GEAR REVIEW: Arctic Oven Tent

The Arctic Oven tent is known around the world as a premier cold-weather tent. They've been used anywhere from the remote reaches of Alaska to the frozen wastelands of Antarctica and have proven themselves over many years. Let's have a look at the pros and cons of the Arctic Oven tent. This review is focused primarily on the AO10 model.

Arctic Oven tent without rainfly installed

 

Billed primarily as a winter camping tent, the Arctic Oven is available in several sizes and configurations, each of which has a unique niche in the expedition camping market. Here are the stats on the various models:

Arctic Oven Tents
Model Center Height Footprint Weight Packed Size True Capacity
Pipeline-short 4' 4" 9.5''x6' 18 lb.  24"x18"x14"  2-man
Pipeline-long 4' 4" 12' x 6' 19.5 lbs.  24"x20"x16"  2-3 man
Backwoods 3' 11" 8' x 5'  28 lbs.  20"x14"x10"  1-man
AO8 5' 2" 7'9" x 7'9" 32 lbs.

 26"x24"x14"

 2 man
AO10 6' 9" 9'6" x 9'6" 42 lbs.  30"x26"x20"  2-3 man
AO12 7' 2" 12'4" x 12'4" 63 lbs.  34"x30"x24"  4-man
Arktika 6' 6" 12' x 13'10" 57 lbs.  30"x26"x20"  4-man
AO10x20 6' 9" 9'6" x 19'6" 95 lbs.  60"x50"x40"  6-man

 

Arctic Ovens are manufactured locally in Alaska by Alaska Tent & Tarp, a smaller company offering direct access to the folks building your tent. You can easily add extra tiedown points, windows, stove jacks, vestibules or other features you may need. 

The tent body is made of "Vapex", a proprietary material designed to wick condensation and other moisture out of the tent, creating a dry interior while facilitating the drying of wet clothing. Vapex is white in color, giving the inside of the tent a bright appearance which makes it much easier to perform tasks inside the tent or even to read on those days when the weather has you tent-bound. 

The rainfly on Arctic Oven tents is extremely strong, and able to withstand heavy winds in exposed conditions. The fly also has long flaps along the bottom edges on all sides, which can be buried under snow in order to prevent wind from blowing snow up under the fly if the tent were to become drifted in. Anchoring these extended flaps under the snow also provides additional anchoring for the entire tent, in high wind situations. 

The AO10 has a single door, tube vents on two sides, a vent panel in the door and a vent along the back wall. The door vent and the rear window vent both have mosquito netting. The tent has a bathtub floor, with two seams that must be seam-sealed periodically. The floor has a ring in each corner, to facilitate the addition of a ground sheet / floor saver. This is very handy for keeping the floor clean; simply unclip the corners and drag the sheet outside to dispose of dirt and debris. The ceiling offers loops for a clothesline and a center attachment point for a lantern or flashlight. The vestibule is large enough to allow gear storage, but can be built even larger at the time of manufacture. In the latter configuration, a single pole connects to the peak of the tent's pole structure on one end and to two uprights at the other, giving the vestibule a fully-supported pole structure. This forms a floorless room large enough for storing bulky or wet gear, or for cooking.

Color Options

The rainfly is available in yellow, OD green or camouflage. Keep in mind that a darker rainfly will darken the interior of the tent substantially, making the performance of detailed tasks difficult without the use of a headlamp or flashlight.

Recommended Add-Ons

The Arctic Oven ships with steel L-shaped rod stakes. Purchase several larger steel stakes with wider flanges that will hold better in tundra or sand. Second, you'll need to supplement with some additional tiedown cordage; 200' of 550 cord (parachute cord) is adequate to allow securing of all the tiedowns. Finally, as with all tents used in Alaska, it is wise to consider the addition of a loop of bungee cord through each of the tiedown points, to allow the tent to flex a little during high winds. The overall strength of the fabric and existing tiedowns make it unlikely that you'll rip one out, but a little flex will help your tent last longer.

A number of extras are offered with the Arctic Oven, several of which must be purchased at the time the tent is manufactured. Here is a partial list:

Footprints and Floor Savers

A clip-in floor saver is available that can be removed periodically as a way to remove dirt and debris from the tent floor. This is a great feature that will help prevent damage to your floor over time. Similarly, a footprint is available to go under the tent. This helps prevent damage to your floor by giving you a primary layer of protection against sharp stones, tree roots and the like. Some may opt for a plastic tarp instead, which also weighs less.

Windows

You may add large screened windows in the tent body and the rainfly. Window openings on the rainfly are covered by a piece of fabric which is sewn in at the top and velcroed along the sides and bottom. This allows you to close the window on the fly when it is raining or snowing. Windows on the tent body itself add dramatically to the tent's ability to evaporate moisture from inside the tent. Finally, a clear urethane window is available for the vestibule, a nice feature for hunters who may want to look for game before opening the tent.

Additional Tie-Downs

Tie-downs can be added to the tent walls to offer additional protection from high winds. It is recommended that you add at least two to each side if you plan on camping in exposed areas in Alaska.

Heavy-Duty Poles

Stronger poles are available for the Arctic Oven, and it is recommended that you upgrade to these if you plan on camping in exposed areas, or heavy snow load conditions.

Vestibule Upgrade

You can increase the size of the stock vestibule, an excellent idea if you need the extra gear storage or would like to cook inside the vestibule area. Because the larger vestibule includes additional poles and rainfly fabric, there is a substantial weight gain on these modifications.

Stove and Jack

A unique feature of the Arctic Oven is the ability to add a woodstove to the package. This involves the addition of a stovepipe jack through both the tent body and the rainfly during the manufacturing process (these features can be added to an existing tent). Both openings are covered with a storm flap when not in use. Several wood-burning stoves and related accessories (including ovens) are available for use with the Arctic Oven. These stoves are light weight sheet metal stoves, and the stovepipes nest together to form a package that can be easily flown out to remote locations.

Issues

When comparing the Arctic Oven AO10 with other similarly-sized tents, the immediate stand-out is the heavy-duty fabric and poles used in it's construction. This is the reason for the relatively heavy weight of the Arctic Oven. Therefore this tent is recommended for base camp operations only, and particularly for situations where the added weight and strength of the tent is needed for protection from heavy wind and snow loads. There is no question that the Arctic Oven excels for this application.

A final consideration for some is the high price tag, compared to other tents in the same size and configuration. Of course the high cost is related to the quality of materials and workmanship that go into the Arctic Oven, and for those who need a tent of this caliber the additional cost is a secondary consideration.

Conclusions

Simply put, the Arctic Oven is alone in its class; a solidly-built base camp tent that can handle total exposure to high winds and heavy snow loads. If you are intending to purchase only one base camp tent for Alaska expedition trips, the Arctic Oven is an excellent choice.

Video Review: Arctic Oven AO10 Tent

 

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