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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > STONE GLACIER SKYAIR ULT TENT SYSTEM > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
STONE GLACIER SKYAIR ULT TENT SYSTEM
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
December 31, 2021
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 75 years old
Height: 6' 3" [1.91 m]
Weight: 205 lb [(91 kg])
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
I've been backpacking for half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft [1500 - 3000 m]. I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Backcountry trips are often planned around skiing or ski touring in the winter or fishing opportunities in warmer weather.
Stone Glacier is a local [Bozeman, Montana] backcountry outfitter with broad offerings of shelters, sleeping bags, packs, accessory gear, and clothing, all with a hunting bent. Its mission statement: "Redefining the capabilities of ultralight. Stone Glacier is a result of 15 years of solo sheep hunts from the Dall country of Alaska to the unlimited districts of Montana’s Beartooth Wilderness. The goal has been straightforward: build the lightest, most durable gear using only the toughest technical materials available." The SkyAir is my first Stone Glacier product.
It's actually three products: tarp tent, mesh insert, and vestibule. At 10.3 oz [292 g] the tarp tent may indeed be the ultimate ultralight shelter. Add the mesh insert, which includes a silnylon floor, at 8.3 oz [235 g], vestibule at 2.0 oz [57 g] and eight stakes [included with the tent] at 4.4 oz [125 g], and the whole kit and caboodle weighs in at 25 oz [709 g]. Tent, floor, and vestibule are silnylon; the mesh is 15 D No-See-Um grade. Each product comes with its own stuff sack.
Advancing age lured me to an ultralight shelter. The bloodthirsty insects that inhabit the Northern Rockies and decades of sleeping in fully enclosed tents meant that I didn't give much thought to cutting weight further by using only the tarp tent. The vestibule appealed to me as a means of enclosing the shelter completely in bad weather.
Manufacturer: Stone Glacier, stoneglacier.com
Minimum Trail Weight, listed: 8 oz [235 g]
Packaged weight, listed and measured: 10.3 oz [292 g]
Floor area: listed 27 - 32 sq ft
Head height, listed: 41-47 in [104-117 cm]
Total length with vestibule attached: listed and measured, 120 in [3.05 m]
Length: listed and measured, 90 in [2.29 m]
Width at foot: listed and measured, 36 in [91 cm]
Width at head: listed, 60-72 in [152-183 cm], measured 70 in [178 cm]
Reinforcement fabric: Nylon 6, 6 Ripstop 30D sil/sil
Tarp Fabric: Nylon 6, 6 Ripstop 10D sil/sil
MSRP: $165 US
Note: All dimensions in red depend upon pitch height. My measured dimensions were taken when the total length was the listed 90 in [2.29 m]
Weight: listed, 10 oz [283 g], measured 8.3 oz [235 g]
MSRP: $125 US
Weight, listed, 4 oz [113 g]; measured, 2.0 oz [66 g]
MSRP: $49 US
Weight, measured with the eight included stakes: 25.0 oz [709 g]
MSRP: $329 US
Assembly's not entirely intuitive but not too far off. While Stone Glacier doesn't include written instructions with these products, there are several very helpful videos on its website, enough to get me started. With some trial and error I advanced from klutz to novice. Here's the drill:
1. Connect the tent to the mesh insert using five toggles on the insert to five rings on the tent. One connection point at the peak of the each of the head and foot and three across the arch at the middle of the tent. I strongly recommend doing this at home. It's only difficult outdoors in the wind or rain.
2. At camp, stake out the two corners at the foot, leaving a small bit of slack. Attach both loops - tent and insert - to the same stake.
3. Repeat step 2 with the front corner loops.
4. Take the guy line at the foot of the tent, wrap it around a trekking pole once or twice at a point where the guy won't slip [top of a section divider is good], and then stake it out to the rear.
5. Place the other trekking pole in the fabric cup at the peak in the front. The cups of the tent and insert should overlap.
6. Stake the guy lines from the extensions at the front of the tent at the front at an angle that maintains tension on the front pole and indeed the entire shelter.
7. Adjust the guy lines as necessary, moving the stakes or adjusting a guy with a slider to achieve the best tension.
8. Stake the tent and insert at the middle of the sides, using provided loops or adding guy lines to the loops halfway up the sides of the tent, or both. The tent comes with two guy lines for this purpose.
9. If using the vestibule, add it now. Place the fabric cup atop the front trekking pole and the cups from the tent and insert, and then attach the hook-and-loop patches on the vestibule to the matching patches on the tent's front corners. Reset the front trekking pole to ensure proper tension. Then roll up one side for access to the tent. The website video is especially helpful with this step.
As with pitching any tent, particularly a non-freestanding one, speed and strength are improved with practice. Some tips from my own experience:
A. Add some length to the guy line at the foot and move the trekking pole there back a bit. This helps raise the tent and insert and allows a bit more choice in locating the rear pole.
B. Finding a flat footprint helps pitching [and sleeping] considerably.
C. One tip from the manufacturer's video that's very useful - offset the front trekking pole slightly, away from the open side of the vestibule. This provides better access to the inside.
