It looks like an outhouse made of nylon. Or else it's a strange tent for tall people. But the Sqivvy, a new shelter product from Logan, Utah, isn't a tent at all. You can't comfortably sleep in it. Pop it open and stake it out, and you'll notice an oversight rendering the shelter all but obsolete for camping: There is no roof.
The Sqivvy, which costs $89.95 and is sold at www.sqivvy.com, is marketed as a "portable pop-up privacy shelter." Its genesis was with a trail runner who needed to change clothes in a public place. He was sick of pulling on shorts while hiding in his car. "I had a eureka moment," said Paul Vaslet, company founder.
Vaslet's epiphany led to the creation of a 4-by-4-foot shelter that's about 7 feet tall. It comes in a package the size and shape of a bike tire, unfolding instantly to pop into form when you throw it into the air.
While it comes roof-less, the company includes an add-on fly to cover the top. There's a removable floor, internal pockets for gear stowage, and a single screen window. The door zips open in a giant C shape, letting you leap in and out while changing before a run in a city park, or pulling on bike shorts beside your parked car, or at a beach before running out to play in the waves.
Since its release, Vaslet said the Sqivvy's use has evolved. He cites cyclists who warm up inside a Sqivvy before the start of a race. Photographers shoot from inside it during bad weather. You can use it as an ad hoc shower room while camping.
Vaslet employed a Sqivvy on a recent Grand Canyon rafting trip as a portable outhouse, stashing a bucket toilet inside.
I set up a Sqivvy on a frozen lake in Minnesota while dog sledding. It kept me out of the wind while fiddling with ropes and harnessing a troublesome dog. After unpacking the shelter and letting it pop open, a friend steadied it in the wind. I staked it down, pulling a guy line from each corner and burying stakes in the snow.
There was moderate wind and the Sqivvy--a boxy and non-aerodynamic shelter with flat walls--stopped the air like a sail. Its guy lines flexed, and the walls shuttered. But the Sqivvy never blew down.
At one point, while I was warming up inside, a gust beat a wall inward, the fabric bowing in before popping back to shape.
Packing the Sqivvy up is a trick. You fold it in half, then in half again, its walls hinging closed, internal poles moving to their places. Then a twist and the puzzle swirls back into its original bike-tire-size shape, letting you stow it away in a circular bag.
The Sqivvy's outer fabric is water resistant, but not waterproof, making it usable only in light rain with its fly attached. It is vulnerable to high wind and could easily take flight in a strong gust.
The shelter sets up quickly and provides a nice space to change, get warm, or stay out of moderate wind and falling snow. I'll keep my Sqivvy on hand as a place to put on bike shorts, warm up, shower, and perform other not yet realized tasks when I need quick privacy or some element of weather protection in the outdoors.
Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.