Friday, July 24, 2015

Gear Review ~ GoLite Shangri-La 5 Tent

It's a bit pointless to review this tent, since the company that made it went out of business not long after I bought it, but I figure I should let my voice be heard in case some other company is thinking of riffing off a similar design and the feedback would be helpful.
I bought this tent for one reason only--it was the only lightweight backpacking tent advertised to hold five people. I ordered it just before our May camping trip last year, planning on trying it out car camping before backpacking, but it didn't arrive in time, so we applied another layer of duct tape to the poles of our dome tent and used it. Then, when we went backpacking, we had a lean-to and didn't need a tent. I planned to set it up in the yard to test it out, but never got around to it, so we broke one of the cardinal rules of camping this past May, and took a tent we'd never set up before. By then GoLite had gone out of business, and I was terrified the tent would be missing some vital component or have a major defect, but it was fine, and we really put it through its paces during our 17-day Colorado road trip--of 16 nights, we spent 12 in the tent.
The pros:
  • Super easy to set up--I missed out on the first half-dozen or so set-ups because I always seemed to be delivering our camping registration while C was setting it up, but when I finally witnessed/helped with a set-up, I was amazed. No fussy pole sleeves, velcro tabs, color-coded webbing, or other engineering nightmares associated with free-standing tents--just stake out the corners, slide in the one aluminum pole, slip on the fly and boom, you're done.
  • Great design--I love the pyramid shape (I call it "Giza"). I've been watching "The Crimson Field" on PBS and I see echoes of this tent in old military tents. People passing by comment on its tipi appearance.
  • Waterproof--I was doubtful about this tent's ability to withstand rain, with the thin nylon of the fly, but we got rained on almost every night of this trip and not one drop came in. Even when it didn't rain, and the inside of the fly got coated with condemnation, the droplets somehow stayed outside of the internal screen shelter.
  • Windproof--on our last night at Rocky Mountain National Park, the wind whipped all night long, while our tent barely let out a flutter. All the next morning, we watched other people's free-standing tents toss and buck in the wind (one woman's tent lifted up onto two stakes), while ours sat as solid as if it actually were a pyramid. (We did add guy lines and stakes that did not come with the tent--but the guy line points were there).
  • Color--The gold of the fly does not cast a sickly light inside like a blue or green tent does.
  • Lightweight--while ultralight backpackers would scoff, at five pounds, this tent is a little sausage next to our previous two-person backpacking tents, and divided over five people, it weighs only one poundeach (granted, we haven't actually backpacked with it). 
  • Ventilation--on all but the hottest, most humid Iowa camping night, the tent always felt full of fresh air without being drafty.

  • To say this is a five-person tent is quite a stretch. We had to do some fancy finagling to fit all five of us, and there was no room for our duffel bags inside, so we had to run out to the car for a change of clothes (which would not be an issue backpacking, since you use your clothing stuff sack as a pillow--and take a lot less stuff). Plus the pole in the middle limits the possible arrangements. I had kids encroaching on my pillow and mat all night long. I can't image five adults sleeping in it comfortably. Maybe five dwarves who sleep mummy-style (not windmill-fashion like three of our number).
  • The door opening required a long crawl/reach through the "vestibule" area to get out. this was the only time the tent would get you wet, either from rain or condensation, when the door flap flopped on you. The last day we figured out we could unzip it from the top and step over the lower part, which eliminated the awkward crawl, and might even reduce the wet flopping.
  • Is that metal pole in the middle a lightning rod?

Overall, it's a great tent and C and I were both wishing we'd bought a second one before GoLite went out of business. I hope it's durable enough to last for the next eight years, until we don't need quite so much room in our tent anymore.


  1. I was wondering about that tent--it looks really cool. Too bad they're out of business. :(

  2. Looks a great tent, I always love the ones that are quick to put up.

    I am glad you didn't get wet from the condemnation in the tent ;)

    1. Me, too! We spent a lot of time helping other people put up excessively complicated takes some of the fun out of camping!!

  3. Big Agnes bought the patent for the Shangri La-5 as well as the 3. Sierra Trading Post is selling the 5 & CampSaver is selling the 3. Both are being offered for $299. Just picked up the 5. Can't wait to try it out. They renamed it the Yahmonite, but it's the exact same tent.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Doug. I might just buy a second tent!

    2. Did you end up getting the yahmonite 5 from STP? the photos they have online never shows the front with that unique "porch" area. Before I buy it online, I want to make sure it is exactly the same as the Shanghai la 5

    3. Hi Natalie. No, I haven't bought it, so I don't know. Although that "porch" area is my least favorite part of the tent, so I wouldn't be sad to see it go away.

    4. Hi Natalie. No, I haven't bought it, so I don't know. Although that "porch" area is my least favorite part of the tent, so I wouldn't be sad to see it go away.

    5. Hey Andrea, I realize this post is a bit dated, but is selling this tent again on their site for really cheap. Your review was super helpful, thank you! I'm still not sure whether I want to get it, now knowing they're out of business, but thank you for your review nonetheless! - Russ


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