About a month ago, I began re-taking pilgrimages to the Fisher Towers outside of Moab, Utah. I’ve been visiting the area on and off for 15 years because of its immense beauty and engaging climbing.  It contains the tallest freestanding tower in the US, the Titan, proudly standing at 1,100 vertical feet. The temptation to go there has always come in the dead of winter.

During summer months Fisher-area temperatures often exceed 100 degrees; alternatively, winter temps plummet well below zero with average afternoon conditions hovering just above freezing. The cold doesn’t bite into your core if you wear several jackets (I also wear a one-piece fleece suit) during the day and have a solid domicile to escape to at night.

For the first in this series of  recent trips, we took a friend’s two-person tent. Three of us, plus my 60-pound dog, would cram in the confines of the shelter. We’d wake up to thick layers of frozen condensation surrounding our bubble-shaped shelter making it look like an igloo. When we bumped against the walls, semi frozen white specs floated down on us like dandruff.

Enter REI’s Quarter Dome T3 Plus. ($349, 6 pounds 1 ounce, three season, three person, packed size 8” X 25”, setup size 47 square feet, 44″ peak height).

I desired a bigger, more advanced tent to use in basecamp and beyond. We needed one that was spacious enough for racking up between climbing days. A broad vestibule was important to cook in while torrents of snow and wind blew outside. The T3 Plus is large enough to provide a racking-up shelter and the vestibule is big (13 square feet). The tent is light enough to hike with over steep, rugged terrain. We even took it up the Titan, a steep two-hour hike from basecamp. We bivied 800 feet up the tower. The “great ledge” – “I can’t wait to get in that tent!” my partner kept repeating as we advanced closer to it — was barely wider than our hips and obviously too narrow for setting up our portable castle. We kept the tent packed away and slid into our bags and bivi sacks as storm clouds rolled in and out throughout the night. The next day we pushed on to the top. We could have set it up on the summit, but what would be the point?

Adam Papilion sleeping on the “great bivi ledge.” This ledge, 800 feet up the Titan, was too narrow to set the T3 up.

Many tents are spacious, light and can take on the wind without bowing. What sets the T3 apart from others I’ve used is its ample ventilation. Its mesh doors allow condensation to escape. At first, I thought the ventilation would make the tent chilly but that was not the case. It breathes, thus keeping it dry so we did not experience the igloo effect.

The T3 has become my home away from home as one road trip rolls into the next. I’ve had many hours to stare the ceiling and observe its nuances. I like the door pockets. That is, when the doors are zipped open they tuck away in the ceiling pocket. The Tension Truss, an REI specific feature, keeps the roof from bending during the 50 mph winds. Windproof fabric keeps the notorious Fisher’s sand from entering it. Color-coded poles, made from a single hubbed pole, make it dead easy to erect the shelter. Dual entry doors means we don’t have to crawl over each other to enter or exit. The bathtub floor and fly, made of Silicone-treated ripstop nylon, keeps the cold and dew outside and warmth in. Side pockets are handy for storing headlamps, Chapstick and handkerchiefs.

In conclusion, the T3 Plus protects its occupants from the elements like a solid tent should and it breathes well. Color-coding on the poles make it pain-free to setup. Little instructions printed on the fabric inform users about subtle features like the door pocket. It’s spacious and maintains its shape even in strong winds.

I’m still on the quest to find the perfect ledge to set it up on.