Chris Townsend spends some time under the lightest shelters for backpacking
Rab’s new tarp shelters are in fact rebadged Integral Designs ones (both companies are owned by Equip). The Element 2 is a simple ridge design that pitches with trekking poles. There’s a zipped door with small mesh-covered protected vents at each end. The Element 2 is quick and easy to pitch and for maximum protection it can be pitched down to the ground. Pitching it higher, so there is a gap between it and the ground, gives better ventilation and more headroom. In really fine weather both doors can be opened for airflow through the shelter. One side can also be fully opened as well and raised up to make a lean-to type shelter if you have four poles. The Element 2 is roomy for one and adequate for two. Stability is quite good, though the big unsupported sides do billow in and out in strong winds and the ridge line can sag a little. To counter this I suggest adding guylines at each end and on the sides.
The Element 2 comes with a tube of seam sealant. I haven’t used this and the shelter has kept out heavy rain. However, seams can open slightly so it would be wise to seal them for long-term use.
The Element 2 is a versatile shelter that could also be used in place of a bothy bag as it’s so easy to pitch. Rab suggests that it’s ideal for digging into the snow in winter. For midge season there is an Element 2 Bug Net that can be pitched inside the Element 2 (or similar shelter). This costs £90 and weighs 880 grams.
First published: June 2013