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Saturday
Mar302013

Clark's Commando heaven- Six Moons Gatewood Cape- Poncho/tent

The holy grail of a waterproof that doubles as a real shelter rather than an optimistic picture in the Clarks commando handbook had dogged me ever since reading avidly said handbook aged 6. But raincapes make poor shelters as they are long in the wrong places and short where you need length. Enter the Gatewood Cape, which is a true cape- with no side slits as a poncho has, merely little handholes. This gives it much great integrity as a shelter. It is made of sil-nylon it is ultra-light, maybe 400g or less, and it really does work as a tent. This is no open ended tarp- you have a zipped door and walls that go down to the ground- no groundsheet of course and no anti-mosquito mesh but a very serviceable shelter easily held up by one walking pole or even a stick plucked from the hedge. You tighten the hood and clip a harness into it to hold the pole. There are tent peg loops all round the base. Very simple. Waterproof. I loved it.

And as a raincoat while walking in damp windless forests it was fine too. But then I wore it up Skiddaw in horizontal rain and sleet and wind. Not good. Water got in everywhere. It flapped like a flag in a hurricane. The next day I bought cheapo waterproofs to continue walking without getting wet.

I now think with a bungee cord belt- or maybe two, one around the hips - it might work in serious rain. You would still need to keep your arms inside which would mean no walking with poles unless you want watery ingress down your arms.

I suggest it is the perfect bit of kit for the Pyrenees- where rain isn't too bad (june to sept) and where you don't sleep out every night if you can find a hut. Or great for a patch of sunny weather in the UK. But in the UK mountains, though I'd risk it as a tent, I'd want an extra waterproof too.

Some months later now and I've used the Gatewood as a shelter during cold weather in March. It takes a while to tighten the material out but if you have any experience with tents you'll get it nice and taught. By varying the height of the walking pole you use you can easily increase or decrease the gap around the bottom. This means zero condensation- owing to the breeze- but also a chill wind. You won't get that 5+ degree warming effect you get inside a proper tent or even a net liner. It's certainly waterproof enough, and though you'll probably rub your head on the roof getting up there is enough space- probably for two at a pinch, all gear outside. My only concern is durability. In a howling gale will that zip and fragile looking stitching hold up? With suitable nannying I suspect it might- but in a howling wet gale when you're tired, it's muddy, it's pitch dark, the ground is slippery and covered in thorny branches- I suspect the Gatewood will suffer. If you have to use it night after night in such conditions when you are tired then I think it may not hold up so well. But if you're able to take your time and be a bit canny, looking ahead and not in a galumphing rush it will work. And look at it this way: multimat sleeping pad-150g, Gatewood cape- 400g, ultralight sleeping bag- 550g. That's your entire shelter and rain protection requirements in about a kilogram! Add meths stove (or, better, wood fire) and titanium pot, down or manmade fibre vest, superlight pack and a few other odds and ends and you can be out backpacking with less than 2 kilos on your back. That's amazing.

 

 

 

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