Why an Olympus?
In my youth our school used a fleet of Macpac Olympus tents. They were used on canoe camps, overnight hikes and on our annual snow camps. They were great tents and I can’t remember having any issues in the field, other than a fly lost on a windy mountaintop when someone packing up wasn’t paying the required attention. We all just stopped and watched that thing sail up into the sky and disappear over the rocks down into the valley below
Now my children are finally old enough for overnight snow camping, it was time to buy yet another tent! I have 6 tents ranging from a small one person tent used for motorcycle trips, a rooftop tent on my old 4×4 all the way up to a 10 person tent we use for long weekend base camps (the setup time is about 30 minutes, not bad but a bit much if we are moving every day) but nothing I would trust in blizzard conditions on a mountain
I had read some reviews of many models of 4 season / snow tents but I kept coming back to the Olympus that I had spent so many nights in. I had spent a few horrid nights in these tents and had always woken up safe and dry, so mentally I was already sold. I was looking for a few weeks and was lucky enough to find a second hand unit for $600 and snapped it up. We did a quick test pitch in the lounge at home to check it was all there and headed off
It was early in the season, so we were not sure how much snow (if any) we would have, but any weekend away is always good
We arrived to an even cover of about 2 inches of snow, hired some cross-country skis and headed off. Now this was not only the young ones first time camping overnight in snow, but also their first time on cross-country skis (the backpacks were just to make things a bit more of a challenge)
We skied for 45 minutes on and off to a little cabin we knew and hoped we would have to ourselves. We had scored! There was no-one else there and there was enough firewood stacked around the inside walls to last a week or more
Setting up the new tent
The tent I purchased was an updated design from the model I had used previously, but there were few changes. A new pole sleeve design and a slight reshaping of the floor footprint were the most noticeable
The setup on snow was pretty straightforward to set up and due to the sheltered site we only put out half of the guy ropes (you know what is coming don’t you…) There was not as much space as I remembered, but I guess I was younger and smaller then. These were a 3 person tent at school, but this trip it was only housing myself and my son leaving us much more room
That night it started snowing and we just lay talking and listening to the hiss of the snow hitting the fly and sliding down. I woke after midnight to the sound of silence. It thought the snow had stopped, but a shake of the tent showed we had received enough snow to build up about an inch thick, this enough to block out the sounds of the world outside our little cocoon
By morning the tent was starting to sag a bit and the rest of the guy ropes went in. We had used all of the snow pegs we had, so the extra lines were run around solid sticks which were then buried down a couple of inches perpendicular to the tent. These worked beautifully and some were hard to dig out on the Sunday to break the tent. A snow shovel would have been handy, and they are light and fairly cheap so I know something going on my gift list!
Comfort and Ease of Use
The Olympus has a fully lined inner, not like the mesh inner tents we use in summer. This really keeps the airflow down if it is all zipped up up tight. It was still cold due to the freezing temperatures and the snow under our sleeping mats, but rugged up in our down bags were were comfortable enough.
The only real issue we had was getting out of the tent. The snow had built up over the entire flysheet and had built up around the tent base so it was hard to get all of the snow off the material around the door entrance and it kept dropping chunks down our backs and in to the vestibule and the front part of the inner. If the snow had been deeper we could have dug the vestibule out which helps this issue, but it was just not working for us this trip
Repacking and Cleanup
While the inner and outer can be pitched independently if desired, the inner and fly on the Olympus are usually left clipped together. This makes the pack up quick and hanging the tent out to dry when we arrived home was easy. An issue I haven’t had before was some water pooling in the folds of the flysheet, which needed to be shaken out so it would dry nicely
This tent won’t get a lot of use due to the small internal size (not quite tall enough to sit up in comfortably) and because in warmer weather it can be hard to keep cool and get airflow through.
Still, a great tent in the arsenal and now I’m looking forward to getting back out in the snow as soon as I can