Rab Superlight Shelter 4
Probably the most useful thing you didn’t know you needed.
Do you like to spend time above the tree-line? Then I want to let you into the best-kept secret of American mountaineering. One that will put you way ahead of the game if the poo hits the fan or if you like your creature comforts in hostile places.
Look inside any self-respecting guide or instructor’s pack, and you will find a shelter of some sort. They come in many shapes and guises; I use a number of them. For instance, if I know I will spend the night out, I usually pack a mid or tarp. If I am ultra-lightweight backpacking, then I might bring my Six Moon Designs Northwood Cape along for the ride. In this time of COVID-19, I might even carry a bivvy bag instead of a tent to encourage social distancing while still going out with friends.
The question is, what do you bring if you only intend to be out for the day, and you don’t want to fill your pack with stuff?
Drum roll, please…
Oh wait, let me give you some background first.
Let’s be real; you don’t go to the UK for a beach vacation. You go there for history, to see relatives, or to find out more about your family tree. But you never pack just your shorts, a couple of tee shirts, and flip flops with dreams of endless white-sand beaches. Here’s another big secret; those beaches do exist; however, you are more likely to see a Highland Cow rather than a palm tree gracing their shores.
Sitting halfway between the Equator and the North Pole, cold and warm air masses collide and have a massive brawl. Think Seattle on steroids. Just like Seattle, the UK is close to the ocean; it is surrounded by it. So the UK is wet. “Nice weather for ducks” wet. It is rare to play in the mountains and not bother taking a rain jacket.
As a mountain instructor, one who often traveled with ten kids in tow, removing ourselves from the weather was not just a pleasantry; it was a necessity. Stopping and having lunch in the rain on the side of a mountain could see a good day turn sour in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully, there were a few cottage industries that made a shelter called a bothy bag. It is a cube of material without a floor. Put simply, bothy bags are brilliant. You organize your group so that they stand facing the center, in a square or rectangle. Then you bring the shelter out and over everyone so that the sides come down just below the buttocks.
Finally, you coordinate sitting down so that everyone becomes part of the structure; people are the pegs and poles. Then you laugh, listen to kids talk about farting and feel the temperature rise significantly. Within five minutes, you are opening the vents, and your companions are complaining of overheating.
When I came to the States 20 years ago, I bought two with me; my trusty 14 person shelter that packed smaller than most 30º F sleeping bags and a four-person version that lived in my pack on most personal day trips. I would tell people about them, but it remained a novelty concept. Some years ago, a couple of British companies started selling them in the US. Now you can find the Rab Superlight 4 – Online at least.
Rab Superlight Shelter 4
Will you use it often? No. Not in Colorado anyway. Quite frankly, it seems weird to be talking about bothy bags in a time of COVID-19. However, at 11oz and about the size of a beer stein, knowing you and three friends can survive nasty weather above tree-line is a good feeling. Having a shelter that takes mere seconds for you to be somewhere warm is massively reassuring.
Rab has made their shelter from an ultralight ripstop siliconized nylon. It is bright orange, highly visible, and incorporates reflective logos. If you want to be found, this is like wearing a vast homing beacon. It has two vents; you will need them, and a built-in stuff sack. To summarize, it is the simplest, most effective shelter you will find.
So, do yourself a huge favor, as soon as you have finished reading this search “bothy bag.” Then marvel at the images of miserable weather and smiling faces. After that search Rab Superlight Shelter and hit the BUY button. You will thank me.
Grab one for $125 from Moosejaw.