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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Hogback Tent > Test Report by John Waters

TARPTENT HOGBACK
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - September 21, 2010
FIELD REPORT - December 09, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - February 01, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)
BOOT SIZE 10.5 US

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in the Cooper Mountain range, with other day-long hikes on various other southwest and central Colorado trails. I frequently hike the mountains and deserts of Utah and Arizona as well. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Tarptent Hogback
Picture Courtesy of Tarptent

Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tarptent.com
MSRP: US $375
Listed Weight: 65 oz (1850 g)
Measured Weight: 67 oz (1899 g)
Listed and Measured Floor Sizes: 86 in (218 cm) width x 86 in (218 cm) length
Listed and Measured Center Height: 49 in (125 cm) - adjustable
Listed and Measured Pack Size: 20 x 5 in (51 x 13 cm)

Other details:

Construction: Double wall with separate all-mesh living compartment
Entry: Dual with dual vestibules.
Flooring: 5 inch (13 cm) bathtub

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Tarptent Hogback
Tarptent Hogback
When the Tarptent Hogback arrived, my initial impression was "Is there really a 4 person tent in this bag?" and then my next thought immediately thereafter was "Am I really going to get this thing back in this bag?"

Like all tents I have tested, the first thing I did was to set it up under a controlled environment. I NEVER, EVER take a new tent on a hike and try to set it up for the first time on the trail after hiking all day.

So, I was up at my son's place in Denver, elevation about 5845 ft (1782 m) and decided the best place to initially try this tent out which requires guying, was out on his nice grass lawn where the stakes could easily be pushed into the sod.

I knew I could also douse the thing with water from his sprinkler system. Then I'd know for sure how to set it up in the field AND I'd know what to expect when it rains. After all, we don't get much rain around here - it's been rainless for several weeks all across the Colorado Front Range, so I needed to make rain to test the tent at least once. I also wanted to know what to expect when it does rain since the tent comes without a separate rain-fly.

So, I pulled the tent, the main shock-cord support pole, a small black bag holding the six tent stakes, and a short one page two-sided instruction sheet from their stuff sack.

Setting up the tent was pretty straight-forward. Now that I've done it, I think it could have easily been done without having instructions, but I like to follow the instructions initially step-by-step to see if the manufacturer has some weirdly unique process that is not obvious.

The black side of the Hogback goes down and the shock-cord support gets pushed through the yellow track along the top from front to back. This is, however, one of the tightest tracks I've had to push a shock-cord support through. It needs to be carefully worked through by working the material back and forth as it progresses. The support is not just going to slide right through without some work. Of course this means that the tent is going to not move around and flex much either, so it was okay with me to have to take an extra minute or two to maneuver it through. The process worked better with two people. I had assistance from my 9 year old granddaughter on the far end to hold the top straight and in line with the support as I pushed it through. Once it was through, it easily fit into the bottom grommets in the front and back of the tent.

Next the sides needed to be drawn out. Right front corner, and rear left corner get staked out first, then the opposite two corners and then the sides. That was it.

There are unique supports in all 4 corners, Tarptent calls them "pitch LOC foldable corners" that hold the sides of the tent and keep the bathtub bottom up along the sides about 5 inches (13 cm). I'll get more into detail on this in the field report.

There are vents at the top of the tent that can be clipped back to keep them open. The sides of the tent can fold-up for ventilation and the entry doors on both ends can be tied back. The outer shell of the tarp tent has entry ways on both ends that unzip straight down the middle and allow the door to be tied back to the top of the shell for airflow. That exposes the inner mesh tent compartment that has its own mesh door that unzips to create big opening from top to bottom and middle to corner. These entry ways on both ends will make getting in and out quite easy for me to do so without disturbing tent partners.

Total time for first set up, with "help" from my granddaughter, was 12 minutes. With practice, I hope to be able to meet the Tarptent instructions which indicate a 2 minute set-up is do-able.

I am surprised at how big this tent is. You can see from the enclosed photo that my granddaughter is standing upright at the peak and she is 49 inches (124 cm) which is what the manufacturer specifies as the tent height. For two people, there is a huge amount of room to sleep and keep everything with us right inside the tent. For 4 people, there appears to be plenty of room with additional room under in the 2 vestibules for 4 not-too-big packs and maybe boots. There is not as much vestibule space as I am used to with some of my other tents, but enough that it should be okay. We'll need to see how that works in the field for sure.
Granddaughter Jillian
Granddaughter Jillian checking out spacious Hogback


I noted that this is a 3 season tent: Spring, summer and fall. Since I just got this tent in September for a 16-week (4-month) test that means we will be into January in Colorado, which may or may not be winter weather where we are. I'll hopefully be able to test this well through all 16 weeks.

