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Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW
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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/07/2006 19:17:16 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW

Dane Burke
(Dane) - F

Locale: Western Washington
contrail on 11/07/2006 20:51:26 MST Print View

If anyone has some, I'd like to see pictures of the inside of the Contrail showing the reduced room when the rear end is flattened and staked to the ground.

Is there still room for a 6'4" person inside of a 3-season bag? Does it require a large amount of care not to hit the ceiling, and the condensation on it, when moving around in such a setup?

How solid did the tent remain in the 45mph winds, and in what direction was the wind coming from with respect to the tent (ie from the foot end, head end, or side)?



Edited by Dane on 11/07/2006 20:54:52 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: contrail on 11/08/2006 07:29:56 MST Print View

Dane took the question right out of my mouth. It doesn't look like there is much inside foot room at all, just from seeing the outside, with the tent pitched low for wind.

I am liking how the golite hut uses the handle end up. At first I didn't think I would like it, but I have seen the light. A few pluses to the handle end up is:
1. handle doesn't get muddy/dirty
2. safer for fabric especially if no grommet is present for a tip end up shelter
3. tip end is down which might give better holding power in wind or if you bump into it

Edited by jshann on 11/08/2006 07:32:50 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: contrail on 11/08/2006 08:47:36 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 10:48:21 MDT.

Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
critters. on 11/09/2006 00:31:57 MST Print View

one good thing about using your trekking pole handle side up is to keep critters from nibbling on the salty foam handles in the night. on the pct, i had a few visits from rodents chomping on the handles.

Edited by disco on 11/09/2006 00:32:39 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
The Contrail is lighter on 11/09/2006 08:24:40 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 10:54:47 MDT.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/09/2006 10:16:31 MST Print View

The difference is the weight of an energy bar - IMO, virtually meaningless in comparison to your total load.

Up front, I own both the Contrail and the Double Rainbow, but am also very familiar with the SMD Lunar Solo.

Both the Contrail and the Lunar Solo are excellent tents - the best single wall designs I've personally seen in 40 years of backpacking. Both have been reviewed here at BPL, and both have their strong and weak points. I'd suggest you read the reviews. Which one you choose is a highly personal thing. I strongly urge you to look at both of them; sit and lie in them; try them on for size. Then decide. Don't let weight differences alone keep you from looking at the competition.

At the recent ALDHA-West Gathering, both Bill Gurwell and Ron Moak had their full line of tents on display while I demo'd Henry's Contrail and Double Rainbow between them. What a great way for hikers to compare three excellent vendors!

Just to add another oar to the water, Ron also displayed the prototypes of his two yet-to-be-released 2007 tent designs - The one-person Wild Oasis and the 2-person Lunar Duo. The announcement of the later currently appears on the SixMoonDesigns website.

Never has it been so hard to choose between two superb designs. You can't go wrong either way.

Wandering Bob

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/09/2006 10:54:48 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 10:55:19 MDT.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/09/2006 12:48:20 MST Print View

The Contrail looks ugly, and I'm sorry to say that's enough to take it off my short list.

I carry two trekking poles, so why not use both of them at the front and include just one short pole at the back. Then you could have a design which looks as cute as the Wilson 400 used to. The Wilson had vestibules either side and still managed to have one of the smallest footprints I've ever seen. The front poles went beside the camper's shoulders and the single rear pole was near the feet. Essentially, it was a transverse ridge design with a foot extension. In tussocky conditions, a small footprint can be a big advantage. Tony Wilson built tents to last. He used heavy fabrics and triple-stitched seams so his tents pitched tight and could stand up to a British winter, but they still came in under five pounds. There are still some about even though Tony hasn't sold any for many years.

I'm really liking the thinking behind these single skin/floating groundsheet tents and the bug proofing is starting make them look like something which would cope with the Scottish Highlands. Hamish Brown used a single skin/floating groundsheet design on his record-breaking 1974 epic over the Munros, but it had a down-to-the-ground fly and valances. I see that design as second best to the Contrail/Squall Classic type design in summer, but Hamish's Tulloch Mountaincraft tent worked in winter and also survived a trip to Greenland.

So, a single skin/floating groundsheet with a Wilson 400 configuration is what I'd go for, if someone could work out how to do the bug proofing. Possibly in spinnaker fabric, if it genuinely does get quieter with use. Ray Jardine was right about connection. It is something I relish when tarp camping. With the twin vestibules open on a 21st Century Wilson, your eyes would be able to see what the world was doing just before going to sleep, without any need to bend your neck. The openings would be in just the right place for easy viewing.

Till then, the Squall Classic looks a better bet than the Contrail. Has anyone tried both?

Edited by JNDavis on 11/09/2006 12:53:37 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/09/2006 13:14:07 MST Print View


Can you please post some pics of teh Wilson 400 you mentioned?

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/09/2006 14:06:48 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 10:53:39 MDT.

