Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Owner Review - Tarptent Contrail - Michael Dax

Expand Messages
  • Michael Dax
    *Tarptent Contrail* *By Michael Dax* *Owner Review* *4/17/10*** * * * * *Tester Information* * * NAME: Michael Dax AGE:
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 17, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      *Tarptent Contrail*

      *By Michael Dax*

      *Owner Review*


      * *

      * *

      *Tester Information*

      * *

      NAME: Michael Dax

      AGE: 23

      GENDER: Male

      HEIGHT: 6�3�� (1.9 meters)

      WEIGHT: 210 lbs. (95 kg)

      EMAIL ADDRESS: mjdax30@...

      CITY, STATE: Old Faithful, Wyoming (Yellowstone National Park)

      I grew up hiking, backpacking, and cross country skiing in the Northeast
      including New York, New Hampshire and Maine. For a short while I lived at
      the Grand Canyon and I now live in Yellowstone. I am not fanatical about
      light weight hiking, but I am starting to be more mindful of my gear.

      *Product:* Tarptent Contrail

      *Manufacturer:* Tarptent

      *Year of Manufacture: *2006

      *Manufacturer�s Website:* www.tarptent.com

      *Listed Weight:* 24.5 oz (695 g)

      *Actual Weight:* 32 oz (907 g)

      *Listed Dimensions:* 42/30 in. x 84/91 in. (107/76 cm. x 213/231 cm)

      *Actual Dimensions: *42/30 in. x 84/91 in. (107/76 cm. x 213/231 cm)

      *Height:* 45 inches (114 cm)

      *Area:* 21 sq. feet (1.9 sq. meters)

      *Freestanding:* No

      *Number of People:* 1+

      *Price:* $200 USD

      *Product Description:*

      The Tarptent Contrail is an ultralight (and I mean ultralight), single wall
      tent for solo backpackers. The tent with the stakes comes in at roughly 32
      oz (907 g). That does not include the weight of your trekking pole or the
      tent pole that is the major structure of the tent. If you choose to use the
      tent pole which you can buy from Tarptent, it is listed as weighing 2 oz (56

      The tent has two plastic poles that are about 14 inches in the length that
      are secured at the two corners at the base of the tent. These two poles
      form the structure of the base of the tent, and the tent can be as tall as
      14 inches or as low as two or three. The poles have adjustable straps on
      them so you can secure the tent lower to the ground during windy conditions.
      Also, by adjusting the straps all the way to the ground, the floor length
      increases from 84 inches (213 cm) to 91 (231 cm). Each pole is secure into
      the ground and staked out. The poles stay erect from the pressure that is
      put on them from all the other stakes and not because they are dug into the

      From these two corners, there are two seems that run towards the front of
      the tent and meet in a center apex. At this apex is where the trekking pole
      or tent pole is secured into a grommet which forms the third base of support
      for the tent. This is what determines the height of the tent. If you place
      the pole at an angle, which would allow better access through the door, the
      tent will be slightly shorter. If you adjust your trekking pole to 45
      inches (115 cm) as is recommended and secure the pole so that it is
      vertical, the tent will be at its maximum height. The front corners of the
      tent extend in diagonal angles from the center pole and are staked out. There
      is also an additional spot to secure a guy-line next to the grommet. This
      fifth stake point is for increased stability which is recommended if you use
      the tent pole instead of the trekking pole.

      On the sides of the tent are two loops where additional guy-lines can be
      attached. If these points are staked out, the width of the tent increases
      from 42 inches (107 cm) to 49 (124 cm) at the top and from 30 inches (76 cm)
      to 37 (94 cm) at the base. However, by increasing the tent�s width, the
      ceiling of the tent is brought down which decreases the ceiling�s height
      from the middle of the tent down to the base.

      The door of the tent unzips on two sides making a very large doorway. However,
      due to the placement of the trekking or tent pole, at least part of the
      doorway is blocked making the actual entrance into and out of the tent
      slightly difficult.

      The front flap of the tent can be secured using Velcro that runs the length
      of the flap. If you wish to leave the door open to increase ventilation,
      the flap can be rolled up and secured with another Velcro strap. The
      vestibule space created when the front flap is closed 10 square feet (.9 sq.
      meters) and is large enough to fit a backpack and a pair of boots.

      The inside of the tent is a bathtub floor that is about two inches (5 cm)
      tall. If the tent is staked out on the sides and the ends of the tent to
      increase its length and width, the bathtub floor is pulled down to the
      ground. In between the bathtub floor and the tent is a seven inch section
      of mesh that stretches around three sides of the tent which provides
      ventilation. When the tent is staked out to provide maximum width and
      length, the mesh becomes part of the floor of the tent.

