Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW

At just over 1 ½ pounds, the Squall Classic improves on the original Tarptent Squall design with bathtub floor, spinnaker cloth construction, Easton aluminum stakes, and guyline adjusters. It drops significant weight from the Tarptent Squall 2 but does it go far enough to justify the cost?

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by Doug Johnson | 2006-11-08 03:00:00-07

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW

Introduction

The Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic is a collaborative effort to create the lightest floored two-person shelter available. By combining the original triangular-front Tarptent design, the current floating bathtub floor, and lightweight spinnaker and silnylon fabrics, the Squall Classic delivers the usability, storm resistance, and ventilation of a Squall, while trimming the weight of the Squall 2 by 7 ounces. Add a pair of Fibraplex carbon fiber poles and you’ve got the lightest floored two-person shelter out there! Is the Squall Classic a through-hiker's dream or can it be even lighter?

What’s Good

  • At 1 pound 8.9 ounces, it’s very lightweight for a single wall shelter with floor
  • With a Fibraplex pole, the tent weighs an even 1 ½ pounds and has an area to weight ratio of 1.62 - the highest of any floored shelter we’ve reviewed!
  • Enough space for two full-sized adults
  • Floating bathtub floor protects from splashing rain and is more durable than tensioned floors because it resists punctures
  • Beak-style vestibule offers good protection while still allowing airflow
  • Door and beak are easily rolled up for full ventilation and views
  • New guyline adjusters are simple, lightweight, and easy to use

What’s Not So Good

  • Not as much headroom as the Tarptent Squall 2
  • Old-style Tarptent vestibule attachment is simple but lacks adjustability of new Tarptent designs
  • Spinnaker cloth is a little noisy when new (but gets quieter with use)
  • Condensation issues in still, high humidity conditions

Specifications

  Year/Manufacturer/Model

2006 Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic

  Style

Two-person single wall tent with sewn-in floor

  Fabrics

0.9 oz/yd2 (31 g/m2) spinnaker cloth, 1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) silicone-impregnated ripstop nylon floor, 1 oz/yd2 (34 g/m2) no-see-um netting

  Poles and Stakes

Easton 7075 aluminum, 5/16 inch (8 mm) diameter rear pole, four Easton 5.5 in (14 cm) 7075 aluminum tubular stakes

  Dimensions

Outside length 89 in (226 cm); width 75/51 in (191/130 cm); height 42 in (107 cm), variable with adjustable trekking pole
Bathtub floor length 80 in (203 cm), width 60/40 in (152/102 cm)

  Packed Size

20 in x 4 in x 3 in (51 x 10 x 8 cm)

  Total Weight
As supplied by manufacturer with all included items

Measured weight 1 lb 9.3 oz (717 g); shelter 1 lb 4.4 oz (578 g), 1 pole 3.0 oz (85 g), four Easton aluminum stakes 1.4 oz (40 g), stuff sacks 0.5 oz (14 g)
Manufacturer specification 1 lb 10.9 oz (763 g)

  Trail Weight
Includes minimum number of items needed to erect the tent

1 lb 8.8 oz (703 g) measured weight (assumes using a trekking pole for the front pole)

  Protected Area

Total covered area 38.9 ft2 (3.61 m2); sewn-in floor 27.6 ft2 (2.56 m2), vestibule 7.7 ft2 (0.72 m2)

  Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio

17.8 ft2/lb based on 27.6 ft2 floor area and 1.55 lb trail weight

  Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio

22.8 ft2/lb based on 35.3 ft2 floor + vestibule area and 1.55 lb trail weight

  MSRP

$275

  Options

Front pole $14, 1.8 oz (52 g)

Specifications: Fibraplex Poles

  Aftermarket Poles

Fibraplex Fibrapole 292 custom

  Pole Material

Carbon fiber with carbon fiber ferrules and aluminum tips

  Weight

Rear hoop 2.1 oz (59 g), front pole 1.2 oz (33 g)

  Trail Weight
Shelter with Fibraplex pole

24.0 oz (0.68 kg) measured weight (assumes using a trekking pole for the front pole and Fibraplex CF pole for the rear hoop)

  Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio
With Fibraplex pole

18.4 ft2/lb based on 27.6 ft2 floor area and 1.5 lb trail weight

  Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio
With Fibraplex pole

23.5 ft2/lb based on 35.3 ft2 floor + vestibule area and 1.5 lb trail weight

  MSRP

$52 for the two poles

Performance

The original Tarptent Squall has been a favorite among ultralight backpackers for years. With its front strut and dual-pole pitching option, the Tarptent Squall 2 won the Backpacking Light Lightitude Award for Best Single Wall Shelter in 2005. However, with features added over the years, the current Squall 2 also increased in weight and complexity. Through a collaboration of Gossamer Gear and Tarptent, the Squall Classic was designed to retain some new features while stepping back to the earlier non-strut, single pole design, and utilizing ultralight fabrics to create the lightest floored single wall tent available.

