Beneath an angry prairie sky: Tornado alley camping in Mountain Hardwear's Lightwedge 3 DP tent

  • Jun 28, 2013
  • 448 words
  • 2 minutes
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With sunlight fading fast, strike after strike of lightning is illuminating the gnarled badlands of Nebraska’s Toadstool Geological Area in an eerie Tornado Alley light show. Every few seconds, a new clap of thunder echoes through its winding, fossil-studded sandstone canyons, but I can’t hear it any better than the 30 million year old fossilized mammals slowly emerging from the eroding landscape can. The whistle of the wind in my ears is just too loud.

These are textbook conditions for a giant twister, and the only thing I have to protect me from this severe thunderstorm is my three-person tent. Obviously, there’s no tent on the market that could withstand a tornado, but watching my Mountain Hardwear LightWedge 3 DryPitch tent repel the driving rain as it blows flat in the wind, then resiliently bounce back in the rare moments of calm, I’m as confident as I can be in the present circumstance.

For its stability, the LightWedge 3 relies on a large self-assembling pole centered on a black plastic hub. The pole’s aluminum construction coped well with high winds in Nebraska’s badlands, and with the gusts of the North Atlantic during a 5-day walk along the Wales Coast Path. The Dry Pitch system lets you pitch the fly before the tent, so that you’re sleeping space stays moisture free. In both cases, it kept me perfectly dry. The unique design affords extra strength without adding extra weight. This $350 tent checks in at a 2.53 kg.

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My second night in Nebraska’s Toadstool Geologic park was far more serene than my first.

The lone issue to report is a minor one, relating to the small pole that gives the tent’s vestibule extra height. After about 6 hours of high winds, Nebraska’s high plains weather managed to jiggle this piece loose. This caused the extra material used to create the vestibule’s height to flap around in the wind. It woke me up in the middle of the night, but didn’t cause any actual damage to the tent.

For me, the benefits of the extra height far outweigh the drawback of being briefly awoken during severe weather. This tent is big, probably the biggest three-person tent I’ve ever been in. I’m 191 cm (6’3″) and it’s tall enough for me to move around in while crouching. It’s long enough to sleep in without curling up into a ball, has a vestibule capable of holding three sizable backpacks, and it even has that most elusive of qualities in a three person tent: enough space for three adults to comfortably sleep side by side.


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