Review by: jer, 2005-06-09
Eleven years ago, I had my first visit to Red Rocks, Nevada. I was 19, wide-eyed, and full of ideas. My pockets, however, weren’t so full and I landed in sin city without a sleeping bag, a tent, or a penny to my name. My eyes were set on the classic climbs, though, and 30–degree November nights weren’t going to stop me. I balled up fetus style into the trunk of my friends rented Dodge Neon, pulled a fleece jacket over my legs and shivered through every night, praying for dawn so I could warm up, rack up and hit the rock.
2005 is a much better scene for me, although ironically still low on funds, but just as psyched on the sweet, red stone. This time I arrived in Vegas in style. I have my own (company paid) rental car, a warm bag, and a fancy new tent that looks like a space sub station. This was my first time out with the Sako, and I was excited to try it out. The first thing I noted was the weight. I am a diehard weight counter/cutter, and much to my wife’s disappointment, any shelter over 3 lbs usually doesn’t make it into the pack. However, marriage is about flexibility, and I am willing to try new things. It doesn’t get much “newer” than Nemo’s recent air supported shelter technology. After inflating the Sako, it’s instantly apparent where the weight comes from; this thing is cush and packed full of innovation. My wife smiles. No more “tarp tentin” for us. She has seen the light. And me too…sort of.
In less than a minute, the supports were inflated and we were dumping sleeping garb inside. I appreciated the large, arching side doors for two reasons: one- being able to stand up while I undressed barefoot, and two, being able to see the stars through the ceiling without having to lie on my side. The enormous vestibule easily accepted our two packs, dirty shoes, and cookware. Laying down I noticed something I haven’t ever had in a shelter before. Room. I had a Chevy Sprint in high school that I am fairly certain I could park inside the Sako. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but coming from a sordid history of bantamweight alpine tube tents, I felt like a king!
Despite it’s glorious expansiveness, I was concerned on how it would hold up in the elements, due to its largely unilateral support system. Little did I know how quickly my concerns were to be proven unwarranted. A portion of my nine days in Vegas was spent at the “Red Rock Rendezvous”, hosted by M-gear. Various sponsors set up their booths and show off their latest gadgetry, while festival goers take clinics from the pros. I manned my booth during the day and chose to sleep behind it each night in my Sako to keep an eye on “the goods”. The weather had been finicky all weekend, with short wind storms, and the frequent squall; but nothing too intense.
The Sako was great in the rain, and when the wind picked up, I cinched the vestibule down tight and slept like a…bear(in my experience, babies never sleep very well). The last night of the event, mother nature had a surprise for us. In the Sako, we definitely heard the extreme wind outside, but saw no evidence of it affecting our little green space ship. It stood stout, and although concerned by the sounds of chairs falling over, we didn’t see any reason for concern. At 1:30 AM, a shout came from outside- “ALL HANDS ON DECK!!”
We hopped up, put on our digs and zipped open the doors. We were shocked at the site. The windstorm was still raging and had completely obliterated the entire festival. All easy-ups were thrashed; canopies hurled into the desert and frames demolished. The Sako was surrounded by destruction, but stood firm in the reported 80 mile an hour winds. We even had a 10 x 10 foot aluminum tent frame that crashed right next to our tent, but we slept through it. Needless to say, Sako passed the wind test with “flying” colors.
Nine nights in the Sako has spoiled me. The weight was never a true concern, as we camped within sight of our car on all but one night. I definitely can see using it on short backpacking trips, where we build a lush base camp, but will probably continue with my micro tents for alpine endeavors. Alpine climbing is about suffering anyway, isn’t it? I now see the light that short backpacking outings and car camping doesn’t have to be.