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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Hogback Tent > Test Report by Jerry Goller

TARPTENT HOGBACK
TEST SERIES BY JERRY GOLLER

Tarptent Hogback
Image Courtesy Tarptent


INITIAL REPORT - September 20, 2010
FIELD REPORT - December 02, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - June 02, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Jerry Goller
EMAIL: jerrygoller@backpackgeartest.org
AGE: 63
LOCATION: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 220 lb (99.80 kg)

I started camping with my father at age 6 or so. I’ve backpacked and truck camped, off and on, all of my life. Even in the Marine Corps, I was in the Infantry. I consider myself a light weight backpacker with an average dry pack weight of 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 7 kg), depending on the season and terrain. I backpack year round. Most of my trips are 2 to 5 days long and in Utah. I also, from time to time, take much longer trips lasting one to two months or more. These trips are usually on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: Tarptent
MSRP: US$375.00
Listed Weight: 65 oz (1850g)
Measured Weight: 66 oz (1875 g) The weight includes six 8" stakes and everything needed to put the tent up.
Other details:
Floor width: 86 in (218 cm)
Floor Length: 86 in (218 cm)
Interior Height: 49 in (125 cm)
Floor Area: 51 sq ft (4.8 sq m)
Packed Size: 20 x 5 in (51 x 13 cm)

Since it is virtually impossible to get a consistent, repeatable, meaningful measurement of something flexible like a tent, I'm quite willing to take Tarptent's word for the measurements listed under "Other Details".

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 3
Provided Stake



I want to compliment Tarptent on their choice of stakes to include with this tent. Ultralight tent manufacturers, in an effort to show the lightest weight possible, frequently send titanium "Shepherd's Hook" style tent stakes. While there is no question that this style of stake is very light, I've found it to be of very limited utility. The soil, terrain, wind, etc., must be exactly right for these stakes to actually hold. The provided stakes have a much superior holding capability and the large head makes it easy to push the stakes in with either my hand or my foot. 

The Hogback is a very interesting design that accomplishes a goal I thought unattainable: a weight of one pound (.45 kg) per person for a large tent. Four pounds for four people in a tent with excellent rain and bug protection is very impressive. The Hogback design is similar to what I think of as the European style. That style seems to be the rule for European tents. That design is the reverse of the traditional American design. In the American design the tent body, with its poles, is put up then the fly is stretched over the tent body and secured to it. With European style tents the fly goes up, with its poles, and the tent body is clipped inside the fly. I find this style of tent much more logical. Tents like the Hogback can be put up during a storm and no rain will get in the main body because it is always covered by the fly, which goes up first. To be honest, the American style never made all that much sense to me.

Corner Struts
Corner Struts


The Hogback has a couple of interesting design features. The first one is that it has one, long removable, collapsible pole running across the top of the tent in an arc. The second feature is one I’ve not seen on any other tent. The four corners are supported by integrated, non-removable carbon fiber poles. There are two poles at each corner and they form a triangle when the tent is up. These two poles are brought together and rolled up with the tent. These two features together make for a very stable, taunt, fast to set up tent. Tarptent says it can be done, with a little practice, in less than two minutes. Apparently I’ve had enough practice after four or five times because I can easily set it up in that time.

I love the inside height of this tent. I can sit up with plenty of maneuver room overhead. We are going to be using it as a 2.5 person tent (my wife Kate, my three year old son Jack, and me) and I think we are going to appreciate the extra room when sleeping with Wiggle Boy. 




READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are printed on a single sheet of paper that folds up to form a 4 page booklet. The instructions have lots of pictures, are straight forward, and are easy to understand. Setting the tent up is pretty intuitive but the instructions make first time setup a snap. The only thing I did differently than the instructions involve the order of stake out. I’ve found that, on pretty much any type of shelter, that it is faster, makes for a taunt pitch, and eliminates the game of musical stakes if I place the stakes in diagonal order instead of front then back or one side then the other. In other words, I stake out diagonally opposite corners. If I start with the left rear corner then my next stake is the right front. Once the first two stakes are in it doesn’t matter in what order you do the other two.


Hanging InteriorFront ViewSide VentOpposite Door

From Left to Right: Hanging Interior, Front View, Side Vent, Opposite Door

TRYING IT OUT

So far all I have done with the Hogback is to set it up a few times and just lay in it. While doing that I look the tent over to understand how it works and what I think its strong and weak points may be. I may do this a couple of times and spend half an hour or so each time just staring at the tent. Among the things I noticed were excellent lower venting due to the side pull outs and the door pull outs. These were balanced with two relatively small vents at the top. Although nothing I know will completely stop condensation under all circumstances, I am curious to see how well the small vents work for controlling condensation at the roof peak. I also noticed the excellent tub floor. The sides are quite high and I don’t foresee any problems with water from any rain we are likely to be out in. The interior seems quite roomy and I foresee no problems with Kate, Jack, and me in it together. It is large enough that even if we get caught in a rain storm it should be no problem. If I hadn’t weighed it myself, I would have a hard time believing this tent is as light and as large as it is.

SUMMARY of INITIAL REPORT

The Hogback is the largest, lightest family backpacking tent of which I am aware. Fortunately for us, Henry Shires at Tarptent wanted to take his family backpacking so we now enjoy the fruits of his design for his own family tent. Thanks for sharing, Henry! Since Henry is a designer of serious tents in the true lightweight class, his design of a family tent is equally serious. We can have some pretty harsh weather in Utah but I have great confidence that the Hogback will serve us well, no matter what we run into. 

