I’m at 11,000 feet. It’s winter, and outside wind screams over our tent, but it sits stout, barely fluttering as nature does its darnedest to blow us away.
I’m testing two products made for a new breed of hunters who travel far into the mountains, usually by foot, in pursuit of game. But instead of a gun my terminal tackle for this trip is a pair of backcountry skis.
KUIU might make its gear with hunters in mind, but the top-shelf products work wonders for anyone seeking light gear for harsh conditions.
While the winds of winter may still seem far off, for hunters August is the time of year to gear up and prepare for fall and winter hunts. And when looking at backcountry gear, this brand certainly serves double duty as gear for any cold-weather adventure.
For several months, I’ve used two products from the brand — the Mountain Star 2-person, 4-season tent, and the Super Down Sleeping Bag 0º — more than a dozen times and am more impressed with each test.
KUIU: Ultralight Hunting Niche Filled
KUIU was launched in 2011 by Jason Hairston, the former leader of another lightweight hunting brand, Sitka. Disenchanted with the direction of Sitka, and with a desire to push the envelope of equipment further in the hunting realm, Hairston founded KUIU.
Today, the brand makes sleeping bags, tents, clothing, and accessories. The products use fabrics more common on the alpinist than the archer, with high-end waterproof/breathable laminates and synthetic down, among other mainstay materials. (Outside Magazine dissects the brand’s magnificent, 13-ounce frame pack well in this article.)
Ultimately, it’s a mix of smart design and high-end materials that leads to reliable, light products fit for gnarly conditions. Read on for some thoughts on two.
Review: KUIU Super Down Sleeping Bag 0-Degree
For many, a 0º sleeping bag is overkill. For others, it’s one of the most important pieces of gear in their kit. I fall in the later category, opting to sleep outside in some truly nasty weather while chasing my passion projects.
I’ve slept in this bag now for several nights right around its zero-degree rating and have been extremely happy with the comfort and insulation.
But really, the Super Down 0º bag has stood out from the pack in a few ways that aren’t obvious until you’ve used it a few times. First, it compresses like nothing I’ve used, squishing down to easily fit in a backpack’s sleeping bag compartment along with a sleeping pad (with room to spare).
This might not sound like much, but if you’ve ever packed a 0-degree bag, you understand that they tend to be a little bulky. This one weighs just 2lbs, 7oz.
This is due to high-end ingredients: 850-fill, hydrophobic down and 12D ripstop fabric that is light but strong.
The fit is standard mummy — snug but not claustrophobic — with a luxurious hood full of loft and warmth. I’ve been completely comfortable at zero degrees while wearing just a base layer and socks on an insulated sleeping pad.
The drawback is price. All the high-end ingredients bring a $700 hit to the wallet. But if you plan to do a lot of winter camping, this will be money well spent, and a quality down bag like this should last for decades.
Review: KUIU Storm Star 2P Tent
The KUIU Storm Star 2P is a four-season, free-standing tent meant for seriously nasty weather. To put it to a fair test, my buddy and I took it to the top of Berthoud Pass in Colorado during a winter storm last spring.
Powerful winds and a big snow load were no match for the three-pole design. The tent gave a couple little shakes during some strong wind gusts, but generally just sat there, tough as a rock.
But this is not a tent for all seasons. The heavy-duty materials (the tent weighs 5 pounds, 5 ounces) and storm-centric design mean this is a harsh-weather specialist.
In summer weather, it is usable but will probably be pretty hot. It’s a cool-weather tent.
The Strom Star 2P has ample room for two adventurers on a winter expedition. Two doors, each outfitted with a spacious vestibule, provide plenty of storage. Inside, a litany of pockets give space for organizing small items. KUIU’s logo – a big horn sheep – is even emblazoned on the ceiling in glow-in-the-dark paint. Nice touch.
This tent is made with close tolerances. Each pole fits snuggly into pockets, which are heavily reinforced, and it takes some force to get the clips onto the poles. The tent is very taught when setup, and the brand said it was deigned to minimize stretching when wet.
At $550, this is a technical, storm-oriented shelter that will keep you dry and protected in serious mountain weather. It’s not light, nor is it cheap. But if that huge snowstorm blows in during your fall hunt or winter ice climbing trip, you’ll be thankful for every ounce carried and every dollar spent.