When I set this up in Denver, it was 96 F (36 C) and the thoughts of sleeping in a tent with little vents on top and sides that roll up 5 inches (13 cm) just didn't seem very inviting. Fortunately, at night, at our altitude, a 96 F (36 C) day will usually become a 60 F (16 C) night and sleeping comfortably is not a problem. However, a real test would be in Moab or some desert area where the nighttime temps don't change much from the high daytime temps. I don't think we will get a chance to do that because we are getting to closer to colder temperatures here in Colorado.

The temp outside later in the afternoon was 93 F (34 C) and the temp inside the tent was 103 F (39 C) but the humidity was only 14%. I'll be testing the venting more out on the trail.

I closed the top vents, rolled down all the sides and closed the screen doors and the front and rear tarp shell. I used the very nicely done adjustable cords on all the stake ties to tighten up all the sides and make sure the outer shell did not expose the inner screening.

Hogback top vents
One of 2 Top Vents
Hogback side
Hogback Sides Rolled-Up


Then we turned on the sprinklers; twice - 20 minutes in the evening and 20 minutes in the morning sun. There was no water inside at all. No condensation. No dampness. This is something we are blessed with here in a dry environment where we normally see just 20% humidity or less. Tents I test in places like Michigan can rain inside when the humidity reaches 99% and the morning sun hits the outside after I've been sleeping in it all night. But here, in Denver, even after being really hit hard directly with sprinkler heads, this tent came out looking just great.

By the way, this tent is really two units in one. There is the inner mesh tent with the bathtub bottom and the outer shell. The inner mesh is a really fine, almost nylon stocking like mesh that looks like it will keep out even the smallest no-see-ums. However, that comes with apparently the same potential problems with getting runs that women have experienced for years. The inner mesh I have has what looks like a few "stocking runs" and I am concerned about getting more if the mesh is handled roughly or if the shock-corded support pole presses against it in the stuff sack. Only time will tell. I really like that the mesh will keep out those small bugs though!

The outer shell can be detached and used all by itself as a tarp-tent (of course) with no bottom. I am not a fan of this because I HATE bugs bothering me at night, but we may try to use this as we get into cooler less buggy weather. I just sleep better knowing that a scorpion will have less chance of crawling into my sleeping bag though.

In all, I am pretty impressed so far. This takes up less room in my pack and weighs less than any other tent I have used and it gives my wife and me a lot of extra room to spread out. And there is room for my granddaughter (and a friend, she tells me).

We'll be testing the unit in the field in the coming weeks. I know now how to set it up and I know I will probably not get soaked when it rains.

Putting it away was not as bad as I had anticipated. It came down and was ready to put back in the stuff sack in 2 minutes. It did take me two tries to get it into the sack. On the 2nd try I figured out that I could put the LOC corners all together in one hand, put those and the side hard hook and loop stays into the sack first, then I could just stuff the rest of the tent into the bag. I got my full fist and wrist stuck in the sack a few times as I tried to push the material more towards the bottom to fill voids. So one caution is for me to not be wearing anything sharp, like a diamond ring or wristwatch on the hand used to stuff the tent into the sack. But, after another few minutes of stuffing, then sliding in the shock-corded support pole and the bag of stakes, the thing was back into its stuff sack nicely. Quite impressive.

SUMMARY

I'm really looking forward to getting out on the trail with my family and the Tarptent. Plans are in the works and granddaughter, Jillian, is anxious!


FIELD REPORT

WHERE AND HOW I USED IT

As I reported in my initial report, the Tarptent performed well in low humidity Denver, Colorado. However, I really wanted to test this lightweight, single wall tent in a warmer, humid environment. My previous experience with single wall tents in high humidity has been that I would wake up with condensation on the inside wall of the tent and water dripping in my face.

So, we were headed to Florida for 10 days and this tent was going with me. I packed the tent and my clothes for Florida into my weekend backpack. It fit well into my pack and I was able to carry everything on my flight with no need to check a bag.
Campout with Greta
Overnight with Granddaughter, Greta
We overnighted at a primitive campsite at Jonathan Dickenson State Park. Since I was taking our 5 year old granddaughter and 9 year old grandson, we were only going to plan on spending one night because I wasn't sure if they would make it much longer. We packed sleeping bags, headlights, snacks, water, books and marshmallows. The tent went up in about 10 minutes now that I had experience setting it up in Denver. The ground is softer than my Colorado location also, so the stakes went into the ground without needing to be pounded in at all. We were in the tent and telling stories in under 15 minutes.

