Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL Review
When bikepacking, your sleeping quarters are nearly as vital as your bike. After all, you often spend more time in your shelter than you do pedaling. In this review, Neil delves into pyramid shelters and, specifically, what sets the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL apart as an excellent option for two people. Read it here…
These last few years have been quite interesting for me. In the past, I focused on having the lightest possible sleep system, even if it meant discomfort. However, as I’ve grown older, or rather, gained more experience, I’ve come to recognize the value of a restful night’s sleep, and it all begins with the sleeping quarters. Throughout this spring and summer, I’ve been using the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMidXL tent, and it has proven to be an excellent two-person shelter. Watch the video review below and scroll down for a written version, photographs, and specs.
I typically don’t delve into the history of large camping gear brands, but when you’re talking about handcrafted outdoor gear made in Roanoke, Virginia, it’s worth the time. Ron Bell founded Mountain Laurel Designs in 2002, driven to make high-quality, innovative, and ultralight products. With more than 40 years of experience in the outdoor industry and a diverse range of adventures under his belt, including backpacking, trail running, and Ironman races, Ron has gained invaluable insights into gear. More recently, his enthusiasm for cycling and bikepacking is evident with his new range of bikepacking offerings like dry bags, panniers, and fork bags. Still, I’ve always known Mountain Laurel Designs as a backpacking and shelter company first, so I was excited to get my hands on the DuoMID XL for me and my partner this season.
Mountain Laurel Designs’ Mids have been in the market for a while now, with both the Solo and DuoMid XL being available since 2014. The DuoMid XL offers ample space for two people, generous headroom, and a usable vestibule area. The tent is built around a single-pole asymmetrical pyramid structure and comes in two fabric options: Silpoly, which I tested, and Dyneema. You can also use it with or without their inner nets, which I also tested.
Many tent manufacturers have shifted away from Silnylon due to its fabric stretch in favor of Silpoly, and Mountain Laurel Designs did the same after they managed to source a 20D Silpoly strong enough for their tents. Silpoly has the advantage of being more affordable than Dyneema, and it packs down much smaller, which is crucial for bikepacking, where space is at a premium.
Though the tent has a pyramid-like shape, its base stakes down to form a rectangle, providing a giant footprint of 104 inches (264 cenimeters) in length and 90 inches (228 centimeters) in width, offering around 45 square feet of space. The tent employs a carbon fiber pole, which is sold separately, as backpackers can also use a hiking pole to create a barrier between the vestibule and sleeping area, which happens to measure 90 inches (228 centimeters) by 45 inches (114 centimeters). What sets this tent apart is the absence of a pole between you and your companion while sleeping, creating a more tent-like feel than a traditional mid. Additionally, MLD offers the option to seam seal the tent for you for $75 USD, or you can do it yourself.
I found the InnerNet to be very useful, especially this year, as the bugs have been relentless here in Colorado. Most of the InnerNet is constructed from Nanoseeum bug netting, with the bathtub floor made from Silnylon. It provides no-frills bug protection that’s simple yet remarkably spacious, designed to sit approximately three to six inches away from the outer shelter itself.
It took me a few attempts to set up this shelter just right. I won’t go into too much detail, as there are instructions on their website, but it’s essential to understand that there’s a specific method to ensure it pitches correctly. To start, you put the tent on the ground with the long side oriented in the direction you intend to sleep. Begin by staking down the back two corner guy lines—not overly tight but just enough. Then, secure the front two guy lines, ensuring even tension on all corners to form a perfect rectangle. This will help achieve a consistent pitch on all sides of the tent. Then, with the front zipper buckle clipped, unzip the tent, step inside, and install the pole. After that, stake down the other guy lines attached to the tent and tighten them as needed.
You can stop here and use only the shelter, but I typically found myself using the inner net this summer. Installing it can be somewhat challenging, but you can leave it attached to the tent and take it down. But, for packing convenience, my partner and I would often pack them separately, meaning we would need to install it each night. To install, you’ll need to either attach the bungee and clips from the outside of the pitched shelter or crawl to the corner from the inside, which I found to be a quicker method. I would start with the back four clips and then move on to the front ones. Like anything you do frequently, it becomes much easier with practice.
I’m a fan of mid tents for several reasons. They provide more room, offer a relatively lightweight system, and have fewer components that can break as there’s no complex pole system. And they excel in challenging weather conditions. Mid tents effectively shed water and have less surface area exposed to the wind. However, it’s important to note that mid tents heavily rely on a single pole, which means they are not freestanding. They also tend to occupy more ground space, and due to their shallow walls, there’s limited headroom except at the center.
