FR - Tarptent by Henry Shires Hogback - Richard Lyon
Below is the plain text version of my Field Report on the Hogback. Full Test Report is in the Tests folder at http://tinyurl.com/266c7uk I look forward to your edits.
Cheers - Richard Lyon
November 30, 2010
I've used the Hogback on three backpacking trips, testing its capacity for two campers twice and three campers once.
Use for two took place on two overnighters in the Texas Hill Country, at relatively low elevation (about 1500 ft/460 m maximum), during typical fall weather daytime highs from 70-80 F (21-27 C) and early morning lows down to 40 F (4 C), with no precipitation but plenty of morning dew. On one trip my tentmate was another adult who is almost as large as I, on the other a smaller college student.
A three-day, two-night trip, also to the Hill Country, was colder, near freezing at night and not above 60 F (16 C) at any time, and again no rain. This time I shared the Hogback with an adult and a seven-year old child.
Pitching and striking. In the field, as at home (reported in my Initial Report), the Hogback is ridiculously easy to set up and take down. I haven't used a stopwatch, but with a friend to help with the set-up I think we've met or exceeded the manufacturer's two minute claim, not counting tweaking. With a footprint in excess of fifty square feet (4.6 m^2) I anticipate days or evenings when I may have difficulty finding completely flat ground; that's a natural consequence of a four-person shelter. This hasn't happened yet, but careful adjustment of the struts and their guys have allowed me to adjust the pitch to minor variations in the ground. My camping has been in almost windless conditions, so I cannot yet comment on the Hogback's ability to withstand significant external pressure, but with taut guys this tent remained stable and held its pitch when challenged from within by a rambunctious child.
As noted in my Initial Report the only nuance required to strike and pack this tent is to ensure that the struts are tucked inside the fabric when I start rolling up the tent. This keeps the final product slim, giving an easy fit into its stuff sack.
Capacity. I'm not an ultralight hiker, and I have occasionally experienced mild bouts of claustrophobia when sleeping in a small tent or bivy sack. I'm also spoiled, regularly packing a two-man tent for solo use. This I mention to alert the reader that my notion of elbow room inside a tent may differ from that of the average backpacker, especially one who's truly ounce-conscious. That said, the Hogback was more than adequate for three occupied sleeping bags and the assorted clothes and gear that accompanied us. The inner chamber is square, and sleeping with head and foot from door to door left enough headroom to avoid my feeling closed in. I slept on one side, with the child on the other side and his mother in the middle.
Door-to-door sleeping also made it possible for any of us to exit at night without major disruption of the others. A camper only needed to exit from the door at our feet.
Two can change clothes at the same time inside the Hogback, and that includes the two large adults on the first trip. Maybe three, though we didn't try it. When we were three we had no trouble all sitting up straight for a card game and pre-bedtime tea.
Each vestibule will accommodate, with careful placement, a pair of adult boots and an overnight pack. On each of my trips, though, I found it wiser to store packs (without food) inside. There was ample room to do so even with three sleepers and various small pieces of gear and a jacket or two strewn about, and this is good use of the sides of the tent, where headroom is at its lowest. By placing all boots in the vestibule by our heads I removed any bothersome obstacles to nighttime egress and re-entry through the other door. If I do use the Hogback for four, I'll require that all packs be stored outside the entire tent if at all possible. The vestibules are narrow and not large enough for even one expedition pack.
Condensation. Despite my entire use of the Hogback in the dry air of Texas, I've noticed a fair bit of condensation on the underside of the outer tent on each of my mornings in the Hogback. As noted, I've camped at temperatures well below the local dew point, so some condensation was to be expected. I left the vents fully open each night before retiring, closing them in the middle of the second night of my three-day trip. The inside moisture hasn't yet dripped on sleeping occupants, and after we went outside for breakfast the dew evaporated fairly quickly in the sun. Thankfully I have not experienced a problem I've found with another silnylon tent I own (from a different manufacturer), a sagging of the roof from expansion caused by condensation. I attribute this to the Hogback's always-taut pitch.
Details, details. The floor is a bit slick, but tolerable. I've had no problem with (and have heard no grousing from any other tent occupant about) a sticky zipper. Surprisingly I always seem to find some means of complicating crawling through a tent door, no matter how large I had very little trouble slipping out, in the dark, to answer nature's call. Maybe I was extra careful. My somewhat non-strenuous use of the Hogback has caused no visible fabric or mesh deterioration. I do wish there were some means of adjusting the peak vents from inside, but as I haven't yet had to go outside in the rain I can't really complain.
Storage. As shown in one of the photos in my Initial Report the Hogback when stored has a somewhat long and narrow silhouette. The entire kit fits neatly into my regular weekend pack, but not so well into a smaller 46 L (2800 cu in) hybrid overnight-day pack that I have been using recently. I've never cared for splitting a tent's components among hikers what if we're separated accidentally so I've made do, though that does require some careful counter-weighting with stove and other heavier items such as food.
Care. There's been no need to clean the Hogback; even the kid didn't spill anything inside. All I've done is shake out leaves and dirt that we campers inadvertently brought in. The Hogback gets some bonus points too - for some reason unknown to me, the silnylon floor doesn't seem to attract leaves and forest duff, as has happened all too often with my other silnylon tent.
So far I rate the Hogback very highly on all counts, especially design. Easy to pitch, simple yet sturdy, spacious and comfortable, it's been a great shelter. Please return to this space in laste January for my Long Term Report. Thanks to Tarptent by Henry Shires and BackpackGearTest.org for the testing opportunity.