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 1
The Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic is better that the original Squall in several ways: the beak-style vestibule extends lower to the ground, the floating floor is a bathtub design, and it’s lighter.

At first glance, the Squall Classic appears to be an earlier Tarptent Squall. This is because it uses a single pole for front support that creates a triangular front opening instead of the front strut and trapezoidal entry of the Squall 2. The vestibule is also similar to earlier Tarptents, attaching on one side instead of down the center. Lighter fabrics are used in the Squall Classic; instead of the 1.3 oz/yd2 silnylon found in standard Tarptents, the Squall Classic uses a lighter 1.1 oz/yd2 silnylon floor and 0.9 oz/yd2 spinnaker body.

There are several important similarities between the Squall Classic and the Squall 2. They share the floating bathtub floor, single rear hoop, catenary ridgeline, Easton aluminum poles and stakes, an extended vestibule, easy four-stake setup, and full perimeter bug netting.

Included with the shelter are the tent body with attached floor, spinnaker cloth tent stuff sack, Easton 7075 aluminum rear hoop, four Easton aluminum stakes, and a stake pouch. An optional front pole is available for those that don’t use trekking poles and adds 1.8 ounces to the tent weight.

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 2
New guyline adjusters at the lower front corners (left) make adjustments easy. The vestibule is also easy to tension while inside or outside the tent, using a clip and a sliding knot that attach to the front guyline (right).

With some practice, setting up the Squall Classic is possible in just a couple of minutes. The rear pole easily slides into a sleeve and is held in place by a grommet on each side. Stake out the rear. The front pole or trekking pole is then inserted into a grommet and erected with a single guyline. Corner guylines are staked and tensioned. Finally the rear hoop is repositioned to even out the sidewall tension by moving it back slightly.

Unlike earlier Tarptents which required restaking for tension adjustments, the Squall Classic has guyline adjusters at the front corners that make proper tensioning (and nighttime adjustments) very easy. While other Tarptent models have an adjuster for the ridge guyline as well, the Squall Classic does not and requires restaking for adjustment there (a minor hassle).

The Squall Classic comes with Gossamer Gear EZC Spectra-core guylines that are orange and easy to see.

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 3
The Squall Classic provides ample room for two full-size hikers to sleep and one to sit up at a time.

With a 27.6 square foot bathtub floor, the floor area of the Squall Classic is virtually identical to a Tarptent Squall 2. That means that there is plenty of space for two large adults and gear. However, the lack of the front strut really affects the usability of the space; while two hikers can sit side by side in a Squall 2, sitting up in the Squall Classic is a one-person affair. Not having the strut also makes it easier to bump into the walls - an issue during times of heavy condensation.

The Squall Classic has a beak-style vestibule that covers 7.7 square feet of space. Compared to the 9.3 square foot vestibule of the Squall 2, it is definitely smaller but still large enough to cover a couple of packs and shoes. While the Squall 2 has a vestibule that closes with Velcro in the middle, the Squall Classic returns to the earlier one-piece vestibule that closes with Velcro on the side. To deploy the vestibule, simply release the Velcro tabs, pull it across, attach to tabs on the opposite side and clip the front bungee loop to the adjustable plastic clip on the guyline. It is very simple and effective but  difficult to set up from inside the tent. A raised center peak on the vestibule protects the fabric from trekking pole tips that extend through the front grommet.

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 4
While the Squall 2 has a vestibule with center closure and a small, somewhat functional vent, the Squall Classic returns to the side Velcro closure with no vent (left). The simplistic design is easier to use and works perfectly. The raised center protects the tent from sharp trekking pole tips (right).

At just over 1.5 pounds, the Squall Classic drops a full 7 ounces off the weight of a Squall 2. That is a significant weight savings and makes the Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic the lightest floored two-person tent on the market. The Protected Area to Weight Ratio of 22.8 ft2/lb (with aluminum pole) is second only to this same tent used with an after market Fibraplex carbon fiber pole.

