Still early, but high hopes

Reviewed by Hiker Chick from Cambridge, MA on Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Interesting tent. So far we've only been able to put it up in the kitchen, so obviously this is a limited review.
When I ordered it, I was concerned about the narrowness of the floorplate according to STP's measurement. Actually, the floor width varies, and not always for the better. The stated 48" width looks like the head width, the middle widens out slightly (unstated), and the foot is narrower than stated 48". I am a little worried about finding the correctly matching footprint since the 2P size seems to change with each year's model, and I might want it for the light pitch option.
With the tent empty except for two people (no bedding or gear except in our imagination) it seemed like a snug but decent size and like a slight improvement on wall verticality and peak height to give the impression of space (and an outside possibility of being able to dress in a seated position instead of while lying down). The tent is a pretty close fit for two normal-sized people plus some gear/ clothing (or okay for a couple or secure friends). I'm a little skeptical about the "dented" vestibule footprint for holding more than your boots, but to be fair, we couldn't pitch the vestibules fully indoors.
The main feature improvements we were looking for over previous tents were dependable high performance in rainy conditions (over the otherwise spacious and light Alps 3 person we tried out last season, in which we were sleeping in a puddle on our last rainy trip but for our nearly floating mattresses, _and_ we were sleeping under puddles in the fly despite best attempts to guy out and tighten) and for less compulsory ventilation than in my first backcountry tent model (the light but very small Sierra Designs Sirius 2, which lacks privacy and which requires a directional pitch for wind scoop or wind block-- and just never mind if the wind shifts).
In contrast, the Hammerhead seems like its optional interior zip-out panels will give a lot of flexibility to our early and late season NH high country use (as mentioned by the previous reviewer), and the rain room test result sounds promising.
Even in our chilly kitchen, we built up noticable extra warmth while sitting in it talking and inspecting for 15 minutes or so with inside panels zipped shut. I can imagine LOVING that feature from about 2-6 in the morning when at either chilly end of the season in high country. The panels seem to be breathable enough, and there are other adjustable vents for condensation as well. While the panel zippers may add some weight even when the panels are removed, I did note that the panel zippers are very light gauge. If removing all the optional fabric panels (which are sizable) only saves 4 ounces while already including one-half of that zipper assembly, the tent-side zipper itself can't be adding more than an ounce or so, logically. If I had to say where the "extra" weight on this model is coming from, I would say it's from the third, ground-to-ground arch pole (my postal scale clocks it in at 8 ounces). I am hopeful that arch pole will be well worth its weight for better performance and stability in wind and rain, with elimination of the scary/ heavy puddle spot that is indeed common on three pole tent designs with small, partial dome bridger pieces.
We inspected the plastic/ nylon connection pieces at the tent corners and were pretty satisfied with them. Light metal options aren't always better than nylon "hardware" options for durability. Yes, piece failure with wear/ stress is a possibility with any design, but it isn't too hard to imagine a way to rig a corner with extra nylon web ties in case of a clip or seating plate failure (and in this tent's case, if a corner pole seat that's out on a piece of exterior web connector fails, you might not have to repair the entire tent body corner/ grommet area, or even to give up on the whole tent as structurally weakened in the worst case-- just a thought).
I'm looking forward to trying the Hammerhead in the field, and I plan to make an updated review at that time.
  • Best Uses: Backcountry for couples
  • Cons: Little heavier for size, Weird vestibule footprint
  • Pros: Flexible pitch options, High peak
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