The Sierra Trails Review of the Moss HeptaWing
As you can see here, one corner of the wing could not be staked out properly, so I improvised with rocks. This is our campsite at Big Brewer Lake.
The Moss HeptaWing
Face it, most tents are way too heavy. In my opinion, any two-man tent over 3.12 pounds (the current weight of the ultimate 2-man tent, the Bibler I-Tent) is a waste of fabric. Most tents boast of being near four pounds, but after you add the stakes, stuff sack and a ground sheet, you are looking at a five pound or more rock in your backpack. When you are at high altitude working towards a pass or col, you hate every ounce in your pack and you start thinking of other ways to shed more pounds. And here at Sierra Trails we are talking mild weather from spring to fall in the Sierra, and most of that time you don't even need a tent. What you need is a little shelter for the times you do need it without a big weight penalty.
The HeptaWing (http://www.mosstents.com/) is a good solution for two to three people who wish to travel light at a minimal of risk from the elements. Everything has it up side and it down side, and here is my evaluation:
Upside: 1 lb. 8 oz., for the wing with a few more ounces for the bag and guy lines (which may or may not be a part of the weight calculation from Moss). You can easily use adjustable hiking poles (which is what I do) and leave the heavy Moss poles behind. This gives you a lot more height flexibility than the poles that come with the wing. Also, if you throw in a groundsheet (ones made by The North Face work very well) along with the stakes, that may add another pound, although there are lighter solutions possible.
There is a large difference between wind-speeds a foot off the ground and six feet off the ground. You can take advantage of this with the HeptaWing by pitching it facing away from the wind, or taking advantage of windbreaks in your camp site (see the picture on this page for an example). The HeptaWing sheds wind remarkable well when set up properly, comparable to being inside a conventional tent. It covers such a large area, with ample room for three people, that it can guarantee that you can stay out of the rain, and unlike a tent, you can cook under it if you take reasonable precautions. The wing actually gives you an advantage in rainy weather: If you are making camp in rainy conditions, you can pitch the HeptaWing, put down the ground cloth and retreat (backpack and all) beneath the wing to set up camp. Try to do that in a tent. Also, you have an advantage when breaking camp in the rain: you can pack up everything including the ground cloth and be dressed for the weather under the shelter of the wing, and pack the wing last.
The setup of the wing appears to be complex, but pitching the HeptaWing is a snap. You stake out the two rear lines and set the rear pole, then set the front pole and stake out the front main line. It is then a simple matter of staking out the other lines and adjusting the tightness of all lines as needed until the wing is as taut as any free standing tent, or better. The guy lines have a clever little piece of metal attached that makes line tightening easy. It all is something you definitely want to practice at home before setting foot in the backcountry, but once you get the idea, it is a breeze.
This was our Bubbs Creek campsite near Junction Meadow. Note the use of hiking poles for tent poles and the use of a North Face ground sheet.
Downside: Finding a good or large enough pitch spot is sometimes harder than a conventional tent. It becomes more critical to properly face the wing in windy conditions, and in rainy conditions you have to guarantee water flows away from your site, or at least make sure water cannot collect beneath the wing. (Do not EVER dig trenches around your wing or tent! It damages the environment, it is not "No-Trace", and anyway it does not work!) These weather extremes are rare in the Sierra (spring to Fall), but you have to be mentally prepared to face these conditions. In a rainfall, you will also have to keep an eye on your groundsheet to insure it is not exposed to rain and is funneling water into your sleeping area. Also during damp weather, you will have to adjust the guy tautness from time to time.
It is also a good idea to be using a waterproof or water-resistant sleeping bag and sleeping pad if you expect to be facing possibly rainy situations. A good solution is to use a Mountain Hardware Stomlight Bivy (16 oz. ~$85), which is nothing more that a water-resistant shell that zips onto your sleeping bag. That should take care of any of any unwanted moisture that manages to reach you beneath the wing.
The wing is not much of a barrier to bugs, although most bugs will be dormant during sleeping hours. You will be zipped into your bag nearly completely unless the night is unusually warm, and in my experience bugs, even mosquitoes, are not a problem.
Lastly, the wing is made of a very heavy durable material, and there are other wings/tarps out there made of lighter material that do the same job as the HeptaWing. You might also consider those, if you can find them. The HeptaWing looks like it will last a long time.
In conclusion, I do not hesitate to recommend the Moss HeptaWing (http://www.mosstents.com/) if you are looking for an alternative to carrying around six pounds of deadweight tent. Out of five stars, I give the HeptaWing **** ½.