AntiGravityGear TarpTent at 12,100 feet elevation in the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado. The optional vestibule on the front doubles as a poncho.
AntiGravityGear’s TarpTent is based on the pattern and design of the former Brawny Tarptent. It’s a little bit funky, and a whole lot functional. The canopy is one piece of silnylon - no seams. With a floor area of 38.25 square feet, it has the highest area to weight ratio in its class (single wall tent with floor). And its trail weight is just 23 ounces. So far it sounds awesome, but there’s a downside too.
- Bug proof shelter for one person
- Highest area to weight ratio for a single wall tent with floor
- No canopy or floor seams
- Very light weight, only 21 ounces (tent only)
- Trekking pole support
- Fast setup
What’s Not So Good
- No cross ventilation
- Limited wind stability
- Short beak in front
- Mitten hooks are cumbersome
|2007 AntiGravityGear TarpTent|
|Three-season, one-person, bug-proof, single-wall shelter with floor|
|30d, 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon canopy; no-see-um mesh curtain|
Poles and Stakes
|Requires one trekking pole for support, plus 8 stakes (sold separately)|
|10-foot size tested. Trapezoidal, length is 120 in (305 cm) in back and 84 in (213 cm) in front, floor is 54 in wide (137 cm), height is 40-44 in (102-112 cm)|
|9 in x 6 in (23 x 15 cm)|
|Measured weight 21 oz (595 g), manufacturer specification 20 oz (567 g)|
|Measured weight 22.7 oz (644 g); includes shelter, four Spectra guylines, and eight titanium stakes|
|38.25 ft2 (3.55 m2)|
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|27 ft2/lb for the tent only, 31.4 ft2/lb for tent plus vestibule|
|Poncho Villa (doubles as vestibule) $79, vestibule $49, StormFlap $29, 8 titanium stakes $20, seam sealing $30|
To be truthful, when I reviewed the AntiGravityGear TarpTent, I didn’t realize that Backpacking Light had previously reviewed it back in 2004 as the Dancing Light Gear Ultralight Brawny Tarptent. It is now hand-made by AGG owner George Andrews, and he does a very fine job. His sewing and seam sealing are superb.
The design of the current AGG TarpTent is essentially unchanged from the Dancing Light design. The emphasis in the re-introduced tent is on strong construction and developing accessories to expand its utility. The TarpTent is available in two sizes: 10 feet wide and 9 feet wide at the rear. The difference in weight is miniscule, so unless you are a short person you might as well get the larger size.
Setup is very easy and takes about 5 minutes: 1) lay the tent out on the ground, 2) stake the four corners, 3) insert a trekking pole set at 40-44 inches in a PVC cup at the peak and raise the front, 4) stake the front guyline, and 5) stake out three lift loops on the sides and back of the tent. For adequate interior space, it’s important to stake out the lift loops to pull the canopy outward. Eight stakes are required for a complete pitch.
Views of the AntiGravityGear TarpTent. Entry is from the side (top left) which is protected by a beak. The side view (top right) and back view (bottom left) show how the tent’s three lift loops pull the canopy outward to maximize interior volume. The top view (bottom right) shows the trapezoidal shape of the tent. Note that the canopy is one piece; there is no ridgeline or center seam.
With 38.25 square feet of floor space (top left), the AGG TarpTent is a roomy one-person tent. Many two-person tents have less than that. Bugs are kept out by a no-see-um mesh curtain (top right) that is gathered under the peak when not in use. The mesh curtain will connect to the floor (bottom left) to raise the front edge and create a bathtub floor. An optional StormFlap (bottom right; 1.2 ounces, $29) is available to block wind-driven rain.
I used the AGG TarpTent on several backpacking trips in spring and summer and found it very livable and functional. It’s a tent that grows on you as you learn how to refine the pitch and use its accessories. The first time I set it up I used adjustable trekking poles set to 44 inches as recommended. That produced a taught pitch in keeping with the tent’s design, but interior headroom was lacking except for the front center. Since then I have used 47.5 inch fixed length basketless carbon trekking poles (my preferred poles) with the TarpTent to gain more interior headroom, which works fine except the front beak is limp. Because the tent has no ridgeline, its very important to stake out the lift loops on the sides and back to increase interior volume.
