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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Sublite - Tyvek version > Owner Review by Lori Pontious

TARPTENT SUBLITE (TYVEK®)
By Lori Pontious
OWNER REVIEW

February 19, 2011



Tester Information

NAME: Lori Pontious
EMAIL: lori.pontious (at) gmail.com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Fresno County, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5'7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)

I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.

Product information


Manufacturer: Tarptent by Henry Shires
Manufacturer URL: www.tarptent.com
Color: white
Materials: spunbonded olefin, aka soft structure Tyvek®; floor made of black 1.1 silicone impregnated nylon; window/vent/side netting of black no-see-um
Capacity: one person
Listed weight: 18.5 oz (525 g)
Actual weight: 19.7 oz (558 g); 21.5 oz (610 g) with stakes
MSRP: US $179.00

Product Description

The Sublite is a lightweight single wall tent, one of many models in the Tarptent lineup. Included with the Sublite are four Easton stakes in a small nylon bag and a stuff sack for the tent itself. There are optional aluminum tent poles sized to work with the Sublite available for purchase, or the Sublite will work with any trekking poles that adjust to 53 inches (135 cm). Unlike other Tarptents, the Sublite is made of spunbonded olefin - Tyvek® - instead of silicone impregnated nylon. The Sublite has a zippered mesh door plus a zippered outer door, side entry, with no vestibule. The bathtub floor is black silicone impregnated 1.1 oz nylon. The floor is attached to the main body of the tent by straps at the corners and a no-see-um mesh strip to keep out insects. At the foot end there are two carbon fiber rods in sleeves at the corners, to which are attached the reflective guy lines. My usual order of setup is to stake out the four corners, put in the poles, then walk around the Sublite tightening each support point. There are tensioners on each guy line attachment, on the pole attachments, and on the front corners where grosgrain strips attach the corners of the bathtub floor to the tent body. There are two clips inside that will fasten the bathtub side walls to pull the floor open wider. When using trekking poles, I can raise or lower the sides of the tent an inch or two with careful adjustment. There are additional tie out points - one at the terminus of the zipper on the door, another midway along the edge of the fabric between the foot end and the trekking pole on the backside of the tent.

This Tarptent seems very well designed and there were no obvious flaws in the construction. It came with a bottle of glue and scraps of Tyvek® for patching if the tent body becomes torn. The fabric is actually fairly durable and has not torn after a year of use. The instructions indicate that the glue, a PVA (polyvinyl acetate) adhesive, be used to seam seal the Sublite; an alternate seam sealer mentioned is cyanoacrylate, or "super glue." The sewn seams on the Tyvek® had open needle holes, since unlike nylon, the holes do not "heal" after sewing the seam. While it was unnerving to see open holes down the seams of the tent, using the glue seemed to do the trick; after letting the glue dry, I gave the tent a ten minute hose test and found no leaks.

While thinking about how to write my review of this fine little tent, I found the DuPont website and did a little reading about soft structure Tyvek® - and discovered among other things that it has a hydrostatic head of 1,020 - 1,270 mm. (Hydrostatic head is a method of measuring how much force must be applied to push water through fabric.) For comparison's sake, silicone impregnated nylon, or silnylon, is variously reported as having a hydrostatic head in the range of 3,000 - 10,000 mm. Remember this later in the review for your amusement.

Image on left is a loose setup in the living room with chairs. Image on the right, the Sublite set up in a campsite in Yosemite National Park. Notice the edge of the fabric between the trekking pole and front tie out. There is a looseness along the edge on this side of the tent that I could not resolve by adjusting the angle of the corner tie outs, nor did it go away with everything taut as I could get it. Looking at pictures of the back side of the tent, there is no issue with sagging there, so I wonder if this has something to do with the door. But with the door open or closed, the slight sag is still there. The mesh sticks out beyond the fabric slightly in this spot.

IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2

FIELD DATA

December 30, 2009 - January 2, 2010 - Big Sur, California - base camped in a campground on damp humus and scattered leaves/needles in a redwood grove. Humid, cool, but fair weather. Night temperatures estimated 45 - 55 F (7 - 13 C)

January 10 - 11, 2010 - Ventana Wilderness, California, in Vicente Flat camp - overnight on the way to Cone Peak on damp humus and dead leaves in a redwood grove. Humid, cool, but fair weather. Night temperatures estimated 45 - 55 F (7 - 13 C)

July 30 - August 1, 2010 - Yosemite National Park, California, Mono/Parker Passes - two nights in alpine terrain over 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) elevation on bare dry soil. Clear skies, cold nights with a low of 35 F (2 C)

August 2, 2010 - Yosemite National Park, California, backpacker camp at White Wolf Resort - elevation of 9,000 feet (2,700 meters), low temperature of 32 F (0 C) with heavy frost.

