Approaching shelter enlightenment: The GoLite Shangri La 3 and Ookworks BigNest

I’ve had my GoLite Shangri La 3 for a couple of years and, when I bought it, I thought I’d reached the end of my search for a spacious, lightweight yet weatherproof shelter.

Camp near Pike o Blisco
Camp near Pike o Blisco

My height is a real disadvantage when it comes to tents. Many lightweight backpacking tents are too short and, given I like to sleep in my back, my feet or head are normally squashed into the ends of the shelter inner, forcing the fabric onto the outer where it becomes damp overnight.

My Hilleberg Akto is a solution of sorts. However, while the tent is long enough for my 6’6″ frame, its pitiful headroom is a real pain (literally) on longer trips

By comparison, the SL3 provides acres of room. I originally used it in tandem with a bivvy bag. This worked fairly well despite an incident involving a cake-crazed sheep one night in the Lakes. However, I couldn’t help thinking that, with a well-designed inner, good could become very good indeed. (I don’t consider the GoLite bug nest inner an acceptable solution as it renders the shelter porch-less and is better suited to drier conditions).

I’d read good reports about Oookworks custom tent inners although the standard nest on offer was still a little small for my needs. Sean at Oookworks then drew my attention to his BigNest design which achieved greater internal space by shunting the support pole forwards and off centre a little. Half an hour with my SL3 pitched in the garden and the tape measure convinced the BigNest would work.

I placed my order and waited for many months. The causes of this delay have been documented with admirable candour by Sean on his blog. It was worth the wait though, as my patience was rewarded with a superbly made product which has performed very well so far.

The BigNest has some clever touches which are clearly the product of use in the field. Chief among then is the quick release clip at the apex of the shelter which is designed to give way if under too much tension.

Kicking back at Dalehead Tarn
Kicking back at Dalehead Tarn

As for the fit, I do… just. With the sleeping mat is positioned alongside the longest wall of the inner, I can lie flat with just enough room for my head and feet. When positioned this way, there’s plenty of room for dry gear in the inner and more than enough for soggy waterproofs in the porch.

My version features the heavier groundsheet and weighs in at 650g. With the Shangrila, the total set up weighs something in the region of 1700g when pitched with trekking poles and a Backpacking Light pole connector. Not ultra-light by any means, but a good space to weight ratio nonetheless for a very weatherproof system. Using the supplied alloy pole the system is a good option for cycle touring.

The setup is not perfect though. There are a number of design issues with the early SL3. The lack of a two way zip is a pain, as the requisite seam sealing, and the shelter would benefit from mid-point guys on the fly. Many of these issues have been addressed in the later version of the SL3 and alternative models, such as the Eureka Wicki Up and the very keenly priced Luxe Outdoor SilHexpeak, which ships with a useful inner (if a little too short for me).

The footprint of the tent is large which does have an impact upon pitch choice and the integrity of the shelter depends on secure pegging. In soft ground, this can prove tricky if using the standard X pegs provided. Snow or sand stakes should be considered if the ground is really soft.

Some users have complained that the vents on the old version can let in windblown rain. I haven’t encountered this problem yet but can see it would be an issue in poor conditions. My version only has two vents which means condensation can be a problem although remedied to an extent if the shelter pitched a little off the ground.

the-campSo far, the tent has performed well in high camps and in some fairly fresh conditions. The shelter does ‘flap’ a fair bit in the wind which can be noisy at times. However, the classic pyramid design ultimately feels secure and inspires confidence.

The fly is wearing very well after a fair few nights out. While it may be too early to assess the longevity of the Oookworks inner I have little reason to doubt its durability given the materials and workmanship.

5 thoughts on “Approaching shelter enlightenment: The GoLite Shangri La 3 and Ookworks BigNest

  1. Its a great shelter and I have spent one horrendous night in one where it survived 60mph+ winds for most of the night until failure of the fly just before dawn. As you say its downside is the footprint and as its quite tall it is liable to be caught by winds. Having said that its roomy and relatively light and Sean’s inner only improves the overall design and usability of it

  2. Interesting to read a review like this. I’ve never really considered a shelter/tarp & custom inner although I know they are becoming more common. I’m more a traditional tent man (Lightwave G30 Trek XT for base camps, Terra Nova Voyager for solo use) but as I always have to carry walking poles for my dodgy knees I might look again at the shelter options. Cheers for the information

    1. They can be a bit awkward to pitch at first, but the space is a real plus for someone as lanky as me. I have a dodgy back and I am able to go through some of my stretch routine in this tent. This can really make a difference after a day bog trotting.

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