I became aware of Colin Ibbotson about 7 years ago via Andy Howell’s website . In those days Andy had a Colin Ibbotson page where Colin published his gear developments and modifications. Ultimately Colin took up a new profession, as a full time hiker and occasional gear maker, his gear making was intended to fund his long distance hiking. You can find his more recent posts at Tramplite Travels.
Colin has continued to develop his own gear especially backpacks and tents testing them over long trips in the USA, UK and NZ. In 2014 he decided started selling his “Tramplite Shelter” and once I became aware of this opportunity I ordered one, which I received in April 2015. Further details here.
Others have written about the shelter such as Andy Howell, Robin at Blogpackinglight and Matthew at OutdoorsMH as well as videos on YouTube , but I thought it timely to provide my perspective on what is an excellent shelter.
You will notice in the photograph the design draws from many other shelter such as the MLD cricket. One reason I was less than happy with the Cricket was the lack of solid walls on all sides of the inner, otherwise it was a design that would suit most of my hiking requirements. Roll on 2 years and the inner of the Tramplite shelter has solid walls and much, much more.
Each cuben shelter is handmade by Colin and as a consequence may be slightly different as he continually tweaks the design and responds to feedback and requests from users.
The basic details; the weight of the outer is 348 grams and the inner weighs in at 320 grams providing a combined weight of 668 grams on my scales. Colin provides comprehensive pitching instructions with the shelter only requiring 6 pegs, taking less than 2 minutes to pitch the outer along with an extra couple of minutes to attach the inner.
It is an outer pitch first shelter and thus one the outer is erected it is possible to shelter from severe weather or even use it as a lunch time shelter if required.
Having erected the outer, the inner is attached via toggles to a series of strategically placed loops on the outer. Once connected the inner provides a spacious area for one. The inner has an inverted “T zip” entry which makes it easy to enter and exit, whilst a half mesh door provides ventilation and views. Inside there is sufficient space for a lot of gear with at least 30 cm (12″) of extra space at each end of the inner.
However, perhaps more significant features is the zipper at the rear of the inner, which allows you to place gear out side the inner and inside the outer in an enclosed vestibule area, here it is easy to store wet gear e.g. coats as well as backpacks, shoes etc. “in the hope they will dry over night”. This extra storage capacity highlights the ingenuity of Colin when he develops his gear, as well the slanted rear outer provides additional wind stability.
At 175 cm tall I can easily sit up inside the shelter.
The front beak provides ample protection from the weather and like everything else about this shelter it has a unique design. There is the standard waterproof zip down the front, though Colin has been working on a zipless version. With a side release clip at the bottom the zip can be left undone, which I have done on most occasions. The cord attachment at the base of the zip provides the opportunity to have one half of the zippered beak open whilst the other section is closed, or both sections can be left open.
I have used the shelter for 10 nights so far and continue to be impressed by the quality of the workmanship, as well as the functionality of the design.
The inner can also be used on other shelters and I have used it inside both the HMG Ultamid2 and the Black Diamond Megalight while in both cases the fit is not perfect it has provided a draft and bug free environment. The capability to remove the inner for use in other shelters as well as in a lean-tos for bug protection is added bonus in my view.
Evidence of Colin’s continual refinement of the design was the recent addition of a “Storm Brace” which connects the peak of the shelter to an extra pegging point in the rear, the brace is made of cross grain and runs the length of the back seam of the outer, passing through 3 loops. Although I hope to never require storm mode, I had Colin modify my version of the outer to fit the brace. I recently used the brace and noted how much extra support the brace provided for the rear of the shelter.
All in all I am very happy with the shelter and see it getting lots of use especially when weight is important. My only concern, which I feel that is a personal issue and not a design issue relates to 180 degree wind direction changes which I have encountered in Lapland, my wondering is what if the wind swings such that it is hitting the entry side? There are of course solutions, such as lowering the shelter, relocating the shelter, however, until I experience such a change I have no idea what I would do. Perhaps I will need to find out one day, there again I would be happy to never know.
Andre asked me, in the comments below, if I had a photo of the tramplite inner inside an HMG Ultamid 2, the best photo I have is indicative of the length it fits well and with some additional tie outs would work well with the Ultamid2.