September 12 - 15, 2010 - Skyline to Sea trail, Castle Rock State Park, Big Basin State Park, California, in designated campsites on duff or leaf litter. Clear weather with cool night temperatures ranging 40-45 F (4.5 - 7 C).

October 8 - 9, 2010 - Angel Island State Park, San Francisco, California, in an established campsite on hard dry ground. Fair weather with scattered clouds, night low temperature of 45 - 50 F (7 - 10 C).

November 5 - 7, 2010, Samuel P Taylor State Park, California, in a campground. Overcast with heavy rain on the second night. Nighttime low of 50 F (10 C).

REVIEW

I have to say at the outset - I really do not go out of my way to beat up my gear. Honest.

I took the Sublite with me whenever I was unable to take my hammock system and needed a solo shelter, and sometimes when I thought I would be able to try it under different conditions. It's easily the lightest tent I have ever used, and I found it has more than enough room for myself and my gear, even without a vestibule. I appreciated the ability to sit up straight inside. I found it easiest to position my pad with the head end near the mesh window and put the pack at the foot end, so when I sat up my head would be in the peak of the tent. I enjoyed how the Sublite let in the light without being overly bright, or becoming too warm or stuffy to lie in on a lazy morning.

In humidity the Sublite really shines. A number of trips had me pitching the Sublite in coastal camps, where condensation beneath the redwoods and dense vegetation can be a problem. Companions with nylon tents suffered drips and shook out their wet tent flies each morning. The breathability of the Sublite turned into a conversation starter - why wasn't I having a problem too? The Sublite has never dripped condensation on me, despite some nights where conditions were ideal for it. This version of the Sublite does not have as many ventilation points as the nylon version, but it does not appear to need them. While moisture will accumulate in the fabric, it does not bead up and run down the inside walls.

IMAGE 3

I have gotten into the Sublite a few times during the day, and as advertised, it does reflect heat and light. I have found that even an open nylon tarp in the sun increases the temperature underneath to uncomfortable levels. The Sublite remained cool inside, to the point that I could take a nap comfortably. If I were to backpack in an area that sleeping by day and traveling at night due to the heat made more sense, this would be the shelter to take - I would feel more comfortable with the Sublite to keep the bugs at bay and provide shade.

On a few occasions - Angel Island, Samuel P. Taylor, Parker Pass - I pitched the Sublite in a light wind, or winds came up after we made camp. I experienced no difficulty related to wind once the Sublite was pitched and the guy lines taut. However, I did not experience very strong wind and often pitched in a sheltered location. Getting a truly tight pitch is challenging; the fabric does not achieve the same tension as nylon, and tends to gently ripple in a breeze. It does not make an audible noise. The type of Tyvek® used in this tent is softer than the heavy house wrap kind often used for ground cloths for tents.

IMAGE 4

I was able to push the stakes into the ground with my heel in most places. In other sites I hammered with a small rock to get the stakes into hard, sun-baked clay or packed dirt. A couple of the Easton stakes developed a slight curvature, but did not break. On November 13, while helping a friend set up the Sublite (I loaned it to her for a trip we both took) I heard from the other side of the tent, "oops" - one of the stakes snapped in two. It did not break at the head but in the middle of the stake. I was not watching when it happened so could not determine whether this was due to user error or just one too many hammerings into dry clay.

IMAGE 5

In Yosemite, I had the Sublite out in freezing temperatures. The heavy frost I experienced at White Wolf resulted in a wet tent as the sun rose and melted the ice. I did not notice the frost until I got up; while inside the tent, I remained warm and dry in my down quilt. The tent fabric was clearly wet and did not dry in the limited time I had in camp, so was packed wet into the car. In the sun back home, it took just a couple of hours to thoroughly dry out the Sublite. On cold nights I noticed that the Sublite is not like other tents that maintain a micro-climate that keeps the air inside a few degrees warmer than outside the tent. Since I carry a quilt rated to 20 F (- 7 C) all year, however, this has not been a problem.

