The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

KUIU MOUNTAIN STAR 2P TENT. (First look)

 Who? i can hear you say, Kuiu? Well as near as damn it, "Queue -You”, is how i say it.

Who are they? Without going into too much detail because all the info is available on their website and blog. They are a company that has it’s roots in the hunting fraternity in North America.
California to be exact. Not well known in the UK, yet, and so it gives me the pleasure of introducing readers to the company.

They design the gear, and have it made abroad using the best technical materials, for example,Toray fabrics and Easton carbon fibre. They have no middle men and sell it from their own showroom or on the internet. They have just opened a hub in Spain too.

They use top quality materials and have lightweight motivations in the design of all their gear.
When you consider the harsh environs of North America and Alaska the tent has to stand up to some pretty atrocious weather. It is designed to be used in high mountains and with large distances from civilisation dependability has to be a top priority.

2014 saw the first Mountain Star tent, mine is a 2015 model with some changes from the 2014 which i will go through later.
Kuiu Mountain Star 2P (2015)

It’s a 2 person tent. My previous 2 man tent was the Tarptent Scarp 2, so what ever replaces that has to be good.
2 tents had taken my eye, a) Macpac Minaret and b) Trekkertent Drift 2.

I decided the Minaret was just too heavy although reliable, and i came very very close to ordering the Drift 2.
The niggle i had in the back of my mind was that it had too much unsupported fabric and i wondered about its storm worthiness. My fears could be wrong of course.
So i decided to go with the Mountain Star 2P. 3+ season capability. Will take a snow loading but because the fly doesn’t go all the way to the floor it cannot be classed as 4 season.

Ordering.
I had a few questions before i clicked “Order"and sent an email to customer services. They (McCade Hunt especially) were very helpful.
I was offered free postage to UK, which was great and saved me $60. As readers will be aware, when importing product from USA we have to pay Customs duty and 20%VAT plus handling charges from Parcelforce. All together this additional bill came to £122.35.

The purchase price of the tent is $449.99 and at todays rate converts to £288.89 and for the privilege of buying in dollars, Visa also had to have their cut which cost another £7.94.
In total it has cost us £420 give or take a few pennies.

Because of International manufacture and shipping, supplies of gear can outsell demand after all the US is a big place. I was slightly worried that i would have to wait too long for delivery but i was told it would be just a few weeks. I ordered it on 8th July and received it on 23rd July. So no complaints, that’s pretty good.

Materials.
Goundsheet….. 30 Denier Airtastic nylon manufactured by Toray of Japan. High bathtub floor. Seam taped. I particularly liked the height of the groundsheet sides, around 200mm. It will give good draught protection.
(Toray make high quality technical fabrics, they make the fantastic Dermizax NX shell jacket material for companies like Bergan’s of Norway, Kjus, Killy, Nordisk, Ortovox and Kuiu to name a few. It would be great to see a single skin tent made of this fabric. But i am digressing here.)

Inner tent…..15 Denier No see um mesh. Midge proof btw. Lightweight, white in colour and makes the tent interior a bright space.
The roof is micro ripstop nylon with the company logo in the centre. The logo is reflective and looks great at night.
There are four large mesh pockets, One in each corner.
This is a 2 person tent and has a zipped door on both sides and 2 vestibules (porch) large enough for a backpacking rucksack and additional gear.
Adjacent to the air vents there are inner zippers to allow closure or opening of the outer vents from the inside.
Headroom is excellent and even with an air mattress there is still a good space above our heads. (about 50mm) and the diagram below shows a good representation of space.

The inner is clipped to the fly and can be removed to give ultralight backpackers the option of having just a free standing tarp if so desired.
Dimensions

 High bathtub groundsheet and wide inner doors access.
 Takes two full sized air mattress’s with room to spare at sides and ends.

 Inner venting zip access and one of four corner pockets.

Roof with Logo and Clothes rail. (Rail fitted by me.)

The zippers are YKK and all have Dyneema pull cords attached.
On the inner roof there are 4 tags where a gear shelf or simple string line can be attached for wet gear and also a night light.

The fly….. Again its Toray’s Airtastic. 100% Nylon grade 4 with 10x20 denier micro ripstop. Its light, strong and tear resistant. 
The fabric is siliconised on the outside and PU on the inside. The PU coating on the inside is a better choice for companies that make tents in large numbers. It allows the seams to be proffesionally tape sealed at the factory. If it was siliconised both sides then it wouldn’t be taped at all and it would be left to the customer to do it. 

Two vents half way up the sides allow for good ventilation coupled with the mesh interior.The vents are held open by a simple folding leg. The 2014 version had vents on the top of the tent and i guess these suffered from water ingress when the rain was horizontal. The new positions are much better, as is the Siliconised outer which replaced the 2014 DWR treatment.

