“Cook tents” or “group shelters” form the center of our camps. In the Arctic and the Aleutians, a place to get out of the weather is critical and these big tents make a good place to eat, cook, and relax. Pyramid style tents are versatile and quick to set-up, but if the weather is really ferocious a dome is a better shape.
The best group shelters for Alaska.
1) A local Fairbanks company has been making custom tents for us for years. Apocalypse Design has worked with us to refine a pyramid shaped tent and after several versions we are thrilled with the tent. With a 10′ x 10′ footprint this floor-less pyramid tent (base on a mega-mid tent) is plenty big for a party of 6 to comfortably sit. And with the addition of 2 foot tall walls the tent occupants are warm even when the wind howls. At 9 pounds including a pole this is the most versatile and dependable tent we have.
2) As much as we like the Apocalypse 10 X 10 pyramid, when the wind really howls like it can in the Aleutian Islands we need something built for a hurricane. There are several tents built for mountaineering expeditions that also work very well for high latitude trips. Our favorite is the aptly named Mtn Hardware Space Station. It isn’t indestructible but we have put it to the test and it provides a cocoon of protection even in the fiercest of Alaska’s storms.
3) Though not as wind-worthy as the Space Station nor as light and versatile as the pyramid tents, the MSR Board Room is a great tent for autumn trips like the Kongakut River when nights are long and cool and we are expecting to spend some time “indoors”. It is the roomiest of the tents we use. With nearly vertical walls, multiple doors, and panels which can be moved or removed, this tent can be configured for almost any purpose. Dubbed the “Chuck-wagon” this warm and spacious tent is unfortunately not currently available. Hopefully MSR will bring this winning tent back on the market before ours wear out. For now they make a smaller version called the Backcountry Barn.
4) And lastly is the classic “cook tent” from Black Diamond. Small light and elegantly simple the Mega-mid is the perfect shelter for when you want to go light and keep it simple. Now that they make mega-mids with carbon poles and gossamer thin fabric, we even sometimes take them on day hikes for use as emergency shelters. It is hard to beat a classic, but in shedding pounds the tents have definitely lost some durability.
There are lots of other tents on the market and we certainly haven’t tried them all. Leave a comment below and tell us which tents you like.