By using a pair of custom Fibraplex Fibrapole 292 carbon fiber poles ($52 for the set), I was able to drop an additional 0.8 ounce off the tent. That raised the Protected Area to Weight Ratio to an amazing 23.5 ft2/lb, the highest area-to-weight ratio of any two-person tent we’ve reviewed! Comparing optional front poles, the Fibraplex pole is 0.6 ounce lighter than the Easton aluminum pole without any decrease in stiffness (but a trekking pole is much stiffer).

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 5
The catenary ridgeline and single front pole of the Squall Classic make it easy to achieve a taut pitch in just a couple of minutes.

Like the Squall 2, the Squall Classic uses a catenary ridgeline that makes it very easy to achieve a taut pitch and improved wind stability. While not quite as stable as the Squall 2 pitched with dual trekking poles, the Squall Classic stands up nicely to moderate winds. Lowering the front trekking pole and aiming the rear of the tent into the wind also helps when wind speeds increase. Using the side guyouts further stabilizes the tent in these conditions.

In rainy conditions, the spinnaker body of the Squall Classic overlaps the floor below, providing solid rain protection. Further, the triangular entrance and single ridgeline of the Squall Classic eliminate the slight water pooling that can occur with the Squall 2. During a surprise snowstorm in the Cascades, the Squall Classic did a good job of shedding the white stuff (although this is no four-season bomber tent).

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 6
With a single front pole and no flat spots, the Squall Classic sheds water and light snow extremely well.

The floating bathtub floor that the Squall Classic shares with the Squall 2 is a huge improvement over previous floored models. The floor is attached at the corners with elastic cords that give the protection of a bathtub floor while adding no tension to the main tent body. The result is a floor that stays drier in splashing rain and stays cleaner in dusty conditions than in previous models. The design has adjustable tension, works perfectly, and is brilliant in its simplicity. No floorless version of the Squall Classic is available (but I would sure like to try one!).

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW - 7
The floating floor design adds no tension to the outer tent, instead relying on sewn seams and attached elastic cord to give its bathtub shape. The floor of the Squall Classic is 1.1 oz/yd2 silnylon versus 1.3 oz/yd2 fabric in the Squall 2.

Ventilation in the Squall Classic is very good for a single wall tent. In conditions with even a slight breeze, the full perimeter mesh and mesh front door allow good airflow that keeps things dry. When bugs are not a problem, leaving the mesh door open (which unzips in the middle and along the bottom in an inverted T) eliminates any possibility of condensation. In still, high-humidity conditions, condensation becomes more of an issue. However, moisture is easily managed - condensation that accumulates on the tent walls runs down and drips outside of the floor area (another bonus for the bathtub floor design).

Durability of the Squall Classic was never a problem during extensive field testing but the lighter fabrics of the tent need to be handled with care. If you keep fire away from the tent and make sure not to pitch it on rough surfaces such as gravel, the Squall Classic should provide years of reliable performance in the field.

I’m not a fan of the long tube-shaped stuff sack that is typical of Tarptents but without the front strut to deal with, the Squall Classic was quite easy to stuff or roll into the included sack.

Having spent a lot of time with an earlier Tarptent Squall, the Squall 2, and now the Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic, I must say that this is one gem of a tent. While I love the extra headroom of the Squall 2, losing this is a good tradeoff for the increase in simplicity and lighter weight of the Squall Classic. If you’re looking for the lightest two-person floored tent available, you search ends here. 

Compared to the $195 Tarptent Squall 2, the $275 price tag of the Squall Classic is pretty steep (spinnaker fabric is much more expensive than silnylon). You are paying an extra $80 to save 7 ounces, which isn’t bad. But the Squall Classic could go even further – by dropping the sewn-in floor and including a carbon fiber rear pole and 6-inch titanium stakes, the weight of the tent could be reduced down to 1 pound! Now that’s really exciting! Many potential purchasers of this tent will want the lightest and roomiest tent possible, so I believe there would be strong interest in a floorless version of this tent. Hardcore ultralighters would be fine using a Gossamer Gear Polycro groundsheet instead of the sewn-in floor, and the weight savings would really justify the extra expense. 

What’s Unique

The Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic is a brilliant blend of old and new Tarptent designs put together with ultralight fabrics. It’s bound to be a favorite of many ultralight backpackers.

Recommendations for Improvement

The Squall Classic is an excellent design, retaining the superb floor of the Squall 2 while dropping a significant amount of weight. Every change that was made with the Classic is thoughtful and well-executed.

