July 28, 2008

REI Bug Hut 2: Exceptional

This shelter will work for only a few people, but with a little creativity it makes a tent of unbeatable value.

The Bug Hut 2 with a tarp. Bracing for high winds
off the Loch, this is what I call 'foul weather' set-up.
The REI Bug Hut 2 fits an odd niche. It's essentially a tent without a rain fly. It has a single wide door, a bathtub floor and self-supporting structure. Why would anyone buy such a thing? Well I got the idea from a customer when I worked at REI. Previously I had been using a tarp with my trekking poles to set up an A-frame shelter. All I had to do was put the Bug Hut under the tarp and I had a fully functional tent. I've used this Bug Hut/Tarp Combo since 2008. I used it for a 2 1/2 month hiking tour in the UK and I've used it for week long backpacking trips in Arkansas's Ozarks and Wyoming's Winds in addition to the dozens of shorter backpacking trips, weekenders, and overnights in the Tetons and Gros Ventres among other places.

It's a strong design and I've only had one pole section break after this heavy usage. The poles are a smaller gauge than standard tent poles and as a result are probably the weakest link but they've taken some abuse and served me well. The two poles are inserted into sleeves and make a double cross pattern, thus returning to the corner of the same side, rather than the far opposite corner. Compared to the standard cross-over pattern, this pole design gives more head room and additional strength without much additional weight. The zipper is holding up well. One point: I like to use groundcloths to protect my tent floor. REI doesn't make a ground cloth for the Bug Hut so I had to use one from a different tent. It doesn't fit perfectly, but it works.

When there's no wind, I love the airy 'fair weather' set-up.
When coupled with a sil-nylon tarp it is about the same weight as the lightest tents available. With my tarp, groundcloth, and stakes it weighs in at 4.25 lbs. This doesn't include the trekking poles, but I don't include those in the shelter weight, since I carry them in my hands for their own virtues. That makes for a lightweight shelter and considering its flexibility and strength, it makes a terrific shelter for the weight. My only complaint on the grounds of efficiency is its ease of set-up. I don't deny it is no pop-up shelter. It takes some work to set up, especially when I'm by myself and putting it up in a storm. I've done that and it's no picnic. I have to 'tweak' a lot of the stakes and on a long trip (like when I was in England and Wales for 5 weeks by myself) it gets very tedious.

It is about as roomy as REI's Half Dome. It's real dimensions are 85 x 45 (though its 5 inches wider at the ends). These dimensions shouldn't be compared to tent specs, because they are never accurate. I'm 6'1" and have around 10 inches of extra room on the ends. Overall it's been a great addition to my gear. I love being able to set it up in what I call "fair weather" style, open and airy, most of the time, even if it's raining; and if it's blustery and stormy I set it up in "foul weather" style. Which is far and away the strongest structure I've ever slept in, stronger than my high end mountaineering tent.

It's sold for $90 and since I already had the trekking poles and the tarp, it made for an incredibly cost effective shelter. It's a solid design and doesn't costs much so I couldn't be happier with my purchase. This is the sort of product that works great if you like being creative with your gear as I do.


Anonymous said...

This is what we used for a week on the AT last summer and loved it for all the reasons you state. We had an 8x10' silnylon tarp and it was a pretty light option that still protected us from bugs. Your tarp set up looks much better than ours. We struggled w/ the side door arrangement and would have been more successful with an end door. We had a lot of splash back in the heavier rain storms. I am curious what tarp size you are using?

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment. I've always used an 8x10 silnylon tarp although I'd be happier with 8x11 or 12 if they existed.

When there's a heavy rain I have to fasten all four corners to the ground and lash out the foot and head center point, which causes the two tent poles to buckle outward on the ceiling. In order to combat this I would prop my trekking poles against the top of the tent poles inside the tarp. But this caused the poles to buckle inward so I used my map case (a sealed cardboard tube) to hold the trekking poles out. Without something to hold the trekking poles out you can't set it up in 'foul weather' style like in the first photo. I don't use those cardboard tubes anymore (they're so heavy) so I've since put two grommets in the center of the green sleeve so I can use an extra tent pole section to prop my poles out. When I don't have trekking poles, like when I'm biking, I have a set of poles that can make an a-frame when it's raining hard. With an 8x10 you have to pull so tight it's pretty hard on the tent poles.

All that said, I could easily sew an extra foot or two of silnylon onto my tarp and seal the seam. I've never done that, but it would be pretty easy. Right now I'm cutting and sewing a custom rainfly for the Bughut. My main reason is to have a more custom fitted fly (attached to the tent pole tips) that still allows for both 'fair' and 'foul' weather set-ups while increasing coverage and decreasing the set-up effort. It's also camo so it'll be easier to stealth camp.

Best of luck with the adventures!