Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid — Cuben Fibre

Three Duomid Tarp Tents

Three cuben fibre Duomid Tarp Tents on the 2010 TGO Challenge

I’ve been using this cuben tent since late last summer but thought it only right to review properly after using it on the trail for a few weeks. The TGO Challenge was a good test of this tent. Although the weather was good this year Scotland is always something of a challenge.

The attractions of the cuben Duomid are pretty obvious. The Duomid provides more protection than a straight tarp and yet weighs only 340 grams. On this year’s Challenge there were five Duomids, four made from cuben (Spectralite 60) and one from Sinylon. Others have obviously ben quick to see the benefits of the Duomid. So what is it like in use?

In Use

This is a huge tent for one person. It pitches using a trekking pole in the centre of the teepee style shelter. Angle the pole and you create a great deal of useable space for one person. You should have no problem using this if you are not taller than six foot three or so. There is more space under here than you would find in a dual person tent with large vestibules. Cooking under the tarp is safe and easy. You can sit upright in the middle of the tent without brushing the roof or sides.

In the UK the Duomid is likely to be pitched pretty close to the ground. However, you can raise the tent high to create a greater airflow and if the weather permits you can open up both sides of the front of the tarp. In this mode the Duo mid can be pitched back into any wind turning it into a kind of lean-to tarp.

The cuben fibre may well be light but it seems to be as tough as old boots. A taught pitch seems to be able to cope with most things that the weather can throw at it. You will need to seam seal the tent yourself but when you have done so carefully your Duomid will,be completely waterproof. The tent comes with enough seam sealant to seal effectively. I hung mine from a shower rail and found it pretty easy to seal along the seams of the tent.

The first time I used this tent was last autumn out on a coastal path. I pitched late on the day, on very uneven ground. It was not a good pitch (I’d not got the centre pole high enough). As a result the tent thrashed around a bit in a pretty violent gale. The cuben fibre seemed tough enough to cope with quite a thrashing. This poor-pitch experience to give me some confidence in using the Duomid in bad weather.

How Strong is the Cuben?

Very strong. Ron Bell at MLD uses different weights of fibre for different parts of the tent. He seems to have mastered the art of sealing different sections of fibre. High tension stitching areas are supported by the use of sinylon sections and there certainly seems to be no problem with the stitching used. Stitching can pull through the plastic cuben under real pressure, one reason why I’d always recommend buying from a company like MLD who seem to have mastered the use of the material.

Speaking to Ron bell before I ordered I asked him weather the Cuben was up to bad weather. Ron felt that the Cuben was bomb proof, as strong as Sinylon with one small exception. The zip/zipper used here is smaller and lighter (I think) than the one used on the sinylon tent. Care needs to be taken when opening and closing the zipper.

At the base of the zipper is a lightweight buckle and press stud or popper. These should always be fastened when the zip is opened or closed. The buckle takes the strain off the zipper itself. Other than this you will would be advised to treat the zip with zip lubricant once a year or so.

Pitching

Don’t take your tent straight onto the trail like I did! A little practice with pitching will make a big difference. As I mentioned earlier, a taught Duomid seems to be able to cope with very strong winds.

They key element in pitching is the height of the centre pole which Ron reckons should be set to about 58 inches for a close to the ground pitch.

Measure this our on your poles. I found that my Pacer Poles, when extended to the STOP mark on the extendable sections, were exactly 58 inches long! Pacer Poles use standard pole sections and you may well find something similar if you are using adjustable poles.

On flat ground 58 inches is about right although you may need some adjustment for uneven ground. For this the pole extender (included with the tent) is useful.

I use the pole extender for all pitches as it allows you to angle the pole and to create more room in the shelter. But first I pitch without the extender with the pole fixed dead centre. I then ensure the tarp is pitched tight and only then move the angle of the pole, attaching the extender. This is pretty easy once you have done it two or three times.

Two Tight Pitch Duomids

Two Tightly Pitched Duomids

To get a tight pitch follow Ron’s instructions.

