A tent intended to be used on remote trips in Alaska needs to be the epitome of toughness. Alaska dishes out weather so horrendous that simply camping out becomes an exercise in survival tactics. If you're only going to buy one tent for Alaska, make it a mountaineering tent.
What is a mountaineering tent, anyway? It's a tent specifically designed for expedition mountain climbing in country with lots of snow, ice and rock. Expedition climbers frequenty encounter weather at the extreme ends of what humans can endure, therefore tents that can take this kind of abuse are ideal for the conditions Alaska has the potential to dish out.
A mountaineering tent is a sturdy structure that can withstand high winds, wind-driven rain and snow, and rough handling. Additionally it needs to be reasonably light-weight, because it will be backpacked long distances (typically packers will split the weight of the rainfly, tent body, poles, stakes and tiedowns between two or more backpacks. Here's a wish-list of features to look for:
The mountaineering tents made by Terra Nova all have these features and more.
|Model||Weight||Packed Size||True Capacity|
|Terra Firma||15 lbs.||8.6"x30.7" bag||2-3 man|
|Hyperspace||11 lbs.||7"x28"||2-3 man|
|Super Quasar||9 lbs.||8"x21"||2-3 man|
|Quasar||9 lbs.||7"x21"||2 man|
Terra Nova originally made two lines of mountaineering tents; the Terra Nova brand (available in the UK only) and Wild Country, which was exported to the United States from Terra Nova's plant in the UK. The picture above shows a Wild Country Mountain Quasar, which may still be found on the used market. This tent is identical to the Terra Nova Quasar, with the exception of the color of the fly, which is now a solid color.
Terra Nova makes what many consider to be the finest mountaineering / expedition tents in the world, and they are routinely seen on climbing expeditions to Everest and other parts of the Himalayas, as well as other rugged climbing destinations around the world. In short, they can handle the worst sorts of weather, including gale-force winds, driving rain and heavy snow loads. All of the tents listed above have bathtub floors, hooded vents, full-length rainflies, dual-entry doors, continuous mesh pole sleeves, and multiple gusseted tiedown points along the bottom and middle of the tent body.
Terra Nova offers several ground sheets that can be used under the floor to protect the fabric from abrasion. But a tarp is cheaper to replace, once it wears out. Select a tarp that's the same size as your floor, and place it under your tent. Tuck in any edges that protrude beyond the floor area, or rain may run down onto the tarp, and flow under your tent.
It is suggested that you add 4-inch loops of 1/4" bungee cord to each tiedown point, and secure several feet of tiedown cord to each one (parachute cord is ideal). Run one end of the bungee through the tiedown point, and secure it back to itself with two zip-ties. Trim the end of the zip-ties flush with the slider to avoid sharp edges that could cut your rainfly.
Terra Nova tents come with aluminum rod stakes, however it is recommended that you augment your stake selection with some wide-flange stakes, a handful of plastic stakes in the 10-inch range for tundra and sand, and four log spikes or galvanized spike nails about 10-inches in length. The spikes allow the four corners of the rainfly to be firmly staked down on gravel bars with softball-sized rocks.