      The Contrail is not seam sealed so this must be done by the owner upon
      purchase. The silicone product used for sealing can be bought from

      *Primary Field Report:*

      Even though the tent is primarily a backpacking tent, my first experiences
      with it were on a road trip where I was car camping along the way. This
      road trip took my through the deep south, across Texas to Big Bend National
      Park and then up into Northern Arizona and Southern Utah where I hit the
      Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. Naturally, because of where I was, the soil
      for staking out the non-freestanding Contrail was going to be an
      issue. Another
      factor that became apparent that I was not initially aware of was wind as
      the vast wide open landscapes of the desert are prone to some pretty good

      With all new tents, setting it up can definitely prove to be difficult, but
      like any new tent, you quickly become more proficient and efficient as you
      set it up. When setting up the Contrail, the directions tell you to stake
      the back poles first, then secure the trekking or tent pole, and finally
      secure the front two or three stakes. The major difficulty I found was
      keeping pressure on the back two stakes once they were in the ground so that
      you could successfully stake out the front of the tent. If I didn�t keep
      the loops going from the back poles to the stakes taut, they would come
      undone and I would have to start over.

      As I had feared, the soil conditions of the desert Southwest provided
      another difficulty. Because the strength of the tent relies on you ability
      to put a lot of pounds of pressure on each stake and guy-line, it is
      definitely necessary to have good soil to put the stakes into. In some
      cases, the ground was so hard that I needed to pound the stakes into the
      ground with rocks. This was a good solution until I broke one of the
      stakes. However, after this goof-up, I made sure to be careful when
      pounding stakes into the ground and not to swing too freely. I have not had
      a problem since. The bigger problem was when the soil was too sandy to hold
      a stake that had a lot of pressure on it. I tried to hold these stakes down
      by placing large rocks on them, but in using this method, I was never able
      to make the tent stand as stable or taut as I was when it was staked out in
      good soil.

      Finally, if there was ever any wind, setting up the tent and keeping it set
      up was a task that would sometimes take the entire evening. The Contrail is
      so light that even the slightest breeze will send it flapping and twisting
      with the breeze, which makes it especially difficult to lay out and set up.
      I often found myself running to one end of the tent to lay it down only
      immediately have to run back to the other end to catch it from the wind. At
      times, I found myself frustrated to epic proportions.

      I am not a trekking pole user, so I bought the tent pole from Tarpent when I
      purchased the tent. It is just like a normal tent pole in that it comes in
      sections and is narrow. I found this piece fairly flimsy. The end of the
      pole that was secured in the ground was no larger that the butt of a pen and
      it bent with any significant breeze. By the middle point of my trip, the
      pole had a significant bow in it that made it even more susceptible to bend
      with each gust of wind. The flimsiness of the pole greatly contributed to
      the difficulty I had keeping the tent standing during windy weather.

      Despite these initial difficulties, once the tent was set up out of the
      wind, it was great. It is extremely roomy for one person, and the vestibule
      had plenty of space for any odds and ends I kept out with me. On warm
      nights, I was able to keep the front flap open which provided plenty of
      ventilation. On two occasions, I was able to take it on backpacking trips.
      One was down to Grapevine Creek in the Grand Canyon and the other was in the
      Kolob Canyon in the northern section of Zion. Packing it into my pack went
      well. Laying the tent horizontally in my pack worked, but I had to keep the
      tent pole out of the tent bag and pack it vertically in my pack as it was
      just slightly too long to fit comfortably in my pack. At two pounds, it was
      a great light weight to carry.

      There were a couple more odds and end that I discovered throughout my trip.
      The first one was that I had to pay very close attention to the fall line
      when I set it up. Due to the shape of the tent, there is only one way to
      sleep in it, and because it is non-freestanding, I could not simply pick it
      up and rotate it if I found that it did not sit on the fall line well. I
      quickly became good at detecting subtle slopes when I was setting up the
      tent although I still spent a couple of uncomfortable nights sleeping at odd
      angles. Secondly, it is not particularly easy to clean dirt and other
      accumulated pieces of debris out of the tent because I could not shake it
      out as I would be able to if it was freestanding. However, I did develop a
      system of picking up the back two poles and shaking the tent from that point
      while the front was still staked out. This method proved fairly successful.
      Finally, packing up the tent in the morning is quite easy. The back poles
      are slightly shorter than the tent bag, so by tightly rolling the body of
      the tent around the poles, I was able to quickly and easily take down the

      To finish out my initial report, I took the Contrail on a backpacking trip
      to Heart Lake in Yellowstone. This time I was with my new girlfriend (YAY!)
      who is a trekking pole user. Setting up the Contrail with two people is
      significantly easier than one. Once the back two poles were set up, one
      person could hold those in place while the other person secured the front
      pole and stakes. This time I was also able to use her trekking pole instead
      of the tent pole. Once again, there was significant improvement in how
      stable the tent was. The wider base of the trekking pole not to mention the
      wider pole itself made a much strong crux than the tent pole did. (Tarpent
      also recommends a trekking pole). I am 6�3� (1.9 m) and my girlfriend is
      5�7� (1.7 m) and we had no problem fitting into the tent with is technically
      listed as a 1+. Granted we did not mind being forced to be close to each
      other which is definitely a must when squeezing two people in the Contrail.
      Unfortunately, the night did not end nearly as well as it began. A huge
      storm blew in with massive amounts of rain and wind. At one point during
      the night, one of the front stakes came undone which caused the tent to
      collapse on me. After re-staking the front of the tent, I spent the rest of
      the night holding one of the walls off my face as the wind was blowing the
      tent to the extent that the wall bearing the brunt of the wind blew into my
      sleeping space. In the morning, I had a puddle at the bottom of the tent,
      and I can say, with some confidence, that it was the worst night I had spent
      in the woods. Although it did not bother me, my girlfriend found the sides
      of the tent blowing in the wind quite noisy, which made it hard for her to
      sleep. To the Contrail�s credit, after a short while in the breeze of that
      sunny morning, it was bone dry.

