Hands-on Gear Review

GoLite Shangri-La 2 Tarp Review

GoLite Shangri-La 2
By: Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Sep 8, 2013
Price:  $150 List
Pros:  Four sided weather protection, easy to pitch, lots of space, inexpensive.
Cons:  Ground level tieouts are not adjustable, fabric and construction quality could be better, bottom door zipper can get buried in snow.
Manufacturer:   GoLite
  • Livability - 15% 8
  • Ease of Set-up - 5% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 30% 6
  • Durability - 10% 4
  • Adaptability - 10% 1
  • Weight - 30% 5
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Our Verdict

The Shangri-La is a good value pyramid for budget travel in exposed areas and occasional winter use. Our tests show that other tarps and pyramids perform better in winter conditions; the Shrangri-La's fabric and design components (such as the dual zipper) are ill-suited to serious winter use or expeditions, which we feel is the ideal application for a pyramid. The Shangri-La used to win our Best Buy Award but after another year of testing that title now goes to the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo, which performs better for three-season backpacking and costs less. If you want a bomber pyramid for winter use consider the Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid.

Unfortunately, GoLite has gone out of business. Check out our Ultralight Tent Review to see all 15 of the ultralight shelters we tested and to find one that you're psyched on.

Our Analysis and Test Results



Even when pitched tight against the ground the Shangri-La is tall enough for two six-foot-tall people to sit up in and more than long enough for people of the same height to lay down and have a significant amount of covered space for gear. This shelter has more than twice the space of lighter double wall tents found in our backpacking tent review. It also has more space than smaller mids like the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid. It's comfortable regardless of the conditions and is large enough to be used for other purposes such as a small group cook tent for longer gear laden mountaineering trips. This is the only mid we've tested that has pockets (two in the center of each side wall) which you may or may not find useful. Reflective guy points make it easier to spot the shelter at night. Vents on either end help to combat condensation.

The Shangri-La 2's large entrance makes it easy for two people to enter and exit. Note how much space there is between the door and the head of the sleeping bag. Luxurious!
The Shangri-La 2's large entrance makes it easy for two people to enter and exit. Note how much space there is between the door and the head of the sleeping bag. Luxurious!

Weather Resistance

Like all mids, the Shangri-La has four walls that stop wind and precipitation of all types from all sides. It comes with webbing loops on the six main perimeter guy points and has numerous other mid-level points that allow you to pull it taut for serious storms. The Shangri-La offers far more protection than A-frame tarps, which can be useful in very exposed areas and for use in light winter conditions. However, various design attributes and moderate quality fabrics do not allow the Shangri-La to function is severe winter use. It's best for 3-season backpacking and can handle light snow (~6"). In winter there is a gigantic difference in the performance of the Shangri-La and pyramids like the Mountain Laurel Designs SuperMid and DuoMid, and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear UltaMid.

Ease of Pitching

The long and narrow Shangri-La pitches fast both by first time users and by experienced veterans. Unfortunately, you'll need to add line to the ground level loops. We prefer pyramids that have linelocs fixed to the ends because they are easier to pitch and can be adjusted from inside the tent when it's raining (tighten to combat stretch from nylon absorbing water).

Weight and Packed Size

The Shangri-La 2 weighs 22 ounces without additional guylines or stakes. This is moderately light, but since the shelter doesn't perform as well as others in winter our testers reach for slightly heavier models (like the SuperMid).


Mids are the least adaptable type of shelter and the Shangri-La is no exception. It must be pitched in the same way every time. That is, it doesn't respond well to campsites that require a suboptimal pitch; you must hike on and find somewhere to pitch it. For many people this will not be a serious drawback. Long distance thru-hikers may prefer a more adaptable type of shelter, such as an A-frame or flat tarp, that provides more flexibility with campsite selection.


The Shangri-La 2's greatest limitation is its B quality fabric. GoLite uses a 15 Denier ripstop nylon that's coated with silicone on one side and polyurethane on the other. Our experience testing dozens of tents and shelters shows that silnylon (coated on both sides with silicone) is more durable and stronger than those that use polyurethane coated fabrics. The Shangri-La 2 would benefit from a better material; we believe it would hold up to serious storms better — it would be less likely to tear — and provide increased performance for the worst conditions and multi-week or multi-month trips. The Shangri-La is constructed well but doesn't have the completely bombproof attention to detail found on the silnylon shelters from Mountain Laurel Designs. For most backpackers this should not be a serious drawback.

