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Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Tarptent Squall 2 > Owner Review by brad banker

TARPTENT SQUALL 2

OWNER REVIEW
October 08, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brad Banker
EMAIL: brad_banker@hotmail.com
AGE: 34
LOCATION: Greensboro, NC, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 240 lb (109.00 kg)

I went on my first backpacking trip at 5 years old, and hiked quite a bit growing up. I picked it back up again in my 20's and have regularly backpacked now for over 10 years. I backpack the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia on 1-5 night solo or group trips, mostly on or around the Appalachian Trail in all seasons in temperatures from 90+ F (32 C) to under 0 F (-17 C). My companions are my wife and my two golden retrievers, or whoever wants to disappear into the woods for a while.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Tarptent
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tarptent.com/
MSRP: US$230
Listed Weight: 34 oz (940 g)
Measured Weight: 34 oz (940 g) as advertised.
I added two more stakes and some extra guylines that add 4 more oz (113 g) and a Tyvek ground sheet that makes a grand total of 43 oz (1219 g) for my entire 3 season tent system.
Sleeps 2

Product details as listed on manufacturer website:
Weight 34 oz (940 g) using trekking poles (trekking pole weight not included)
Width 78/51 in (198/130 cm)
Length 94 in (239 cm)
Height 45 in (114 cm) adjustable
Floor Area 30-37 sq ft (2.8-3.4 sq m)
Beak Area 7 sq ft (0.65 sq m)
Stakes (included) 4
Packed size 20 x 4 in (51 x 10 cm)
Hybrid bathtub floor clip/ unclip floor walls for splash, space, views, and airflow
Dual trekking poles support for front of tent; front poles available for purchase separately if you do not use or carry poles.
Note: There are three grommets in the front part of the tarp to insert either trekking poles, or poles (not included, but can be purchased from Tarptent.com) in a one pole or two pole configuration.
Abundant netting for views, airflow, and insect resistance; bug proof when zipped up
Front beak shields rain, provides gear storage and small vestibule space
Fast setup 2 minutes from sack to pitched
Integrated line tighteners
Quick drying inside and out in minutes
Small packed size removable strut for stuffing
Catenary ridgelines for wind, sag, and storms
Reflective Spectra cord guylines included

FIELD USE

My Tent History: Henry Shires, the originator and owner, was very helpful both initially and since my Tarptent purchase. I did a fair amount of shopping around while trying to convert from my old 7 lb (3 kg) 2.5-person tent to a lighter 3-season option. I read a lot of reviews and posts on various websites. I asked a lot of questions and eventually decided on a single-walled option. The Squall 2 was an excellent compromise between the standard tent and ultralight tarp usage. I will in this review use tarp and tent somewhat interchangeably because it is a Tarptent.

Initial Impressions: I ordered my Tarptent directly from the website listed in the beginning of this review. I had some questions before I purchased it. I posted some questions on www.whiteblaze.net, which Henry Shires frequents, and he answered many of my questions within one day. I also emailed him before purchasing, and once since for help, and he was prompt and informative in response. My Squall 2 arrived with all of the advertised components and detailed instructions. The weight of the tent was measured as advertised.

My first experience with this tent was on a solo overnight in February in North Carolina with my 110 lb (45.36 kg) golden retriever. The temperature dipped to 16 F (-8.88 C). I was somewhat ill-prepared in that I was carrying my 20 F (-9 C) down bag which sleeps cold at temperatures several degrees warmer than its rating. My dog had only a fleece blanket. I was accustomed to the extra 5-10 F (3-6 C) of comfort that a double-wall tent gives. I was cold and my dog was shivering all night the first night. I have since gotten a 0 F (-18 C) bag for colder weather. The tent was pitched for medium ventilation and there was minimal condensation in the morning. My dog was no worse for wear in the morning.

I have since used this tent for all different types of weather from summer heat to winter cold in rain, sleet and 1.5 in (3.81 cm) of snow without difficulty. In summer conditions with the humidity in the south, it took some some practice pitching the tarp to get maximal ventilation and reduce condensation. In heavy rain with warmer temperatures, I have to pitch the tarp high for maximal ventilation, but adjust the floor higher to decrease splash and mist accumulation on my gear. Fall and spring temperatures are where in my opinion, this setup shines. No condensation, light weight, quick and easy to set up and take down.

Tent setup:
The Tarptent is a single-walled design with a single curved pole that is inserted into the rear part of the tent for a hoop style support. The rear of the tent is anchored by an ingenious method of one guyline loop across the back, and another line in the center attached to the primary line tied together. The center line is longer. To erect the tent, anchor the longer loop with the stake and pull the tent forward to create even tension from back to front. This allows the user to angle the tent and adjust tension with the two loops.
IMAGE 3
tent rear 1

IMAGE 4
tent rear 2

There is a front guyline that is staked to the ground to maintain tension in the front, and two guylines off the front lateral corners that are staked into the ground as well. There are two loops on the side of the tent to add extra guylines if needed to increase stability for wind, etc. Both the front and lateral guylines have tension adjusters that make for quick and easy fine tuning.

I chose the standard option of a sewn-in bathtub floor which is connected to the silnylon body of the tarp by mesh netting. The bathtub floor is able to be adjusted by a series of shock cords with slide locks. This allows the user to adjust the tension on the floor and increase height for protection or ventilation through the tent. The bathtub floor is connected to the tarp top by mesh all the way around.

