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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > AntiGravityGear TarpTent > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly

AntiGravityGear Tarptent
Reviewed By Pat McNeilly

Initial Report: May 18, 2007
Field Report: July 22, 2007
Long-Term Report: September 24, 2007

Name: Pat McNeilly
Age: 44
Gender: Male
Height: 5’ 8” (1.7 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email address: mcne4752 at yahoo dot com.
City, State, Country: Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA

Backpacking Background:
I have been hiking for at least 20 years but backpacking for only the last four years.  Most of my backpacking is done as overnight trips and occasional weekend and weeklong trips.  My typical packweight is approximately 18 to 20 lb (8 to 9 kg) before food or water.  Most of my backpacking is the three season variety in the mountains of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  In addition to backpacking, I also fish, hunt, and have been involved in disaster relief.  As a result, some of my backpacking equipment gets used in a number of different venues.
Tarptent plus accessories
Product Information:

Product: 10’ Tarptent
Manufacturer: Antigravity Gear
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Color: Green
URL:  http://www.antigravitygear.com/.
MSRP: Tarptent                       $229.99 USD
            StormFlap                    $29.00 USD
            Titanium Stakes (8)       $15.00 USD
            40’ Spectra line            $18.00 USD
            Poncho Villa                 $79.00 USD
            Seam Sealing                $30.00 USD


Item

Weight (listed)

Weight (measured)

Tarptent

20 oz (567 g)

22 oz (624 g)

Stuff Sack

Not listed

0.5 oz (14 g)

Storm flap

1.3 oz (37 g)

1.3 oz (37 g)

Stakes (each)

Not listed

0.2 oz (6 g)

Spectra line

1 oz (28 g)

0.8 oz (23 g)

Stake bag

Not listed

0.2 oz (6 g)

Poncho Villa (vestibule)

5.9 oz (167 g)

5.9 oz (167 g)



Initial Report
Review Date: May 18, 2007

Product Description (as described on the manufacturer’s website):
The AntiGravityGear Tarptent is a lightweight single-walled shelter designed for ultralight backpacking.  The shelter has a trapezoidal shaped floor and sets up with a hiking pole.  The Tarptent comes with mesh door and has a storm flap and a vestibule attachment as optional components.

Tarptent Front ViewProduct Review:
The Tarptent is completely constructed of sil-nylon and has a trapezoidal floor with the long side (rear) measuring 10 ft (305 cm) and the short side [front measuring 7 ft (213 cm)].  The remaining two sides measure 5 ft (152 cm).  The Tarptent has a front beak constructed of two triangular pieces of sil-nylon which extends approximately 17 in (43 cm) from the front of the Tarptent and has a guy line attached to it.  A plastic cup (appears to be made of PVC tubing) is provided at the apex of the Tarptent for insertion of a hiking pole to help prevent a puncture but it appears that care may need to be taken so as not to have the pole slip out of the cup and puncture the beak or other portion of the Tarptent.  There are stake loops located at each corner, as well as an additional loop at the mid-point of the back edge.  Two guy-out loops are located approximately 12 in (30 cm) up from the mid point of each side and a third loop is located approximately 18 in (46 cm) mid-way along the rear of the Tarptent.  Each guy-out point is reinforced with a 1 in x 1.75 in (2.5 cm x 4 cm) patch of webbing.  There is an additional loop located at the apex of the Tarptent where the body meets the beak.  This loop would allow the Tarptent to be set up without a pole by attaching to an overhead branch.
Tarptent Rear View
The mesh door is a simple curtain of bug netting which hangs down across the entire front opening.  Three sets of hooks (described as mitten hooks), suspended on 4 in (10 cm) loops of elastic cord, hang along the seam attaching the beak and tent body.  These loops and hooks allow the mesh door to be rolled up and secured.  The mesh also has two mitten hooks, suspended on 2 in (5 cm) loops of elastic cord, attached to the face of the mesh.  This set of hooks are approximately 13 in (33 cm) from the bottom of the mesh and can be hooked to two corresponding loops on the front edge of the floor to create a bathtub effect.  I will note that one of these two loops was not sewn through and I had to tie a knot to secure the mitten hook on the elastic.  This should not alter its function but I will keep an eye on it.

