This is not a review review
SeekOutside Backcountry Shelter “This is not a review” review
The review is available at http://www.kifaruforums.net/showthread.php?t=28345
Some of this is alluded to on another very respectful forum at hillpeoplegear.com . We would suggest you read both threads to fully understand the circumstance, and then make your own decisions about what really happened.
We are a very open and forthright company that believes in communicating openly with our customers and that our customers help us improve our products.
In October we were approached by Mr. Snyder (The Elk Reaper) to do a review of our Backcountry Shelter that was going into production. To be very clear, seekoutside did not initiate the contact. We were initially hesitant due to his close association with another company that manufactures lightweight gear. Mr. Snyder assured us we would have the ability to review his findings prior to the publication of a review so we agreed to the review. We suggested the shelters he wanted to compare were not that similar, but we would let him be the judge. The product in question was just going into production so he received one of the first tents produced. We changed one or two minor items from our prototypes to the production model (included a vent, and changed how the corner tie outs were constructed). In our testing of a production tent, in high winds and heavy snows (up to 120 pound snow load on the canopy) no issues had been discovered. The initial feedback we received from Mr. Snyder was positive, and due to the holidays, we were not worried about a lack of ongoing communication. In December, one of our customers contacted us about a potential tie out issue, and we asked them to send the tent back, but stated that they could use it for an upcoming trip they had planned and we could resolve it at their convenience.
In early January without any advance notice a “preliminary review” was uploaded to a public internet forum by Mr. Snyder without our knowledge. This review included “after” photos of what appear to be a catastrophic failure of our shelter under a wind load. Only Mr. Snyder knows what combination of circumstances led to the condition of the BCS in his photos. One thing that we do know is that when he returned the BCS to us, only 5 of the stake loops had evidence of use (dirt on the stake loops). The BCS has a total of 12 stake loops. The BCS can be effectively pitched using only 5 of these, but in rough weather it is recommended to use at least 8. Although there seems to be a disagreement over how many tie outs were used we have not been provided evidence to the contrary. In our view, if 5 tie outs show evidence of dirt, why did the others not if they were in use? Our analysis revealed that the new tie-out configuration, that was put in place when going to production, was a design flaw that caused the loop to pull against the seam, ripping the seam in high wind. This ruined the structural envelope of the shelter, causing it to whip back and forth in the wind. In this situation something had to give, and it did. The center pole broke. This is the only failure of a BCS (or any of our shelters) that has been reported across a wide variety of conditions. It is worth noting, that we have the capability to use several different center pole configurations. We feel our default pole is very strong and suitable for severe weather, however if you prefer, we can provide heavier duty poles on request. These will add minimal weight and some cost but are very, very strong.
We promptly contacted all customers that had already received a BCS and offered to resolve the issue at no charge (we made the tie outs just like our tipi tie outs, which are box stitched with an inside and outside layer of cordura). This type of tie out has never had a reported failure. We have resolved the issue for all customers. Google searches will reflect how tough our normal tie out configuration is. Below is a youtube video demonstrating the strength of the repaired tie out from an early production BCS (the tie out has been upgraded to our standard configuration).
Tie out strength test
Regarding the pole failure that was mentioned, we have had others use the product in severe conditions (reportedly measured 65 MPH winds) with no issues. Below are links to two youtube videos showing the segment in question being used as a pullup bar.
Center pole segment tests
After the initial post on archerytalk Mr. Snyder sent seekoutside a brief email, of his other issues, after the posting had been made. The issues, along with our thoughts on each one are listed below. We did communicate our thoughts and resolutions to Mr. Snyder.
- Regarding questions on center pole failure: There have been questions as to the timing of us having a newer pole. We strive to be an agile, flexible company to address problems, however there is no way we changed our pole in regards to The review by Mr. Snyder. The changes to the center pole had been in progress for months, not to address strength, but to reduce pack length as some customers preferred shorter segments. We also incorporated more flexibility in the pole sizing and capabilities (for instance hiking staff adaptation) to adapt to customer needs. We test poles to failure often (and we have broken many larger diameter 6061 aluminum poles as well). When we say test to failure, we mean by placing unrealistic demands on a pole (for instance a small pole in a 9 foot tall tipi, pitched high in the wind) to induce failure so we can analyze the failure. This is part of our testing process, to find and check failure. Generally failure occurs at the most narrow segment near the center. This is because the most stress is placed in the center of the pole.