Firstly, peg out the back wall of the tarp so that it is taught along the length. Peg out the font corners of the tarp but leave these with some slack in. Insert the pole and raise the tent. Once you are happy that the pole is central stretch out the front corner tie outs and you’ll have a tight pitch all round. If you move the front corners in towards the door you’ll find that the front/door forms a kind of beak shape. Pitch the front corners as far as possible from the middle of the tent and the front door section will be lower.

In practice you don’t need to worry about the tarp being raised a little. For nearly all of my pitches the front door is raised a little off the ground. So long as you are pitched carefully — and your stakes are firmly in the ground — the tarp will cope very easily with high winds (wind is less harsh at ground level anyway).

On the MLD site you will find a guide for the lengths of chord that are useful for the base pitching points (dyneema chord is included with the tent). The tent also has mid panel, bungee, tie outs which extend the internal width of the tent and take some strain in high winds. In the UK I would always recommend using these and everyone else using the Duomid on this year’s Challenge had mid panel guys attached. Be careful not to over stress the mid panel guys though as they will be taking 75% of the stress from wind, which is probably a little too high for the tie out panels. I use mini line locs on my light mid panel guys — they make it easy to ensure that there is a little slack on each line.

Coping with a Single Skin

Even in Scotland the single skin of the Duomid presents few problems. Single skins can be prone to internal condensation but the walls of the Duomid are angled so that the moisture runs down the side of the walls rather than dripping on the inhabitants of the tent.

MLD do sell a bug protection inner and I saw Rob Slade using this with ease and confidence. Myself, I prefer to use a MLD Soul bivy which comes with a very effective bug net around the opening the bivy. Bivy, guys and tent weigh in at just 500 grams.

In practice I find the Soul Bivy gives me all of the protection I need. I didn’t use a groundsheet in Scotland — you pitch mainly on good grass. I figured that a ground sheet is just another thing to get wet. If you need a ground sheet though MLD can supply some very lightweight material, or you can use Polypro.

Conclusion

This is a wonderful shelter that is more than strong enough to cope with UK conditions. Having this much space is a real luxury. I’ve no doubt that we shall se more of these in use over the next few years.

I would be reluctant to use this as a two person tent in UK conditions. For us it is really a solo tent. Ron sells a Solomid but I really don’t see the benefits of this — go for the Duomid. If you need a two peson tent — and you want space for gear and so on — go for the Supermid. I’m beginning to see the Supermid with inner nest as a two person option — it will be more than half the weight of my current 2 person tent.

For the UK the Duomid is a wonderful trail companion, especially for those windier months when a tarp might be less effective. And for an event like the TGO Challenge the Duomid is near perfect!

Ron Bell designs and manufactures wonderful products!

Feel free to ask any questions here. If you’re a Duomid owner I’m keen to see how you’re getting on with it!

Mountain Laurel Designs

Comments

  1. My DuoMid is growing on me Andy. Silnylon version. 4 ounces more. I question your weights a bit. Soul Bivy is 213 grams and the DuoMid 340 grams = 553g total and then there is the guy lines and stakes. I reckon another 200 to 250g in total.

    They are OK in the wind but will be bashed about and the condensation will shower over you. So a bivy is essential then. I have used the bug net inner and it is very good. I prefer a groundsheet with the bivy as I don’t always want to be wrapped up in a bivy when it is not needed. It has some good advantages like space and weight. Not going to touch a good tent like a Scarp 1 or Akto in a storm against the wind. So folks need to remember to seek out more sheltered spots in bad weather and they should be fine. One more point it is a shelter not a tarp. That door makes it so much better when the wind changes direction and the rain comes. On seam sealing it is best to seal the outside seams when it is pitched. Dilute the seam sealer and it is a hassle free and fast job.

    I keep reaching for this shelter when I am packing for a walk. I love tents and hate tarps. Yet the DuoMid seems to fit in amazingly between the two. I really and taken with it. I would recommend it to anyone. Ron makes superb kit and also his rucksacks are fantastic as well.

    • Martin — my storm experience in the Duomid has been pretty good if a little limited. Using a tight pitch we are talking about something that is very stable. Increasingly these days I go for simplicity and am happy with the bivy. The Soul is pretty good and Scotland tends to have nice, grassy pitches. In other locations a groundsheet might be more appropriate though. I’m thinking of buying one of the Supermids plus bug inner as a two person tent!