Although a minimum of one trekking pole is required to erect the tent, it is handy to use a second trekking pole to raise the back of the tent upward for maximum interior space. The side guylines can be supported with sticks found onsite. The tent comes with four Spectra guylines, and requires a total of eight stakes for a complete pitch.
One shortcoming of the AGG TarpTent design is its short front beak. By itself, it does not provide adequate protection from wind-blown rain hitting the front of the tent, and it does not provide much privacy when the tent is used in a public place. AGG’s solution is to offer an optional StormFlap (1.2 ounces, $29) that attaches across the front opening (see photo panel below). It attaches with four mitten hooks, which are cumbersome to use, making it inconvenient to enter and exit the tent. It begs the question: why not extend the front beak as an alternative? The early Tarptent Squall had the same issue, and it was solved with an extended beak.
AntiGravityGear’s solution to the TarpTent’s short front beak is to offer an accessory StormFlap (left; 1.2 ounces, $29) that clips across the tent entry. It works, but it makes entry less convenient because of the mitten hooks (right) used for attachment. I am not fond of the mitten hook connectors (used to tie up the mesh curtain and attach accessories), and would like to see a more convenient connector used.
A handy accessory for the TarpTent is AGG’s Poncho Villa (5.5 ounces, $79), which is a unique poncho that also serves as a front vestibule for the tent. The Poncho Villa is basically a square (almost) piece of silnylon with a hood in the center, but it is worn or attached to the tent diagonally.
In poncho mode (left), I found the Poncho Villa will cover a small pack adequately, but rain pants or chaps are needed to stay dry from the waist down. It has Velcro patches to create “sleeves” as shown. In vestibule mode (right), the Poncho Villa adds 17 square feet of protected area to the front of the TarpTent.
It’s difficult to attach the vestibule to the peak of the tent when using a trekking pole without a basket, so I resorted to attaching it to a mitten hook near the peak, which resulted in an opening on the sides (photo) that allowed rain to enter. A solid vestibule (sans hood) is also available (3.3 ounces, $49).
For bug protection, the AGG TarpTent has a no-see-um mesh curtain that drapes down across the entry. It’s not zippered like other tarptents, but it is functionally bug proof because the mesh overlaps the tent floor and boots or other gear can be placed on it to seal any gaps. The curtain is simple and functional and eliminates a zipper, but it has several folds in it and is bulkier than a zippered mesh door (see photo panel above). It is fairly easy to tie it up out of the way when it’s not needed.
I was able to test the AGG TarpTent in moderate winds, gusting to about 20 mph, with scary results. Ideally, for best wind resistance, the back of the tent should face the wind. Even with that positioning, the TarpTent deflects and flaps substantially in stronger wind gusts, to the point where I worried about the lift loops (which are attached to reinforcement patches on the canopy) tearing out. Overall, the AGG TarpTent should hold together in moderate 10-15 mph winds, but beware of really strong winds. Choosing a sheltered location is highly recommended.
I went through the spring and most of the summer without hitting a good rainstorm while testing the AGG TarpTent. Then in early September I got a good one, at 12,100 feet elevation in an open alpine setting. Overall, the AGG TarpTent was a dry haven, except for gaps at the sides of the vestibule from not installing it correctly.
Will Rietveld inside the Anti Gravity Gear Tarptent during a rainstorm at 12,100 feet.
I was not able to test the AGG TarpTent in snowy conditions, but Ryan Jordan did in his review of the Dancing Light Gear Ultralight Brawny Tarptent. The outcome was not pretty. Because of its single pole support and large canopy, this tent is not recommended for use in snow or strong winds.
Condensation is normal for a single wall tent, especially on a clear calm night with a large temperature drop, and the AGG TarpTent is one of the worst performers in that respect. There is no cross ventilation through the tent - the front entry is the only opening. There is no mesh around the perimeter and no top vent. When its mesh curtain is down to exclude bugs, the AGG TarpTent is a condensation chamber, unless there is a good breeze. For more information on condensation in single wall tents and how to minimize it, see my article on Condensation in Single-walled Shelters: Contributing Factors and Tips for Reduction.
