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Arctic Oven Igloo Tent

Paul forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for blister Gear Review

Arctic Oven Igloo

Arctic Oven Igloo

Weight: ~40 lbs with high-wind guy line kit and stuff sack

MSRP: $1,845

Days Tested: 13

Test Location: Kodiak Island, Alaska

Stated Features:

  • Full-coverage tent fly made out of 200-denier heavy-duty 4oz. urethane coated oxford nylon.
  • All materials used in the tents are fire resistant (FR).
  • Condensation-free interior – Vapex™ has a high water transfer rate, which means it is highly water repellant and is extremely breathable.
  • The Arctic Oven Igloo is equipped with a 4″ round silicone fabric stove jack, with cover flaps for the body and the fly, so a stove can be used inside the tent. The stove provides a warm interior when you are winter camping.
  • The Arctic Oven tent features steep side walls, utility loops and storage pockets, providing more usable interior space.
  • The integrated vestibule system adds over 22 square feet of dry space for you and your gear.
  • Frame is made of expedition-grade aluminum poles that connect to grommet strips.
  • High and low vents provide flow-through air ventilation.
  • Comes standard with Durapeg tent stakes, which are light-weight automotive-grade plastic stakes..
  • Arctic Oven tents are quick and easy to set up, allowing you to get out of the cold weather and into your heated tent.

Stated Dimensions:

Paul forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for blister Gear Review

Intro

I learned about Arctic Oven tents over a decade ago when I first started looking for ways to spend extended periods of time in the wilderness for ski touring and hunting. I’ll get into more detail below, but essentially, Arctic Oven tents are made-in-Alaska and designed with robust frames, a durable outer fly, a unique inner tent body that is highly breathable and insulative, and a shape and stove jack that allows for the use of a wood or propane stove to heat the tent.

I purchased my own Arctic Oven in 2010 — a used Arctic Oven 10 (AO10), and promptly set out for a three-week ski trip in the Tordrillos mountain range of Alaska. Since then, I’ve used the AO10 in the various mountain ranges of Alaska on winter ski trips, and have exposed it to high winds and torrential rain storms during late fall trips on Kodiak Island.

Throughout my time with AO10, the only things I wished I could improve was the weight (stated weight is 43 lbs, but mine was over 50 lbs with accessories) and the lack of vestibule (the AO10 is offered with a vestibule, but that adds another 14 lbs). I also sometimes wished for a little lower profile in high winds.

So when I first saw a photo of the new Arctic Oven Igloo with its geodesic shape, lighter weight, and integrated vestibule, it seemed like a pretty ideal solution. And so far, I’ve used it on one two-week trip on a remote portion of Kodiak Island, and later this spring, I’ll be parking it on a glacier somewhere for more ski touring.

Paul forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for blister Gear Review

Arctic Oven Igloo, Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Basic Construction and Materials

Arctic Oven tents are built to keep users warm and dry in extremely cold and wet environments. They are not designed to be particularly lightweight, but instead, place an emphasis on comfort and security. In my opinion, the key to the design is the use of the Vapex material on the inner tent. It is a thick, breathable, insulating material that is unique to the brand. Having spent a cumulative total of several months living in various Arctic Oven tents with the Vapex material, I can attest to the fact that even in the wettest environment, I’ve never touched the Vapex and felt wetness of any kind. Even when drying out piles of soaking-wet gear using a propane heater, the liner always feels dry. It’s remarkable.

The outer fly is made of 200-denier, 4-oz, urethane-coated oxford nylon. It is designed with long flaps that extend out along the ground, and are anchored using the many stakes included. This helps create an envelope of dead air space around the inner tent which aids greatly in insulation.

The poles of most Arctic Oven tents are made of nearly 1-inch in diameter anodized aluminum tubing which are heavy but are durable and easy to set up. Instead of the 1-inch rigid poles, the use of long, flexible, 0.49” poles in the Igloo (and the resulting dome shape) is one of the Igloo’s primary departures from other Arctic Oven tents. I’ll say more about the differences in the poles below.

Hardware

The Arctic Oven Igloo comes with plastic “durapeg” stakes, and I used these for my trip — Arctic Oven sells a heavier, military-grade metal stake kit but I chose not to take them on my most recent trip due to weight constraints for my flights. They are quite heavy, but appear nearly indestructible.

