Mountain Laurel Duomid: First Outing

Warning to faint hearts. This is a real gear head post. I know a lot of you have questions about the Duomid, so here is a mini review based on my first set of experiences. If heavy gear talk is not your thing — look away now!

This first outing of the Duomid was a story of two pitches. On Friday night we arrived at our camp spot late, threw up the tents and rushed off to eat and drink a nice bottle of red that Bob had stashed in a Platypus. I didn’t have time to really play with the pitch and the tarp was pretty floppy. During the night we had a terrible storm with rain lashing down and gale force winds thrashing the tents.

The storm, at least, gave the tarp tent a good work out. Although the night was pretty noisy with flapping material I can report that my seam sealing had rendered the tent completely waterproof. The wind really gave the cuben fabric a real work out and I now believe Ron when he says it is pretty much bombproof. For UK hikers I doubt that I’ve experienced worse storms in Scotland. And the storm we survived was the equal of many I’ve experienced in the Alps or Pyrenees.

So, what have I learnt?

Preparation

Before I left home I seam sealed the tent and cut lengths of fabric for the guys. The Duo mid has four long seams that run from the top to the base of the tent. The easiest way to seal is to hang the tent, inside out, from a shower rail or such like. The tent comes with seam sealant but I had to go out and buy some White Spirit and a small decorating pain brush. First I painted the inside seam with white spirit and then applied the sealant to the two lines of stitching on each seam, using the paint brush which was just the right width to cover all of the stitching and the flap. I left this to dry overnight.

When I put the tent up I found that the sealant had caught some of the fabric on the outer side of the tarp. This was no problem and I simply eased the fabric apart from the seam.

Guys also have to be cut. There’s nothing about this on the Mountain Laurel website but I saw a reference on backpackinglight.com to some advice that Ron Bell had given. Ron had recommended cutting six foot lengths for the mid tie out points and two foot lengths for the corner tie outs.

This I did using the chord that came with the tarp. This is my first observation. I usually use 1.5m core dyneema chord, or even thinner stuff from MLD. However, this stuff does not really work with the line locks that are attached to the tent.

It is possible to ignore the line locks or even cut them off. But, the line locks do allow you to easily tension the lines without leaving the tent. This is a big bonus if you live anywhere like the UK. During the Friday storm I was very grateful of this feature and was able to successfully tighten the guys even if much of the pitch was wrong.

Pole Height

Pole Height was, I found, the most critical factor in getting a good pitch.

A few people have mentioned the ‘flattening’ effect that you can get at the corners, a little like a catenary curve. Look at this photo from the first night and you can see — in the far corner — the effect.

Campspot

For the first night I don’t think I had the tent pitched heigh enough. It seems to me to be very difficult to get the material taught without a high pitch.

Ron suggests that the optimum height for the Duo mid is about 54 inches and he is about right, although I reckon a little higher might be better.

Measure your poles before you set off.

My Pacer poles are in three sections and the two adjustable sections are marked with ‘STOP’ markers. If if extend both to the STOP point I find that the length of the overall pole is exactly 54 inches!

You will though want to use the pole at an angle when using this as a solo tent. This gives you a lot more space.

When I finally settled down in the tent I moved the pole out and reduced the height of one section to place the pole extender in place. I then fixed the pole at an angle and then tried to stretch our the pole again. By this point it was pretty windy and so I didn’t really have much time. I got this quite wrong. In the morning I could see that the pole was far too low.

The ‘flattening’ effect really does limit the space inside of the tent. And worse really the mid point tie outs don’t work as well. These should be coming off a very steep side gradient. With a shallow gradient they are not half as effective.

On the second evening I was careful to not reduce the height too much when I added the extender. The result was rather magical. The tarp was taught, the space inside massively extended and flap eliminated. Here is the tarp in a more effective pitch.

Duomid

Corner Guys

The other thing that seemed to make a difference was the fitting of corner guys, which I had cut at home but had not fixed to the tarp.

For the night of the storm I simply pegged all of the tie out points (except the door) directly into the ground. Somebody else may be able to make more sense of this than me but I really feel that this made it more difficult to get a taught pitch.

For the storm I used two pegs in each mid point tie out. The first simply pegged into the ground through the main loop. The second fixed the mid point guy on a short length out to lift up the sides of the tarp. During the night the direct pegs worked loose although the mid point guy pegs held.

On night two I attached the small pieces of guy line to each of the corners. While these were only two feet lengths I could still use the line locks to tighten the pitch

Duomid: corner tie out
Corner Tie Out

This arrangement combined with the height adjustment to really create a tighter tarp.

Here are two pictures of the longer tie outs for the mid panel points.

Duomid: mid panel tie out

Duomid: mid Tie out

Six feet is a very generous length to use in this way. The term mid point tie outs is a bit mis-leading as the tie outs are still quite low on the tarp. You could simply use low tie outs and all of the peg points but I think the mid point ties really do make a big difference to both stability and to the internal space available. I will certainly have these fixed as standard when using the tarp in the UK.