The double door entrances have YKK single headed zips with pull cordage attached. This was a major disappointment as the 2014 tent had double headed (Two way) zips. Why Kuiu have taken a backward step here (without advertising the fact) i can only guess at penny pinching. They need to re-instate the 2 way zip for 2016 or asap. Whoever sanctioned this change wants rollicking, it was a must have feature in my opinion.

The zips have an outer rain guard, held in place by 2 sets of velcro. It really needs 3 sets, as the upper section gets opened up in windy weather and the zips are not water resistant.
 I will add a 3rd set myself to keep the guard from flapping. But please add another strip Kuiu.

I found the pull chord on the inside of the outer door zip to be too short and not easy to grab at night. It was just too far to reach from inside the tent when the porch is full of gear, and so i have put longer reflective loops of cord onto them which made the operation far easier.

Four guylines, two either end, Dyneema with reflective mini line locks keep the tent secure to the ground. 
The set up instruction sheet suggests that the ribbon attaching the guy lines to the tent should be wrapped around the poles as per the image below.
The ribbons on the 2015 model however are too short to be able to do this and are another small difference to the 2014 model. (see photo 5 below this one) As is the deletion of the adjuster in the photo. It wasn’t needed to be honest so its no big deal.

The guy attachment on the 2014 model.

 Image to show fabric tension, guying points and vents.

 One door has a guy point but the adjoining door has no second guy point. So you don’t have the interchangeability of having one or the other door open. I will be adding a guy point so that either door can be opened separately.

With external doors fully open there is no loss of structural integrity. The roof apex is forward of the inner door so any rain drips outside.

Poles…….The tent is offered with an option. You can go with the Carbon Fibre poles or aluminium. They both have good characteristics but the choice is a personal one. I chose Carbon Fibre. The weight difference is negligible.
The carbon poles are Easton 6.3mm and they make the structure very strong and sturdy. They are an external cross over design, an exoskeleton, with a 3rd short pole acting as a roof truss. 

I really like the external pole design because there are no sleeves to push the poles through which can be awkward and time consuming if it is a wet tent. They also don’t touch the fly and cause chaffing which can lead to rapid deterioration of the waterproofing as can happen when the fly is a throw over design.
The tent is tensioned by the pole attachments with 21 Duraflex quick clips and 4 “D” shaped snap clips.
One of 4 D shaped snap clip.

I noticed when the tent was fully tensioned that the seams are stretched where the clip ribbons attach. Although the seam tapes would stop any water ingress i decided that it would be better to strengthen this area on all clips while it was still new and so i used Mcnett seam sealer to improve both strength and durability. The stitching is good otherwise, throughout the tent.

Quick clip attachment issue. - McNett seam sealer added.

Pegs or stakes…… The 2014 tent had Easton Nano pegs supplied with it and there was nothing to suggest a change has been made for the 2015 model. In fact the specification still says Nano pegs. However the tent was shipped with “Y” shaped aluminium stakes identical to the MSR mini groundhog stake. For me this was a plus as i particularly think the MSR stake is superior to the Nano.
There are ten stakes in total. For info purposes they weigh 9grams each.
Guessing…Cascade Designs have their tents made at the same factory in Vietnam and so the stake piece cost could be cheaper the more you make etc..You know it makes sense.

Aluminium “Y’ Peg or stake.

Weights….. The inner and outer tent together with bag weighs 1.065 kilos.


The Carbon fibre poles, pole repair sleeve,10 pegs and bags weighs 0.534kilo’s.



In total the tent weighs 1.599kilo’s. (1.6kg)


Set up (my version)….. This is a relatively quick and simple operation. 
  • Layout the tent and stake out the four corners.
  • Locate the 2 long poles through the “D” clips. * Note, when locating the 2 poles through the D clip make sure that the bottom pole on the LHS is also the bottom pole on the RHS.
  • Locate the short pole over the top of the long poles through the 2 “D” clips. 
  • Locate the 2 long poles into the webbing eyelets at one end.
  • Walk round to the other side and grasp the lower pole. Locate it into the eyelet and at the same time raising the tent.
  • Repeat for remaining long pole.
  • Locate the roof pole into the eyelets, front and back.
  • Press down the centre of the short pole and locate the central roof quick clip.
  • Repeat for the remaining 20 quick clips starting from the bottom.
  • Tension and stake out the 2 doors.
  • Peg out the 4 main guy lines.
  • Enjoy the coffee your mate has made whilst you have been setting up.
Set up video to follow.
The poles tension both the inner and the outer materials and so there is no need for any minor adjustment anywhere on the tent. Ideal in undulating ground as there is no flapping nylon. No faffing around either.
Time to set up is 8 minutes for 1 person. (But will get quicker with practice).

