Tarptent Contrail Review

DSC01377Solo backpacking can be heavy. There is no sharing of gear to make your pack lighter, you just have to carry it all. So when I started hiking alone, the first thing I had to do was buy a new tent. My two-person was just too big and heavy.

I contemplated a tarp, but that makes managing bugs and bad weather more difficult. Rain can splash under the tarp and there is no netting between you and biting insects. I considered staying with the traditional one-man tent but they are so small for their weight, and you often have to make other sleeping arrangements for your pack. When I came across the Tarptent Contrail: a single walled, silnylon tarp-tent that can be pitched with one hiking pole, I found a tent that I could see fitting my backpacking style.


20140522_080734The Size of it…


The Tarptent Contrail, with the floor measuring seven feet long by three and a half feet wide, was made for tall people. Two could fit in it (if you don’t mind getting cozy) or just you and your pack, with plenty of room to spread your stuff out. When the tent is stuffed in the sil-nylon stuff sack that comes with it, it measures 14×4 inches and weighs just 28oz.


Pitching it…


Here’s the only thing I have found difficult about owning this tent. You have to get used to pitching it because it is not a free-standing tent. The guy lines have to be staked out in order for the tent to stand. Once you get used to balancing each side as you pitch then it becomes easy and fast. I have also found that you need to tighten the adjustable lines occasionally to keep it taut. This does mean getting out of the tent, but usually I only need to do it right before bed.

I like the minimum of hardware required: one hiking pole, eight stakes, and a large stick to lift up the end by your feet. How many hikers have I seen in Maine, at the end of the Appalachian Trail with just one hiking pole left? How many rivers and mud holes have tried to claim one of yours? A lot – right? So the thought of a tent requiring two hiking poles to pitch seemed like a possibly uncomfortable situation.

You can buy a special two ounce pole from the company if you don’t hike with hiking poles already and if you are in a pinch it can be guy lined to a tree. I haven’t needed to try that option though, despite my hiking pole sticking badly one night.

NY_AT109Peek Inside…


20140522_075816One of my favorite things about this tent in comparison to other non-freestanding tents is the fact that the tallest part of the tent is over your head and the short part is over your feet. This takes away the chance of waking up with a condensation-ridden tent wall stuck to your face. And it makes me a lot less claustrophobic. If you want to play cards with a fellow hiker you can even both sit up inside, although it is tight.

20140522_080047There is a large waterproof floor that can be flattened out for more space or folded up to protect you from rain. Unlike a tarp, it has bug netting built in to keep the biting guys out. If you want a view though you have to open up the foyer tarp, or peak out the sides as you are laying down; there is no feeling of laying out under the stars. There is very adjustable ventilation and the greyish-green exterior lets in a gentle morning light.


and most importantly…

How does it stand up to the weather?


I have put this tent through a lot of bad weather; I live in New England where the weather changes every ten minutes. The worst storm I have experienced in this tent was in the Adirondacks. As a tornado touched down 20 minutes south of where I was camping, the worst thunderstorms I have ever experienced raged through camp for four hours before the tent fabric became soaked with water and allowed some to drip through the fabric. A standard all-night rain doesn’t even penetrate the silnylon fabric. Bad wind won’t cause it to fold up either. After rain, it dries quickly and is small enough to strap to the outside of a backpack while hiking.

DSC02896Where to buy it…


DSC03088Tarptent is a company worth supporting. They began with the creation of one tent that they now give the DIY plans away for free. They now make unique shelters for up to four people that are reasonably priced and light-weight.

To check them out and purchase one of their great shelters, explore tarptent.com.


DSC03146 (1)I purchased this tent with my own money and have not been compensated in any way for this review. It is just one of my favorite pieces of gear so I wanted to share my experience. I will always give you my honest opinion of a product whether I have received it for free or bought it myself. What if I don’t like a product? I won’t review it but I will pass on my opinion to the company. I like to keep things encouraging and positive when possible.   -Znara

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