The AGG Tarptent is more prone to condensation (left) because it has no provision for cross ventilation through the tent. The graph on the right is for a clear/calm/cool night following an evening rain (the one in the video). The air temperature hit the dew point early in the evening and stayed there all night, resulting in copious condensation.
Design-wise and functionally, the AGG TarpTent provides an amazing amount of protected area for its weight. At 31.4 ft2/lb (tent plus vestibule), it even blows away the Gossamer Gear Squall Classic, made of spinnaker fabric, which is 22.8 ft2/lb based on 35.3 ft2 floor + vestibule area and 1.55 lb trail weight. The tent and its accessories function very well together as a system, especially the Poncho Villa, which can serve as both a poncho and a vestibule. The side pullouts are a bit funky, but very functional to expand the volume inside the tent. That’s the plus side. On the downside, the tent’s design (single trekking pole support and a large canopy with fragile side pullouts) makes it very unstable in strong winds and snow. For that reason, I would recommend this tent only for summertime use in areas where there is good wind protection. If you can find a protected campsite in some trees to break the wind, you can probably avoid problems, most of the time.
Another significant limitation is the tent’s short front beak. It is not long enough to provide adequate protection from wind-driven rain from the front. AGG’s StormFlap is a questionable solution; why not just extend the beak as part of the standard tent rather than solving the problem with an optional accessory? On the other hand, AGG’s Poncho Villa is a viable accessory because it serves as both a poncho and a vestibule. It would not necessarily be overkill to extend the tent’s beak and still use the Poncho Villa to create a roomy vestibule for gear storage.
My biggest issue with the AGG TarpTent is its lack of cross ventilation. As presently designed, the user simply has to learn to live with condensation. That’s not necessarily a given, because on many nights with low humidity or a light breeze, I had little or no condensation inside the TarpTent. However, in conditions favoring condensation (as described in the article linked above), the TarpTent will develop more condensation on the inside walls compared to other (better ventilated) tarptents. When the tent’s mesh curtain is down to exclude bugs, there is no way to increase ventilation, except to face the tent into any available breeze. The best moisture management for this tent is a good pack towel, such as the Sea to Summit Microfiber Towel, which will absorb three times its weight in water.
In my opinion, this tent needs a re-design to provide cross ventilation. It would not be that difficult to add a flange around the perimeter with mesh underneath. If the flange were about 18 inches above the ground, it could incorporate several tieout points to secure the tent better and expand the canopy. That height would provide enough room underneath the flange for a mesh panel and bathtub floor. It would add minimal weight and a lot more ventilation. The tent also needs a high vent at the peak to utilize the chimney effect to exhaust moisture.
A tent most similar to this one is the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (23 ounces, 27.5 ft2 floor, $235). The Lunar Solo has mesh around the sides and back, a floating floor, a large front beak/vestibule, a zippered mesh entry, and a high vent. These features add up to much better ventilation, but the Lunar Solo is not as roomy and does not have the coordinated accessories of the AGG TarpTent.
Some final nitpicks: there is no storage pocket inside the tent to stash eyeglasses and other fragile items, and the mitten hooks used to tie up the mesh curtain and connect accessories are cumbersome to use.
For its 21 ounces (tent only), the AGG TarpTent provides the most protected area available for a single-person single-wall tent with floor. Its canopy does not have any seams or ridgeline.
Recommendations For Improvement
- Add an interior storage pocket
- Re-design the tent to add cross-ventilation, perhaps by adding a silnylon flange around the sides and back, with mesh underneath to enhance ventilation, plus a high vent
- Extend the front beak, with a side Velcro attachment, to provide better protection from wind-driven rain
- Consider replacing the mesh curtain with an inverted T-shaped zippered door that ties open to the sides
- Design a way to attach the Poncho Villa or solid vestibule to the tent’s peak when poles without baskets are used
- Find an alternative to mitten hooks to tie up the mesh curtain and attach accessories