Squall (courtesy, Henry Shires)

Is the low, low weight of a Tarptent too good to be true?

Have you tried Henry Shires' Tarptents? I need to replace my old and heavy Eureka dome tent, and I find two-person tunnel tents to be a little crped, especially with my six-foot-one-inch boyfriend sharing the se space. I'm tempted by the ultralight weight of the Tarptent, in addition to its still-adequate rain and bug protection. But it seems just too good to be true. Do you have any other roomy yet lightweight tents to suggest? Carla Toronto, Ontario


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Not too good to be true, at all. Tarptents, which were introduced in 1999 by their designer, Henry Shires, are simply floorless, single-wall tents. By eliminating the floor (and even the poles—trekking poles can be used to set one up) and using very light materials such as titanium stakes, the Tarptents are incredibly light. The two-person Squall, for instance, weighs in at around a pound and a half ($180; www.tarptent.com).

Squall Squall

Of course, that isn’t quite the whole story. You’ll want a ground cloth—the Tarptent folks sell one made of Tyvek for $12 that adds four to eight ounces, depending on the tent (a sewn-in floor is another option, goes for $30, and adds six ounces to the Squall). So that’s a slight weight addition, plus if you go with the ground cloth and hit heavy rain, you’ll have to do some canal work to get water away from the tent. And the Tarptents’ reliance on lots of mesh means that cold breezes will accompany you and your boyfriend’s slumber.

But for most camping, in most conditions, why not? The Tarptents are super light, easy to set up, and weatherproof enough for all but severe or very cold conditions. Their top competition, in my view, is Mountain Hardwear’s Waypoint 2 ($250; www.mountainhardwear.com), which weighs about three and a half pounds. It has a full floor, and I’ve found mine to be exceedingly storm-resistant. It’s also long enough to accommodate your gangly beau. So you might take a look at one of those, too.

For more of this year’s best tents, check out Outside‘s 2004 Buyer’s Guide.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, Henry Shires