Packability and Weight
The DuoMidXL may not be the lightest option out there, but it’s not heavy by any means, and when shared between two people, it’s pretty manageable. The tent fly is the heaviest component at 670 grams with the minimum number of guy lines attached. The inner net weighs 435 grams, the Mountain Laurel carbon pole is 135 grams, and the eight Easton Stakes come in at 102 grams. Altogether, that’s 1,282 grams or 2 pounds 12.8 ounces. It’s about the same weight as the Big Agnes Tiger Wall Bikepack tent I tested a few years back but has much more space.
Regarding the overall packing size for two people, the shelter takes up the most space, but the inner net is similar in size. Overall, the system packs down reasonably well. Dividing the packability and weight between two people creates a practical shelter that doesn’t weigh you down or take up too much space on your bike. One thing to remember while packing the inner net or any tent body is to avoid contact with Velcro, as it can cause issues. We realized this the hard way.
After using the DuoMid XL on several trips this year, I’ve had the opportunity to figure out what works and what doesn’t. To start, we really appreciated the usable vestibule space. While we didn’t need to bring a sheet of Tyvek, it was nice to use it to help preserve the Silnylon inner net base and extend it into the vestibule, creating an entryway of sorts. The vestibule isn’t huge by any means—it’s not large enough to fit a bike—but it offers ample space to keep things organized and dry, such as shoes, helmets, and bags.
The livable area inside the tent is quite spacious too. Despite the shallow walls, we could easily sit upright if we sat up near the middle of the tent. The further you move toward the corners, you might find yourself touching the inner net with your head. However, my partner and I are not very tall, so playing cards worked well when we faced each other in the middle. When sleeping, we did notice that whoever was at the end of the tent would be close to the inner net or even the shelter itself, which came up in conversation during our trips, so we traded off that space. And while we might have gained a few extra centimeters by using the middle guy lines on the shelter, it’s still tight due to the tent’s shape. The other downside to this sleep orientation is that one would need to crawl over the other to pee at night.
Nevertheless, the usable space, even with the inner net, was still larger than most of my other two-person tents. When not using the inner net, you gain even more space toward the corners of the shelter. The inner net comes with a single long N-shaped zipper that has two zipper pulls, allowing you to position them as you prefer. The zipper glides smoothly, and the opening is large and easy to get in and out of, even with the pole right in the middle of the entry. As for the main shelter zipper, it’s a single zipper with two pulls, allowing you to open it from the top and bottom. Paired with the soffit vent at the top of the shelter, you can open it up to allow some breathability. The vestibule doors can also be rolled open and secured with bungees attached to the inside of the tent, allowing for ventilation when the weather is pleasant.
In the Elements
When the weather turned nasty, the shelter kept water out while maintaining its stability. It held its structure nicely without sagging like some other nylon tents do when they get wet. It withstood heavy rainstorms that forced us to hunker down inside for extended periods, and it remained comfortable throughout, with the water beading up nicely. The sealed seams kept water out too. Even in windy conditions, the tent held its shape well, didn’t move much, and wasn’t all that noisy. Much of this can be attributed to the simple design, especially when set up correctly. And even with a touch of Colorado sun, the moisture would quickly evaporate off the tent. In terms of breathability, we noticed some condensation inside the tent in the morning, but it wasn’t excessive, and it would dry out fairly quickly if the sun was out. Mind you, we were testing this tent in the summer months, and temps never really dipped below freezing.
- Model Tested: Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL
- Actual Weight: 1,282 grams (2 pounds, 12.8 ounces)
- Place of Manufacture: Virginia, USA
- Price: $653
- Manufacturer’s Details: place
- Very stable in nasty weather conditions and sheds water well
- Large livable space
- Nice size vestibule that usable for helmets, hip packs, and the like
- Easy entry and exit
- Reasonable weight for a two-person tent and packs down really well
- Large footprint makes it hard to find a spot to pitch sometimes
- Mid shape isn’t ideal for the person sleeping at the back of the tent
- USA-made but a little expensive if you need all the parts
- Can be hard to set up the first few times
I’m a big fan of mid tents, and the DuoMid XL has further solidified my love for them. Surprisingly, I even utilized it as a solo tent during a couple of summer trips, and it packed down better than expected. A thorough examination of its overall construction and craftsmanship before putting this review together uncovered no flaws, highlighting Mountain Laurel Designs’ meticulous attention to detail. Additionally, when combined with the durability and UV resistance associated with Silpoly tents, I have no doubt that this shelter will serve me well for years to come.
The purchase process for the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid XL can be a bit complex, resembling an à la carte style menu, which is not uncommon for these smaller cottage shelter makers. The shelter itself is priced at $365 USD, with the Silnylon inner net at $215, the pole at $45, and the stakes at $28, totaling $653 USD for a tent made in the USA—a reasonable price point given what you’re getting and how many years of use you’re likely to get out of it, I would say.
If you’re interested in a smaller version, Miles reviewed the SOLOMID XL a few years ago, and you can find the link below for more information.
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.