The Altai

Exploration in Southern Siberia, 9th-28th August 2012

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Alpkit Zhota: Detailed Review

8th January 2013, by Greg

For the expedition, Alpkit were kind enough to loan us one of their Zhota 3-person tents which we used as our basecamp / mess tent.

Briefly, the design is a pitch inner-first, mountain spec / geodesic, 3-4 person tent.

The Zhota (red) in action in the Russian Altai

One of the key features is the configuration of the crossing poles along the top of the inner - they have a ‘spreader bar’ between them thus creating extra internal space, added to this the walls of the tent are steeper than other similar tents I have used. The benefit being more internal space and a more even ceiling height distribution (the inside really is huge!). Most tents taper off dramatically at the sides, so unless you’re sat in the middle, the ceiling is much lower and it’s not usually comfortable to sit upright for any lengthy period.

The 'spreader bar'

Considering the relatively large amounts of time we were in this tent and the fact that we were eating / planning / sorting gear (thus sat up rather than lying down sleeping) and also sharing the space with 2 weeks worth of food, the extra headroom was very welcome and it sets the Zhota well above other similar specced and priced tents.

For its size and spec, the weight of 4.9kg is pretty much what you’d expect (it’s easily separated out into two similar weight loads for easier distribution when carrying) and the build quality throughout is extremely high. The seams are solid, guy line attachment points are very hard-wearing (the 3-point ones spreading the load well) and the poles are noticeably light yet strong. We had no issues at all during the expedition with regards to any of the materials.

The roomy interior

Pitching the tent is speedy, although the spreader bar does mean the two crossing poles are a little more fiddly to thread (since they’re connected via the bar) but this really isn’t an issue (especially since pitching was minimal, being our basecamp tent).

One potential issue we did come across is the thinness of the groundsheet. It’s made from 70D/210T Nylon (and has quite a rubbery feel to it from the PU coating) which keeps water out nicely, however you do have to be careful with any bits of rock or sharp / rough objects under the tent - good advice in general of course, but we found that we had to be extra cautious when clearing the ground as even smaller rocks had a tendency to stress the fabric if weighted from the inside. The flip-side is that the groundsheet most likely weighs a good deal less than the more traditional HD Nylon style.

A welcome feature is the addition of a porthole style window on each of the outer doors - these came in handy for keeping an eye on the weather (or indeed the local yak population).

I would like to see Alpkit offering the addition of snow valances to their tent range. Whilst not needed for this particular expedition, having spent a number of weeks in the Swedish Arctic with Terra Nova Quasars (with fitted valances) and a Force Ten Vortex 300 (sold with valances) they really come in immensely useful in situations where solid ground anchors are hard to come by (ie. you’ve run out of skis and there’s no ice to get some screws in to) and / or you want to stabilise the tent and cut out drafts by piling up snow around the outside.

The lack of valences is really the one thing stopping the otherwise excellent Zhota from being my first choice tent for every expedition. It’s extremely well built and monstrously spacious, considering its packed down size & weight.

This blog article was also posted on Greg's blog at