A shelter for the mountains

Camping with a mid under the stars

I love to sleep under the stars. But when the weather is bad, I welcome the comfort of sleeping under a shelter.

Because of its lightness, compactness, and versatility, most of the time I’ve preferred tarps over tents.

So called experts affirm that tarps are fun to use. But fighting with a flapping tarp, untangling endless guylines with your numb fingers, and pounding a dozen of stakes in rocky terrain is not my idea of having fun when you’re soaked, above treeline, in the middle of a storm.

After years of use in the Pyrenees, I fed up of crawling under a tarp in driving rain and howling wind.

Mids (a shorthand for pyramid shelters) cover the gap between tarps and tents. Mids are almost as light as tarps. Mids are almost as comfortable as tents. And mids are way easier to pitch than tarps.

I designed my first mid in 2010. During more than a decade, I’ve abused prototypes by exposing them to challenging winds, rain and snow. Field testing is an exciting part of my job. But sometimes it goes wrong in unpredictable ways.

Two mids in a blizzard

February 2015. Jotaro Yoshida, founder of Locus Gear, flew all the way over the Pyrenees from Japan. We spent a memorable week sharing ideas, local food and beer.

As hardcore testers of our creations, we rushed to the mountains when a blizzard was forecasted. I took one of my mid prototypes, and Jotaro one of his made of a new aluminized Cuben fiber laminate.

It started to snow heavily, so we pitched our mids early. After sharing a well deserved hot meal, we slipped into our sleeping bags. The blizzard turned rather intense, beating our shelters with gusts over 100 km/h. But not as intense as my stomach ache, beating me with sharp shivers. I vomited several times during the night; first dinner, then a viscous black liquid. Pain was so acute that I was unable to get up to shovel snow and place a couple of ripped off stakes.

The blizzard subsided and despite all, my mid held up.

In the morning I felt terribly weak. I was reluctant to call the Search and Rescue Group, so Jotaro and I started our way back. It took an eternity. One step after another. Sinking thigh-deep in 80cm of fresh snow. One step after another. Jotaro’s morale support made it possible: that’s how friendship is forged.

Back in the hospital, I was diagnosed with stomach bleeding.

Camping with a mid in the snow.

I’ve improved the mid over the years. But it’s not about an innovative door design at the head side that makes the mid easier to use. Neither is about the curved shape of the panels nor the laminated reinforcements to make it storm-proof.

It’s about peace of mind. Designing a shelter light and compact enough that it’s a no brainer to take it. But so easy to use and so strong that you can rely on it no matter how wrong things go.

Astucas mids have caught people's eye. I refuse to offer it. But those who are really interested, work hard enough and get one.


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