Tarptent with StormFlapThe Tarptent has a few optional items to provide a more weather resistant set-up, such as the StormFlap and the Poncho Villa (vestibule).  The StormFlap acts as a door of sorts to protect the user from blowing rain and debris.  The StormFlap is a trapezoidal shaped piece of sil-nylon which fits along the front of the shelter under the beak.  Each end of the long side [72 in (183 cm)] of the StormFlap has a loop which attaches to a mitten hook at the front stake loop of the Tarptent.  The short side [28 in (71 cm)] of the StormFlap has three loops which attach to the mitten hooks used to hold up the mesh door.  When installed, the StormFlap provides a vertical wall in the front of the shelter.  This “new wall” does not extend all the way to the top of the shelter but leaves room for some ventilation. 
Tarptent with vestibule closed
A vestibule can be formed from the AntiGravityGear Poncho Villa, as an optional item.  The Poncho Villa can be used as raingear when not being used as the Tarptent’s vestibule.  I am reviewing the Poncho Villa in conjunction with the Tarptent and a separate report on the poncho is available under raingear.  The poncho is basically a square piece of sil-nylon which measures 63 in (160 cm) per side and has a hood with a drawcord.  The corners of the poncho have loops to allow for pitching as a vestibule.  One loop is attached to the end of a hiking pole before it is inserted into the cup under the beak and the other loop is staked out.  The last two corners are attached to the two mitten hooks located on the front stake loops.

A few last things that I noticed are that the overall quality seems to be quite good.  The seams appear to be well done.  The seams are sealed which looks to be complete.  The stakes supplied with the Tarptent are titanium and are 6 in (15 cm) shepherd’s hook style.  Although these are very light, I am interested to see how well they hold in different soil types.
Tarptent with vestibule open
I found the Tarptent quite easy to set up. I usually use a tarp as a shelter and therefore did not have any problems with how to properly stake out the sides or deal with the guy lines.  Only a single pole is required to pitch the Tarptent but a second pole attached via the rear guy point helps with interior space.  The side guy points also help in providing additional interior volume to the Tarptent.   It seems like there is ample room for one person and two could probably fit without much problem.  I would expect that with the Poncho Villa attached as a vestibule, there should be ample space for two.  I find the mesh door quite remarkable.  Simply lift it up and walk out.  No zippers or other type of closure to fumble with.  Let’s see if I am still crazy about it after four months.

My plan is to evaluate the ease of set-up and how well the various options function during a trip.  I will be evaluating the overall durability of the materials, as well as watching for separation of seams and the like.  I will be looking to see how well the Tarptent deals with rain and condensation.

Field Report
Review Date: July 22, 2007

Field Information:
I use the Antigravity Gear Tarptent on a three day backpacking trip in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia.  The weather conditions included temperatures 45-80 F (7-27 C) and I encountered fairly dry conditions with only small amounts of rain.  The elevations ranged from 2000-4800 ft (610-1460 m) on this trip.  I also used the Tarptent as my sole shelter on a 12 day trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  The weather conditions included temperatures from 45-90 F (7-32 C) and I encountered mostly dry conditions but did encounter rain on most days of the trip, usually in the form of afternoon thundershowers.  The elevations on this trip ranged from 6700-12400 ft (2040-3780 m).

Product Review:
Tarptent in camp with StormFlapThe Tarptent has been easy to set up in the field.  It is as simple as placing two stakes at the rear corners, inserting a trekking pole under the beak, and staking out the front guy line.  At this point the shelter will stay up and the front corners can be staked out.  This can be accomplished in a couple of minutes.  The best pitch seemed to be achieved by making sure that a long front guy line was perpendicular to the rear wall.  This did tend to produce a tripping hazard (particularly with ten teenagers around) since the guy lines are hard to see even in daylight.  Staking out the additional guy lines is not absolutely necessary and does take a bit longer but does provide greater interior space.  I did have opportunity to set up the Tarptent with an imminent thunderstorm rumbling.  The Tarptent went up just as quickly (if not quicker) than tents used by my companions.