The Front Door/Beak

This is a nice feature.

The door, however, is the weakest point on the tent and according to Ron is the biggest difference to the sinylon version which is able to take a much heavier zip. That being said there are some built in protections for the zip.

The zip has a buckle at the bottom and a small popper fastener (a little like that on the Golite Hex). Never unzip the door unless the buckle and the fastener are fixed in place. This really does take the strain off the zip.

When pitching keep the back edge reasonably tight but ensure the door side is relatively slack. The slacker this side the higher you can go with the beak. If you want a door pitch closer to the ground then adjust the tension across the front face of the tarp accordingly.

Pitched this way you will get little condensation inside of the tent. Here is my slight beak used during the second evening.

Duo midL slight front beak

Line Locks

These line Locks are new to me. They are fixed onto the base of the tent next to the peg out loops. So long as you leave a length of chord running loose at the back of the lock you will have no problems adjusting the tension and as I said above it is easy to do this from inside of the tarp.

On my tarps I have always used thinner chords and mini lime locks. I have not doubt that the Duomid locks (which I think are now standard on all MLD tarps) are far better despite the use of slightly heavier chord.

Duomid: Line Locks
The Line Locs

Pitch into the Wind

Finally, a word about pitching into the wind. Although this is a pyramid tent the footprint is rectangular. The side widths are much smaller than the front door side and the back.

Part of my problem on evening one was that the tarp was pitched rear wide side into the wind. I reckon life would have been a lot easier if I had pitched small side on. During the storm all of the side pegs stayed in place and things were taught and less flappy inside of the tent.

Internal Space

Sorry I didn’t get any internal pictures. I can tell you that the height of the pole makes a very big difference. Properly extended and pitched this tarp has tons of room to play with. Offset the pole a little and you’ll be able to lie flat and even lie at a slight diagonal to give yourself more space at the head and the feet.

On Saturday night the tent easily ate up all of my gear which could simply and safely be stashed in the sides and corners where the height was lowest. Cooking inside this tent is a real pleasure as there’s tons of room.

Bivy Protection

I didn’t use a groundsheet but relied on my Mountain Laurel Soul Bivy. This has a bathtub bottom and a water resistant but breathable top. It is ridiculously light. The resistant top had nothing to test it this time around. The bivy also has a very effective built in bug net with a piece of lightweight wire that is used to keep the bug netting off the face. This very comfortable. On morning one bob woke to find bugs all over his tent. One had crawled across his face leaving its tell-tale trail of slime. No such problems for me.

I will probably buy one of the new MLD inner nets for the winter and for use on the Challenge. This should be very effective at not only keeping out the bugs but in ensuring that water does not seep into the bag from the floor. But this arrangement, while it might seem like a real tent, will be nowhere as warm. Some adjustment to me gear list will have to be made to ensure a war sleep in temperatures down to zero.

So, there you have it. I hope that has been useful. I shall continue to test this out over the summer and hope the others will be able to add to the sum of collective experience.

My overall reactions? This is a great piece of kit, very light, flexible and seemingly very strong. I will really enjoy using it. The only downside is that an open tarp has a real advantage in that you can simply wake up to the views all around you. The tarp will be with me on summer nights but for the rest of the year I reckon the Duomid will be my first shelter of choice.

Comments

  1. Mike fae Dundee says

    Excellent report Andy. Glad it worked well.
    I’m afraid i bottled my Gorms test, and took a Stephensons 2R instead. The gale force winds that were forecast made me think twice on testing a new shelter high up on a 4 day trip. The ‘bail out’ distance was too great if it went the way of the pear. I think i’m becoming a coward in my old age! 🙂
    I’ve found that the purple 1.6mm Dyneema sold by Cleats works with my MLD Linelocs.

  2. My Scarp 1 hasn’t arrived yet, but thanks to you and Phil I am already pondering if I should get a MLD Duomid. And then you post this kind of in-depth post… Leaving me hoovering over the “Place Order” button. No, I will be strong and at least wait till the scarp arrives.

  3. Mike fae Dundee says

    Sorry Andy. I’ve just checked, and it was the 2mm purple Dyneema. 🙁

  4. cracking review Andy. There is something really satisfying about a taut wrinkle free pitch. The second night you pitched the duo it looked fabulous from the pictures. Tempting…. 🙂

  5. Yep, it looked like you really got it cracked for night two. Great looking pitch. How did you find the cuben in terms of stretching out when it’s wet?
    Is it right that is doesn’t ‘relax’ when wet like sil does – and if so does that offer a significant advantage in your view in not having to tighten and re-adjust?

    • Jim, it is funny material. It feels like that stuff that computer screens and LCD TVs come wrapped in. It doesn’t compact that easily for example. I don’t think it does stretch much although this is not a problem. For what I have seen so far this id very tough stuff, but then it is really superbly constructed.