The AO tents do not come with guy lines, but have extensive tie out locations sewn into the fly. I did use the optional “high wind tie-out kit” which includes auto-camming devices that easily attach to the metal d-rings sewn into the fly. The camming devices do add some weight, but they work perfectly, maintain tension even in severe winds, and because they clip to the fly via small wire-gate carabiners, they detach quickly when breaking down the tent.

Paul Forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for Blister Review

Arctic Oven’s camming device.

Being able to easily remove them helps prevent the relatively common issue of guy lines getting tangled up when packing and unpacking the tent. Overall, it’s a slick system. My only complaint is that the guy lines are black and non-reflective. This is a major pet peeve of mine, since they just beg to be tripped over, especially at night. I plan to replace them before my next trip with brightly-colored guy lines that are also reflective.

The tent comes in a giant pull-string stuff sack made of the same material as the outer fly. It’s water resistant, relatively lightweight, and easily handles the whole tent even when the tent is wet and frozen.

Space

In my experience with tents of all kinds, stated dimensions are not always representative of the amount of usable space — shallow wall angles, sharp corners, and low ceilings often make a tent feel much smaller than the listed dimensions.

Because of the Igloo’s relatively steep walls and relatively square shape of the interior, almost all of the floor space equates to usable living room. The outside of the tent is 9’8” by 9’10” but the gap between the fly and the liner decreases this by over a foot in each dimension.

Paul Forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for Blister Review

Paul Forward in the Arctic Oven Igloo.

Even considering that, the tent feels palatial for three people plus a heater and their gear, and could easily accommodate another one or two people with less gear and possibly omitting the stove. Most of my two-week trips are with just one other person, and the Igloo has enough room for the two of us to work on gear, bring all of our boots and equipment into the tent, and still provides tons of extra space for the 14+ hours per day of darkness (and tent time) that we experience that time of year in Alaska.

Paul forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for blister Gear Review

Arctic Oven Igloo, Kodiak Island.

Vestibule

The vestibule is also a very welcome addition after years of using the AO10. For super wet gear that doesn’t need to come inside to dry, the vestibule provides great storage space. And it also allows for an overall drier tent because, unlike the AO10, it’s impossible for rain to fall directly into the main tent, since the vestibule creates a sort of awning even when the door is unzipped / open.

Paul Forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for Blister Review

Paul Forward with the Arctic Oven Igloo.

Accessories

In addition to the heavy-duty stakes and high-wind tie downs mentioned above, and the extra poles (mentioned below), Arctic Oven supplies a variety of other accessories for this tent. I’ve experimented with an inner liner that protects the floor from boots and abrasive gear, and adds a little bit of insulation. In addition, they provide a ground cloth to protect the tent from rough terrain. These both add a fair amount of weight that I couldn’t justify for my float plane-based trip, but I’ll definitely use them for trips where weight is not an issue.

Wind & Weatherproofing

During my two-week trip in the Arctic Oven Igloo this year, we were camped on an exposed part of Kodiak Island with little-to-no barrier between the tent and the relentless weather coming off of the North Pacific Ocean. We were fortunate not to have any super high winds, but we did have a couple of days with gusts into the mid- to high-40’s, and several nights with steady 30-mph winds. I can say with confidence that the Igloo handled these winds with little-to-no collapse, and most of the time, barely even shuddered. Compared to just about every tent I’ve used on Kodiak (that’s about ten different tents and counting), the Igloo was the quietest and most comfortable.

I should note that one interesting option of the Igloo is that it’s possible to purchase an extra set of poles that can then be threaded through the same loops as the first set to double reinforce the pole sections. I experimented with this during my trip and noticed that while the tent was a little stiffer with the extra poles in place (I only reinforced the two main poles), the tent did quite well without them as well. Overall, I think it’s a very smart feature that more tent companies should offer. All it requires is a little bit longer loops and some extra grommets installed in the tabs where the poles connect at the bottom of the tent. The additional weight of two more poles is relatively minimal, and it’s great to have some redundancy in one of the most critical parts of the tent. Well done guys.

My Igloo did not come seam sealed, but it did come with two bottles of seam-sealing solution. It took me about an hour and some creative use of a ladder to fully seal the fly. I also sealed the floor seams.

Bathtub Floor

I used my old AO10 in some pretty wet conditions, including some spring ski trips during which the snowpack went into full meltdown to the point where the tent turned into a giant pool of melted snow for days at a time. I never had issues with leaks in the AO10 despite being in the water for extended periods and I expected that the Igloo would be similar, given its use of the same materials and construction.

