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Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report
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Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report on 01/20/2012 16:54:15 MST Print View

Had my Tarptent Stratospire 2 out for a couple nights last weekend - its first time in use. Thought I’d report on my impressions of the tent…

First, a short trip report: This was a 3-day, 2-night trip (January 14th-16th, 2012) to the White Tank Mountains on the west side of the Phoenix metro area. We’ve day hiked this area a few times now and thought it might make a good winter backpacking location for our family of 4. There is a good, clear, & reliable source of water at Willow Spring that we were able to pump water out of and use for cooking. A group of friends and family hike up with us to the spring and while the rest of the group headed back to the cars, my wife and 2 daughters (8 and 11) stayed with me in the mountains with an overnight backcountry permit available through the visitor center at the entrance to the park. Permit was surprisingly pricey for what there is in the park - $10/person/night. So that was $80 for the 4 of us in two nights.

Since the Stratospire arrived last year (November, I think mine was one of the first off the assembly line?), I’ve been jonesing for a trip to try it out. Family obligations around the holidays have prevented that, until now. I did a practice pitch back when I first received it and added some reflectorized cord zipper pulls along with some titanium stakes from Lawson. I also cut a ground cloth for under the inner tent from some silnylon that I treated on one side with some diluted silicone/mineral spirits for a little extra moisture barrier underneath.

On the trip, the tent went up well having a good flat spot to pitch it. Got some compliments on the ‘cool tent’ from my daughters, which always leaves me beaming. My older daughter was to stay in the Strat with me, while my wife and younger daughter were housed in my REI Quarter Dome T2+ (still a favorite of mine). Nights got down into the mid 40’s the first night and as my older daughter only has a 40* rating on her down bag, I closed up the fly to hold the warmth in/keep the night breeze out. After the first night, there weren’t any issues with condensation during the night or evidence of any in the morning. During the day, we would open up the sides and temps topped out around the mid 60’s.

The second night, we had more cloud cover and while the forecast was for a low in the mid-40’s, I don’t think it dropped much into the 40’s as it was definitely a warmer night for me and I never needed to zip up my bag. We did get some rain showers a few times during the night, and I am happy to report that there were no seam leaks resulting in drips during the night.

We woke up fairly early (can only stay in a horizontal position for so long, and the winter nights can seem a bit endless at times), and with the ground pretty wet from the night time rains, we packed up what we could inside the tents. All the gear stored in the large vestibules was nice and dry, but I noticed while sitting up in the tent (in the dark) doing packing and pulling gear in from the vestibules that there had been significant sag in the silnylon from the rain. The upper parts of the large panels were up against the mesh inner tent and while I could sit upright in the tent without touching the mesh ceiling, a few times I did brush up against it and could tell it was quite wet. The outermost staked corners at the doors had sagged and a few inches were lying in the mud at the tent edges. I honestly didn’t even think about trying to boost up the trekking poles to see how it would have helped (in retrospect this is regretful), but when I went to bed the night before, everything was extra taut and looking good. I think if I had boosted the poles an inch or two that would have helped considerably with the wet sag. I was concentrating on getting Madeleine’s gear into her pack rather than the tent. It was still dark (5:30am?) so there wasn’t much interest in a detailed inspection of the tent.

Once we had some coffee/hot drinks and it was getting light out, my wife and I packed up the tents. They were both quite wet still, some from the rain, and some from condensation inside. Both tents were considerably heavier, and while a shake of the REI fly seemed to ditch a fair amount of water, the silnylon seemed to hang on to its water more. It was quite wet on both sides of the outer tent material.

This is my first experience with the silnylon in rainy conditions – my first Tarptent for that matter. I would say that it behaved as I have heard others describe. It was not a big deal, but a more waterproof coating or material certainly makes a difference in my one experience here. Don’t think this is any fault of the tent. No ‘misting’ was experienced during the rains either, although they were only light showers – never had any significant rain.

A few thoughts on the tent performance & design:

I’m about 6’1” tall and sleep on a large Neoair (25”Wx77”L) and then had a Ridgerest on top of that for a little extra warmth, plus my down Montbell sleeping bag. I fit fine with this setup and could easily keep the bag away from anywhere that splash or condensation could be a problem. If someone were a few or more inches taller than I, I would suggest proceeding more cautiously with regards to the length with one’s gear, especially if some shifting is anticipated during the night (isn’t that a given?). It can be done, but the room for margin becomes a bit more of an issue. A thinner pad setup would help this concern some, in my opinion.

I added reflective cord zipper pulls and am very glad I did. Man, the OEM pulls are tiny and can be difficult to quickly find, grab the right one, and pull the right direction. I fully understand the weight savings, but this makes it easier for me. I had absent-mindedly added them to the outside pulls during my first test pitch, and this was something I quickly resolved in the field and cut some more for the inside pulls after the first night.