In order to be pitched properly for a serious storm we believe the shelter needs at least 50 feet of cord attached to its various tieouts. We recommend adding more line to the perimeter loops or replacing them with a higher quality and lighter line that doesn't absorb as much water. It's hard to achieve a "perfect pitch" (when everything is perfectly tight with the same amount of stress on each area) with the Shangri-La. The combination of the shelter's large side walls that catch wind, B+ quality fabric and B+ quality construction lead us to prefer other shelters for unprotected use in winds around or over 30mph. Here's a video of an older version Shangri-La 2 in 24-37mph winds.

The webbing loops at the bottom of the six ground level perimeter points can make it hard to pitch the Shangri-La in uneven terrain. We've found that mids with linelocs on perimeter pounts are much easier to pitch properly because you can cinch the cord tight after staking. Linelocs also make it easier to deal with the unavoidably sagging of nylon in wet weather; instead of getting out of the tent just reach a hand out to adjust the lineloc. We believe the Shangri-La should come standard with linelocs on all ground level tieouts. Again, this is a relatively minor drawback when the Shangri-La is considered on the whole. You can easily add extra cord the points or sew on linelocs youself.

A final minor detail: adding more fabric below the door's zipper would allow you to bury the door better in snow. The MSR Twin Sisters has much more fabric here and creates a snowproof seal easier than the Shangri-La. But, again, for most people who use the shelter more in three-season conditions than in winter, the Shangri-La's design provides an excellent balance of protection in all conditions.

Best Application

Budget ultralight travel in exposed areas and light duty winter use.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: September 8, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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Average Customer Rating:  
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0% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 67%  (2)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)

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   Mar 22, 2013 - 01:42pm
Brian the Lion · Climber · Boston, Ma

In 2008, I was looking for a truly all-conditions shelter system. I bought a first-generation Shangri-La 2 and proceeded to take it to hell and back several times. Specifically, it was my only shelter during a three-year hiatus from life that had me climbing in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, China, and several other far-flung locales. Throughout, the Shangri-La 2 (along with its mesh "nest" and a Tyvek groundsheet) made for an exceptionally re-configurable shelter system that could take me from the summer monsoon to the desert to the side of a peak in Sichuan. I had several climbing partners that were committed tent people, saying they'd never buy a tarp. After a week or so in the Shangri-La, though, they were total converts.

Unfortunately, I demand perfection and after 5 years with this system I can confidently say that the Shangri-La falls short of perfection.

(Note: AFAIK, the Editor's note in the main review is incorrect. The only change in the Shangri-La 2 since its debut has been the addition of a second door.)


The original design had only one door. This has been corrected in more recent versions.

Lack of snow skirts. Without them, the Shangri-La 2 is not a viable 4-season shelter (as it is advertised to be). I have been in some very serious weather in this thing. When pitched hard, it stayed standing for days in terrible storms. As long is it was raining, everything was fine. As soon as the rain turned to snow or ice, though, there was trouble. Once, a climbing partner and I nearly went hypothermic when caught in massive hail storm in Lone Peak Cirque, Utah. The ice pellets bounced in under the edges of the tarp in bucketfulls. Yes, this was an edge-case, but plenty of annoying-but-not-deadly situations resulted from snow blowing in as well.

The ZIPPER is the worst problem of all. Because of the door design, the zipper lies close to a major line of tension on the tarp's surface. When the tarp is pitched hard, the zipper is stretched taught. The result after only a few months of use was a door that would jam and snag regularly. After years of use, I ended up with a zipper that would split at the middle, causing the door to open under an aggressive pitch. (This problem could be avoided by moving the zipper to the middle of the door as in the MSR Twin Sisters.)

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a truly all-conditions shelter system, this is not your tarp. Consider buying the MSR Twin Sisters, modding it a little for better ventilation, and adding the Shangri-La's mesh "nest" for bug protection.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Jan 22, 2013 - 10:45am
simply_light · Backpacker · Midwest, Indiana

Seems to be nice quality, but I did not keep the tent for long. I could not get over the trekking pole set up right in the middle of the entry. I'm a pretty big guy (6'1" and 185 lbs) and found it hard to get in and out without bumping the trekking pole.

Also, it took quite a bit of practice to get it up without the trekking poles constantly tipping over. I'm sure with more time and practice this would lessen, but going back to the pole being right in the center killed it for me.

As far as space and comfort once inside, it was in par with most other tents.

I also really liked the green color in the series.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.

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