The site we picked looked level, but there was a very slight, maybe 1 degree slope that I didn't see when I started setting up the tent and I sure didn't want to empty the tent out and start all over again. So we put our heads up-slope and hunkered down. There was plenty of room for us to spread out. All our packs (granted they had kiddie packs) fit well into the tent and there was lots of extra room. We could have easily fit another adult into the available space.

After a few hours of story telling, snacking and singing, it was lights out and off to sleep. What's important to note about this trip is that the humidity was 97% with a dew point of 63 F (17 C) when the outside temperature was 64 F (18 C). That is very wet air! Air pressure was 30.01. I woke up several times during the night to check ambient air temperature and ground temperature. For example, at 2AM the air temperature inside the tent was 73 F (23 C) (higher than the outside air temperature because we warmed it up with our body heat) and the ground temperature (thermometer resting on the inside floor of the tent away from our bodies) was 68 F (20 C). So with a dew point difference of only a few degrees, I was expecting condensation on the cooler tent walls and I was correct in that assumption.

When I woke up, there were droplets of water all over the inside walls of the outer tent shell. In other single wall tents I've used in this environment, those droplets dripped on me. Surprisingly, the Tarptent's inside mesh tent didn't allow that to happen. The mesh was fine enough that any droplets hit the mesh and dispersed over the mesh. So the inside mesh tent acted like a shield. No water dropped on me. That is until my grandson abruptly stood up and hit his head on the mesh. His head was soaked, but only the part of his head that pushed the mesh up against the tent wall got wet. Any of the condensed water on the tent elsewhere either stayed on the tent wall or dripped onto the mesh and stayed there. Very interesting. I was quite impressed.

Sunlight hitting the tent started to clear up the condensation, but I had to pack the tent a little on the damp side or stay there for a few hours more to let it dry up. When we got back to the house, I set the tent up in the back yard to dry out. Of course, I was pestered do "do it again" and we camped out the next two nights in my daughter's large grassy lot in Palm City, Florida.

By the way, these locations are at an amazingly high altitude of about 27 ft (8.3 m) above sea level.

Each night was as humid as the next. One night there was pea soup fog right at ground level that made visibility less than 800 ft (244 m). The Tarptent performed very well in this humid environment as long as no tent mate touched the mesh inside tent or pushed the inside mesh tent up against the outside tent walls. By the 3rd night, I was used to the tent's performance and I wasn't at all concerned about getting wet from condensation.

One thing to note is that things slide easily on the tent floor. When we were sleeping at a very slight grade, we all were sliding downhill throughout the night. So I didn't get a lot of sleep between taking temperature readings and sliding the kids back up away from the tent walls to stop them from getting wet.

When we were more level the 2nd and 3rd nights, my guard duty was to keep my granddaughter from sliding all over the tent. She is very adept at actually circling around the entire tent.

We had no problems with critters entering the tent. In the morning we could see the gnats and no-see-ums on the outside of the mesh walls, but since the mesh is stocking-like fine, none got through to us. I would like to have this mesh on all my house windows.

The second day I left the tent erect to dry out. With sunlight shining on the tent, the condensation was completely gone by just before noon as temperature went up to 83 F (28 C) and humidity dropped slightly to 84%.

Entrance and exit was simple, however we did not use a ground cover (footprint) and when the humidity is so high, the ground and grass and everything touched outside the tent is wet. Since the tent door is not high enough to stand up while exiting, I had to bend over to get out. With my footwear inside the tent, I was able to sit and put my shoes on while inside the tent, but I still needed to crouch down to exit and there is nothing stable to hold onto.

Thus, I managed to fall forward once and then another time, sideways, into wet grass. I decided that the way to exit is to put my shoes on, stick my feet out while sitting on my bottom and push my head out, hands on the inside floor of the tent pushing me up. That allows my head to clear the doorway to stand up and stay pretty much away from wet ground. I tried exiting head first on all fours and my hands and knees got too wet. Getting back in with wet grass around is also a challenge because there is no easy way to take shoes off and balance against a stable frame to get my shoeless feet in before they need to touch the ground. Maybe someone from Cirque du Soleil would have better luck. I just decided to put my wet feet into the tent and take my shoes off inside.

There is plenty of room inside to do that without bothering tent mates and my shoes fit off to the corner, which kept their wet soles isolated.

