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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Sublite Sil Tent > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Tarptent Sublite Sil
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - May 18, 2010
FIELD REPORT - August 01, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - September 28, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with brother-in-law Dave.


INITIAL REPORT

The Product

Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Web site: www.tarptent.com
Product: Sublite Sil
Year manufactured: 2010
MSRP: US $209.00
Size: 1 person
Weight listed: 24 oz (680 kg)
Actual weight: 24.8 oz (703 g)
Height listed: 45 in (114 cm)
Length listed: 86 in (218 cm)
Width listed: 26/37/26 in (66/94/66 cm)
(All numbers can fluctuate depending on set-up)
Packed size: 5 x 13 in (13 x 33 cm)
Color: Dusty Green
Made in USA

Product Description

Sublite Sil, not Punxsutawney Phil


The Tarptent Sublite Sil (hereafter referred to as the Sil or the tent) is a hybrid single wall (kinda) shelter aimed squarely at the lightweight and Ultra-lightweight trekking pole using backpacker. Updated for 2010, it is the second generation and has a lot of new features.

The shelter gets its name from the silnylon used for its walls and floor. This differentiates it from the Sublite (no Sil) that is made from Tyvek material. The Sil should be much more weather proof.

The Sil gets its support not from tent poles, but rather from the trekking poles that I carry on every hike. This allows the weight to be kept low, and is employed on many Tarptent models.

Set up is a little confusing at first but gets easier with practice. At the foot end of the Sil are two struts. These are staked out first. Then the trekking poles, set to at least 53 in (135 cm) are placed. First the butt of the handle is inserted into the handle adapters. Next the pole tips are placed into aluminum apex adapters. Hook and loop straps wrap around the shaft of the trekking poles to give added strength for the sides in wind. Pulling tension straps near the handle adapters locks the poles in good and tight.

Lastly the front of the tent is pulled forward lifting the poles, somewhat like pulling up a hoop tent. Once up, lines tensioners at all corners allow the tent to be fine tuned for tautness.

Once the tent is up I can look inside to see that the Sil has one wall made of mesh with a door in it. This mesh wall is why I call it a hybrid as it is not completely single-wall. The space between the mesh wall and the silnylon forms a small vestibule which will hold a backpack and a pair of shoes. (Watch for action photos in the Field Report.)

A black silnylon floor has the option to be clipped up to create a high bath tub to protect from running/blowing water, or can be left down to give more floor space. Mesh runs from the edge of the floor to the edge of the tent to both keep bugs and creepy-crawlies out and to give low ventilation. Extra ventilation and a way to see outside is provided by the mesh window at the foot of the tent that is uncovered by freeing the hook and loop closures on the sides of the storm flap. This is seen below, along with one side of the floor clipped up in the "rain" position.

Air for my feet, how sweet


A top mounted high vent allows air movement. This is a feature that I really like. A couple of ventilation features that are new to me (I have owned a lot of Tarptents) are the side and head end adjustable vents. A cord lock inside the tent may be loosened allowing the body to be drawn up and clipped. Should it need to be closed due to changing conditions I just unclip the side and pull the cord back through the lock, all without leaving the tent. Sweet!

Yes, it reall fits in that tiny sack


The Sil comes with four 6 in (15 cm) Easton aluminum stakes and a tiny storage sack for them. The tent itself packs very small. About the size of two Nalgenes, and at less weight than one full Nalgene. I can't wait to get this little baby in the field. But that is exactly what I am doing next. This concludes the Initial Report. Next weekend I am taking it on a bushwhacking trip in Northern Minnesota. Please come back in a couple of months to see how it fared there and anywhere else I take the Sublite Sil.


FIELD REPORT

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

Even having owned a lot of Henry's Tarptents over the years the Sublite Sil jumped to the top of my favorite TT list with its tiny packed size, decent room, great ventilation, and weather-worthiness. I have yet to find anything about it to complain about.

Shady character

Field Data

My first use of the Sil was for an overnighter in Minnesota at Itasca State Park. I did a total of 27 mi (43 km), most of it on the North Country Trail. This trip saw a lot of rain. The temps ran from 66 to 43 F (19 to 6 C).

Next was an overnighter to a campground called Upper Shake in the Angeles National Forest at 5000 ft (1524 m) elevation.

Then I did an overnighter in Cleveland National Forest at Fisherman's Camp starting from the Ortega Candy Store. I was next to the almost dry creek in temps to 85 F (29 C). The picture above was taken there in what I consider the prettiest campsite in Cleveland National Forest's upper section.

Lastly I went to the Upper Kern River area for three days trying to get down to the Durwood Creek/Kern River cable crossing, and to find and take pictures of waterfalls on feeder creeks. Temps ran from a low of 48 to over 90 F (9 to 32 C). Here is a shot set up at a wide spot in a side trail heading from the Kern up to the Rincon Trail. I looked to see if there were bears in the old mine shaft first…

Got the shaft

Observations

People that know me (or have read many of my reviews and reports) know that I like to jump right into the deep end, usually without looking first. I certainly took this approach with the Sublite Sil. Northern Minnesota is a very stormy area in late spring and early summer. (Who am I kidding? ALL summer…) When it came time for my planned solo in May I was asked at the permit desk, "you do know they are expecting storms?" Yep.

I hiked to DeSoto Lake and set the Sil up. I inflated my pad and put it and my quilt inside as I was going to do more hiking and this site was the farthest away they have in the park. The ground was soaked as it had rained the entire time I hiked in, plus I was only a matter of weeks past the last snows melting. I left it sitting as I continued hiking along the North Country Trail to the western border of Itasca.

