Re: Owner Review: REVISED - Tarptent Contrail - Michael Dax
- Hi Michael
Blimey - that was a fast switch of editors! Good to see that the Report
Writer solved the MS Word problems.
Anyhow, pretty good goping. A few edits for you to fix. The biggest is to
keep all your statements in the first person: avoid the use of the word
Please fix and repost both plain text and HTML.
> increases from 84 inches (213 cm) to 91 (231 cm).Comment: I would put 'inches' after the 91, but that's me.
> Each pole is secure into the ground and staked out.Edit: I think this should be 'secured'?
> From these two corners, there are two seems that run towards the frontEDIT: seams
> At this apex is where the trekking pole or tent pole is secured into aEDIT: either 'This apex is ...' or 'At this apex the trekking pole is ..'
> The front flap of the tent can be secured using Velcro that runsEDIT: unless Henry uses the word Velcro, which is a Trade Mark, you should
use 'hook and loop' everywhere. Clumsy, I know.
> The inside of the tent is a bathtub floor that is aboutEdit: really, the bathtub floor has 2" walls.
> two inches (5 cm) tall.
> In between the bathtub floor and the tent is a seven inch sectionEDIT: metric
> This road trip took my through the deep south,EDIT: took me
> you quickly become more proficient and efficient as you set it up.EDIT: change 'you' to I or 'one' or my as appropriate - many places
> When setting up the Contrail, the directions tell you to stake
> so that you could successfully stake out the front of the tent.EDIT: change 'you' to 'I'
> It is not water proofEdit: not real happy with this statement as it stands. You need to clarify
> If the front flap is kept open, there should be little to no problem withEDIT: this could be seen as extrapolation, which is a no-no. Change to 'I
have had little to no problem ...'
> I would not recommend the Contrail if you do not plan on using a trekkingEDIT: change 'you'
> a place where you may want to camp on rock slabs would not be good places
> When you are looking for ultra lightweight gear,
> there are obvious concessions you must make
BY MICHAEL DAX
May 05, 2010
NAME: Michael Dax
LOCATION: Old Faithful, WY
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)
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.
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.tarptent.com
MSRP: US$ 200
Listed Weight: 24.5 oz (695 g)
Measured Weight: (?? g) 32 oz (907 g)
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
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 1">>
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 inches (231 cm). Each
pole is secured 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 ground
From these two corners, there are two seams that run towards the front of
the tent and meet in a center apex. At this apex, 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
The front flap of the tent can be secured using a hook and loop that runs
the length of the flap. To leave the door open and increase ventilation,
the flap can be rolled up and secured with another hook and loop 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 (17.5 cm)
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
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 2">>
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 me 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
With all new tents, setting it up can definitely prove to be difficult, but
like any new tent, I quickly became more efficient as I set it up more
frequently. When setting up the Contrail, the directions tell the user 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 I 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 your 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 hammer 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 to only
immediately have to run back to the other end of the tent 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
very light weight to carry.
There were a couple more odds and ends 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 tent.
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.
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 spent 17
nights in the tent and 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.
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 3">>
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 did not keep me sufficiently dry from
condensaiton and did not hold up well in the one significant rain storm to
which it was exposed. When the front flap is kept open, I have had 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 for non-trekking pole users. 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 the user may want to
camp on rock slabs would not be good places to take the Contrail. When
looking for ultra lightweight gear, there are obvious concessions that must
be made, and within that context the Contrail serves its purpose.
THINGS I LIKE
Comfortable for 2
Roomy for 1
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Need good soil for staking
Hard to Clean Inside
Difficult Set up
Not Good in Rain
On Wed, May 5, 2010 at 5:07 PM, Roger Caffin <r.caffin@...> wrote:
> Hi Michael
> Blimey - that was a fast switch of editors! Good to see that the Report
> Writer solved the MS Word problems.
> Anyhow, pretty good goping. A few edits for you to fix. The biggest is to
> keep all your statements in the first person: avoid the use of the word
> 'you' completely.
> Please fix and repost both plain text and HTML.
> Roger Caffin
> BGT Editor
> increases from 84 inches (213 cm) to 91 (231 cm).
> Comment: I would put 'inches' after the 91, but that's me.
> Each pole is secure into the ground and staked out.
> Edit: I think this should be 'secured'?
> From these two corners, there are two seems that run towards the front
> EDIT: seams
> At this apex is where the trekking pole or tent pole is secured into a
> EDIT: either 'This apex is ...' or 'At this apex the trekking pole is ..'
> The front flap of the tent can be secured using Velcro that runs
> EDIT: unless Henry uses the word Velcro, which is a Trade Mark, you should
> use 'hook and loop' everywhere. Clumsy, I know.
> The inside of the tent is a bathtub floor that is about
>> two inches (5 cm) tall.
> Edit: really, the bathtub floor has 2" walls.
> In between the bathtub floor and the tent is a seven inch section
> EDIT: metric
> This road trip took my through the deep south,
> EDIT: took me
> you quickly become more proficient and efficient as you set it up.
>> When setting up the Contrail, the directions tell you to stake
> EDIT: change 'you' to I or 'one' or my as appropriate - many places
> so that you could successfully stake out the front of the tent.
> EDIT: change 'you' to 'I'
> It is not water proof
> Edit: not real happy with this statement as it stands. You need to clarify
> If the front flap is kept open, there should be little to no problem with
> EDIT: this could be seen as extrapolation, which is a no-no. Change to 'I
> have had little to no problem ...'
> I would not recommend the Contrail if you do not plan on using a trekking
>> a place where you may want to camp on rock slabs would not be good places
>> When you are looking for ultra lightweight gear,
>> there are obvious concessions you must make
> EDIT: change 'you'
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]