The only aspect of the set-up that needs particular care is ensuring that the trekking pole is inserted in the plastic cup on the underside of the beak.  While staking out the front guy line, I pulled the fabric taut and heard a popping sound.  My trekking pole had slipped out of the cup and was now sticking out of the top of the beak.  I figured that this would leave me with a leaking tent for the nine days left in my New Mexico trek.  I was able to patch the hole with two small circles of duct tape on the inside and outside of the material.  This appeared to hold for the remainder of the trip and I did not have any problems with rain entering the Tarptent.

Attaching the vestibule requires that the PonchoVilla be at hand when setting up the tent.  I found that I would set up the tent but forget to pull out the vestibule and had to attach it after the initial set up.  This is not hard to do but required that I pull down the trekking pole to insert the pole through the loop on the back of the PonchoVilla. 

Rubber band attached to StormFlapI found that closing the vestibule and the StormFlap difficult depending on how wide the opening between the two front stakes was.  This distance can vary depending on the height of the trekking pole.  I found it difficult to attach the sil-nylon loop on either closure to the mitten hook beside each front stake.  To alleviate the problem I attached a small rubber band to the loop on one side of the StormFlap and vestibule.  This allowed the closures to attach more easily but still remain taut and shed water.

I found that getting in and out of the Tarptent much easier than I expected.  I had expected that I would be constantly knocking against the trekking pole, the guy line, or the edge of the beak.  I have not found this to be the case very often.  The opening is wide enough for me to exit and not touch the pole or guy line.  On occasion, I have had my back rub against the beak but that did not seem to be much of a problem.

Front view of Tarptent on trailI have had mixed results with condensation in the Tarptent.  I have used the Tarptent in various configurations.  I have used it with (i) the StormFlap as a door; (ii) the vestibule attached and completely closed; (iii) the vestibule attached with one half open; and (iv) only the mesh as a door.  All configurations produced condensation except for when using the mesh only.  This was true even in New Mexico where the overall humidity is much lower than West Virginia.  I found that the vestibule produced more condensation that other configurations since it appeared to “seal” things up a bit more and prevented adequate ventilation.  Typically, I would wipe the condensation up with a bandana and try to let the Tarptent air out to dry.  I found that if there is any amount of sun available, the sil-nylon dries quickly.

I found that the Tarptent provided good protection from the weather and bugs.  I did not have any leaks in the seams, even during one night of constant rain.  The beak provides a good amount of protection from rain, even without using the StormFlap or vestibule attached.  When these options are attached, I found the Tarptent to be as weatherproof as just about any other tent I have used.  I did use the mitten hooks on the bug netting to help the Tarptent floor bathtub up one night in case the rain produced run off.  The floor was pulled up enough where I thought that running water would be diverted under the tent.  However, I did note that the floor was not raised up as much in the corners near the front stakes.  This did not cause any problems but did make me question whether I had set up the Tarptent in an appropriate location.  The bug netting door did keep bugs out but I felt more comfortable when I weighed it down with boots or camp shoes to create a better seal.  One nice thing about the bug netting is that it can be raised and secured in place with an elastic cord and mitten hook at the top of the entry.  This keeps the netting out of the way when exiting and when stuffing the Tarptent into its sack.

One of the best aspects of the Tarptent is the amount of space it provides.  I am one who likes to have space for gear and to sit up.  I have not had any problems with lack of space, particularly if the rear guy point is used.  I can easily change clothes without hitting my head on the walls.  Due to the slope of the back walls of the Tarptent, there isn’t much space along the rear wall.  I typically put gear along the rear wall and in the rear corners and sleep closer to the door.  To maximize space the rear and both sides must be guyed out but I find that I have plenty of room even if the sides are not pulled out.  Overall, I am pleased with the amount of space for the weight of the shelter.

