In 2002 a product designer had a big choice to make. Keep on working for the big brands, making a product that was constrained by commercial decisions, or strike out on his own, making kit that he really wanted to use himself.
The man was Carol McDermott, a one-time climbing ‘dirtbag’ with ascents of Gasherbrum II, Shivling and a solo ascent of Ama Dablam to his name. Carol had designed for several outdoor companies but wanted to make products that he could put his heart and soul into. Out of this decision was born two companies: Crux, aimed at mountaineers, and Lightwave aimed at backpackers.
Virtually a one-man band, Lightwave is not a company you’ll see advertising in fashionable magazines. It is a company that stays close to its customers, with Carole reading and responding to most inquiries himself, between designing new pieces of kit and handling the admin of a small company. This meansLightwave has often flown under the radar.
So apart from equipment that really is designed by someone who has been there and done it, what makes Lightwave tents so good?
In most tunnel tents, poles are curved into a simple, semi-circular shape. This gives great size-to-weight ratio but does have disadvantages. As the top of the pole is nearly flat, it causes the poles to flex more in high winds, and depress under the weight of snow and heavy rain. ARCHitekture is Lightwave’s tunnelpole configuration that creates a steeper angle on the poles, which come to a point at the top rather than a curve. This increase the tent’s resistance to loading by wind, rain, and snow. It also reduces loading on the pole sections either side of the centre, which is where they typically break.
Cuben Fibre is an extremely light but strong fabric used in high-performance yacht sails. It is also a derivative of Dyneema that is used in climbing slings and bulletproof vests. Its strength to weight ratio is exceptional, and also has the advantage of reduced UV degradation compared to SilNylon. Several of ofLightwave’s tents use Cuben to give great strength and durability.
Lightwave is pioneering the use of single skin fabrics in backpacking tents with their Sigma range. Waterproof, breathable membranes are usually avoided in backpacking tents, as they don't breathe enough to keep condensation at manageable levels. The new Xtex fabric has a layer of carbon impregnated into a PU coating on the inside. This absorbs moisture, limiting the amount of condensation build-up before it evaporates through the membrane.
There is a common argument between tent users and designers over whether a tent should pitch inner or outer first. Both have advantages, which is why some brands produce kits to allow outer-first designs to be pitched inner-only. Lightwave sidesteps this with their innovative ‘Multi-Pitch’ design. Their inner tents can be hung inside the outer tent, allowing both to be patched together. Great if you expect to be a pitching a tent in the rain, as the inner stays protected by the outer. The inner can also be unclipped from the outer and clipped directly to the poles, allowing it to be used without the outer (in dry, warm conditions)or pitched inner first, with the outer thrown over the top. This versatility should make everyone happy.
Lightwave is a small brand with a very limited budget, who really deserve the support of the backpacking community. To help them, we have set up a FacebookGroup called the ‘Lightwave Owner’s Group’ to allow existing owners to share their experiences of the brand, and as a forum for people to ask questions. If you have a Lightwave tent or want to know more, then why not join? Also, keep your eyes peeled onFacebook and Instagram for Lightwave’s Hashtag #GoWildGoFar, and tag them in posts @lightwave.equipment