Tested regularly throughout Autumn and Winter 2017/18 in the Cairngorms and surrounding areas.
The Mountain Hardwear Trango range comes with a big reputation and is a product of which most mountaineers have some familiarity. First introduced in 1995 it became a very reliable shelter and a favourite amongst Alpinists. We owned the 3-man version ourselves around 10 years ago, shared amongst a group of friends, and as young mountaineers I remember it battled against everything the mountains could throw at it, always performing strongly despite some of our dodgy pitching techniques at the time! Eventually as careers changed and we moved further away from each other a member of the old group took full custody of the Trango and after contacting him recently I was happy to hear that the tent is still in full working condition and is occasionally still used on camping trips.
So what has changed since then and why after many years is the Trango still a strong contender as an expedition tent?
In the past our views on equipment differed slightly to what's on offer today, although the weight of equipment was a consideration, functionality and reliability were always the most important factors and taking the advice of others this is what first lead us to the Mountain Hardwear Trango. Weighing in at 4.44kg, this tent is of the heavier side of the scales and the bulk of the shelter is also very large when compared to most modern 4 season tents. Split between two people the weight is manageable but it's a tent more suited for the colder winter months when extra protection is vital. So, although the overall size of the shelter may put a few people off, it's much better to highlight what you get in return for the extra grams and talk about the aspects in which the Mountain Hardwear Trango has built such a big reputation.
A good place to start is with the pitching. This is a double walled tent with the inner being pitched first before the fly. The inner has 2 doors that are identical, which offers an easy set up in bad weather conditions, as you don't have to worry about which direction to pitch. The only consideration is that to be able to fully use the ceiling vent and window, when first setting up have your back against the wind, the vent should be positioned to your right-hand side to match up with the window of the fly.
Once pegged in place, insert the colour coded Paleria DAC Featherlight NSL poles into the eyelets and from the base work your way up using the clips. The clips are an addition we really like about the Mountain Hardwear Trango, a well thought design as they can be used with gloves on and although quite stiff to use at first they do ease up after a bit of use. The idea of attaching the clips equally around the base and then working up is to minimise the pressure applied to lesser poles in strong winds. It's a fantastic design and even in very strong winds the Mountain Hardwear Trango is a solid performer and never shows any signs of weakness whilst setting up. The only downfall with the clips is there are quite a few and this can be quite a timely process.
The fly, which has a noticeably robust feel, is made of 70D Nylon Taffeta 1500mm PU/SIL and is a bold orange colour so the combination is perfect for use in winter. Even in very harsh conditions, day or night, the bright orange stands clearly which is also a great safety feature. Attaching the fly is just as easy and although there are loops to attach the inner to the fly it isn't essential unless conditions are particularly poor. A series of clips attach the fly to the pegging area at base of the poles, with the front of the tent needing an extra pole fitting in place and pegging out to provide a porch area.
A point of interest is the internal guy system. After doing some research through a few well-known climbing forums I got the impression of most users that the external guys are more than enough to provide the shelter with ample support, and one particular user said they used this system and saw benefit when encountering particularly harsh conditions on an Antarctic expedition. For us the tent is bomb proof, easily one of the most stable shelters we've ever used and like with most users, the Trango has been tried and tested to withstand some of the harshest environments worldwide.
Internally it continues its identity as a proper expedition tent. Instantly you will notice just how much room is on offer, easily enough space for 2 people and a large amount of equipment and a third person could be accommodated comfortably when travelling as a lighter unit. Pockets are placed high off the ground and are very large, a great feature if spending a lengthy time inside the tent. Whilst the addition of a strong 70D Nylon 190T Taffeta 10000mm bathtub floor with high sides keeps you well away from any snow or moisture creeping in. An issue for some may be the internal head height. For taller people there is limited headroom and although better than many other shelters, if it was only a couple of inches taller it would have made it much more pleasurable especially when eating a meal or changing clothes.
A problem with quite a few multi-occupancy tents is the issue of only one door. This can be a problem especially as you clamber over the rest of the team causing unwanted attention when off for the late-night toilet break. The Trango fortunately doesn't have this issue as 2 doors offer not only the space to nip out quietly through the night but also give a choice of opening to mitigate any change in wind direction, therefore minimizing any unwanted outside chill from entering. We found that we could use the porch for mostly cooking and storing extra equipment whilst the back door offered the entrance and boot storage area. Anyone who spends time winter camping will note the bonus of having an area in which dragging in snow can be kept to minimum especially when using the same area to cook. The added snow skirts of the porch also helped keep this area clean and free from any unwanted snowdrift entering.
The Mountain Hardwear Trango is a fantastic, liveable shelter and due to its robust nature offers warmth that once built up inside remains, the only signs of condensation we found were mostly against the bathtub floor around the head area due to our breath. Even in strong winds and heavy snowfall we were often fooled by the outside conditions as inside the tent didn't flap or seem to be under any stress. This is where the viewing window came in very handy as we could view the outside conditions without having to do the horrible cold unzip-and-peek as with a usual setup.
This season has been a particularly good winter with constant sub zero temperatures, deep snow, strong winds and heavy rainfall, giving us a good idea that no matter where this shelter travels it will keep you confident in its abilities. Having previous experience with an older version of the Mountain Hardwear Trango it was like meeting with that old friend whom even after many years apart, you just instantly hit it off again. The sheer weight and size of this tent will put off many people as this is not a shelter you will want to carry all year round, but as a proper expedition tent which you can rely on in the harshest environments you will not find much better without spending considerably more money.
Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...