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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Sublite Sil Tent > Test Report by Carol Crooker

October 12, 2010



NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 51
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

For the past 10 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year, usually in Arizona and the western mountains on trips that last 3 to 6 days. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). My three-season base pack weight varies from about 8 to 12 pounds (4 - 5 kg) and my winter base pack weight is about 18 pounds (8 kg). I normally use a tarp for shelter. I also packraft (backpacking that includes travel by raft) and apply the same lightweight principles I use backpacking.



Manufacturer photo
Manufacturer: Tarptent
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$209
Listed Weight: 24 oz (680 g)
Sleeps: 1
Height: 45 in (114 cm)
Floor Area: 18.8 sq ft (1.75 sq m)
Floor Width: 26/37/26 in (66/94/66 cm)
Floor Length: 86 in (218 cm)
Measured Weight: 23.5 oz (666 g) for tent and stuff sack; 1.5 oz (43 g) for stakes and stuff sack
Other details: fully enclosed tent with mosquito netting, 4-stake setup, uses two trekking poles at least 53 in (135 cm) long, vestibule, adjustable venting and view options.


The Sublite Sil canopy is gray and the floor is black, both are silnylon. The tent arrived in a silnylon stuff sack with four Easton aluminum stakes in their own, small stuff sack. After reading the one-page instructions, I set up the tent. The foot end of the tent has short vertical struts to provide more foot room and ventilation. The struts get staked out first. Next, trekking pole handles fit into small nylon canvas pockets, and the tips go into round, aluminum pole extenders at the apex of the tent. The poles must be extended to at least 135 cm (53 in) and the handles should be spread wide for maximum room inside. Lastly, the head end corners are staked out. There are various adjusters, including straps at the tip and handle of the poles to adjust to pole length. Two hook and loop strips on the front wall and one on the rear secure the poles to the tent body. The foot end tieouts can be adjusted at the top and bottom of each strut. The head end tieouts attach to an O-ring and the bottom edge of the tent can be adjusted independently of the edge a few inches (centimeters) from the bottom. This allows the bottom edge to be raised for more ventilation.

Stepping back to take a look at the Sublite Sil, I can see that the floor is connected to the tent body with netting. There is a zippered netting door. The head end has a steep, nearly vertical slant and it appears there is plenty of height at the foot end so that my sleeping bag won't brush the ceiling. A silnylon door can be zipped closed or tied back with elastic. There is a small vestibule at the head end of the shelter.

Next I pop inside to take a look around. There is a lot of room inside and plenty of sitting height. The floor can be adjusted so that it forms a bathtub or allowed to lie flatter for more ventilation. There are lots of small loops, mitten hooks, and toggles inside for various adjustments that I'll be exploring during field testing. The floor area is an elongated hexagon - basically a rectangle with pop outs on both sides. The pop out on the front wall is outside the netting and forms the vestibule. The pop out along the back wall is inside the tent and provides some extra space for gear, and possibly a small companion. My 5 year old niece has been helping by staying occupied with my dog while I set up the Sublite. I call her over and we find we can both fit inside, although it is a close fit. I will be taking her on an overnighter and will report on how well we fit in the tent for a whole night.

I have tent poles that are 51 inches (130 cm) long, but Tarptent is not kidding when they say poles must be at least 53 in (135 cm) long. I don't see any way to adapt my poles to work with the tent. I will be taking the tent on a packraft trip and had hoped not to need to carry trekking poles just for the purpose of setting up my tent. Later, I try to imagineer (imagine + engineer) setting up the Sublite using my paddle and spare paddle, but can't make it work.

I quickly and sloppily seam seal the tent as recommended by a hand written note on the instructions in preparation for my imminent packraft trip to Utah. I notice several places where the stitching has ended, then is double sewn to start a new line of stitching. Some seams waver slightly back and forth instead of running in a straight line. The wavy seams affect the aesthetics but don't appear to functionally impact the tent.


The one page of instructions is clearly written with sufficient diagrams for clarification. There are numerous inside adjustments that can be made to the tent which are mentioned, but a more detailed accounting of what each button hook, loop, and toggle is for would be nice.