  2. I must admit i was impressed with the Duomids. Very sturdy looking beasts with plenty of room.

  3. I found that a taught pitch resulted in the DuoMid moving ‘as one’ in the wind – I didn’t get any flapping or thrashing to generate a moisture deluge. I think this is a benefit of the non-stretch cuben personally.

    Towards the end of the trip I dispensed with my bivy altogether and slept in my quilt on a sheet of Polycryo. I didn’t have any issues with moisture from either condensation or external splashing – and I experienced some substantial rain in that period!

    “Not going to touch a good tent like a Scarp 1 or Akto in a storm against the wind” – I’ve not owned either tent, but I am far more comfortable in any of my centre-pole style shelters than I’ve ever been in a curved pole tent, there’s just nothing really to catch the wind!

    Now if only we could get access to a wind tunnel, some turf and a selection of tents…. Actually, I reckon Colin could organise that…..

  4. Dammit! Andy, I meant to quote Martin – “Not going to touch a good tent like a Scarp 1 or Akto in a storm against the wind” before the italicised section in my previous comment, can you fix it please?

  5. I’ve used my silnylon Duomid as a 2-person tent on a 2-night trip with a couple of bivy bags. It was fine although there isn’t a lot of room when trying to avoid brushing against the walls in the morning. If I was going to buy a shelter specifically for two people on a longer trip I would go for the SuperMid and Duo Innernet. Thanks for the pointers on taut pitches, the silnylon version required a bit more adjustment, especially on wet nights like our recent trip to Sweden.

    But I like the DuoMid a lot. If I had to have just one shelter, this would be it.

    • Holdfast — don’t know how tall you are but I find I can move the poll at quite an angle and preserve the pitch. This gives me bags of space and condensation isn’t really a problem. As you say, this is a great shelter!

  6. The only difference I’ve found with an angled pole is that the two ‘back’ vertical seams develop a bit of a curve – not a massive issue as the mid-height guys can be used to pull out the fabric and reinstate the lost interior space.

    I can’t imagine EVER using the DuoMid for 2 people, it’d mess up my gear storage system! One person and a child or well-behaved dog perhaps? Or even better, get a Trailstar 😉

    • I find if you get the pitch perfect with the pole central it is not such a problem in moving it. Height seems to be key though nad it iseasy to get the pole too low.

  7. Joe angle the pole and there is lots room. I am 6’2 and find it very spaces.

    Phil my money is on a Scarp 1 in a storm against the DuoMid. Don’t get me wrong the DuoMid is good and stable. But I have used it in foul weather and in strong winds high on Lakeland fells and Welsh hills. Not just low level. It is highly recommended but no way can it be as stable as a Scarp 1 in strong winds.

  8. am in the market for a new two person, wondering about the supermid, the shangri la or the TN solar which Andy u also seem to like alot – i know im not comparing like with like here, just searching around…

    weight/price/build quality all seem excellent with MLD, and of course its a proper tent shape! …but questions:

    is the footprint too large to prohibit rocky, high mountain pitches?

    pitching a square – sounds easy, but is it?!

    does the nest have mid ties to stop excessive bowing in when hung?

    d

    • David,

      The Super Solar is a lightweight tent, but it is still a tent — with an inner and groundsheet, etc.

      The Supermid is the big brother of the Duomid. I’m currently thinking of getting one of these for two people next year. A Supermid and a bug net will still weigh half the Super Solar!

      The Supermid won’t be as versatile as the SS — those two vestibules are superb. But the Supermid will have lots of space and the shape is pretty wind resistant.

      Pitching isn’t really that difficult — it takes a while to master it, but it’s not as critical to get it absolutely spot on.

      Is it too big for rocky mountain pitches? Well the SS has a big footprint as well and this is always something of a consideration. But then I’ve always been able to find somewhere to pitch.

      Rough pitches can be a problem, but use a thick mattress such as the Neoair and you should be OK.

      So, I am a happy SS owner — but I am seriously thinking of buying a Supermid, so impressed have I been by the Duomid!

Write in the box and the login details will suddenly appear!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.