On around day ten of my most recent trip, we experienced a supermoon and the highest tide of 2016. Consequently, the tidal lagoon near which we’d camped flooded the nearby area and I came home one night in the pouring rain — wet, cold and tired — to find my tent sitting in about 2-3” of standing, brackish water.

A quick assessment showed that the inside was pretty wet, with one of our sleeping pads afloat and gear that was sitting in low spots stewing in salt water. After some profanity at our own shortsightedness in predicting the tide, we lifted the whole tent out of the water, cleared a site at higher ground, and reset our home. I cranked up the heater (a cheap Portable Buddy propane heater) and went to our Megalight cook tent to make a hot dinner and wait for the Igloo to dry out. After about an hour I rechecked the tent, and was delighted to find the floor and all of our essential gear dried out.

I discussed this with the folks at Arctic Oven, and we agree that, since the water didn’t go over the edge of the bathtub-style floor, the water must have infiltrated through the seams that I inadequately sealed. I take the blame for this, and will reseal the seams and test it out before my next extended wilderness trip.

Heater

A big part of what makes these tents so amazing is the ability to easily and safely utilize a heat source in them. For simplicity and weight savings, I opted to take a small, portable propane heater (the Portable Buddy mentioned above), but I’ve also used Arctic Oven tents with both the propane and wood stoves that Arctic Oven sells. (I’ve also experimented with using lighter titanium wood stoves like those from Seek Outside.) The Igloo comes with a 4” heat-proof stove jack installed, but they make adaptors that will accommodate the 3” stove pipes used by Seek Outside and some other makers of lightweight wood stoves.

I primarily use the heater for two reasons. In more moderate temperatures, the heater is largely for drying out wet gear — ski boot liners and gloves, or drysuits, wetsuits, or other equipment. The Vapex inner tent is so breathable that even when drying out gear that is soaking wet and dripping, there is minimal to no condensation in the tent. It’s impressive to see, and makes life in wet weather much more pleasant.

When temperatures are consistently cold, I use the heater to dry gear but also to keep the tent comfortable and warm for the long evenings and early-morning starts. With relatively little heat output, it’s possible to have the tent at comfortable-in-a-t-shirt temps. On glacier trips with my old AO10, I spent quite a few evenings chatting with friends and playing games during long winter nights while staying cozy and warm. I had similar experiences with the Igloo during frosty fall nights on Kodiak.

One of my more common strategies when winter camping in these tents is to do what I call a “bake.” Before starting dinner, I hang up all of the wet gear around the edge of the tent and turn the heater on max for 30-45 minutes, leaving the tent sealed up. After a leisurely dinner outside of the tent (it can get too hot for comfort) I retire to the tent and find my gear warm and dry, and the tent at a great temp to settle into bed.

The Igloo and AO tents heat up quickly and maintain heat relatively well. But even with the fly battened down tightly to the ground to create as much dead air as possible between the fly and the inner tent, the heat from the stove still dissipates relatively quickly. When temps are in the teens or below, it only takes about 30 minutes for the tent to cool down significantly after the heater is turned off. Compared to any other tent I’ve used, the insulation powers of the Igloo are unequaled, but it’s still just a fabric-walled tent, and it will cool down eventually.

Paul forward reviews the Arctic Oven Igloo for blister Gear Review

Arctic Oven Igloo, Kodiak Island, AK.

Bottom Line

Skiers, surfers, fishermen, hunters, and others who seek to get away from crowds and spend extended periods of time in the wilderness usually have to choose between established backcountry huts and cabins, or lightweight, backpacking-style tents.

Heated tents like the Arctic Oven series — and particularly the new Igloo — are an alternative that provide considerably more comfort than lighter-weight tents while still being reasonably portable with creative transportation options such as helicopters, snowmachines, horseback, or intrepid backpackers willing to hike in a tent in a separate load.

I’ve found that using Arctic Oven tents allows me to spend more time doing what I love to do in very remote areas. For the past seven years, AO tents have been a regular part of my program, and the Igloo is the best iteration yet for my purposes. Adding one of these to your gear locker can add substantial comfort and safety to trips that you may already be doing, and will open up possibilities for wilderness adventures that you may never had previously considered.

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