I describe a quick foray inside the tent in the Initial Impression section. I'll leave further descriptions for the Field Report.


The Tarptent Sublite Sil appears to be quite roomy and comes in at a nice weight for a bug proof, single-person shelter.

What I like so far:
- Lots of room, including head room
- Light weight for a fully enclosed, bug-proof shelter

What I don't like so far:
- Wavy seams
- Requirement for very long poles
- More explicit instructions on various adjustments would be nice



At Lynx Lake with the door open.
During the Field Test phase I used the Sublite Sil on three trips totaling twelve days.

May 16-22, Escalante River in southern Utah
This was an 80 plus mile (130 km) packraft trip down a mostly shallow and very curvy wilderness river running through some gorgeous canyons. Elevation ranged from about 5200 - 3600 ft (1580 - 1100 m).
Conditions were sometimes clear and sometimes overcast with highs from the upper 60s to the low 80's F (20 - 27 C). Lows overnight were generally in the 40's F (7 C). One day was a bit cooler with occasional showers. Tent sites were packed dirt or sand.

June 5-6, Lynx Lake near Prescott, AZ
This was a car camping trip with my five year old niece. The tent site was a smoothed surface of fine gravel. Elevation was about 6000 ft (1830 m).
The weather was clear and hot with the high in the 80's F (27 C) and the low in the 60's F (20 C)

June 21-23, Chevelon Lake near Payson, AZ
This was a base camp trip with the base just a 30 minute hike from the car. Elevation was about 6000 ft (1830 m).
Sunny with a high of 100 F (38 C) the first day and a low of 45 F (7 C). The tent site was dirt packed a few inches/centimeters deep on top of a rock slab.


Foot end with flap up for ventilation.

The following are my impressions after using the Sublite in the field:

The Sublite Sil is incredibly roomy for a tent with mosquito netting in this weight class. There is plenty of head room and room to change clothes in privacy. It is a solo tent but I wanted to try it with my niece. It is a tight fit for an adult and a five year old. I used a long and wide (25 in/63.5 cm x 75in/190 cm) basecamp inflatable sleeping pad, which just fit into the tent floor, and a small pad in the "pop out" portion. My niece is a pad hog and we mostly squeezed onto the big pad. Luckily, the Sublite is quite long and we both got some good rest sleeping head to toe.

Foot end with flap down.

I slept another night with my head at the foot end just for testing purposes. The foot end clears the end of my bag easily when I sleep correctly oriented, but I had considerable condensation (as expected) when breathing onto the ceiling at the foot end. The head end has a very steep wall and I experienced no condensation on other nights under similar conditions with my head at the proper end of the tent.

Head end with clips so bottom edge can be raised.

As I mentioned in the Initial Report, I could not find a way to use my paddle and spare paddle to support the Sublite on my packraft trip. I did not want to have to carry poles but had to. I saved a few ounces by taking poles I could overextend to just barely meet the length requirement for the Sublite. They supported the tent fine.

The tent goes up easily and has nice options (line tighteners at the ends and ribbon straps with adjusters on the sides) to tighten the pitch.

The instructions say that a guyline can be attached to the apex for more wind stability. As far as I can tell, there is no specific place to tie a line to and it must be tied around the short straps holding the pole tip holders in place.

Note that bottom edge can be raised for ventilation.

Silnylon sags but Tarptent has lines that can be pulled at both pole ends to tighten the pitch from inside the tent. A nice touch.

Netting extends from the bathtub floor to the head wall of the tent. I found this "shelf" a handy place to keep my glasses and other small items at night.

Back wall. Note cord to tighten tent on the pole.

The floor is very slippery for an inflatable pad even with a little bit of silicone streaked into the floor.

The netting door zippers close smoothly.

The nights at Chevelon Lake I couldn't get stakes far into the ground before they hit rock, but the guyouts had loops I could fit large rocks into. The tent stayed stable "rocked" out in breezy conditions. I was not so lucky on my Escalante trip. The only place to camp one night was on soft sand. My stakes just would not hold when huge gusts of wind buffeted the Sublite. When the stakes blew out, I was able to hold the tent by grabbing the head end corners. The poles held the tent's shape which I really appreciated since it kept me from being covered in clingy silnylon.