- Problems with the sod skirt and snow: We have our tents in snow all the time, and rarely take much care in removing snow, and we don’t have issues. We feel, while it is possible, with a little care it should not be an issue. In winter conditions we recommend pushing the sod skirt to the inside of the tent. The benefits of a sod skirt far out weigh any additional care.
- Concerns about the zipper going to the top and wind: This is a design decision that gives the shelter it’s versatility. The solution is to not open the zipper to the top when it is windy. It is common for most people to open the zipper enough to comfortably exit a shelter when it is windy.
- Stove jack leakage in rain: The stove jack cutout was lower on the stove jack than we recommend, and it did not use the pie type of cutout we illustrate on our site. To resolve this potential issue from happening again, we recommend the stove pipe hole be cut high on the stove jack in a pie pattern (which is what we have recommended since we started). We also added a second snap cover and extended the cover down slightly further.
- Water leakage around the zipper storm flap in sideways rain: The storm flap provides coverage from almost every direction as well as preventing dirt, snow and ice from getting in to the zipper. In normal conditions when it rains the storm flap softens and sort of lays down to provide better coverage. We also have a couple velcro hold downs to help the storm flap provide better coverage. We believe this is superior to not having a storm flap, however it may be possible for some leakage to occur in a sideways rain coming from the right direction. We do not believe this is an issue in the tipi’s because there is an additional layer of protection in the form of the screen, but in the BCS, it could occur given the right conditions. Any leakage will be minor and limited to the area inside the tent directly under the zipper
- Fabric Questions: We use a 30 denier fabric made from nylon 6.6 HT threads with a Silicone coating (or impregnation). This fabric is Berry Compliant and made in the U.S.A . Our fabric also has UV protection in the threads and the coating. Since we work with a lot of fabric, we know there is a huge variance in the coatings on different rolls from the same run of fabric (which is why there is are so many seconds available on the fabric market). We have contacted many U.S.A fabric manufacturers, and in the end our choice came down to being able to test and verify each roll of fabric. We will write a post that digs deeper into fabric in the near future. It will likely be boring to most, but some might find it fascinating.
Perhaps, this whole review or not really a review got off on the wrong foot. Perhaps everyone will be better off in the long run. We think wasting energy on it, is counter productive to all parties involved. So we will offer up another chance at testing to put the whole thing to bed. The testing would be performed in the mountains, in measured conditions. We are open to location and timing but we require our involvement for optimal setup and usage for the expected conditions. We can even offer up a pretty good opportunity, since we already have a trip planned crossing a large chunk of a nearby mountain range (but it’s going to be done in winter conditions).
It is also worth noting that we do not provide specific instruction for pitching the BCS because it can be utilized in many different configurations. It is not a difficult tent to setup and we can provide guidance. The BCS however, is very flexible and there is not really a right or wrong pitch as long as it is structurally sound.
There is a lot of interest in the storm resistance of lightweight tents, and that is a good thing as it improves design. For those that would like to know more about the storm resistance of ultralight shelters there is an informative article on backpackinglight.com. You will need an account to view the article Storm Resistance of Ultralight Shelters: Part 1, Introduction
Our contact information is publicly available, and to date Mr. Snyder has not responded to our last email regarding the issues.
We feel the BCS underwent adequate testing in the prototype phase. The problem arose from a minor change between prototype and production. Thanks to Mr. Snyder for pointing out these potential issues that were not pointed out by other testers.
There are other reviews forthcoming as weather and time permit, from well respected equipment testers and manufacturers. We appreciate the opportunity to improve on what we feel is one the finest built, versatile, lightweight shelters available.