My favorite tent for backpacking trips.
Some of you might have seen a few years back I raved about the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 backpacking tent. So why now, am I writing about it again? Why, other than to show you our killer campsite we call “The Mezzanine”, from the classic Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trekking trip? Everybody loves The Mezzanine!
Well, one more reason its because it’s been upgraded, modified and changed, twice now in fact, so I thought I’d touch on a couple of things about the newer version of this tent, the Skyledge 2 DP.
Firstly, it has a new name. The DP is short for ‘Dry Pitch’. Meaning it’s possible to set the rainfly section of the tent up first, and then add the inner part of the tent afterward; a handy feature in the rain, for sure. The Mountain Hardwear bio reads “DryPitch™ fly-first pitching lets you set up the tent in the rain and stay dry”, which I think is a little misleading. You will still get wet. The inner part of your tent will stay somewhat drier .. but rarely will it remain completely dry. Still, it’s a handy feature that I’m glad to see Mountain Hardwear working on.
If you read my review of the original Skyledge 2 above, you’ll see it was possible to take the tent down in a rainstorm from the inside, leaving the fly and poles tip last, but this newer version is a lot better for that. Doing it on the older versions (both Skyledge 2 and 2.1) stressed the poles a bit and was always a little sketchy. You were never quite sure if you were about to break it or tear the fabric, etc. And it wasn’t really possible to set the fly up first when you were setting up; so the new system is definitely an improvement here.
You don’ t have to set the fly up first, in fact you don’t have to set the fly up at all. Which, in good weather, is a good idea. The system they have allows you to set the tent up 3 different ways; just the rainfly and poles, just the inner canopy and poles, or the whole tent. Nifty.
What else is different? Well, the material of the fly is very different, and while it’s a lighter weight fabric, it seems to hold the water a little more. It’s waterproof, for sure, but giving the fly a good solid shake in the morning before breaking camp just doesn’t seem to dry leave the fly as dry as the original Skyledge 2 fly.
The tent has shed a little weight, and is a little longer. It has slightly more floor space, and the vestibules are slightly larger. Nothing earth shattering, but I think it is a bit better setup. Below are the specs (in bold) and the original specs together.
Capacity — 2
Minimum Weight — 4 lbs, 1 oz / 1.87 kg – new 3 lb. 9 oz. / 1.62 kg
Packaged Weight — 4 lbs, 8 oz / 2.04 kg – new 4 lb. 6 oz. / 1.97 kg
Floor Area — 26.05 sq ft / 2.42 sq m – new 27 sq. ft. / 2.5 m2
Vestibule area — 10.98 sq ft / 1.02 sq m – new 11 sq. ft. 1.0 m2
Number of vestibules — 2 (same)
2nd vestibule area — 10.98 sq ft / 1.02 sq m – new 11 sq. ft. 1.0 m2
Number of doors — 2 (same)
Number of poles — 2 / Strut Pole (same)
The new version also includes this spec
Pitch Light Weight 2 lb. 9 oz. / 1.15 kg – which I presume is for the fly-only option. For me, I pretty much always want the canopy as well, so I don’t worry about this option.
What do I not like in the newer model. Well, it comes with a Tyvek, fitted ground cloth, which is nice, but fitting the 3 pieces together (the groundcloth, the tent and the fly) is fiddly. The tent isn’t symmetrical, so you have to have the right end of each of the 3 components to set it up correctly. In good conditions, that’s no problem, I’ll take as long as anyone setting up my tent on a nice day. But in the rain and wind, and half dark, I want a tent that I can toss on the ground, lay it out, and pop it up. And having to double check that each piece of the tent is congruent with the others is just, well, a pita.
Obviously, as you get more comfortable with the tent, that becomes less of an issue, but I’d MUCH rather a system that doesn’t require double checking every time. One of the strengths of a tent like the Skyledge is how quickly it would pop up; the 2 long poles are interchangeable, and don’t have to match ends with the tent, etc. The newer system is a little bit of a hassle.
The ground cloth addition is nice, though, as it saves having to buy a huge roll of Tyvek and cutting that for a groundcloth. I know a bunch of avid backpackers and trekkers who have 90% of a roll of Tyvek left over in their garage.
The guy lines aren’t what they should be, imo. They’re not a waterproof cord, and that cord saturates and gets heavier. The guy line system itself is great, as it was on the original Skyledge, but I’d rather a better cord.
One of my PET peeves with tents is that they inevitably don’t come with the guy lines they should. It’s pretty much a given now that when I buy a tent, I have to add some cord to stake out the fly correctly, and the Skyledge 2 DP is no different. 2x 3-3 feet lengths of cord tie to the middle section of the fly (below where the visible ‘window’ is in the picture above). Setting the tent up without a piece of cord to tie those middle flaps out leaves a flappy, less dry tent.
Speaking of that window, I’d leave it out. my experience with this stuff is that such things inevitably become a weak link in anything. I’d rather have a simple fly, and not have to worry about when that seam is going to spring a leak. Because it will, sooner or later.
The benefit of having a little window is pretty negligible, for me.
The tent doors are a little smaller, which isn’t a big hassle, but it is a difference.
The cost differential is huge. I don’t know whether it’s just materials, or the times or what; but the sticker price on the Skyledge 2 DP is more than a little bit outrageous. $450 will probably slow sales down, I expect. You can definitely buy a little bit less tent for a lot less $$$.
The Skyledge 2 DP is a little longer, as I said above, but that little bit of extra length is worth a lot. Whoever said length doesn’t matter never slept in a tent that was a little too short.
The Skyledge 2 DP is just as bomber proof as the original (and the 2.1, which was an intermediary version). Speaking of which, I’ve now used all 3 models of this tent reasonably extensively, and I can say that they hold up in big winds really well for a lightweight 3-season tent. A few years ago we were caught out in a HUGE storm on the coast, and those winds blew long, and hard. The Skyledge 2.1 rocked (though I did shorter a hiking pole and use it as a booster for extra support for one of the poles).
I can also say with some assuredness my favorite of the 3 is a combination of all 3. I like the improvements of the newer DP, and the 2.1, but I still like the door size and fly of the first one. The weight savings on the newer model aren’t a big factor for me; unless they can lose a pound or so, 2 ounces less just doesn’t break the bank on a trek.
Overall, I like the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP. I retired my old Skyledge 2 after nearly 7 years of solid use, and too many days in the sun (UV rays on a rainfly are really, really bad – avoid this if you can). I now have both a Skyledge 2.1 and a Skyledge 2 DP in the stable, and definitely recommend either, but particularly the DP, to anyone wanting a really solid, lightweight, reliable and comfortable tent. If you want lighter weight, you can find lighter weight, if you want cheaper, you can find cheaper, if you want a more durable or robust tent, you can find one. But if you want the best of all those things, I think the Skyledge 2 DP is a pretty awesome little tent.