I’ve owned a Gatewood Cape and Serenity inner for three years or so now. Like most backpackers I suffer from shelter lust but the Cape is the shelter I keep returning to. I’ve done many trips using it be they two/three dayers or week-long so I thought it was time to give a review. Before doing so it is worth pointing out the Six Moons have recently upgraded the Serenity to give a bit more headroom and deeper bathtub sides which look to be an improvement but have increased the weight a little.
To business. The Cape is a multifunction piece of kit that acts as rain gear, pack over and shelter for the solo hiker thus offering the prospect of real weight savings to the hiker/backpacker. It is made from Silnylon. Annoyingly, it is not seamsealed unless the buyer pays a small fee for Six Moons to do it. I took that option and I’m glad that I did as they did a far neater job than I could do. Mine was flawless in terms of sewing and construction and, after three years, looks like new.
Worn as a cape the Gatewood is large enough to cover the whole body down to mid-thigh length and easily wide enough to cover the wearer and a pack of about 65 litres. The hood is a simple design with a draw cord closure but it works well enough. I usual wear a baseball cap with it to stiffen up the visor. Being made from silnylon means that it is completely wind and water proof. Like all capes and ponchos it is prone to flap in winds so a simple belt made from shockcord is advisable. As silnylon doesn’t breathe I was worried that condensation from perspiration would be a problem but, in practice it isn’t. There is enough ventilation from underneath and the sides to reduce condensation to a minimum. The cape can be warm though. However, the door zip is cleverly positioned to become a chest-zip which can be used to give extra ventilation and cooling.
The guy lines for use in shelter mode can be annoying but I solve the problem by fastening them to the fitted buckles that are inside the Cape. To keep my lower legs dry I use some MLD Chaps but, as with all ponchos and capes, your arms will get wet as they are normally outside the material. I either just allow my bare arms to get wet or use a light windshirt to protect my arms. As protection from bad weather the Cape functions perfectly but it has to be said that it is not an elegant, fashionable look.
Turning the Gatewood into a shelter is easy. Simply take it out the stuffpocket, or take it off, and open it out. Position the rear into the wind and peg down the guylines at the rear, insert a trekking pole into the holder, guy that out, guy the front two corners and it’s done. There are three things to note.
- Firstly, the shelter can be pitched at the end of the fixed length guylines to give extra ventilation or in “storm mode” meaning the guyline attachment points are used as pegging points. Storm mode does mean a couple of inches of headroom are lost but I’m still able to sit up in comfort. I’m 5’10” and I think a six-footer would be able to do the same with ease.
- Secondly, the attachment for the trekking pole is a detachable grommet mounted in a colour coded housing. It’s easy to remove when using it as a Cape but I leave mine clipped in and have noticed no discomfort.
- Thirdly, I use trekking poles but Six Moons do offer a 50g pole for hikers who prefer not to use trekking poles.
As a shelter it offers fully enclosed protection with entrance/exit via a zipped door over half the front area. It’s one of the easiest shelters to get in and out of that I know of. The front always has an airgap as silnylon is non-breathable and further ventilation can be obtained by opening the hood up. As well as supplying fresh air to the hiker the airflow means condensation is fairly minimal and easily wiped off with a jay cloth or buff. Even in high humidity I’ve never experienced bad condensation and what there is usually vanishes once the door is opened. There is a large pocket on the non-opening front side which also doubles as pocket when used as a cape and as a stuffsack when the Gatewood isn’t being used.
Without the Serenity in place, the shelter offers loads of room for one hiker and could probably take two in an emergency. The first two times I used mine the weather was horrendous; very high winds and torrential rain going on for twelve hours or so. The Gatewood didn’t even blink and shrugged the bad weather off with ease. I have complete confidence in it as a three season shelter. Silnylon tends to sag a little after thirty minutes or so of being under tension but retensioning is easy-simply undo the trekking pole and adjust the height by a little and retighten. No need to leave the shelter.
Using the Serentity NetTent is easy too. Clip it to the apex of the shelter and attach it’s corners to the appropriate external guylines or, if you prefer, peg then down from within the shelter. I use some tiny titanium nail pegs for this- weight cost is under 10g. The Serentity is completely bugproof and has a waterproof floor plus bathtub sides. It works very well. Inside the Serentity there is enough room for a full length sleeping mat plus pillow with about 6-7 inches to spare. There is an internal pocket for head torch or wherever and ample side room for clothes and other stuff. There is sufficient head room for me to sit up while sitting on a fully inflated NeoAir. The vestibule has enough room to stow a large pack, boots, cooking gear and still have unimpeded entry and exit.
Together, the Cape and Serentity come to just over 600 grams. Add in a pair of Chaps and pegs of your choice and you get a sub-700g package that offers compete wind and rain protection while hiking and a very stable, weatherproof and bugproof shelter while camped. This is why I always come back to using the Gatewood; in my opinion it is simply unbeatable for hikers who want to lighten their load and become ultralight/ultralite.
Here is a photo of the Gatewood pitched and zippered up. All the gear visible is under cover. You can see the pocket on the left front and the hood is partially open.