Owner Review of Tarptent Squall
Name: Mark Orton
Weight: 175 lbs
E-mail: Backpkrmn at aol dot com
Date: March 1, 2004
Backpacking Background: I have been hiking and backpacking my whole life. I
grew up in upstate NY on a very large parcel of land. Friends and I took
every opportunity to be out in the woods, camping, and hiking; just getting out.
Backpacking became a serious hobby for me in the mid 90’s. Since then I have
traveled throughout the country and have even visited other countries on
backpacking trips. I have hiked several sections of the AT, taking on 100+ mile
sections at a time. I have also hiked 100 miles along the Vermont Long Trail.
Living in California gives me access to some great backpacking opportunities
out here, such as the PCT. The Sierra is one of my favorite stomping
grounds, but certainly not my only. I love spending time along the coast, seeing the
redwood groves and scaling the coastal ranges. I try to get out at least
once a month on an overnight backpacking trip and at least once a week on a
dayhike. Once a year I plan an extended trip, a trip that is at least 100 miles
long and will take the better part of two weeks.
In the past couple years I have begun converting to the ultra light way of
backpacking. When new gear comes out that is lighter than the gear I currently
have I am always the first to go pick it up and give it a try. I am known
amongst friends as a gear head, I always have the latest and greatest lightweight
gear. I now have a basic pack weight (without food or water) of under 10lbs.
Manufactured by Tarptent by Henry Shires
Manufactured in 2002
Manufacturers website: www.tarptent.com
Listed weight: 30.5 ounces
Weight as delivered: 29.5 ounces (on Post Office Scale)
Tarptents are ultra light, mobile shelters that shed everything from flying
bugs to summer snow. Elegant and airy, Tarptents set up virtually anywhere.
Designed by and for the outdoor enthusiast, Tarptents keep you dry and sane no
matter the elements. Made in the U.S.A and constructed of the lightest and
highest quality materials available, Tarptents let you focus on the joy of the
journey, not on the pain of getting there.
The Tarptent Squall is the two-person version of Henry Shires Tarptent
design. It is available in many different configurations. The version I own has
the sewn in floor as an addition. It is also currently available with an
extended beak, a front pole, and a floor to door zipper on the front. It is a
modified A-Frame type design. It uses one pole in the foot of the tent to give the
Tarptent its shape and foot height. The front of the shelter can either be
held up by the optional front pole, or by use of a trekking pole. The shelter
is constructed of a gray silnylon fabric. The sides, foot and front are made
of mosquito netting. The optional flooring is constructed of ripstop nylon.
Ultralight – as low as 18.5 ounces with trekking pole
Fast setup – 2 minutes from sack to pitched
Only 4 stakes – titanium for strength
Reflective spectra cord guylines
True catenary ridgeline for wind, sag, and storms
Abundant netting for views, airflow, and bug resistance
Quick drying – inside and out in minutes
Flexible setup – raise/lower sides and front
Large floor space
Small packed size
Front/rear beaks shield windblown rain
Floorless design saves weight
Tyvek groundsheets or sewn-in flooring available
Testing locations varied. I have owned the Tarptent for the last two years
and have carried it with me on many trips. It has seen wet conditions on the
east coast, very stormy conditions in Oklahoma and a variety of conditions in
On the east coast the Tarptent was used in public campgrounds. It was set up
as directed and performed more or less as expected. On calm humid summer
nights there was considerable condensation build up with the beak extended.
However, I found that if you retract the beak the condensation build up was
minimal, even with the high humidity.
The true test of the Squall came on a trip to Wichita Mountains Wildlife
Refuge in Oklahoma. The area is directly in the middle of tornado alley, so the
weather there is quite unpredictable. My brother joined me on a weekend
camping and hiking trip to the park. We chose a nice campsite in a small hardwood
grove. The site was relatively flat and the soft ground made it easy to set up
the Squall. Once you get the hang of setting up the Squall it doesn’t take
much time at all. I lay it out, set my trekking pole to the correct length,
slide the pole into the sleeve at the rear of the shelter, put the rear stake
in, stand up the trekking pole, put the front stake in, then stake out the front
two corners. Four stakes come with the Squall and four stakes are all you
need to set it up. After it’s been up for a little while (maybe an hour or so)
it will need to be restaked, to put tension back on the silnylon body.
The first night in Oklahoma was beautiful, a small breeze came up, the
temperature was in the mid 50s. With both of us in the Squall the fit was slightly
tight but not uncomfortable. After my experience with the condensation in
Virginia, I figured it would be even worse with two people in the Squall.
However, we woke up pleasantly surprised that there was no condensation. We had
left the beak retracted, as there was no threat of rain, and the breeze kept the
tarp dry and pleasant. The next night, however, was a different story. The
winds picked up, to around 30mph and the rains came down with fury. Although
we did not adjust the pitch of the Squall, we did extend the beak. It was much
colder than the night before and the sleeping bags we had with us were not
entirely adequate for the added wind being forced into the mostly open shelter.
Another added worry was the rain beating down so hard on the ground was
splashing through the mosquito netting onto our sleeping bags. By morning, we were
both soaked and cold. We called off the remainder of the trip and returned
to the motel to dry out and get some sleep.
I returned home from this trip and called Henry Shires, the Tarptent
manufacturer and asked him about my concerns. The customer service he offered was
great! He explained to me how to properly configure the Squall for just such
conditions. In high wind and rainy conditions it’s essential that you lower the
height on the front, this will drop the sides and limiting the amount of
exposed mosquito netting on the sides. Additionally helping to do that was the
adding of two more stakes and guylines. The guy points are already installed on
his tents midway down the length of the sides, just adding these helps reduce
the wind flapping and create a more storm proof shelter.
During those few months of use I also found that the sewn in floor was very
slippery and addressed this to Henry as well. He offered to take back the
shelter and coat the floor with silicon, which would provide grip. Or, he said,
use the formula that you created to seam seal the tent and put some on the
floor of the Squall. I chose the latter since I didn’t want to be without the
Squall too long. I made up a batch of the seam sealer and painted X’s about
every foot or so on the floor. This has since remedied the problem of the
Since learning the proper pitching techniques for various weather situations
the Squall has kept me happy and dry through a lot of different scenarios. I
have spent more than a few dry nights in my Squall on Point Reyes during
winter rainstorms. I have also shared the Squall with hiking partners on drizzly
nights without any significant condensation buildup or wet sleeping bags.
Windy nights have been spent above tree line in the Sierra, utilizing rocks to
stake it out when soil was not available.
Although at first I had a few problems with the performance of the Squall, I
found that those were only part of the learning curve of transitioning to the
ultra light world of tarp camping. Since learning the proper techniques of
setup and site selection, I have found the Tarptent Squall to be a very
enjoyable piece of gear. I recommend this shelter to anyone who is interested in
shedding pounds yet still keeping a shelter free of bugs and rain.
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