D. I haven't tried attaching the tent and insert in the field except when practicing at home. The slightest breeze made this task difficult to the point of frustration. That's why I keep the two components connected before I set out on the trail.
Three-day trip along the Slough Creek Trail in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, mid-July. Elevation at campsites about 6800 ft/2000 m, nighttime temperatures low 40s F/7-8 C. A brief thunderstorm one night, otherwise hot and dry. I did not use the vestibule on this trip.
Four-day trip near the Lamar River, also in Yellowstone National Park, early August. Slightly lower elevation but very similar temperatures and no rain.
I stowed the shelter in my pack on a day hike up the Slough Creek Trail over the July 4 weekend because showers were in the forecast and I wanted to see if the system could serve as an emergency shelter from the rain. No rain [typical of this summer in the Northern Rockies] and in the pack it stayed. I carried the shelter in my daypack for the same reason on an inn-to-inn hike in Southern Tuscany, Italy in late October, but the only rain fell on the last, long uphill mile into the hill town of Montepulciano, my final destination. I was willing to be damp to finish the trip, so again no use.
Ease of Use. Pitching in even moderate wind can be tricky. The gossamer fabric blows this way and that even after staking a corner or two. I use the solid blue floor to orient the tent-insert combination, and once I've staked all four corners things become more manageable. I do find considerable repositioning of stakes and poles to be necessary to achieve maximum tension and height in the front. This latter I need to reduce my mild claustrophobia. Striking the shelter is simple as long as I remember to keep a corner staked out to avoid a blowaway. Remove the trekking poles, made a couple of careless folds, and into its stuff sack it goes. I'm very pleased to report that the connected tent and insert fit easily into the tent's stuff sack, with room enough left over to insert the bag of stakes.
Roominess. I had no trouble stretching out to sleep in the shelter after crawling inside. Getting inside was more problematic. To enter I had to go feet first; there wasn't enough room inside to enter and then turn around to slip into my quilt. Once abed there was ample room to twist and turn, as I regularly do at night, and the height at the head of the tent was sufficient to stave off any sense of being constrained. I stored my hiking boots, water bladder, and bear spray inside, adequate for a trip in the Park as I could stow my pack and food in nearby bear boxes. I was pleasantly surprised that the room at the head of the tent was sufficient to avoid any claustrophobic reaction.
One dimension that did cause some problems was the size of the entrance. Not only did it require crawling in feet first, I had to be careful going out to avoid brushing against - and consequently dislodging - the trekking pole. This I consider a necessary hazard of any trekking pole-supported shelter, not any design flaw.
Stability. Pitching may require some tweaks, but once erected the shelter stood firm despite some blustery cross winds along Slough Creek and in Paradise Valley. My only problem was the occasional knocking out the trekking pole or a stake when entering or leaving. Several times I've had to readjust the cups of the components to fit over the top of the trekking pole, as they can move around and thus threaten stability, but I've yet to have a collapse caused by anything but my own clumsiness or carelessness.
Comfort. The fabric has so far proven completely waterproof. And even without the vestibule (meaning open wings at the front) the shelter's length is sufficient to keep a big guy well inside. I was especially impressed with the utilitarian design of the setup.
I really can't rate breathability, as I've always had the front zipper of the vestibule mostly open or pitched the shelter without the vestibule. Also all my use has taken place in a low humidity climate during an exceptionally dry summer and fall. I can report that there was no condensation and quick drying after the rainstorm.
Durability and care. So far so good. No problems with the insert's zipper, no holes in the mesh, no damage to the tent body. I have spot-cleaned the silnylon with a soap-and-water solution after each use and shall give all fabric a Mirazyme bath in the near future.
WHAT I LIKE
The first is obvious - light weight. Really light weight.
Clever and practical design. That extends to details such as supplying a stuff sack that easily holds the entire system. But a 25-ounce [709 g] shelter that includes a bug net and a full floor is quite an achievement.
Though I haven't tried it, with the addition of one more guy line I see no reason why one couldn't pitch the mesh inner as a standalone shelter, inviting a thunderstorm.
WHAT I DON'T
For me, it's just too small for any use beyond an emergency shelter. This is personal preference based upon long experience. The only other tent designed for one that I've used regularly is oversized. For many years my solo shelter was a two-man tent. When base camp backpacking I been known to pack a larger tent than necessary to use occasionally for a card game or other social activity. Old habits die hard.
I applaud the manufacturer's concept - a hunter's kit includes enough heavy gear [special packs, weapon, ammo, field-stripping tools] that saving weight wherever possible makes great sense. For hunters and thru-hikers [I'm neither] and anyone who values every gram and uses a shelter strictly for sleeping, I heartily recommend the SkyAir system. But I want more room. Perhaps I pamper myself in the backcountry, and my preference for base camp backpacking invites camp luxuries.
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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > STONE GLACIER SKYAIR ULT TENT SYSTEM > Owner Review by Richard Lyon