review: golite shangri-la 3

This is a mini, long-term review of the Golite Shangri-la 3.

Golite Hex 3 - the forerunner to the Shangri-la 3. I have had both.

Golite Hex 3 – the forerunner to the Shangri-la 3. I have had both.

The Golite hex, now Shangri-la 3 used to have an almost cult status on these shores when it was available. We all mourned the day Golite decided just to supply the US market.

I have used and owned a Golite Shangri-la 3 (and its previous incarnation the Hex 3) for nearly ten years. I have owned three of them consecutively. I have even tried out other one-man shelters a couple of years ago with me field-testing ten of them including the Hilleberg Akto, Jack Wolfskin Gossamer, Mountain Hardwear Sprite, Wild Country Zephyr, Snugpak Ionosphere and Terra Nova Laser Comp amongst them. In addition I have tried and tested nearly fifty other tents and shelters of various sizes.

Whilst a few of these tents are good (some like the Hilleberg are VERY good), the combination of 3+/four-season rating (below treeline recommended), space (it can sleep three with kit at a squeeze, has a total space of 5.5 sq. m and a head height of 157 cms), weight (at 2 kilos it can also be used fly only to make it a sub kilo shelter) and ease of pitching (it has just one, sturdy central pole and 6 pegs) makes this, as the literature states: ‘a model of backcountry versatility.’

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I have used it in gusting winds (but not gale force) and persistent rain on occasions. I have used it in light snow a few times too. Winter through to Summer it has seen a reasonable amount of use. On-balance has been the best ultra-lite/lite shelter that I have used.

Despite my thumbs up to this shelter – the overall design is excellent (but then I am a sucker for tipi/pyramid shelters) I think it was a step too far (sacrificing real-world durability) to drop the fabric weight from 30 to 15 denier. This is just too flimsy – not in breaking or maybe even tear strength but in out-and-out abrasion resistance terms). I would like to see a return to 30 if not 40 Denier. This, and the fact that withdrawing from supplying outside the US, has created a gap that some quality minded tent makers could benefit taking note of since as the design of these are neither complex nor expensive to manufacture.

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Pros:

  • Stable pyramid shape
  • Ease of pitch
  • Amazing space to weight ratio
  • Good headroom for sitting up and changing
  • Plenty of sleeping length even for tall people
  • Can be used just with the flysheet
  • Pole can be replaced with stick or walking pole/paddle or even hung from a tree!
  • Improved ventilation reduced condensation
  • Lap felled seams which have been taped/sealed
  • Generous height bath-tub floor
  • Very light silicon-coated nylon.
  • Only $250 (in the UK when is was available it cost nearer 300/350GBP). Sometimes they even do free ground-shipping (US only)
  • The ‘bug-nest’ inner can be used separately and is totally sealed unit with bath-tub floor. This could be suspended under a tarp for an alternative shelter.
  • Although it is possible to pitch the outer first it takes a bit of gymnastics to do so!
  • Lighter green/moss colour makes the interior light much more cheery and less gloomy than the previous ‘sage’ used in the hex. Better for longer term morale.

Cons

  • Unless you live in the US then extremely difficult to get hold of. They do not ship internationally and they stopped supplying to European sales agents/retailers. There is a UK alternative (made in China) but I was not 100% convinced by the quality especially how the seams were sewn as they were not lap felled).
  • The 15D sinylon is a VERY light material,  and whilst Golite have claimed that they retained 90% of the strength by going lighter when they changed model from the Hex to the Shangri-la I am not convinced about its abrasion resistance. If this material was to rub (in the wind) against a stone or a rock it was pitched by I cannot see it lasting very long. Care should therefore be take what it could rub up against.
  • The pitching area is vast – making this tent quite fussy as to where it is pitched. Narrow ledges, uneven ground, tight in between trees will challenge you (and it). A nice big, flat, level area is preferred (and how many of those do you get in the wilderness!). On the plus side you rarely use guylines with it (unless it it blowing up a gale) so this saves on the total footprint of the tent.
  • The whole of the inner is mesh. It is not as warm as it could be in winter. You could get a custom inner from Oookworks.
  • Strong driving rain can splash a little (not much) through the upper vents.
  • The design means that you open the door in the rain then you get the floor wet. There is no porch for wet kit. However there are work-arounds like unhooking one of the ground straps of the inner to allow for it to be pulled back or get a customer inner from somewhere like Oookworks.
  • There are guyline attachements but these are or the ‘corner’ seams of each pair of fly ‘panels’. It would make much more sense to have these guy lines actually in the centre of each panel to act as lifters.
  • The short fasteners/straps for each tent peg are bulky (when compared to the rest of the tent. But the main gripe is that the ones for the next should ideally be much longer than the flysheet ones (as these have farther to go to reach the shared tent peg. Have the inner/nest ones on longer straps would help maintain the tightness and space between the inner and the outer.
  • The light materials does snag easily along the zip. A slightly more bulky material strip here might help like it does on sleeping bags.
  • The whole setup claims that it can be hung (inner and outer) from a branch using the central loop. and thereby dispensing with the central pole. However this does not work because the inner (when clipped to the outer via its clip) pulls the reinforcement cup under the peak of the outer fly DOWN since it is not fully attached to the outer. If it was stitched through or secured together right at the peak then this would not happen – as it stands its next to useless in this configuration.
  • Pockets would be a very useful addition to the inner nest.
  • Lack of highly visibility tent fabric colour choice (they used to have a yellow/bamboo option.

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