SUMMARY

This is an impressive tent. It's low weight. It packs into a really small compression sack. Yet it's big. It erects easily. It has dual entryways. It handles both low and high humidity. It's easy to clean (I just turn it inside out and shake). It can be used as a tarp only without the mesh inside tent to reduce pack weight.

I like the included tent stakes.

So far, there isn't anything I found to dislike

Please see below for the results of two more months of my Hogback experiences.


LONG-TERM REPORT

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As I finalize this report, I continue to be impressed with this tent. We've had the opportunity to use this tent several times now under very dry desert humidity here in Colorado and super-humid ground fog in Florida. I did not get an opportunity to stress it out in winter conditions, although it is not suppose to be an all-season tent anyway.

I did fail to mention in my earlier reports that the tent made it clean through a TSA airport security checkpoint on the way to Florida. I had the tent packed in my Burton day pack as carry-on (yes, it compresses that small into its stuff sack) and even with the fairly pointy 8 inch (20 cm) tent stakes packed into the stuff sack, it went right through security. The weird part is that the same TSA checkpoint found a small 2 inch (5 cm) Boy Scout knife that wiggled its way under the lower support layer of my laptop bag.

Those tent stakes did not bend or deform at all. We used rocks to pound them in here in Colorado and they were easily stomped into the ground with my boots on. They came out easily as well, with some wiggling and pulling. These are very rugged stakes.

I've seen no rips, tears, or punctures of the tent or the interior mesh, or of the tent floor either. The seams are all in tact and I see no pulling or stretching. I also see no stretching of the mesh or enlargement of the mesh structure.

There are no signs of mildew and the tent cleaned up very well. When we got back from that terribly damp excursion in Florida, I set the tent up and left it outside all day to dry out more before stuffing it back into the stuff sack for the trip back to Colorado.

Again, going through TSA in the West Palm Beach airport (PBI), the tent and stakes sailed right through security in my Burton backpack carry-on.

We removed the tent from the stuff sack before storing it away with the rest of our gear in our new barn. I wanted to air it out and I think it is good practice to not leave anything such as a tent, sleeping bag, jacket, etc. stored in its stuff sack. There was no material sticking together, no sign of wear and tear.

Our next use of the tent will be in May or June when we trek through the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. We'll have to wait until the weather gets warmer there, since, although they are sand dunes, they are at a high altitude and it does get very cold there. Right now it is -18 F (-28 C) and it will be snowing right through the end of May. This will be the tent we will take on this excursion and on most of our 3 season trips (unless we are testing some other equipment) because it has so much room and is so lightweight.

The good things:

Lots of room. The Hogback Tarptent easily accommodated me and two young grandkids with plenty of room for another adult.

Worked very well in high humidity with the interior mesh acting as a drip-shield for droplets of condensation.

Easy to erect and maintain. I can now get this out of its stuff-sack and completely up in less than 3 minutes.

Stable, rugged design. The ties are very easy to pull tight and adjust so that all sides of the tent are taut and firmly erect.

Packs really small. Yes, it does.

Very light weight. Yes, it is.

Great interior very fine bug-proof mesh. Nothing, not even the smallest no-see-um, got into our living space at any time even though we could see them trying very hard on the outside of the mesh.

The center interior hanging loop worked great to hang my headlamp for interior lighting.

Some things that may get annoying:

Roof vents can only be opened or closed from the outside. I tried to get them to close from the inside and could not do it. Therefore, in a driving rain water can be pushed in through the vents and the only way to stop it is to go outside and get wet.

This tent can not be erected on very hard ground, since it is not self-supporting. So it is not possible, as far as I can see, to erect this tent, say, on an area of bedrock or in some areas where the shale is so hard that we can't dig without a pick-axe. This may make the decision to bring the tent a challenge at times if I am not sure where we are going to end up. There is always an option to set up the tarp portion strung between trees without the use of the interior mesh, but as I said before, I hate not being bug protected, especially with so many scorpions in the areas we venture into.

The vestibule is a little small. There is no ground protection and a driving rain will easily soak the bottom part of items in the vestibule. There is so much room inside; I have been taking my bag, boots and poles inside with me. When we are in bear country, of course, packs go outside anyway.

The floor is just a little slippery, so if the tent is at an angle, people will slide downhill.

SUMMARY

I like this tent. It's high on my list of favorite 3 season tents. It is unfortunate that we started this test so late in the year and we ran into winter weather. I'll add to this report if there is anything significant that comes up on our Great Sand Dunes trip and any others this spring and summer.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and Tarptent for the opportunity to try out the Hogback.

John R. Waters

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

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