Monday, 14 September 2009

Shangri-La 3 shelter using Pacer Poles Gear Talk

I recently purchased a Golite Shangri-La 3 lightweight shelter, which in my opinion is the most versitile tent or shelter option in the world at the moment. A truly four season lightweight tent and shelter which I have seen gear testers use in some serious weather. It isn't ultra lightweight when used in its complete package but it really can be when used in some of the many different available combinations.  I will explain the shelter system at a later date when I review the shelter after using it a little more.

One of the biggest selling points for me is the fact you can save weight by using trekking poles to hold it up, and after completing a tough mountain challenge this summer I was converted to a 'pole user' and don't think I will ever walk hills again without them. The poles I have chosen are also in my opinion the best in the world. Pacer Poles were developed a few years ago and patented which is a good and bad thing really as their unique ergonomic handle shape will never be duplicated by other companies. Luckily the people who have the patent are decent folk! I have borrowed Pacer Poles in the past from friends and felt that if I ever used poles these would be the ones as they are incredibly comfortable and you just flow as you walk with them as they don't feel restrictive or like they shouldn't be there.

Pacer Poles and their unique patented ergonomic grip handles

So I bought the poles and the shelter a few weeks ago after getting some well earned overtime pay from work. The problem I had now was figuring out the best way to join my Pacer Poles together to use them as a central ercection pole for my shelter. The Pacer Poles handles are to be honest not quite as ideal for this situation as say Black Diamond or Leki handles as their handles are a lot flatter on the top and therefore sit well on the floor and hold the shelter material on the roof in a much steadier way. I have been onto a fair few blogs and forum threads that list several techniques for joining poles together, some very clever and in some cases I got surprising results for little work and cost.

One lightweight option was pointed out to me by a thread on the Outdoors Magic forum in their Shangri-La 3 / Hex 3 Owners Thread. This option uses the most basic of options, just one thread of very strong and thin cord tied to the end of the pole and then at a length of several inches tied to the end of the other pole, this stops the pole on top sliding back down to earth, and to keep the poles together the guy used velcro strips wrappd round the poles. I found this worked really well and was strong, but the ridges and bands around the poles kept pushing the poles away from each other still. Maybe with something additional to keep the poles that tiny gap part would help. Amazingly lightweight though and really up to the job as confirmed by many people on the U.S. Backpacking Light website where it seems to be used a lot by thru hikers in the states.

Black Diamond Pole Link Converter

One option that looked good to me, though extremely none adventurous, would have been to buy the Black Diamond Pole Link Converter which has been designed for use with their lightweight tarp type shelters and trekking poles. A Brilliant and lightweight piece of kit completely designed for the job but hard to find in this country unfortunately. I read that some people use the Golite pole extender that comes with the shelter ( used to extend the standard shelter pole ) and just extend the trekking pole then put it into this pole and use the adjustment turning knobs on the trekking poles as the bit that stops on the top of the extender, this I found worked but wasn't steady or strong and I don't really want my pole forcing itself down on those sensitive parts of the kit to be honest.

While I sat on the sofa the other day with the Golite extender pole in my hand I thought to myself "this thing would be ideal if it had some way of stopping the poles in the middle so you could stick one pole in one end of it and one in the other and it not slide down to the floor... Hmm" it then hit me that if there was a hole on the other side of the pole instead of just one side I could shove something through the pole which would stop the pole sliding down the bottom trekking pole. I'm sure by now this all sounds a bit complicated, in fact I know it does so I have added some pictures to explain...

The assembly method and the final pole for use with a shelter

I held the Golite extender pole against a piece of wood outside and drilled a hole in the exact same place as the most central hole but on its other side, I got this spot on more or less by just puting the drill through the existing hole and drilling through the other side. Then I took off the weaker bottom sections of the Pacer Poles leaving the handles and the middle section. I found a standard tent peg and used a hack saw to chop it smaller. I then stood one pole up with the handle on the floor, put the extender pole, with inserted small peg in the centre hole and back centre hole I just created, on top of the Pacer Pole and it sat on top waiting for me to then drop in the other Pacer Pole setup the same way and viola! Easy trusty and solid as a rock! You can adjust the pole length as you would normally adjust the Pacer Poles, other than that there ain't much to say really! If you have the shelter then you already have the extender pole, and drilling a hole in the back in the centre doesn't affect its normal use for when you want to use the normal pole like when car camping! There are plenty of other ways of doing this but I don't think any are as simple and effective as this. I use the carbon version of the Pacer Poles, you could use absolutely any trekking poles to do this. Once I have used it in the field I will report back! Go drill a hole in your Golite pole extender and see how well it works!

Backpacking Light's brilliant 16mm Pole Extenders

Since I did this post there has been a very interesting development in pole extension for shelter use. Bob Cartwright of the hugely reputable and popular has developed and is selling for a good price pole extenders for walking poles, including a 14mm pole extender for Alloy Pacer Poles and a 16mm version for Carbon Pacer Poles.


  1. hi peter277 here just bought my shelter so i'm going to try this method if it stops pouring for more than 15 mins(sunny cumbria) any more info you can pass on,on using this shelter?? ta

  2. Hi Peter. One thing I would say is to seam seal the seams at the top of the tent. The seams at the top part that do let water in unfortunately, once sealed not a problem. Have a look at the website as Bob Cartwright who runs the site now sells a purpose built and very lightweight pole extender for walking poles.

  3. hi what type off sealer did you use on shangri-la and how much did you seal? just top 2 ft? and still trying to sort out inner how do you find yours? i see the new inner is a nice bit lighter but still not sure about which way to go.i live 30 mins from lakes so if you ever want some company or info on possible wild camp spots give me a shout peter

  4. Hi Peter, I used SilNet which you can get in most outdoors shops to seal mine. I've found the seams that need it are those at the top of the tent where the outdoor vents are attached to the rest of the tent so pretty much from the top to about two feet down. I used the brush that came with it and just spread it as thin as I could over the seams. People I've spoke to since say it is best to water down the SilNet before applying and also doing it with the tent erected that way it goes into the seams. The way I did it created a strip of rubbery stuff over the seams on the inside and so far its worked well.
    The new inner, outer and pole are all lighter, especially the inner. Last three times I've used my tent I've used it as just the outer and its been great, a bit of condensation but other than that its been good. Insects are a pain though in these warmer months and the missus won't come if I don't take the inner. Well worth having all the options. Ta, Jamie.

  5. hi ready to seal seams on my shangri-la you mention ''watering it down'' with what? ps did you buy a complete nest? peter

  6. Apparently mixing the SilNet with White Spirits to dilute it is the way forward. Article on BPL here too, thought you have to be a member...