      Because the Contrail is a single wall tent, rain can be an issue. When I
      was sleeping in the tent by myself, it was roomy enough that I was not
      touching any of the walls of the tent, so the sagging that ensued from the
      tent becoming wet from rain was not an issue. However, when sleeping two in
      the tent, we were forced to touch the outside walls and when they were wet,
      the single wall was not able to keep us from becoming wet.

      *Long Term Report:*

      At the end of the summer, my girlfriend and I took off on the John Muir
      Trail (JMT) for 19 days and over 220 miles (354 km). For the most part, my
      results varied little from my previous experiences, but there were some new
      things that became apparent. Over the course of the 19 days, we became
      experts at putting up the Contrail, and finally reached a point where the
      tent was as taut as all the pictures on Tarptent�s website have it looking.
      Any difficulty and frustrations that I may have experienced in the beginning
      had all dissipated once I gained the proper experience. Secondly, the soil
      in the Sierras and the lack of wind provided great conditions for the
      Contrail. There were some nights where we had to pound the stakes in with
      rocks, but there was never an instance of soil that was too soft to hold the
      high-pressured stakes. Next, over the course of the 19 days, we never once
      had a difficulty with any lack of space. On some nights we staked out the
      sides of the tent to create a little more floor space, but for the most
      part, it was plenty spacious which is significant considering how badly we
      smelled. It rained only one day on the entire trip, and never did it rain
      at night. We had one morning outside of Tuolumne Meadows where we woke up
      to a hard frost that had successfully permeated the single wall
      structure. However,
      most nights we were able to keep the front flap open and avoided any
      significant condensation. At some point, a tiny hole developed in the
      zippered mesh door. I do not know what caused this, but after about 40-50
      nights spent in the tent, this was the only evidence of wear and tear. Over
      the course of the 19 days, the Contrail held up great and being able to
      carry a two pound tent for two people could not have been better.


      The Tarptent Contrail is a great tent with some reservations. Set up can be
      difficult for one person, but with a little bit of experience (or an extra
      person to give you a hand) it becomes significantly easier. It is a single
      wall tent so it is susceptible to many of the pitfalls to which all single
      wall tents are susceptible. It is not water proof and did not hold up well
      in the one significant rain storm to which it was exposed. If the front
      flap is kept open, there should be little to no problem with condensation as
      the mesh door provides plenty of ventilation; however, with the front flap
      closed, condensation can become an issue. It is extremely roomy for one
      person and comfortable for two people as long as those two people do not
      mind getting pretty close to each other. I would not recommend the Contrail
      if you do not plan on using a trekking pole as the main support. Finally,
      the most significant thing to be wary of when using the Contrail is the
      surroundings in which it is going to be used. A multiple day trip when rain
      is in the forecast would not be good. Trips to the desert in which the soil
      may not be sturdy enough to the stakes or a place where you may want to camp
      on rock slabs would not be good places to take the Contrail. When you are
      looking for ultra lightweight gear, there are obvious concessions you must
      make, and within that context the Contrail serves its purpose

      *Likes* *Dislikes*

      Lightweight! Not Good in Rain

      Roomy for 1 Difficult Set up

      Comfortable for 2 Hard to Clean Inside

      Durable Need good soil for

      Quick Drying Non-Freestanding

      Single wall

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • chcoa
      Hello Michael, Before I can accept this OR you ll need to take care of a couple loose ends. First, in your Bear Vault OR the date needs to be spelled out,
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 18, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        Hello Michael,

        Before I can accept this OR you'll need to take care of a couple loose ends. First, in your Bear Vault OR the date needs to be spelled out, using the word for the month. Some folks on this list read the date month/day/year and other day/month/year, so numbers alone could be very confusing.

        Secondly, I'm not sure it's in the right folder. It's in the 400 section but you reviewed the 500. I'm checking on this.

        Finally, as I mentioned in my PM to you earlier, you will need to look over your 2nd OR, apply what you learned in the 1st OR process and then post it again with REVISED in the title. One thing you left out for sure is a clear statement of how many nights you use this tent. Secondly, your layout is in Test Series format (IR, FR, LTR) and since this is an owner review that doesn't really apply.

        Please address these things and then we'll proceed to OR #2.

        Safe hiking,
        Jamie D
        Edit Admin Manager
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.