Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

Cuben Fiber Roundup 2013 - Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of our Cuben Fiber Roundup 2013 series. In this episode we’ll be taking a look at the Duomid shelter by Mountain Laurel Designs (‘MLD’ henceforth).

Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

Overview

The Duomid is a floorless pyramid shelter that sleeps two. The illustration below should give you a pretty good idea of what the Duomid footprint looks like (as measured by us, dimensions in inches).

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions

Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions

This shelter can be pitched with either a single pole at the center or two poles in an A-frame configuration, in either configuration the pole handles support the peak. For single pole setup you’ll need a trekking pole around 130-140cm long. MLD includes a ~6 inch pole extender as well. For a little more room, a two pole pitch can be pulled off, for which you’ll need an extra trekking pole or possibly a couple more poles (more on this later). Eight stakes will cover all of the perimeter tie outs; there is an additional stabilizing tie out in the center of each panel as well, for a total of 12 stakes. Seam sealing is not required since the seams are bonded with Cuben tape. The shelter can be optionally supplied with perimeter bug netting, which is like a skirt on the bottom of the tarp. This is a nice addition to keep the pesky things that bite at bay without going to a full bug net. For full bug protection or greater protection from the elements, an inner mesh tent with silnylon bathtub floor is sold separately (Cuben floor available as an option). This is, in most ways, a larger version of the Solomid.

First Impressions

MLD standardizes on .74oz Cuben in the “stealth” olive drab color, and that is what ours’ is made from. It’s a very light shelter at only 12 ounces which includes the stuff sack and guy lines. The pole jack adds an additional 1.2 ounces. The packed size is roughly 13 x 6 inches. Earlier versions of the Duomid (such as ours) featured taped and sewn seams which required seam sealing, leading to a shelter that weighs a couple of ounces more.

Duomid Packed Size

Duomid Packed Size

MLD has been working with Cuben Fiber longer than most of the other manufacturers and their construction techniques are well refined. As mentioned, all of the critical seams are bonded with Cuben tape, only non-load bearing seams are stitched. In general there seem to be two schools of thought with Cuben; 1) Double or Triple stitch seams to minimize stress between stitching and the fabric, and 2) Tape/Bond/Glue rather than stitching to avoid perforating and weakening the fabric. I’m not aware of overwhelming evidence one way or another that either method is the best; the important thing is that the construction is executed properly, and here with the Duomid the construction is top notch. The peak vent contains a semi rigid plastic insert which can be pulled out allowing for the vent to be closed via a Velcro strip. A stuff sack (silnylon) is included as is a length of guy line cord, which needs to be cut. All of the tie out loops are supplied with line tensioners and set up instructions can be found online.

Pole and Party Hat

Pole and Party Hat

Vent

Vent

Stabilizing Tie Out

Stabilizing Tie Out

Tie Out

Tie Out

Interior Utility Hook

Interior Utility Hook

I always talk about how easy pyramids are to pitch… so what can I say that I haven’t already said, hmmm… ah HA! How about this; compared to a traditional tent with aluminum poles that give it its shape once wrestled into place, setting up a shelter such as the Duomid is a breath of fresh air. No it’s not a freestanding tent, but it’s an easy pitch and very solid once set up. Simply stake out the 4 corners making sure they form a good rectangle leaving the sides neither too tight or excessively loose, then just slip the pole under and up (handle first) to erect the shelter in all its simplistic glory. All that’s left after that is to fine tune the corner stakes (until you become totally boss at it and nail the setup on the first shot), stake out any mid panel or stabilizing tie outs, and call it a day. Getting the peak height too high or too low (54 inches is recommended) is one of the common causes of a bad pitch; +/- an inch is ok, more error tends to cause issues. The other issue is simply not having the bottom square; leave the trapezoids and parallelograms for geometry class.

Front View

Front View

Looking Inside

Looking Inside

Perspective View

Perspective View

When using a single pole it is placed dead center. This gives each person their own side and sort of buffers and accidental/intentional bad-friend-touching at midnight. To utilize a two-pole setup you’ll either need two extra long poles, a couple of ~12 inch pole jacks, or 4 poles and some lashing whereby you and your hiking buddy each lash your poles together to make 2 extra long poles. You might find the gains from doing this aren’t worth the hassle unless you really dislike having a pole in the center of the shelter.

The MLD site recommends staking the corners to the ground, then pulling out the bottom mid-perimeter tie outs to increase ventilation. The peak vent allows for some air movement inside the shelter. Interior clip points allow for hanging a clothes line, gear loft, bivy tie out, or whatever other creative idea you can muster. The Duomid checks all the boxes and comes away feeling like a well made and stable pyramid.

