Gear Review: Sierra Designs Mountain Guide Tarp

This lightweight shelter served as a basecamper, a day shelter for a climbing party, and a winter mess tent.

[big and light]

This lightweight shelter served as a basecamper, a day shelter for a climbing party, and a winter mess tent. But the most impressive thing it did was help save a life: One tester used it as a command center during a search-and-rescue operation in Joshua Tree National Park. “I was able to fit four rangers and their gear inside with enough room to move and place maps around,” he says. The single-pole pitch is quick and simple (though the material can easily catch wind before it’s taut). The towering 89-inch maximum height and 109-square-foot floor let personnel move in and out easily, while roof vents circling the spire kept condensation from accumulating.

After riding out a rainstorm, our tester said, “The stiff perimeter material on the umbrella cover over the vents kept rain (even when it was whipping sideways) from getting inside.” On winter trips, it’s best to put something under the central pole to keep it from sinking into the snow while under tension. Snow perimeter flaps keep out most of the blowing stuff, and a low vent serves as a perfect opening for cooking when the shelter is used as a mess tent on group trips. The 70-denier canopy showed no signs of wear, and the guyout points are reinforced with extra-burly material. $300; 5 lbs. 13 oz.; sierradesigns.com