  6. Andy, are there points inside for tying up the hood of a Soul Bivy instead of using the wire hoop?

    • Yes, you can attach the Soul Bivy chord. Mind you I’ve never had any problems simply relying on the wire hoop. This ewas the first time I’veused the Soul bivy this year — I’d forgotten how good a piece of kit this is!

  7. Great writeup Andy.
    How are you feeling about the space iwth a centre pole compared to the possible ‘A’ pole pitch? I’m looking at trying two-pole walking (Mountain King Trail Blazer – though they may be too light to pitch a tarp with!) but I guess then the poles need to be even longer than your 54inches… Bah!

  8. Rob,

    On night one things were too loose and there was a lot of flapping around. The pole moved a little, however, there was no hint that the structure was really unsound. Pitched at the proper height the pole is very stable.

    I have no hesitation in using just the one pole. As you suggest the A frame might work but you will then need two longer extension pieces and I’m not sure whether they would be justified. With a single pole offset you will find that you have more than enough room for one.

    Ron has recently emailed me some further thoughts on tie outs and these I have posted separately — I’ve just asked for some clarification on some of the points.

    Ron has confirmed what I suspected, that you don’t want the mid tie out points to be too firmly stretched. You need a little bit of flex in there.

    FInally, for me, 54 inches is about right without any offset of the pole. I think you will always want to offset a little so I guess the extender will always be with me.

  9. Great stuff Andy and any chance of more photos of the inside, top vent etc ?

  10. John Garner says

    Great report Andy. I’ve just picked up one of these second hand on a whim and it’s turned out to be one of the best pieces of kit I’ve ever bought. I’ve not used a single peg on the mid point tie outs and side line locs – interesting. I’ve pitched it with two poles in the A frame position and you can practically lean on the apex of the tent. It just doesn’t move! I’ve also just about finished an inner made from 35g/m2 rip stop nylon with a bathtub floor and some mesh vents. It looks like the fly, inner and two pole extenders will come in about 1.15kg.

  11. John,

    Try it with only one pole. It certainly coped well with coastal gales. It’ll save a bit of weight with extenders. Nice to know these work well though.

    Now, what I want to know is — who on earth is selling one of these marvels?

  12. Andy thanks for a very detailed report on the Duo Mid. Confirms what I had always felt a great tarp with many uses in the field.

    • Roger, the cuben looks robust enough for me but I’ll keep reporting on it as we go through the next year.

  13. Eric Beaudry says

    Andy,

    Just saw this review of the cuben duo. I just ordered a cuben version a week or so ago. I have a sil version now that I’ve been using throughout the winter with very good results. I’ll second your recommendation with regard pitching and pole length. I’m using 125cm fixed GG LT3’s and even with the 6″ pole jack, it’s a little short so it’s not 100% ideal when pitched.

    Anyway, wanted to check with you on what your using for guyline? Looks like the 2mm stuff from Team io? Wondering how that works with the linelocs supplied (designed for 3mm guyline)?

    • HI Eric.

      The Cuben is pretty bomb proof, the material any way. You’ll find that the zip is more fragile and it is best to pitch the front end with a little slack.

      As for guys. I use the chord that came with tarp on the base tie outs. I use a very short length on the corners and a longer length on the mid point tie outs. I’m not that bothered about exotic pitching variations as I use a tarp in the summer months. I reckon 3 feet of length on the mid point tie outs is more than enough — although I think mine are still cut at 6. I was using the one piece of chord to connect the mid points on the base and the sides although I have abandoned this now.

      I do prefer to have side panel guys in use but then I’ve only really used mine in bad weather! For these I’m using 1.5 m dyneema chord (grey and black stuff) that I got from backpackinglight.co,uk fixed onto the bungee points with figure of eight knots and I’m using mini line locks to fix the loop at the ground end.

      The mini line locs do seem to work well with the 1.5 dyneema.

      With the cuben it is more important to ensure these side guys have some slack in them.

      I need to get out and using mine again!

  14. Hi Andy, The mid tie outs.. I originally used to pieces of 3mm (one for the ground tie out and one for the mid). I noticed your use of one 6″ piece to accomplish both and really like the economy of cord and knots your technique accomplishes.. However, I noticed you mentioned Ron had comment and you seemed to have changed .. what was Ron’s comment that seemingly caused you to reconsider?

    Also, I am finding that I need 58-60″ of height to accomplish a pitch similar to your ‘good’ one.. Any observations you can share?

    Sam

    • Ron told me to use separate tie outs on mid and base points and I’ve been doing that for most of the time – you get less pressure on the cuben at the mid points, I.e. you can set up the lines with a little slack in them.

      Pole height is the single biggest factor in getting a good pitch. I use Ron’s recommendation which is just about the same as my poles extended to max with the pole jack.

      I always offset my pole – the second biggest factor is the level of the ground! consider the flatness of your pitch. Sometimes corners can appear to sag!

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