Editor’s note: Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center in Chateaugay, New York.
98.6 degrees. It is the average body temperature of a person and the temperature the human body must remain around to survive. When a person becomes too cold or too hot by only a couple degrees, he or she will start to feel the effects of hypo or hyperthermia. During extended winter stays in the outdoors, it seems like there are few places to escape the cold other than outside by a fire or in a shelter in your sleeping bag. For years I never considered for more than a heartbeat bringing a fire into a nylon shelter, that is, until now. I recently contacted DJ Leavitt at Titanium Goat in Ogden, UT about his company’s Vertex 6.5 tent with titanium collapsible stove.
DJ was more than helpful and informative. With only 3 weeks notice before a Winter Survival Skills Course I was getting ready to teach, I didn’t expect the delivery to come on time. I was wrong and on Friday the 13th my shelter arrived safe and sound on my doorstep via USPS priority mail insured. Thanks DJ!
The next morning I assembled the stove and burned the initial fire in it. Even without experience with this particular stove, I was able to assemble it in a matter of minutes. The stove packs down to 1”x7”x10” or roughly about the size of two DVD cases and assembles with 10 small screws. The stove can be carried in components in the various sil-nylon stuff sacks. The titanium stove pipe comes as a 12 inch sheet rolled width-wise and is unrolled then re-rolled length-wise to create the lightweight 6.5’ pipe. Once the first fire is burned in, the pipe takes a memory to the rolled shape and becomes easier to assemble. It is held together by wire ties and has no gaps or cuts in the material for embers to escape through and damage the tent. After my first fire in my backyard, I broke down the stove and packed it up for my trip to the Wilderness Learning Center for a week of survival training in the north woods. Before we get into the actual review period, here is some specific information about the tent and stove:
-1.1 oz Sil Nylon with Dyneema reinforcing panels
-Flat felled stitching and multistitched in stressed areas
-Sewn in Ogden, UT
-4 lbs. 5 oz total weight. (Tent and stuff sack 2 lbs. 6 oz. Stakes 6 oz Aluminum pole 1 lb. 6 oz Small Stove Boot 3 oz.) (Stove 2 lbs. 8.5 oz with Titanium Pipe)
Length: 144" (12′)
Width: 132" (11′)
Height: 78" (6.5′)
Square footage: 102 sq/ft
Stakes: 12 aluminum stakes
Pole: Adjustable aluminum pole
Price: Tent $650 with aluminum pole
Stove $340 with titanium pipe
Stove boot $30
-High quality aluminum pole and stakes
-Truly conical, pole forward design
-full length door zipper (#8 YKK)
-internal & external peak loops
-Versa-port peak (comes with eyebrow cover)
-Lower rear vent
-Self equalizing guy outs
Upon arrival at the school, I set up my shelter with the help of a couple friends. It was difficult to drive the provided North Face stakes into the frozen ground and I had to resort to large roofing nails to take a firm purchase. Even though I had a helping hand setting up the Vertex 6.5, I would have no trouble setting it up on my own. To set it up, all that was needed was staking down the front door loops together, then the rear and the sides in this order. Without a floor, all that was needed was finding a spot for the tent, removing anything uncomfortable to sleep on and staking it down and erecting the single center pole. I cut some snow blocks to put around the base of the tent to prevent any drafts from coming in and placed my sled near the door to do the same. During the middle of the week, a few inches of fresh snow came down. As it was shed from the tent body, it settled at the base and created a really tight seal to prevent even the slightest draft from entering.
After the Vertex 6.5 was set up, I assembled the stove and started to collect wood to burn it in. At first, I started with small dead softwoods to get my fire going quickly and then I switched over to hardwood branches of thumb or wrist thickness. These worked fine at first but burned out quickly. The students started to show up at the school and I didn’t want the fire to burn out, so I loaded the stove box with as much fuel as possible and walked away. Others marveled from across the field at my unconventional looking tipi and were shocked to see a stove pipe extend from its roof with a steady stream of light white smoke. I would have an equally shocked look on my face when I walked back to my shelter after only 20 minutes or so.
When I opened the door and stepped in, I was greeted with a current of warm air in my face. It was in the 20’s outside and the inside temperature was obviously 30 to 40 degrees warmer. From about 8” from the ground up, the temperature was warm enough to wear only a thin skin layer of clothing while outside temperatures were much colder. I’ve never owned a heated tent before and didn’t know what to expect, but this tent was more than I could ask for. It provided me a place of escape from the cold in between teaching and allowed me to reenergize to keep up with the students. Instead of the hardships of traditional winter camping, I had the ability to leisurely change clothes, warm up and heat water out of the cold and protected from the wind. By far, my favorite experience was reading each night by the flickering light of the stoves ventilation holes.
For the week-long course, I settled into a routine with my shelter and stove. As previously mentioned, I did not use small branches for the entire week as my main source of fuel. I eventually took larger diameter wood, split it and then quartered it for best results. The maple and ironwood hardwood I used created hot burning coals and in no time, the stove became glowing red with heat. The titanium construction meant the stove was not only 30% lighter but also much more efficient at transferring heat. Each morning, I would stoke the fire, step out for breakfast and return to a warm shelter to dress and prepare fore each day of instruction. At night, I’d retire from the group fire, heat up water for hot cocoa and bed down for the night with the glow from the stove body hypnotizing me to sleep. The tall center height of the shelter let me take hot “pack towel baths” from time to time and I found the back of the stove near the stove pipe the best place to warm up. The full height of the stove pipe was warm and all I had to do was stand near it to heat up.
The Vertex 6.5 is described on the Titanium Goat website as “sized for 4 people and a bit of gear, 2-3 people a bit of gear and stove, or 2 people lots of gear and a stove.” With my Wilderness Engineering Sled inside, a week’s worth of gear spread out and my own sleeping pad and bag, I had plenty of room for another person and maybe a 3rd in an emergency. I didn’t feel cramped at any time the entire week. I stood and stretched, sprawled out frequently and found the inner dimensions of the tent to be far more luxurious than what I’m used to. Then again, coming from snow shelters, lean-tos and debris huts makes me appreciate the modern amenities afforded to me by this Titanium Goat tent/stove. Speaking of amenities, the tent came with a carbon fiber spreading bar to aide in venting the zipper, self stabilizing guy lines and numerous interior loops to create a clothesline, hang gear or clip accessories to.
At the end of the week, I packed up the tent, stove and pulled the stakes. I dried it out at home and contemplated my stay in the outdoors. Upon reflection, I realized I never had a more enjoyable time in the winter than I did during this week. I’ve winter camped in many conditions and have spent the night in everything from a single wool blanket near a fire to high end bivy sacks to snow shelters to under the stars. The Titanium Goat 6.5 Vertex and stove is the only way I would want to go out if I had my choice. Do I feel spoiled? A little, but I know I will want to get out even more if the stay is easier on the body. Also, having a heated shelter like this makes winter outings more inviting to those who normally would not consider it. I’ll continue to play in the woods with primitive shelters, tarps and the like but I know when I want to take it easy and enjoy my surroundings, I’ll take the Titanium Goat Vertex 6.5 with titanium stove. With a stoked stove, I won’t have any trouble keeping my body 98.6 degrees when mother nature is far colder.
For more information, visit www.titaniumgoat.com