In the Field

Most recently I’ve been out along the north coast of California in the Point Reyes area with the Duomid. There’s really nothing a pyramid can’t do and I think this will probably be the last one I cover in this or future Cuben Fiber roundup series simply because I find myself having the same things to say about them, construction differences aside. When bugs are not an issue (such as my trips along the coast) it’s a great shelter to just open up and enjoy the view. Being able to sit or lay down with the entire front open is an experience you don’t get with many other types of shelters.

When the breeze became a little too much I simply closed up front and now I have ample protection from the wind as well as the rain. Going back to the bugs for a second, it’s funny actually. I invited a couple of friends that I know (literally a husband & wife couple) to join me on a hike and give the Duomid a try. He is accustomed to lightweight gear but forgot to mention to his wife that they’d be sleeping in a shelter without a floor. Now, I did bring a groundsheet for them, but she was a little freaked out by the thought of earwigs snuggling up with her at night. I hadn’t considered the squeamish-wife-factor previously but I’ll have to keep that in mind for future reference. Luckily for me, Sandra D puts up with crawlies fairly well :)

So, what else can I say about the Duomid in the field? I hardly put it through any rough weather, just a little recent rain. Based on my experience with it (and many other lightweight shelters) I have no doubts that it will handle the big storms. The worst weather I’ve ever been in, I’ve slept in a pyramid of some sort and have never been let down. For additional rain protection they can be staked right down to the ground. Even in heavy rain I’ve found this to provide plenty of protection with a simple groundsheet. If standing water is expected then a bathtub floor is in order (or find a better site).

Another aspect to consider with the Duomid is the color of the Cuben material. The olive drab blends in pretty well with rocks and foilage. I’ve been stealth camping in some undisclosed spots around Marin where we live now and I feel pretty comfortable that I won’t be noticed, unlike a bright white or yellow shelter for example. It’s one of the simple things we sometimes don’t think about. I’m not sure if MLD still offers the olive drab or not. It’s listed as the material of the Grace tarps, but they now list “light green” as the color of the pyramids which sounds more like the stuff sack color pictured above. Anyway, here are a few more images of the inside with gear for two…

Sleeping Arrangement

Sleeping Arrangement

A Closer Look

A Closer Look

Opened Up

Opened Up

Regarding that interior space…I’m 6 foot 3 and change and use a long (6′-6) sleeping bag. I’d say I’m right at the limit of being able to lie down without touching insides of the shelter. I use an air mattress which raises me about 2.5 inches off the ground. The space is mostly a concern for me when I have the shelter staked all the way to the ground, such as when it’s raining… and that’s definitely one time I’d like just a little more clearance. There is plenty of room to sit up inside, which is one of the great things about pyramids. As far as stepping over the other guy to exit/enter the shelter there’s not really a graceful way to do it. Put whoever has to pee the most near the door! I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a dual-door Duomid option, but I bet Ron would make it for anyone who asked… one of the benefits of working with the smaller manufacturers. Lastly, there isn’t a ton of room for the gear of two people. You have to be efficient. I sleep with my backpack under the head end of my sleeping pad and any excess clothes usually make for a foot rest. I think the type of people who seek out this shelter will already be the efficient types and not have a lot of bulky gear so it’s not likely to be a major problem, in this dood’s opinion.

The Bottom Line

The MLD Duomid is a classic ultralight pyramid for two. The construction is top notch; fit and finish are both excellent. It pitches easily, gets taut without hassle, and is sufficiently reinforced. There is room for improvement in the vent closure design but it’s sufficient. The Duomid is close quarters for two hikers and their gear, but the amount of protection it provides is very good especially considering how little it weighs which might justify the tradeoff for some small inconveniences. On the other hand, those who are backpacking solo will find it quite the palace! Hike It. Like It.


11 comments to Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid

  • Matt

    This is a nice review but I still have one little issue since most people can’t seem to agree on the space inside of the Duomid. Namely I need a new tent and the Duomid would work perfectly for almost all of my needs. The big one where it might not work is going out with my girlfriend. I’m 6’2, she is 5’2 and by all means there should be enough space. I’d really like to hear from someone with first hand experience if a Duomid would be enough for the 2 of us + equipment or if I should just go bigger.

    • Hi Matt. You’re sort of at the comfortable limit bing, 6′-2, but I can make it work at 6′-3 so you’ll be ok. The Duomid should be a good fit for you two but getting your gear in there with ya will depend on what exactly you’ve got. With “ultralight” packs and gear it shouldn’t pose much of a problem so long as you can tuck your packs under your heads or feet. Since she is only 5′-2 her pack will probably fit just fine anyway. Using an a-frame setup with the poles will let you get your pads as close as possible in the center of the tent to make the most of the space.