Our first trip with the Hogback will also be Kate and Jack’s first backpacking trip. I think this tent is the perfect family backpacking tent and should make their first backpacking experience a fun and memorable one. Its first trip will be into the Uinta Mountains of Northern Utah. After that I imagine temperatures and, especially, snow levels will keep our trips to Southern Utah. Fortunately, that area is a great favorite of both Kate and Jack. I can hardly wait for their first views of the interior of Canyonlands. Up to this point our trips there have been limited to day hikes. The Hogback is going to allow us to greatly extend that to multi-day back country trips. 

Let the fun begin!

FIELD REPORT

In the High Uintas

In the High Uintas

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Our first backpacking trip, both for the Hogback and my wife and son, was to the High Uinta Mountains in Utah. That trip lasted two nights and just over a total of 2 days. Because Jack is only three and a half and Kate has never backpacked before, I planned our campsite to be about of a mile (about 1.5 km) in on a fairly up and down trail that was at just under 9,000’ (2,700 m) altitude and just rugged enough for them to feel like they had hiked. Although they are both experienced day hikers, this was their first trip with packs on. The weather was very nice with cool, sunny days and clear nights with temps a few degrees above freezing. We started out late in the afternoon on a Friday and came back Sunday morning. We used the same campsite both nights. Although the general area tends to be a bit rugged, the particular area we set up in was reasonably flat and clear of rocks. I wanted their first trip to be as fun and easy as possible for them so they would want to do it again. Both Kate and Jack enjoy truck camping, Jack more than Kate, so it wasn’t all completely new to them. I carried most of the gear so their packs would be as light as possible. 

Our second use of the Hogback involved just Jack and me. Because I received the Hogback so late in the season our second trip was truck camping on a trip to South Padre Island, Texas and back. Jack was only with me for the return leg but we still got one night out in the Hogback. We stayed overnight at South Llano River State Park just outside Junction, Texas. The park is at an altitude of 1,700’ (about 500 m) and is one of my favorite overnight stops when I am in the Hill Country of central Texas. The night we stayed there it was mildly cold with temps five or six degrees below freezing. It was a pretty standard primitive tent area state park campsite. The “hike” in was only a few hundred feet (60 to 90 m). It was the only night on the return trip that it didn’t snow. During that trip period Utah and Colorado experienced three blizzards. Although I am going to end up testing the Hogback in snow I wanted the first time to be by myself.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I continue to be surprised that a tent this large is as easy to set up as the Hogback has proven to be. Most of the times I’ve set it up in the field have been in the dark and it was a snap. The floor size of the tent is perfect for me, my wife, and my son. I use a 25” (63 cm) wide Large Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. Kate uses a Regular 20” (51 cm) wide Therm-a-Rest NeoAir and Jack uses a Small 20” (51 cm) wide Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. The three pads fit easily inside the Hogback and still leave enough room to not have that crowded feeling. This is particularly handy when sleeping with Barnacle Boy. Let’s just say that Jack appears larger than life sometimes. I didn’t have a Kestrel meter with me on either trip so I have no idea what the humidity was on either trip but we experienced no noticeable condensation on either trip. We’ve had no failures of any kind with the tent. There are a few minor things I would, or did, change or add to the tent but I will cover that in my Long Term Report. So far, my experience with the Hogback has been very positive.

TESTING STRATEGY

Camping without the possibility of snow, even when truck camping, is no longer possible during the Hogback’s test period in Utah. One of the features of the Hogback is that it was originally designed with the possibility of adding three more poles for added strength when in reasonable levels of snow. That is what the rings at the corners and the straps with hooks in the center of the tent are for. I don’t think the tent is going to require the two corner to corner “X” poles but I do want to add the center pole that runs at right angles to the single standard pole. Tarptent has agreed to send me a suitable pole to try. This, and a little weather prudence, should allow me to test the Hogback in southern Utah in late December to late January. This will satisfy the test period and use requirements of this report. Although I don’t plan on setting it up to fail, I am very interested in seeing how the Hogback deals with snow. I do not plan on going out of my way to get it in heavy snow but the possibility is always there in any of the areas I camp or backpack.

LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

My hopes for light snow during anything even approaching a reasonable test period just wasn't meant to be. This winter has been long and wet. We're still experiencing snow at high altitude during the first part of June. Many of our ski resorts plan to be open for the 4th of July holiday. The snow has been frequent and deep. I finally conceded defeat and took the Hogback with us when we went to Kate's parents in Colorado for her birthday. We pitched it in the side yard. This isn't as bad as it sounds. Their side yard is at 5800' (1768 m) and overlooks Stewart Mesa. The view was spectacular and it was easy to forget there was a house behind us.  It was in the lower 50s F (10s C) both nights. The first night it rained all night and the second night it rained off and on. 

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I didn't notice unusual condensation and any moisture that did accumilate was easy to avoid due to the very high ceiling of the Hogback. The size of the Hogback makes rainy nights with kids or friends (not that kids can't be friends) much easier to deal with. The Hogback is made of silnylon and, of course, suffers from the same potential mist though as any other silnylon tent. I had hoped to find out how well the extra pole worked for supplemental support with light snow. We just didn't have any light snow. Even without testing to back it up I still think the pole is a valuable addition if I get the Hogback in light snow or even high wind. 

Extra Pole

Supplemental pole installed on Hogback

SUMMARY

The size to weight ratio of the Hogback is both outstanding and, in my experience, unrivaled. It is as easy to put up and any tent I've ever used and much easier than some that were much smaller than it. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Hogback become a classic large sized, lightweight tent. I can't really think of anything I don't like about it except the size of the vestibules. I wish they were a little more realistically sized. In my experience they won't accommodate the gear of even three people, much less four. But, overall, that is pretty minor compared to the rest of the tent. We just put our gear inside the tent. As our third person was only 4 years old, there was plenty of room for our packs and gear. 

I want to thank Henry Shires at Tarptent for another outstanding design.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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