. Having the door open did enable me to peer outside the tent in the middle of the night to check out some rustling outside. But, it is not exactly the perfect substitute for a window. What if it would have been raining?

The toggles that hold the door open are very small for me to find in the dark while I am inside the shelter trying to fasten the door open. However, I have no difficulty fastening them once I find them.

The gear loops in the ceiling of the tent come in handy for hanging a head lamp. I found this to be a perfect location for my head lamp while reading and preparing my bed for the night.

I am able to see the reflective guy lines from quite some distance with my head lamp, so there was no tripping over stakes and guy lines in the dark. I noticed that the zipper pulls are also reflective.

This tent fits nicely in all my overnight packs. I have stored it in my REI 40 L (2,440 in^3) and my Osprey 52 L (3,200 in^3) pack. I usually store my tents in my backpack rolled up or stuffed inside the pack without the storage sacks. I generally store the poles in a side pocket.

I miss having a second door with this tent. I could tolerate a single door at the head of my sleeping area, but not a single door opposite the side I am sleeping. I dislike having to crawl over my partner or having them crawl over me. I know that an extra door adds weight, but I really like that option.

 

Thunder Dome 2 in the snow

Thunder Dome 2 in the snow

 

Thunder Dome 2 at sunset

Thunder Dome 2 in the Southern Utah Desert

 

Long Term Report

February 15, 2008

Testing Locations

During the past two months the Thunder Dome 2 was tested in the following locations:

Wasatch Mountain Range, Utah: This was a one night solo trip. Elevation of about 8,000 ft (2,438 m). The nighttime low was 10 F (-12 C). There was an overnight snow shower with a trace amount of accumulation.

Wasatch Mountain Range, Utah: This was an overnight trip with two people. Elevation of about 9,200 ft (2,804 m) with a low temperature of approximately 14 F (-10 C) with wind gusts. Snow started to fall in the morning hours just before departing camp.

Performance in the Field

The performance of the Thunder Dome 2 during the past two months has been exceptional. It sets up very quickly and can accommodate two people comfortably. In addition to ease of use and spaciousness this tent has quality features and has proven to be durable.

The Thunder Dome 2 has been used as both a one person and a two person shelter. I found that I really miss having a second door when two people are sharing the sleeping quarters. I just find it to be a pain to have someone crawl over me or for me to crawl over my sleeping partner. I can understand that there is only one door to maybe save some weight. If that is the case the manufacturer may want to consider designing a tent with a single door that can be located where my head would be resting in relationship to the tent.

I am still very impressed with how quickly I can set-up this tent. Even friends that have joined me on trips are very impressed. Not only can I set up the Thunder Dome 2 quickly, but the set up is foolproof. I really like the design of the pole with the hub system. I get the stability of four poles in one system, with no pieces to get lost.

I thought the tent was quick to set-up, but the fast fly set-up is even quicker. I attempted to use the fast fly set-up as my shelter during my solo overnight trip. I only got to use it for about an hour. The wind started to pick up and snow began to blow inside the tent. I did not have a waterproof sleeping bag so I did not want to take any risks.

For the fast fly shelter set-up only the ground cloth and the rain fly are used as the main body of the shelter. I laid out the ground cloth with the tag facing up towards the door of the tent. I am still uncertain why the manufacturer suggests setting up the ground cloth with the tag facing the door. The ground cloth is a rectangle so I do not know why it would matter if the tag was positioned towards the door or the rear of the tent. I assembled the pole and placed the ends into the grommets on the ground cloth. I then placed the rain fly over the pole and secured the rain fly to the ground cloth by using the FasTec connector buckles. The tension can be adjusted by tugging the webbing straps that are connected to the buckles. I then secured the fly to the pole by fastening the four hook and loop type fasteners on the inside of the fly. These fasteners attach at midpoint to the four pole sections.

The fast fly set-up is an additional set-up option that I would rarely use. That type of shelter is not my style. I do not like to wake up and see a creepy crawly on me. It is however a lightweight alternative.

The Thunder Dome 2 has not had any major condensation issues. There were occasions during the testing period that there was light condensation inside the tent, but my sleeping bag was not getting dripped on. There was no opportunity for me to test the tent in rain, only in dry conditions and light snow.

There have been no signs of abnormal wear on the tent fabric or poles. I have wiped the tent body and the ground cloth clean with a damp cloth. The pole pieces still easily snap into place and there is no difficulty disassembling the pole pieces.

I am very pleased with the Thunder Dome 2 and I will continue to use it as a solo and a two person shelter.

Things That Rock:

  • This tent sets up quickly
  • Ample room for two people
  • Almost no condensation

Things That Are So So:

  • Only one door

Remarks

This concludes my long term report. Thank you MontBell and backpackgeartest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Thunder Dome 2 tent.

 



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