Handy clip for a light, etc.
I like the Tarptent Sublite Sil most especially for its roominess. My list of likes/dislikes haven't changed after field testing, but I repeat them below.

What I like so far:
- Lots of room, including head room
- Light weight for a fully enclosed, bug-proof shelter

What I don't like so far:
- Wavy seams
- Requirement for very long poles
- More explicit instructions on various adjustments would be nice



October 4-7, West Canada Lakes Wilderness in the Adirondacks in east, central New York
This was a very wet 30 mile (48 km) loop hike in the region of the highest lakes in the Adirondacks. Elevation was about 2400 ft (730 m).
Always overcast with rain about 80% of the time. The low was 45 F (7 C) with a brief high of 62 F (17 C). Tent sites were grassy and wet.


My trip in the West Canadas in the Adirondacks was an excellent opportunity to test the Sublite in very wet weather since it rained nearly constantly for three days and nights. The Sublite has high/low venting with a vent near the peak and netting between the floor and walls, but this was not enough to prevent constant condensation on the inner walls and ceiling under these 100% humidity conditions. The tent is roomy for its weight, but I still brushed against the ceiling and back wall often while making dinner or packing gear.

Peak vent on a rainy trip.
I hastily seam sealed the tent before my first trip but need to go back and seam seal carefully around anything attached to the tent walls and ceiling since water dripped from the hang loops and clips inside the Sublite. I got "rained on" when the wind gusted or it rained heavily and condensation dripped from the ceiling. I brought water in with me when I rolled back one-half of the vestibule to enter the tent. All of these factors are what I'd expect from a small, silnylon tent in steady rain.

With one-half of the vestibule tied up, rain dripped off from the rolled up vestibule and fell inside the bathtub floor. I was not able to fix this by changing the tent pitch, but found I could push the bathtub floor inside the drip line using my water bottle and shoes.

I was lucky enough to set up the Sublite only once while it was raining. The tent was sopping wet from the first two nights. I had stored it by laying it flat, then folding in the two sides so the black bottom was up, then rolling the tent up. When I set it up, I quickly laid it out flat and unfolded the sides, then staked the back, added the two poles and staked the front. Surprisingly little water got inside the tent during the storage and setting up process.

I configured the bathtub floor halfway through the first night of rain when water dripped from the sides and onto the floor. It was easy to form the bathtub by hanging four loops on the floor corners over button hooks. The bathtub floor did a good job of keeping out rain from the ground and from above.

I boiled water for dinner and breakfast while inside the tent. I used a Trail Designs Caldera Cone alcohol stove which does fine in rain. I partially zipped the vestibule closed and tied it back tightly to keep rain out of the tent and sat the stove just outside the rain protected area. I pushed back the bathtub floor with my shoes and water bottle so water didn't drip onto the floor.

The tent sagged a lot the first night. I normally put up a silnylon tent/tarp then retighten the pitch after a half hour or so. The first night out, it started rain before I had a chance to tighten the pitch. The rain caused more sagging and the back wall became very saggy. The inside adjustment was already pulled to its max, so I had to go outside and retighten the tent during a brief lull in the rain. After that, the tent stayed fairly taut the rest of the night.

It was a tight fit to get all my wet gear under the vestibule, but doable.

Overall, the Sublite did fine in very wet conditions. The one design change I'd like to see is that the bathtub floor not extend past the drip line when the vestibule is rolled and tied back.


Overall, I like the Tarptent Sublite Sil. It has plenty of room in all dimensions for its weight and has full bug protection. I've listed my final list of likes/dislikes below.

What I like:
- Lots of room, including head room
- Light weight for a fully enclosed, bug-proof shelter
- Bathtub floor does a good job of keeping rain out
- Option of bathtub floor or flat floor
- Various venting options

What I don't like:
- Wavy seams
- Requirement for very long poles
- More explicit instructions on various adjustments would be nice
- The bathtub floor needs to be pushed back when the vestibule is open (fully or partially) so rain doesn't enter


I plan to use the Sublite Sil in the future on trips where I expect mosquitoes or want privacy and don't mind the weight of a lightweight (as opposed to an ultralight) shelter.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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