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).