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Gear Review: The Iron Mountain Works Mountain Hut


By Jim Curl February, 2001 

Fast and light.  The plan was to cover ground quickly, efficiently, and
with a minimum of fuss.  With a rope, light rack, and plenty of
cross-country terrain and elevation to cover, I knew we'd have to leave
behind the usual backcountry luxuries.

    "We'll take bivy sacks", I announced.

My partner looked at me the way she always does when I say something
dim-witted.  After some discussion I finally agreed to at least put the
tent in the car, "just in case."

We awoke to rain near Tioga Pass and headed down Hwy 395 towards some of
the blackest clouds I'd ever seen.  I sheepishly confessed that although
I'd packed the tent body, somehow I'd forgotten the fly.  My partner
turned and gave me that look again.  Between the two of us we owned five
tents, but we stopped in Bishop anyways and rented another one for the
long weekend.  It was a good decision.  Several times on the hike in we
pulled the seam-taped fly over us to hide from the rain and hail that
would have otherwise soaked us.  And as soon as we made camp the wind
picked up and it began raining furiously, without pause until early the
next morning.

The tent we rented that weekend was the 2-person, 3-season Iron Mountain
Works Mountain Hut.  It's a free standing model that sets up quickly with
two crossing aluminum poles.  The resulting rectangular floor is long and
wide, with plenty of extra room for your gear.  The steep walls and high
roof combine to create the sort of elbow room needed to sit up and
comfortably play cards.

But the big bonus with this tent is that it comes with two doors (on the
long sides) each with it's own full-size vestibule.  In a storm, your
partner can cook in one vestibule while you pop out through the other door
to give nature a call.  Also, the dual vestibules make setting up camp in
the rain a piece of cake: just quickly pitch the tent, toss your packs
into your personal vestibules, and then pile into the warm, dry, roomy
interior to unload and organize your gear.  All of this comes in a tent
that weighs just a hair over five pounds and costs a scant $180.

Iron Mountain Works makes tents, sleeping bags, and other backpacking gear
for a group of independent retailers, so you won't find these at REI. 
Wilson's in Bishop has them in stock now (Jan 2001) and
Sunrise Mountain Sports expects them in the Spring.  But I wouldn't count on finding one in
late summer.  The tents are shipped once a year and they sell out.

The only downside to the tent is that the vestibules tend to sag -- we
figured out ways to prop up whichever one we cooked in.  And because of
the loose fitting fly and mosquito netting windows, it probably isn't the
best choice for snow camping or extremely windy conditions.  Durability is
an unknown, but we'll let you know how ours works out -- we bought one
(that's six, if you're counting) after our experience with the rental.  It
has since stood up well through an eight day trip in which it rained (or
snowed) much of the time.

I still like the idea of sleeping out in a bivy sack.  But when the
weather looks wet, carrying the extra pound or so per person that this
tent requires is small change when you consider that it buys you a private
entrance into a well designed, spacious refuge.  Frankly, it's getting
harder for me to convince my partner that a slightly lighter load is worth
lying around in a wet sack all afternoon.

Specifications:

    2-man, 3-season

    2 doors (with vestibules)

    Peak Height: 47"

    Interior Dimensions: 84" x 55"

    Weight: 5.1 lbs

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