Of late, I have spent a fair chunk of time riding on my own in some fairly remote locations. It’s something that I have always felt comfortable about doing – I always head out with more than just basic cycling tools and a jacket, even when riding my local trails. It is a bit of a standing joke with my friends that I will rarely be found with anything less than a 20 litre sack filled with all manner of things, from a duvet jacket to first aid kit and survival bag. While I have yet to purchase a mini distress flare (it’s probably only a matter of time!), I always thought my kit was pretty comprehensive and could deal with most eventualities. Short of my own personal helicopter to whip me off the trail at a moment’s notice, I would have struggled to add anything to my pack. However, a gift of a survival shelter made me realise just how useful and arguably essential a piece of kit they can be. My own shelter is designed to accommodate three people – but a smaller and lighter option would be preferable. As such, when LOMO’s Emergency Shelter fell into my clutches, I was eager to see how it fared.
But just what is an Emergency Shelter? Sometimes referred to as a Bothy Shelter, it is basically a large, brightly coloured, rectangular shaped bag that two or three people can pull over the top of them in order to keep warm and dry out of the wind and rain, to sit out a storm, or to simply have a cup of tea without the feeling of being constantly battered by the elements. Structure is given to it by sitting down inside it with your back to the narrow side. At a mere £19.50, LOMO’s offering is noticeably cheaper than its nearest rival, thus immediately scoreing in the value for money stakes. I’ve had the chance to use it on several occasions when out on the hills both alone and with friends and have formed some pretty definite conclusions about it.
First and foremost, the high visibility orange makes you stand out like a sore thumb on the hill; subtle it isn’t. However, if you need to use it in an emergency, you’ll be much easier to spot. Adding to the visibility aspect are two square retroreflective panels on one side of the shelter which will light you up like Christmas when a light is shone directly at them. Given that you are essentially sitting inside a large, orange, waterproof nylon bag, LOMO have opted to include two clear viewing windows to allow you to look out smugly on fellow walkers and bikers damply passing by. While they add a few grams, I really appreciated how they helped avoid giving the bag a claustrophobic feeling by letting natural light into the orange cocoon. In use, the shelter works best when used by two people facing each other, although I did find that I was able to use my sack to put the opposite end under tension when using it on my own. Alternatively, a wheel works too.
I found it best when used without a helmet on if only to maximise the amount of fabric to sit on when pulling the ends underneath my backside. Other designs opt for an added section of material stitched in at the bottom. While I would have liked to see this on the LOMO shelter, it isn’t a deal breaker.
The first time I used it, I was astonished by just how quickly two people sitting inside it can warm it up. The effect is almost instantaneous. When deployed in high winds, it took a little care to ensure that it wasn’t whipped out of my hands, but, once inside and with a bit of careful body positioning to reduce flappage, it proved extremely capable of keeping the wind and rain out. Extended periods in it do generate condensation despite the inclusion of a couple of vents, but this is to be expected. It’s a minor point common to all bothy shelters I’ve experienced. However, when you are warm and dry, it’s a non-issue as far as I am concerned. So what are the limits of the design? The sit up design of it means that it isn’t suitable for a planned bivvy out on the hills overnight, unless you like sleeping sitting up with your legs crossed. However, if you end up having to spend several unplanned hours sitting out a storm, this is the next best option to a tent at a fraction of the cost and weight.
Overall: I reckon that the LOMO Emergency Shelter is a brilliant piece of kit. Weighing in at only 414 grams and costing just £19.50, it’s probably the best £20 you will spend on bike kit this year.
|Tested:||by Sanny for|