      On a side note, a 2-door option is apparently available now. For pairs, it’s probably a good idea… or put whoever needs to go potty the most next to the door :)

      • Matt

        Thanks for the reply.
        My approach is a bit of “hillybilly” light – I’ll save space and weight but won’t give up on certain things simply because I’m too lazy to put ‘em away or get ‘em back in the pack. Still around a 38L pack with 2 removable sleeves that add about 6L each.

        As far as the 2 door option, I can pass on that. She gets freaked out by a lot of things so no matter where I have to be closer to the door.

  • Alex

    How can that pole bother anyone?? You have like three feet on either side to spread out on. Where you thinking of playing twister before bedtime?

  • […] Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp […]

  • Nolove Formld

    Got to say – I hate hearing about the MLD DuoMid. The damn thing is impractical. Who wants a giant pole literally touching the sleeping bag of you or your partner? I’m fine and supportive of the shape, but the pole is just a terrible inconvenience and is entirely in the way in every respect. Do DuoMid owners never, ever, ever move while they sleep? Every report of the DuoMod I see that works is from some small guy who uses it solo (or with his dog) in a completely flat environment and with nearly no vegetation. I’ve been backpacking for over 30 years and find those places largely only in magazines. Not good for real world use is what I say.

    • Damn man, you sound like a true berserker. It’s cool. I’ve got a helm with the animal horns and all; I can relate.

      So, I appreciate that some people are sensitive to the pole in the middle. I went out of my way to mention it in the text. To call it a “huge pole”, well, I’d say you’re definitely in the crowd that is bothered by it and I couldn’t hold personal preference against anyone. I don’t mind it too much honestly. Sure I move around at night, but I’ve never woke up on the other side of the tent, which is what we’d be talking about if the pole was somehow a menacing presence to my night movements. That said, I prefer a dual pole setup and I have a piece of kit from Locus Gear that makes it fairly easy to do. My hiking partner might like the pole in the middle though in case I forget it’s not my wife sleeping next to me.

      As far as using pyramids on only flat ground devoid of vegetation I’m not sure where this idea comes from? They can be used all over the place. I’ve pitched on a slope before. I pitch on top of plants (I do use a groundsheet) when I need to but I prefer an open patch of duff, clear ground, or snow. I might be able to find a photo of my buddy Marc with his Duomid pitched all cattywampus in a boulder field while he was circumnavigating Mt. Shasta… that one takes the cake for tough places to pitch… anything. Pyramids are super versatile, even in the real world.

      • I thought the pole would bother me as well but after spending the night in one, I realized it didn’t. Of course, I didn’t want to snuggle up with Jacob too much either (well maybe a little). If I did want to cozy up with somebody, then I think the pole would be annoying. One thing that might be a nuisance would be the single door opening, the person on the inside of the shelter has to crawl over the other person to get out. But if those things don’t deter you, it is really a bomber shelter.

  • Thanks for the review. I’ve been eye balling the MLD pyramid.

    Instead of getting one, I ordered 6 yards of cuben and fashioned a rainfly and vestibule for my Tarp Tent Sublite. The idea being to improve the interior temp and water protection for trips in the Cascades mid winter.

    I think cuben is the way, but I have a concern about the MLD using .74 weight. I used the same on my rig and I’m pretty worried about its durability. It seems to me that if I were manufacturing gear for sale I’d use the next level up of cuben weight for a tent. .74 doesn’t really save you much weight over the half dozen or so sq yards of fabric for a shelter this size.

    • I’d love to see your DIY Cuben work. Did you post about it on your blog?

      I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the durability of the .74 Cuben… it seems a lot more fragile than it is. The main concern is how good of a job putting it together you can do. Using the correct thread, type of stitch, type of seam, use of tape where appropriate, and of course the overall design, seam placement, appropriate reinforcement, etc… all important parts of the recipe. Somewhere on the web there’s a video of a ZPacks pocket tarp (.34 Cuben) getting hammered by hail and it held up fine. I’ve had my Locus Khufu (.74 Cuben) in some really nasty winter storms and it came out unscathed when I thought for sure it would explode (Thanks Jotaro for knowing your stuff!). Just don’t let it rub against a lot of granite; it doesn’t like abrasion.

      • We’ll see how it holds. I connected it with cuben tape and then stitch the pieces together thru’ each piece of cuben and the tape. I used a heavy coated thread that is like double thick dental floss. In the end, I should have picked up 7 yards because I’m a little shy on exactly how I wanted it dialed. I’m no Henry Shires in my skills to plan tent designs.

        I don’t have it on my blog, but I did post a new trip from two weeks ago on the PCT.

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