As luck would have it, I had difficulty getting the Sublite wet. I intentionally took it out on a few trips when the forecast was for "showers" or "light rain" which the Sublite's manufacturer claims it will handle, and was blessed with fair weather instead. I had to wait until November to get rain on the Sublite. In Samuel P. Taylor campground, we were base camping and going to Point Reyes to dayhike. The forecast predicted rainfall so I went prepared; I would spend the night in the Sublite and if it rained I would monitor the performance of the Tyvek® until I began to get wet, then bail out to the car. The rain started and stopped a number of times throughout our second night in camp. Not a problem - I find the rain relaxing, and there were no leaks. Finally, about 12:30 am, it began to rain in earnest and I dozed on and off for a couple of hours, listening to it, until around 2:30 am when a drop of cold water struck me squarely between the eyes. At that point I stuffed my down quilt in its sack, deflated my NeoAir, grabbed my bag of clothing, and left the Sublite in the pouring rain.

When I bailed, the tent fabric was damp to the touch from the inside, and water was running off the outside. The fabric was sagging heavily inward until the mesh folded in on itself and became a conduit into the tent floor. This was worst in the previously-mentioned spot between the door and the front of the tent, which was where I typically stored clothing items and anything I might want to reach for in the middle of the night. My clothes were still dry inside their bag, but there were moist spots on the sleeping pad. A fleece jacket I had left under my pillow had a wet sleeve. Unrelated to water on the floor, my quilt was a little damp on the top of the foot end of the shell, probably from brushing the low-sloping wall of the tent when I sat up to gather my things.

The rain continued at the same ongoing heavy rate for the rest of the night. After sunrise, I put my rain gear back on and assessed the situation. The Sublite was slightly askew; one of the end supports had tipped inward. I thought it had held up under the rain fairly well for a tent not designed to handle heavy rainfall. The trekking poles were still erect and the front still taut. I presume the guy line tensioner on the end support had slowly begun to give way as the fabric soaked up water and became heavier. I had re-tensioned all lines the previous evening. In retrospect, I wonder what would have happened had I been able to guy out around the perimeter of the tent. There is no guy out point on the long leading edge between the front corners/tie out points and the trekking poles, however, and the worst sag into the mesh occurs between the door and the front guy point on that side. As I pulled up the stakes and tried to lift the Sublite, quite a lot of water poured out of the netting from the bathtub floor. The tent itself, once all the water had run out, felt like it weighed more than five pounds (a purely subjective observation, as I did not stand around in the pouring rain to weigh it, and my digital scale was somewhere in the bottom of my trunk under muddy gear at the time anyway). The fabric appeared to be soaked through and retaining water. Mud had splashed up along the mesh and on the edges of the Tyvek®. I rolled up the Sublite, mud and all, and stuffed it in a trash bag for transport home, where I washed the tent inside and out with a hose and left it in the sunshine to dry. It came clean and I needed no soap to restore the whiteness of the fabric.

I will continue to use the Sublite for summer outings, especially in drier climates, or for summer showers common in the Sierra Nevada, following the manufacturer's recommendation that it be used for moderate rainfall, not sustained intense rainstorms. I may hand sew grosgrain loops along the edges of the fabric midway between the poles and the front corner guy lines to give me the option of pulling the fabric further out over the mesh, since I would guess I will eventually be rained on again. This tent handles condensation like a champ and makes a shady shelter in full sun. However, it is clearly not waterproof - it is not advertised as such, nor am I criticizing it for this - and for that reason I would hesitate to take it out on any extended multi-day outing where the weather can turn unexpectedly. I think that a double walled tent with a Tyvek® inner wall and a silicon impregnated nylon rain fly would make an awesome combination, given the way the Sublite handles condensation. I may experiment in the yard with a poncho to that end.

Worked For Me:

Lightweight and compact
Sets up with trekking poles, so no need for tent poles
Fabric durable and easy to keep clean
Roomy inside, with plenty of head space - all my gear fits too
Keeps the bugs off, and the little crawling creatures
Easy to set up
Handles condensation well
Cool when I want shade

Caution:

Not a good choice if you expect to stay dry in heavy, sustained rain



Read more reviews of Tarptent gear
Read more gear reviews by Lori Pontious

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Tarptent Sublite - Tyvek version > Owner Review by Lori Pontious



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