I did note a couple of other minor issues.  First, I noticed that the Spectra line included with the Tarptent appeared to be strong but did not hold friction knots very well.  I found that parts of the Tarptent would sag if I did not adjust the tension on the knot.  I could easily solve this problem by adding additional wraps to any friction knot I used but I was disappointed that line which costs $18 USD per 40 ft (12 m) didn’t perform better.  The second issue involved the titanium stakes.  These stakes are light but a number of campsites on my New Mexico trip had very hard packed soil which made use of these stakes impossible.  In some cases no stakes would penetrate the ground and required tying guy lines to rocks.  Where conditions allowed, these stakes did perform well. 

Long-Term Report
Report Date: September 24, 2007

Field Information:
Since my Field Report I have only been able to use the Tarptent on two overnights camping outings (not backpacking).  Both trips were in central Maryland and the temperatures encountered ranged from 65-85 F (18-29 C).  No rain was encountered on either outing but high humidity was a factor on both outings.  The winds were light to moderate but not strong enough to cause problems with the pitch of the tent.  These are typical weather conditions for the Mid-Atlantic at the end of summer.

Product Report:
It seems that no matter the conditions I encountered with this product, I would always have some amount of condensation on the walls.  During August and early September in Maryland I always expect condensation with just about any tent.  I was a bit surprised to find that I had only small amounts of water on the inside of the tent on my last couple outings.  There are multiple factors which contribute to condensation including wind, and ground moisture, nonetheless I was happy not to have to deal with a shower of water when I touched the Tarptent walls.

The sil-nylon has held up well.  Every time I pitch the Tarptent I think to myself that the material will not take the stress of a taut pitch.  This material is remarkable stuff and the quality appears to be very high as is that of the stitching.  I have not found any weakening of the seams or at any stress points, such as the corner stake points or the apex where the seams of the beak and main tent come together. 

The Tarptent has been easy to clean with a simple wiping with a moistened cloth.  I have not been using the Tarptent with any type of groundcloth and after giving the underside of the floor a cleaning, I gave it a thorough inspection for damage.  I did find a few areas where the appeared to be some abrasion from small sticks and rocks.  None of these appeared to actually penetrate the fabric or compromise the waterproofing on the material.

I did get to test the Tarptent with two people inside and I prefer it as a solo shelter.  Two adults can fit inside and with the vestibule attached space can be manageable.  However, this forces one person to sleep much closer to the rear wall which increases the likelihood of contacting condensation on the walls.  I also found that there is a tendency for the person in the front to keep their distance from the supporting pole.  This tends to push the person sleeping in the back into the rear wall.  Additionally, the person in the rear must climb over the person in the front to exit the shelter which requires some interesting maneuvers.  The bottom line is that two people can work but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. 

After going through the entire testing process for this product I am certainly satisfied with the Tarptent.  It sets up quickly and has held up well in a variety of conditions.  The material is light weight and packs small both of which are assets when looking to cut down on carried weight.  The amount of space is great for solo hiking and is something I have absolutely enjoyed about the Tarptent.  Condensation is a problem but that is a problem with single wall tents and can be managed.

Summary:
The AntiGravityGear Tarptent is an ultralight sil-nylon shelter which sets up easily with a trekking pole.  The Tarptent has ample room for one plus gear and has the option of adding a vestibule for even more space.  However, the space feels rather cramped with two people inside.  Condensation is a bit of a problem with the Tarptent but the sil-nylon does tend to dry quickly.  The quality of the material and workmanship is excellent.

Things I like:
1. Lots of space for the weight
2. Easy quick set up.
3. Good bug protection

Things I don’t like:
1. Tends to collect condensation
2. Guy lines tend to slip
3. Tight for two people

This concludes my testing of the Tarptent.  I would like to thank AntiGravityGear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.



Read more reviews of AntiGravityGear gear
Read more gear reviews by Patrick McNeilly

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > AntiGravityGear TarpTent > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly



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