Lorraine Pace
(SowthEfrikan) - F
Can't wait to get one on 11/12/2006 12:03:00 MST Print View

I think the tarptents are the best thing since sliced brown bread and am very excited to see a new, minimalistic single person tarptent.

I'm small so weight really is an issue, and anything that is simple and efficient rates highly with me.

I have the Squall 2 and it's been my favorite tent since the moment I first pitched it. I've had it in rain, wind and shine and it's been wonderful, no issues at all. I actually prefer the Squall 2 to my Hennessy hammock.

Can't wait to get the Contrail for those times I leave my husband behind, although reading the reviews I would prefer it to be set up with seven stake-outs instead of the four.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/13/2006 16:08:38 MST Print View

Yes, I would love to see it too. Please post something if you can.

As for the Contrail looking "ugly", all I can say is sorry ?? No design appeals to everyone and for pure aesthetics I prefer the Squall too. The main idea (in my mind, anyway) with the Contrail is that it's very efficient at what it does and the foot end room/distance from walls is greatly enhanced using dual struts vs. an arch configuration. The rear end is also much more flexible than the Squall-style design in that you can set it up with a single rear pole in a more traditional A-frame configuration if you want to using the center rear pullout (and guying out the rear corners) or stake the rear corners directly to the ground if needed.


Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Re: Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/13/2006 16:45:24 MST Print View


Does this mean that we could leave the rear corner poles at home? Are there any disadvantages of such an arrangement apart from less room at the foot end?

Finally is there any photos of such an arrangement?


Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/13/2006 18:38:35 MST Print View

You could if you wanted to but, honestly, I don't see any real advantage. I do think it can be useful to add a bit of "lift" to the panel for snow loading or provide more of rounded top panel for rain deluge using a collapsed trekking pole. Let me see if I can pull together a photo showing how to use the center rear edge pullout and a trekking pole (and a stake) to lift the rear edge a bit.

Edited by 07100 on 11/13/2006 18:39:05 MST.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Tarptent Contrail Tent REVIEW on 11/18/2006 10:31:47 MST Print View

Apologies are due.

Firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and my views may well be peculiar to me. I am sorry if my remarks caused any offence.

There is an issue with the way things look, though. Well engineered items often look right. In the context of tents, beautiful engineering looks as if it will distribute the loads caused by 25 m/s winds and not concentrate them on to something like a guyline attachment. The Wilson, pretty much a collection of triangular shaped pieces of nylon, looked right in this context.

More apologies because I have only just acquired a digital camera. Next time I see Bruce Brown's Wilson 400, I'll photograph it and post the result, although I must warn you that I'm struggling to get good results from my little Nikon at the moment. Also, a ferry journey is required and two of my last three outings on the Irish Sea have led to sea sickness, so there is some reluctance to travel.

Edited by JNDavis on 11/18/2006 10:33:29 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
For John on 11/18/2006 14:43:19 MST Print View

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Edited by Franco on 11/18/2006 17:46:57 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: For John on 11/19/2006 01:50:26 MST Print View

Nice pitch Franco.

On cold windy nights, or for precipitation protection, is that the lowest and/or most "sealed-off" that the foot-end can be when the struts are not used?

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
Wilson tent on 11/19/2006 11:58:17 MST Print View

To see the Wilson tent Go to then select "diary" from the menu at top of page then scroll down to "illustrated reports from past club events". Choose "Peak District Weekend January 1999", "Backpackers Club Treasure Hunt April 1999" (the tent behind the red jacket) and "SLMM Checkpoint Duty Weekend " .

John Davis says " they still came in under 5lb". That's true, but gives a misleading impression. That figure included 14oz.for poles because in the 1980's when this was first made few people carried two trekking poles or even one, 9oz for pegs (stakes) and 2 lbs for the inner tent. Much of the inner tent weight was the groundsheet which was ultra-heavy because Tony Wilson was always accompanied by his dog, and the groundsheet was tough and heavy enough to be claw-proof. The latest version was in a slightly lighter material and the flysheet alone weighed 24oz (1 pound 8 oz.), which was 2 oz lighter than the original This would be even less in 1.3oz sylnylon.

While I don't think the Contrail is ugly, I'd back the Wilson in a beauty contest between the two. It worked /works very well too.

Edited by Davidc on 11/20/2006 02:33:29 MST.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Contrail Length With Rear Flattened on 11/19/2006 13:59:14 MST Print View

I wanted to respond to Dane's question about the Contrail's length when the rear is flattened for more wind resistance. Since the length of the tent is 112" and the floor length is 84", there is still decent space above your feet so they don't contact the canopy, unless you raise your feet. You can sleep toward the front to gain even more clearance.

Regarding its wind resistance, I had the rear into the wind I mentioned in the review, and it took it fine. I had a little snow drift in through the side mesh.

If you extend the front beak, you can pitch the Contrail higher than the standard 45" to get lots more headroom. In that configuration, I did brush the inside walls some, but not as much as some other tents.

Overall, some people may see the Contrail as an ugly duckling, but I see it as functional and versatile. Its my favorite one-person tent.