I don’t know if it’s by design or an assembly mistake, but on my inner tent, only one of the two doors has elastic ties to hold the rolled up door out of the way when sitting in the doorway. I somehow got stuck with the side of the tent that didn’t have the tie-backs, and really missed them on several occasions.

Lawson’s Ti shepherd hook stakes worked very well with this tent. I took 8 and used them all, the last pair holding the guys out over each doorway. Don’t think I would change that setup for my next trip. Love how these stakes go into the ground – even the hard desert floor here in AZ.

I would say that my impression of the StratoSpire 2 is a good one. I don’t think it’s of the luxury level of the REI Quarter Dome T2+, which I really do love, but at a pound and a half savings, this is a no-brainer for me, especially when worried about weight of extra water in the desert/Grand Canyon or if I’m soloing. The SS2 would be a palace for a solo trip and I don’t mind carrying the extra weight over a solo to be able to have the space.

Tent and scenery pictures added below (sorry, photos deleted from my photo hosting server - needed the space).

Edited by risingsun on 03/20/2012 16:34:50 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
SS2 on 01/20/2012 19:29:06 MST Print View

Thanks for the report Dan. Adding pulls the zipper tabs was a wise move. That's something I'm going to do at some point.

That's weird you've only got cord to tie the door up on one side of the tent. I didn't check to confirm, but I'm think mine has two.

Regarding sag, 30D nylon (whether it's silnylon or PU coated) is going to sag in extended wet conditions. A tent like this that relies on tension in the fly for it's structure is going to be a bit more affected by this than a tent with a complete poled structure. To reduce the sag, you could either re-tension the ridgeline or go with self tensioning guyllnes. The easiest would likely be to incorporate a length of stiff shock cord into the two primary guy lines. You could just cut a foot off the guyline and then add a foot of stiff shock cord.

Regarding mesh/fly contact, I noticed there's not much of a gap between the mesh inner and fly along the ridge line. Thankfully this is an area that we're likely to almost never contact. If you lower the mesh inner into the lower position (ie. 3 person mode) then it increases the gap between the fly and inner by a couple inches which appears like it will work better. I'm going to be using the tent like this quite a bit, as things are commonly pretty wet where I live. With that said, it's a lot better to have fly/mesh contact issues along the ridge line than along the perimeter of the tent. When it contacts along the perimeter, then you've got wet mesh right beside you that is prime for contacting. My Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 was bad for this.

Edited by dandydan on 01/20/2012 19:31:21 MST.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
sil-nylon in wet conditions on 01/20/2012 23:11:05 MST Print View

I'll be really interested to hear what you think about the Stratospire in PNW conditions, Dan. I was glad to see the TT Stratospire compared to a a Quarterdome T2 Plus--the tent we currently use. I've been thinking about the Stratospire as a way to reduce weight without compromising too much on space--something my boyfriend is insistent about. We'd looked at the Lunar Duo, but Bill wasn't crazy about the single-wall, non-freestanding aspect of it. The Strat isn't free-standing either, but at least its a "double-wall" tent.

Mike Sobr
(breeze)

Locale: Southeaster
stretch on 01/21/2012 20:09:08 MST Print View

As mentioned I also found that using sections of bungee cord at the main tie-outs helped immensely for keeping a tight pitch as the sil does tend to stretch and sag but just a couple strategically placed shock-cords always kept my Virga and Contrail from drooping overnight...... just pull them really snug just before turning in at night and everything stays taught.
I always wondered why they use sil as it's does stretch and also tends to pass water and always figured it was to save a few ounces over regular tent material?.

Durwin Bassett
(onemoremile)

Locale: inthesticks
Any update to add to this report? on 03/20/2012 16:02:08 MDT Print View

@ Dan, I have been eying the Strat 2 since it came out, and would love to hear from you (and others), that have had it out in the field. I appreciated your report and would love to hear if you have had any more opportunities to use it.

Thanks

Durwin

Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
Dang, hasn't been out since! on 03/20/2012 16:19:47 MDT Print View

Hey Durwin,

Sorry to say I haven't much more to add on this tent for the moment. We did some family car-camping w/ day hikes over spring break in Death Valley National Park and I used an older, heavier tent and saved the wear and tear on the Stratospire for future uses. I've got a 7-day Grand Canyon hike planned in a little over a month and will be using this tent as a spacious solo tent for that trip. Will try to get a few more pictures of it in use at that time and can maybe share some additional thoughts on it then as well. Hopefully some others can chime in on use?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Going to use an SS1 this weekend on 03/20/2012 17:58:25 MDT Print View

Going to use an SS1 in the Picture Rocks area of the Michigan UP.
Will report back on how it fairs out.