The tent may be supported either by a single pole that is able to be purchased separately, or by the more common option of using 1-2 trekking or hiking poles (which is the option that I choose.) The front piece that the poles are inserted into has three grommets, and apparently has a stay that can be removed, but I have never removed it. It seems to roll up well and stuff into its stuff sack without taking it out.
IMAGE 1
grommets

IMAGE 2
grommets with poles

I have used both 1 and 2 trekking poles to set up my tent. It is possible to use the two lateral grommets which has the added benefit of angling the poles out to give more space to enter and exit the tent, as well as more functional room for gear, cooking, etc. The most likely combinations are two poles on the outside, or one pole in the center, both of which are demonstrated below. I assume one could use all three grommets and do three poles, but it would be difficult to enter the tent. I do notice a significant difference in stability in using two poles on the outer two grommets. The top bar seems to rock from side to side in this case. The front guyline can also be angled out to either side to give more room for entry on one side of the tent, without significantly negatively affecting the tent stability, but it does make the beak a little more difficult to extend. The tent is held up by the combined tension on the 4 guylines, with the front pole support and the rear hoop support.
IMAGE 5
2 poles open front

IMAGE 6
one pole open front


The front entrance is mesh with a zipper down the front and two zippers across the bottom in an inverse T formation allowing complete protection from all pests of the flying and crawling variety.
There is also a detached floor option and one may also purchase the tarp with no floor.
From the sides of the tent there are two sides of a "beak" that may be rolled down and secured to the front guyline to form a vestibule. This vestibule does not reach all the way to the ground, but in my experience has been enough to keep the rain or snow off my gear, temper moderate wind, but allow sufficient ventilation to minimize condensation due to the single-wall design.
IMAGE 7
beak one

IMAGE 8
beak two

IMAGE 9
beak side


Per manufacturer recommendations and with my own personal experience, it is best to pitch the tent with the low, or rear side into the wind. It is also recommended to pitch the tarp as close to the ground as possible in colder or windier weather to minimize the breeze, and pitch it up higher with max ventilation for warmer weather, which is easy to do with a little practice.

I am continually amazed by the light weight of this tent, even with the Tyvek ground sheet and extra lines and stakes I added. I added these mostly to be able to guy the tent out for more stability with snow and high winds. For somebody who used to lug a 7 lb (3 kg) tent for solo trips, the significantly lighter weight has been a blessing. I am amazed at how much space there is in my 3500 ci (57 L) pack, and this purchase has helped me get my base weight down to approximately 19 lb (8.62 kg) for 3 days. It has become my favorite tent setup for solo trips. It would be my first choice for trips with my wife, but for some reason, she does not really like the tent. She prefers a tent with double walls and doors on either side. I had entertained the idea of getting a Rainshadow 2 Tarptent which is the 3 person version, but the idea was nixed.

Long term use and maintenance: I seam sealed the tent with the recommended silicone sealant when I purchased it and once 2 years later. There have been minimal signs of wear, although I did not use a ground sheet for the first few years, but started recently to protect the floor. This Tarptent has been a great purchase, and I decided to invest in a little Tyvek barrier between the ground and my tent floor. I would rather replace the Tyvek than have to send the whole tent back to be repaired. I have had no rips, tears or signs of abrasion on the tent, but I tend to take care of my gear. The zippers, Velcro, slide locks, shock cords and guylines have worked great and are all very lightweight. The guylines are all reflective which is great in the dark with a headlamp on, especially with the beak line, as seen in one of the photo's below.

General observations: This is my first single-wall tent, so learning to manage, minimize or eliminate condensation in the main compartment was something to get used to. The better I get with estimating ventilation needs, the less I have. A small pack towel takes care of the rest. It was an adjustment for me to get used to less head room compared to my old tent, which had more of a dome style. I do, however, have plenty of room to sit up at the front of the tent. The vestibule area does not completely reach the ground, which I am used to, but comes close enough to keep the rain and snow off my gear. When I use this as a solo tent, I have no difficulty fitting me and all of my gear in. Using it for two people, some gear will probably need to be stowed under the vestibule, but overall it is roomy in my opinion. The most snow I've been in was as mentioned above. I had the tent guyed out very tightly and didn't have any problems, but have not tested more heavy snow conditions yet (maybe global warming will ensure that I never have to in North Carolina.) The tent sets up very quickly and packs down very small. I can't say enough about how small this tent packs down and how light it is.
IMAGE 10
first trip

IMAGE 11
mount rogers morning

SUMMARY

In summary, I have been very pleased with my Tarptent Squall 2 purchase. I have had excellent customer service from Henry Shires. This tent has been an extremely helpful purchase in reducing my base weight without sacrificing comfort or security. It is a good blending of a standard tent design and an ultralight tarp setup. There is a learning curve with this tent setup, but with some work it is possible to overcome the condensation problems associated with a single-wall design. I would not hesitate to recommend this tent to anybody who wishes to reduce pack weight without sacrificing the "tent feel" and does not mind playing around with their gear a bit.

THINGS I LIKE

Very lightweight option for 1-2 people.
Very sturdy and well built.
Single-wall design (in the summer.)
Sets up with trekking poles (which I already use.)

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

Condensation.
Learning curve for setting the tent up for existing conditions.
Single-wall design (in the winter.)
My wife does not like it.
Not much else - overall I love it.

SIGNATURE

Brad Banker
Greensboro, NC

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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