Upon returning I was happy to see that the tent had not picked up any residual condensation from the moist ground. As the rain had stopped I opened everything up to keep air moving. I went to bed when the first rain from the next system (the anticipated biggie) started falling. The wind picked up so I shut the vestibule and only had the foot window opened up. At midnight I was blasted awake by a close lightning strike. It was pouring and blowing very hard. I quickly closed the foot window. Water had blown in already but it was not bad. I wiped the foot of my quilt with a PackTowl. I was again surprised to see that there was no condensation on the walls.

There was a little bit on them an hour later that I got to see up close. Mainly because a huge gust of wind hit the Sublite SIl at an angle, catching the door side but coming from the foot corner first. The blast ripped the foot end stakes out of the ground and I woke to find myself being eaten by a giant silnylon amoeba. By the time I could find my rain gear and get out the brunt of the storm had gone by. The trekking poles had never collapsed and the head stakes were still fine. I figured I had been hit by a micro-burst or straight-line wind, something common to that part of the country and sometimes as destructive as a tornado. My guess was borne out as I left the park the next day and saw a poor family that had four of their seven pine trees either uprooted or snapped in half, two of which landed on their house. Go Sublite Sil! I did have a little condensation on the walls of the Sil in the morning, but it was quite light, just enough to feel, not enough to bead up or run. Here is a shot after the first system passed, before the biggie arrived.

Storm a coming


The other trips were pieces of cake for the Sil. Two of the others were right next to creeks but I did not get a bit of condensation on those ones. At Upper Shake the area collects the clouds in the morning but it also has a wind blowing every night so I felt some build up which would fluctuate with the strength of the wind. The upper vent, even though small has a lot to do with this in my opinion. Hot air has an immediate exit point, instead of swirling around in the tent. I love this feature.

I just got a large pad this summer and was happy to find that it fits in the Sil. Just, though. Which is why I am very thankful for the vestibule. I own an original version Sublite (not Sil, made of Tyvek instead) which is vestibule-less and really like the extra protected space to keep my shoes and pack in. The pack does need to be a small one to fit, but because the Sublit Sil itself is so small it has let me use a daypack I am testing as a two and three day backpacking pack. It fits just fine in the small vestibule. If a pack is tippy, like the Black Diamond Octane I am testing, I make sure to turn it so the pack leans against the outer silnylon not the mesh inner wall.

I don't like using my Tarptents on the ground without some protection. On my first trips I took a small piece of Tyvek that I use with any small 1P tent, or that Dave can take if he wants for his TT Contrail. Then I decided to make one just for the Sil to allow me to keep my pack and shoes out of the mud. (The storm in MN saw it get very wet from water flowing under the vestibule.) So I made a Tyvek footprint that follows the angle of the back wall and trimmed what was left to sit inside the vestibule a little bit. I like it. It gives me a clean spot for the pack and a clean spot to place my knee when I am entering the tent. (Yes, we old guys need to stabilize when going in…) Here is a shot of my home made extended footprint.

no dirty bottom here


Not a lot to say about durability yet. I have only had it out for five nights. And seeing as I have had their tents go years without any problems I can't say I am surprised. But who knows what the future holds in store for the Sublite Sil? Nobody actually. But you can read about the future once it's past if you come back in two months when I post the last report covering the final segment of testing. As this concludes the Field Report I look forward to seeing you then. When it will be now. But will be past once you read it… Oh never mind. See you in two.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Data

I used the Sublite Sil two nights on a 34 mi (55 km) backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park. Both nights were spent right around 6800 ft (2073 m) elevation and both sites were near flowing creeks. The low temperature was 36 F (2 C). A picture of it in Yosemite is below.

In Yosemite

Observations

After getting out a lot with the Sil during the Field Report phase, I only was able to take it for two more nights during the last phase. But those two nights just helped nail the Sil down as a tent I am hanging on to.

I love this tent. I have never used any tent, even from Henry Shire's Tarptent that was as strong as this one, as small packing as this one, or had as good of a ventilation scheme.

Two months ago I told my brother-in-law (who has been with me on some of my trips with the Sil and likes what he saw) that I would give him it after the testing was over to replace his Tarptent Contrail. But a few things made me turn Indian Giver on him.

First and foremost was the small packed size. I tested a Black Diamond Octane day-pack for BackpackGearTest.org (see reports) that was really too big for my day-hike loads. So I started using it as a two and three day backpacking pack instead. The Sublite Sil allowed me to make it work well for this use. With no poles to carry, and find room for in my pack, I was able to smush the Sil down over my down quilt leaving plenty of room for the rest of my gear.

Next is the weight. Nope, I don't count weight as important as volume any longer. I can carry much more weight than I need to. But keeping a tight, small load close to my center of gravity is more important when I am scrambling, or on tricky trails, or snow laden passes. But I love the miniscule hit I am taking in the weight department for as much shelter as I get for it.

Last is condensation control. I have used a lot of single-wall and hybrid style tents that suc… were very disappointing to me when it started getting wet inside the tent. The Sil is the second best of all my single-wall/hybrid tents at allowing air movement, the best way I know of to lessen condensation. (Well except camping in Death Valley in July…) The high/low venting works very good, something I wish all tent makers would take notice of.

Other pluses are the strength of the design. While I have not had any more experiences like the one in Itasca, I did have the Sil in the wind one night high in Yosemite and it was solid. Another positive is the room provided for the weight. While I like to bring all my gear inside, the Sil's vestibule let me have what did not fit inside with me close at hand.

It definitely attracts attention too. If I am near others they will come ask me what it is. I had a family pass by my camp in Yosemite that stopped to talk and the Sil was number one question. What is that?

So a huge thank you to Henry Shires and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test this killer little solo tent.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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