If it does well I will use for 6 day trip in Ireland in 3 weeks time.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
StratoSpire2 Quick Review on 06/05/2012 19:59:47 MDT Print View

I wanted to add a quick review of the SS2 now that I've had more opportunity to live with the tent.

Overall I'm quite enamoured with the tent, especially with how pleasant it is to live out of in the rain. The combination of the protected inner setup, fly and inner that don't get stuck together, doors that don't allow rain to fall in the tent and large (and tall!) vestibules makes it a great haven in the rain. These are highly appreciated characteristics for use in the PNW.

The size of the tent is a decent size for two. While there's no mistaking the tent for a 3 person tent (when using the inner) the usable space inside is pretty good. I'd subjectively say the interior volume is a little above average for a 2 person tent. The combo of the offset poles and the opposing pitch-lock corners works better than any other dual trekking pole supported 2 person tent at providing livable volume out to the corners of the inner. There's still a bit of compromise here (vs. a typical dual arch poled dome tent) but the SS2 makes up for it with it's generous dimensions.

The vestibules are really impressive. Because the trekking poles are right in the vestibules, these storage spaces are nice and tall which keeps the fly away from your stuff and lets you cook without worry of melting the tent. I was able to fit two packrafts, my backpack and shoes in my fly while still having easy egress/ingress to the inner tent. The zippers are also easy to close because the vestibules are tall and wide but not too deep. My 5'6" wife can close her vestibule zip all the way without kneeling out on the ground. The whole door setup works great - in normal rainy conditions you can casually enter/exit the tent without having to dash to keep rain from falling in the tent or even on your stuff stored in the other side of the vestibule.

For maximum headroom/volume in the inner you can leave it clipped to the fly (near the poles) at the regular positions. I do find thought that this leads to a minimal gap between the fly and inner and thus with a bit of condensation the two can become stuck along the ridgeline. The solution is to use the lower clip option which drops the inner down another ~2" and trades a bit of headroom for a larger gap between the fly and inner. I use this in wet/condensation prone conditions and I use the regular spots in drier areas. In the lower spots I haven't had any issues with the fly and inner contacting each other which is great.

One potential issue that could affect the pitch of the tent and the gap between the fly & inner is fabric sag. While I impressively noticed no sag during my couple nights of use in light rainy conditions, I expect in prolonged enough wet conditions the fabric would sag as another BPL'er noticed in just a night or two. Incorporating some sort of bungee into the guyouts would be a wise precautionary step to keep the tent pitched tight.

Overall, the SS2 has really impressed me though 4-5 days of use so far. It's a pleasure to use in wet conditions, which is super important because this is when you really want a tent to be easy to live with. The optional poles you can buy with the SS2 to use instead of trekking poles are a bit flimsy though. I haven't tested them much, but in backyard setup they flex quite a bit when you snug the tent down and they're prone to digging into the ground. The latter is easily remedied in the field, but the former means I wouldn't bring these for challenging weather conditions.

stratospire2

Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
Thanks for the report on 06/05/2012 21:18:58 MDT Print View

Dan, sounds like it is working well for you. I had my SS2 out for a week in early May with my daughter in the Grand Canyon and it performed most excellently. Very pleased with the tent and I'm really getting good at a solid pitch now, although I have not set any speed records by any stretch of the imagination. I find I usually have to move a stake or two to get a taut setup, but it is no big deal. Been using Lawson's Ti stakes with the tent and in the very hard GC ground, they have performed exceptionally. Great tent, but I do still miss a couple simple mesh corner pockets. I strung a stiff line on the inside of the mesh tent at the roofline between the corners where the poles go, and use it as a hanger to keep misc. stuff off the tent floor at night. It's a decent substitution for a couple pockets.

Edited by risingsun on 06/05/2012 21:21:27 MDT.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Very nice tent on 06/05/2012 21:39:52 MDT Print View

I would have bought one of these last year if it had been available. At or just before that time I really didn't want to use my hiking poles for tent poles but have since gotten over that and if I'm laying over I can just simply use my poles if needed for a day adventure and fairly quickly reinstall them at the end of the day. Very nice engineering on this tent. On another note, I'm pretty enamored with and set on a Notch if it turns out I'll be responsible for my own shelter this year. Usually I share a tent with someone who carries it and I carry the bear canister. May not work out this year. Anyway, I digress.

I've also thought of selling my unused FC UL3 and getting the Stratospire 2 but I'm not sure that my 6'7" hiking buddy would fit.

