The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is a 3-season, 2-person, tarp-style shelter that weighs just 2lbs, and costs a little over $100. I have said in the past that the perfect trifecta of characteristics for backpacking gear is – lightweight, affordable, and durable – and usually you can’t have all three at once. The Mountain Shelter LT is a rare item that meets all three of those criteria.
I used the Mountain Shelter LT last year on my week-long Colorado elk hunt, as well as on some shorter trips. The conditions for the hunt were what you might expect for September at 10,000′ in the Rockies – we saw daytime highs up near 70 in some instances, and the nights often dipped to around 20*. Despite the cold temperatures outside, and the release of our body heat inside, we didn’t experience any notable condensation.
We encountered some precipitation on the trip, and the Mountain Shelter LT kept us dry. The most challenging conditions on the trip were the winds. For a couple of days the winds seemed to never cease, and 60mph gusts blew through the forest with such force that we watched aspens fall over on numerous occasions, and listened through the night as we heard dozens more fall around us as we tried to sleep. Through it all, the Mountain Shelter LT was solid.
The Mountain Shelter LT weighs just 2lbs., and provides usable space for two grown men. My hunting partner and I are both 6′ 3″, and around 200lbs. Many “2-man” backpacking shelters would force us to spoon with one another through the night, but the LT has 54sq-ft of floor space, which provided us with adequate room to sleep in our own space, and even store some of our gear in the vestibule area. It isn’t luxurious for 2 grown men, but it’s usable and relatively comfortable. We felt the most cramped at the lower end of the shelter, where our feet would sometimes touch the sloping roof, or our legs would brush against the sloping sides. As a 1-man shelter, the LT would be an absolute palace.
The Mountain Shelter LT is a breeze to setup. The most common configuration is to use 2 trekking poles, which is something that I carry for elk hunting anyway. It’s also possible to tie the shelter out to trees with the overhead guy lines, but I personally haven’t set it up that way. There are 8 stake-out points on the shelter body, and several more guy-out lines to provide increased stability and rigidity.
Setup is as simple as staking out the three rear points, then inserting the rear pole. Next you stake out the three front points, and insert the front pole. Finally you stake out the two middle points and the guy lines, if necessary.
Setup instructions are included on the stuff-sack, and the tent body has a printed “ruler” that shows you how tall the front and rear trekking poles need to be. Both are nice touches.
The body of the tarp is constructed of 40d sip-nylon. All seams come factory-sealed with seam tape, and the stake-out points are reinforced with extra stitching. Inside the shelter there are drawstring mechanisms to hold each trekking pole in place, as well as re-enforced “cradles” for the trekking pole handles to rest in. Thirteen 7075 aluminum stakes are included with the shelter, and all guy lines are made from high-quality, reflective 3M cord.
The Failure & The Fix
I did experience one problem with the Mountain Shelter LT. In a moment of frustration I tugged one of the side stake loops too hard and put a small tear at the seam of the tent body. While this was entirely my fault – truly it was – I did notice that the two side loops aren’t as reinforced as the 6 stake-out loops at the front and rear of the tent. I would like to see Mountainsmith add more stitching to those two loops. The small tear was easily patched with some tape, and the shelter worked well for the rest of the trip.
After hunting season I called Mountainsmith and asked them if they offered repair services. All I wanted to have them do was sew the small tear back up. The gentleman I spoke with at Mountainsmith was extremely nice and asked me to return the shelter to them for inspection. A few weeks later I received a package back from Mountainsmith and inside was a brand new Mountain Shelter LT. Even though the tear was small, and occurred because of my abuse, they replaced the shelter with no questions asked. Not only that, but they also included this letter…
The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is an outstanding option for a lightweight, budget-friendly shelter. You would be hard-pressed to find a shelter that provides this much room for such little weight, and is also easy on the wallet. I have zero concerns with taking this shelter into the backcountry and will continue to use it for backpacking, camping, and hunting trips in the future. I would buy this shelter again in a heartbeat.
Questions & Concerns
I’m sure that many of you might be new to the idea of a floorless shelter, so I wanted to address a few things that are not necessarily specific to the LT, but apply to all floorless shelters in general.
Many people have asked me about getting wet in a floorless shelter. It’s nothing to worry about, as long as you choose a setup location that won’t funnel running water into the tent. Because the LT can be pitched so low, even a sideways driving rain won’t enter the shelter.
I do recommend using some sort of barrier as a “floor” between your sleeping bad/bag and the exposed ground. My hunting partner and I each used a lightweight (46g) Polycro Ground Cloth from Gossamer Gear. These thin plastic sheets are incredibly durable and make a great protective layer to keep your sleeping pad from getting pricked by objects on the ground.
Condensation is also a concern for single-wall shelters, such as the LT. As I mentioned previously, we didn’t encounter any significant condensation, but part of that has to do with our use and setup. To learn about how condensation forms and how it can be prevented, check out this guide from Easton Mountain Products.