Top Gear #26 - Summit Gear Bothy Shelter
A bothy bag is a standard part of my mountain kit. These simple fabric canopies can be used to shelter a casualty, warm a chilly group, offer a comfortable place to eat lunch on a wild day, be used to make an improvised stretcher or be a survival shelter to sit out a benightment. There is no reason not to pack one and every reason to take one.
Well perhaps there is one thing that might put you off (although I’m not saying it is justifiable reason) - they can be rather bulky and heavy. A fairly standard 8 person bothy shelter may weigh around 900 grams and pack into a stuff sack the size of a large synthetic jacket or lightweight sleeping bag. There are some standard ‘ultralight’ models on the market but they tend to be expensive and still fairly weighty. For an example, the Terra Nova Supalite 4 person bothy, although a fantastic shelter, retails for £160 and weighs 400 grams.
I recently came across a company that offers great value bothy shelters that are extremely compact, very light and still perform brilliantly. The company is called Summit Gear and the model I’ve been testing is the Supalite 6-8 person (although they do a full range of sizes and can even make much larger ones to order).
When the parcel arrived it was so small and light I actually thought they had sent the wrong size, but I needn’t have worried. It is actually just that these bothies are very compact and the weight is amazing. As I’ve tried to show in the photo, the 8 person shelter is only a little over the size of a standard tin can and the one I received weighs an amazing 369 grams. Remember that the 4 person Terra Nova one is 400 grams!
Even better, they actually will fit 8 people in (although a bit of a squash for 8 large adults and best to leave rucksacks outside) and, although by necessity they are made from a very thin fabric, they seem durable enough for regular use.
One thing I haven’t been able to do in our super dry mountains recently is to test the Supalites water repellency but that's no problem - I got some of the family inside and used a hose pipe to recreate a heavy shower. Like most shelters of this type, these don’t have taped seams and so some water did work through the material eventually, but it certainly performed as well as others I have used. It also dries extremely quickly (but I was testing it on a warm day).
The Supalites don’t have any of the windows or pole holders you sometimes get on other models, but I don’t think you need those anyway. You do get a neat little stuff sack though.
So the performance is great, but that isn’t the whole picture. There is another stand out feature of these shelters and that is the price. You can get the 8 person for only £69.99 which is really great value. Well done to Summit Gear for producing a fantastic product which I can wholeheartedly recommend. Now the only reasons not to take a bothy shelter have gone!
Posted by Paul