Great thread. And nice photo DandyDan.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
SS2 on 06/05/2012 22:08:56 MDT Print View

In my recollection, 6'7" would be a little tight but work for occasional use. He'd likely touch the mesh if he were also in a large sleeping bag and thick pad. My wife 5'6" was just touching the mesh when she had our dog occupying the space below her feet which I estimate was about a foot of length (our dog is 20 lbs).

Yeah a couple mesh pockets would be nice. No need for anything crazy like 6.....just one per side would be good.

Edited by dandydan on 06/05/2012 22:10:45 MDT.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Mesh pockets on 06/05/2012 22:29:55 MDT Print View

Great idea for sure. All tents should have one or two. Keeps the fragile items out of harms way and for very little extra weight.

Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
One more thing on 06/05/2012 22:39:45 MDT Print View

I have one more thing I really like about this tent design. When I get out of the tent in the morning and have stiff or sore or cold muscles/joints, having a trekking pole at the ready, already vertical and just to the side of me to grab and help pull myself to standing position, it's a blessed thing. Not too many other spacious tents have that feature. Found this to be a nice perk of the SS tents.

Edited by risingsun on 06/05/2012 22:41:07 MDT.

Benjamin Auer
(mankind117) - M
tall person diagonally? on 08/04/2012 07:39:04 MDT Print View

I'm presuming this tent would be fine for a 6'6" person to use solo. They could just lay diagonally to have enough room to stretch out without having mesh in your face?

Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
Yep on 08/04/2012 07:57:56 MDT Print View

A 6'6" person would easily fit diagonally, in my opinion.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report on 08/04/2012 17:03:44 MDT Print View

Any chance of the SS2 working as a two adult and 1 child shelter (child is a tall 8 year old). Henry lists it as a 2/3 person shelter in one section of the TT website. Perhaps one person could sleep in the vestibule in a minimal bug bivy? We would probably only use it once/twice a year for 3 late summer nights.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report on 08/04/2012 17:33:15 MDT Print View

you can fit 3x 50cm (20") wide mats inside the inner .
I can't post pics at the moment but you can see that in the TT SS2 product page , the last shot (n10) in the slide show.
here it is...
SS2 4 3
Franco

Edited by Franco on 08/05/2012 00:55:33 MDT.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report on 08/04/2012 18:44:59 MDT Print View

Thanks Franco. Looks OK, especially as you have a large covered area to sort wet gear out in before putting up the inner. Could be a good choice for us in summer. The Anjan 3 is only 4 inches wider at its widest point.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - M

Locale: 40°N,-105°W-ish
Pitching into the wind on 08/07/2012 08:45:30 MDT Print View

I picked up a SS2 on Gear Swap last week, and finally had time to pitch it yesterday. It's an intriguing design - and I mean that in a good way. After reading comments about it being tricky to pitch, I found it surprisingly straightforward - only minor adjustments required to peg positions and I managed a taut pitch first time. Site selection is going to be the main consideration - I can see how its geometry would be affected by uneven ground.

To Jason's question, yes I could see three fitting inside at a pinch, although my five year old son brings new meaning to the term "active sleeper" so I would be more likely to let him and his mum have the inner, and I'd sleep in one vestibule. There is just space for me at 5'9" and the walls are steep enough not to feel claustrophic.

My question to Franco and/or other users of the SS2 is: Which way should it be pitched into the wind for maximum stability - pitch lock corner or trekking pole?

The first option presents the least acute angle for the wind, but it puts the ridge line broadside on. The second option presents a smaller surface area and ridgeline guyout points, but the fly is pitched at a steeper angle. Neither stands out as the obvious answer to me.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Tarptent Stratospire 2 first use report on 08/07/2012 16:21:57 MDT Print View

Hi Stuart
First the SS2 "solid" (fabric) inner is available now , $20 extra if bought with fly or $135 separately.

There are at least two ways of pitching the SS2.
I prefer my way...
Two reasons .
1) I look for a flattish rectangular area for the tent floor . (the vestibule area does not need to be flat)
So it is easier for me to start pegging down one end of that rectangle.
2) the way Henry does it does not work for me. ...
Here is how I do it :

TT SS2 set up
note that it was my second attempt setting it up , the first I tried was Henry's way.
(when HS sends me the drawings for a new tent, I set it up in my head...)

I pitch it with one door panel into the wind so that I can use the lee side , works well in wind driven rain that way.
To me the shape lends itself to hold wind from any direction providing that you have the guylines in the correct spot and that is at the two cardinal points not covered by the Pitch Lock.
This view may give a better idea of that:
(again I can't post pics here, I'll try later...)
Tt SS2 god's view
Franco

Edited by Franco on 08/07/2012 16:38:51 MDT.