The tent is manufactured in Vietnam by Tai Chung canvas Company who trade as Camptec. They are one of the top tent manufacturers worldwide and also make tents for Cascade Designs. (MSR) To name one well known company.


All in all i am pleased with our purchase and its only real disappointment is the change to one way door zippers that has reduced my perceived perfection.
Can’t wait to get it out into the hills now.

Likes.
The rigidity and strength of the structure.
The external pole design
The bright and roomy interior.
The headroom.
The quality.

Dislikes.
The single way door zippers.
The main door zip rain guard.

I have included below, for anyone who may be interested, the video which the company released to introduce the Mountain Star in 2014. 
Its good but its 30 minutes long.


And below is the Video of the latest 2015 tents.


I will report back after field testing hopefully in 2 weeks.

Disclaimer. 
The tent here was purchased by me using my own funds. All duties were paid by me.
I have no association with Kuiu in any way shape or form. They have no influence on this review whatsoever.
A further first field review can be found here.

18 comments:

Dawn Linney said...

It certainly looks a sturdy tent Alan. A tad too heavy for me though.. It will be interesting to see how you get.r on with it.

AlanR said...

Hi Dawn. As a two person tent the weight is great but yes for one there are many lightweight and ultra lightweight options. In comparison to what’s available here (UK) with this type of rigidity, space etc it will be hard to find something as good. Although even for one it’s not a ridiculous weight would make a very spacious abode for say one man and his dog..

Dawn Linney said...

Hi Alan, After some chopping and changing I am looking at a Trekker Tent Stealth 1.5. Not for everyone but simple and efficient.

AlanR said...

I think that's a good option for you Dawn.

afootinthehills said...

1.6kg seems remarkably light for a 2 person tent and it looks superb too Alan.

AlanR said...

Hi Gibson. I was always pleased with our Scarp 2 which weighed in at 2.15kg with the outer pole set. So basing my thoughts on that, i agree that 1.6kg is terrific and has cut my carry weight by 1/2 kilo. I particularly like the fact that there is hardly a movement of it in the wind.

afootinthehills said...

Our Nallo weighs 2.1kg which is acceptabe given that Lynne carries the poles!

AlanR said...

The Nallo is an awesome 2 person tent and it wasn’t on my original list simply because of the price. I only had a budget of £400. The Macpac Minaret was my Nallo alternative but it was too heavy.The porch is great on the Nallo and it has 2 way zips to boot. It does everything a good tent should. I was waiting for the new Force Ten Nitro to be released, but when i saw the Mountain Star i just had to get one.
Does Lynne know she is carrying the heaviest half! Ha.

afootinthehills said...

I'll now have to keep her from reading this post and comments!

Alan Sloman said...

Another excellent find, Alan
1.6kg for two is excellent.
Do you know if they can make it with a solid fabric inner roof (and mesh top sides)?

PhotoPete said...

Hi Alan (this is me by the way). The inner roof is solid nylon but the sides are very fine mesh. I would guess at around 640 holes per square inch. The option of solid interior is not available currently. However Kuiu known about this first look review so hopefully if they read this they can reply to your question. I hope I have understood your comment correctly.

Alan Sloman said...

Thanks for that, Alan.
So - it's just the vertical side that are mesh - that's good.
:-)

Martin Rye said...

Top find Alan. Looks a top 2p tent. I reckon the hunter specific businesses make some top kit for backpacking. Seekoutside make my current Mid and I am delighted with it. MLD and the like need to keep a eye on the opposition more as they are making IMO top kit.

AlanR said...

Yes. Thats correct.

AlanR said...

Yes i agree with you. I like so much of Kuiu gear but the sacks need to drop in weight too.

Phreerunner said...

Haha, and after I thought you were happy with the Scarp. Sue and I are like Gibson and Lynne, using a 2004 vintage Nallo that seems as good as new after a bit of maintenance, with Sue carrying the pegs and poles (less than 600 gm) and me carrying the tent and fly (1600 gm).
We have no plans to replace it...
Thanks for all your comments on my GR11 trip BTW. They were much appreciated.

AlanR said...

The Scarp 2 was just too big. The GR11 posts were great. You did well sending them.

AlanR said...

Hi Alan S.
I have had a reply from Kuiu about the solid interior. Sorry it is not an option at this time but the request has been passed to the development team for future consideration.
I think, seeing that MSR have solid interior i think its a possibility, maybe next year.

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