This past August I headed out to the mountains of Colorado for 12 days of camping and running. Camping has the same simplicity and peaceful impact as running trails. The idea of getting away and completely surrendering yourself to the trails and isolation of the land is the perfect way to reconnect with your inner self. It also often makes sense to camp at the start area of a race, especially if it is an ultra where you embrace those early start times. This was my second trip out to the high country and this year I took a new tent with me, the Optic 3.5 by Mountain Hardwear.
I needed a tent that could do a lot of things, the weather at elevation is moody and once I got back home, I wanted to be able to use this tent for spring, summer and fall races. Which means wind, rain, hail, cold, hot and humid. While I was dreaming of dry summer weather, we didn’t get that this year. It was a season of high winds, sheet rain, hail storms and lightening both in Colorado and back home in Ontario. This tent got put to the test.
The first big thing I loved, is how fast you can set it up. Although I suspect most new tents these days are simple setup and take down, this one is for sure. In regards to space, it’s a three person tent which means two people plus gear in my world. I like to sleep with an air mattress and because of the rainy season I kept all my gear inside the tent except for my shoes which I stored under one of two vestibules. The shape of the tent is a rectangle with a high roof. Something unique about the entrances is that they are two sides of the tent that are side by side and essentially make half of the entire tent open up. You can open up the tent to a wide view of the land and given that one of the entrances is quite large it was great when setting up my mattress, sleeping bag and tossing in all my gear.
The tent has plenty of easy tie systems, the cover attaches to the rods with Velcro wraps and there is the basic storage pocket inside for headlamps and so forth as well as a loop to hang a light. The outer shell has some reflective markings and did an excellent job in the rain, wind and hail in the mountains. The shell and bottom of the tent was waterproof as it poured on me in Colorado and Haliburton Ontario. In the days leading up to a race I camped in a rather windy spot where the winds seemed to come down the side of the mountain and slam into my tent on a couple occasions, the shell held up well here also. The only tricky option with this tent, is when it’s hot and sunny. You can open up the tent, but since the entrances are side by side on one side of the tent, you need to be into the wind to cool off and have shade. The other option is to remove the shell but then you lose your shade. As oppose to a tent with entrances on opposite sides where you can open up both entrances and hopefully catch a breeze passing through.
Mountain Hardwear Optic 3.5
For backpackers and campers who appreciate extra square footage and open, airy architecture. Adjacent doors zip away for an expansive view.
– Industry leading DAC Pressfit™ poles
– Doors on adjoining sides roll back to offer huge view and easy access
– Two mesh doors with dual-slider zipper for easy entry and exit
– Dual vestibule design creates a dry entry into tent and room for gear storage
– Internal pockets help keep you organized
– Reflective colour coded starter tab on the rainfly and canopy make pitching easy
– Optional rectangular or triangular gear loft stows gear off the floor (sold separately)
~Kelly Wald is an ultra runner in Barrie, Ontario.