However, it seems that the Gossamer Gear / Tarptent team only went part way with this tent. By offering a floorless model and including a carbon fiber rear pole (or offering it as an option) and 6-inch titanium stakes, they would be able to drop an additional 7 ounces or more, bringing the total weight of this tent down to an incredible 1 pound.

 

Citation

"Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/gossamer_gear_tarptent_squall_classic_tent_review.html, 2006-11-08 03:00:00-07.

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Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW
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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 11/07/2006 19:18:10 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 11/07/2006 20:58:11 MST Print View

Great Review...

Now it's on my Christmas List!

Regards

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 11/08/2006 01:46:06 MST Print View

[Note: Posting this here as this was the 2nd of the two reviews that i read early this AM.]


In a fashion somewhat similar to the long standing practice of various Auto-magazines tests of automobiles, i'd like to see the two reviewers of the Contrail and SquallClassic *SWITCH* shelters and each test the other one under conditions as close as possible to how the first set of tests were conducted by each Reviewer.

Then, having used both shelters, i'd be very interested to hear how each felt the two shelters compared to each other.

[Note: Auto mags will often have four or more people test a car (sometimes long term testing) and then have them all comments on likes and dislikes. In this case, consensus becomes very meaningful.]


As everyone is aware, similarity of conditions of testing (i know, not the easiest objective to achieve) AND the personal preferences of the reviewers, which can vary widely, come into play (this is NOT necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it's good from my way of thinking, as the pers. prefs. of the readers also vary widely, so more chance for readers to relate to the reviewer).

Such a testing procedure would produce some very enlightened comments that would make a comparison between similar or somewhat similar products all the more meaningful.

As they stand now, TWO VERY EXCELLENT and informative reviews from individuals whose comments are as close to "Gospel" (i know, not a proper use of the term, nor an accurate expression of the meaning of the orginal Greek word it translates in the New Testament; intended more here in its coloquial meaning) as one can get, IMHO. Great jobs, WR and DJ.

Edited by pj on 11/08/2006 01:52:51 MST.

Robert Geiser
(twchikers) - F

Locale: Northeast Ohio
Re: Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 11/08/2006 06:58:54 MST Print View

I've used this tent in Virginia and Ohio and am VERY happy with the design. Because of our tenacious mosquitos and biting flies, floorless tents or tarp-only shelters never interested me. Each trip has had rain, but the tent has kept me dry with no condensation problems. I learned on the first use to make sure the tent is nearly perfectly level when using a Therm-a-rest Prolite 3. Otherwise you keep sliding to the low side of the tent all night long.

Edited by twchikers on 11/08/2006 06:59:38 MST.

Michael Church
(machurch) - F - M
No Stretch in Rain? on 11/08/2006 17:57:42 MST Print View

I saw this tent at the 2006 Appalachian Trail Days at Damascus, VA. Gossamer Gear said that one advantage of the spinnaker fabric over the Tarptent silnylon is that the spinnaker does not stretch when it gets wet as silnylon does. I can't comment on whether this is true or not as I haven't used the spinnaker fabric, but if this is true, I would really like it as silnylon stretches a lot when it gets wet, making readjusting the tension of the tent a virtual necessity. Does anyone have first hand knowledge of this claim by Gosasamer Gear?

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: No Stretch in Rain? on 11/08/2006 18:44:19 MST Print View

Michael,

The folks a GG are not prone to hyperbole. If they say Spinnaker fabric doesn't stretch when wet I believe them.

Robert Geiser
(twchikers) - F

Locale: Northeast Ohio
Re: No Stretch in Rain? on 11/08/2006 20:01:09 MST Print View

They are correct - no stretching. The tension remains the same after a night of rain.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: No Stretch in Rain? on 11/09/2006 01:42:15 MST Print View

No stretch is a known benefit of spinnaker cloth. Since one rarely gets something for nothing, there probably is a down side, right. I'm a fan of spinnaker cloth, but it's also well known that it abraides easily (more easily than silnylon IME) and is much noisier in the wind.

Susan Gordon
(Fen_from_vftt) - F
Squall Classic vs. Contrail on 11/12/2006 23:08:46 MST Print View

For a solo hiker, is there any benefit to the Contrail over the Squall Classic? [For the sake of this argument, let's consider the cost difference immaterial.] It seems like there are condensation issues with both tents, but the Squall Classic is simply large enough to allow a solo occupant to stay away from the walls.
The Spinnaker cloth is a plus for me too - less/no retensioning, and I camp with a single-wall only below treeline. Wind stability is not a significant issue.
The Contrail is brilliant. The Contrail in spinnaker would be extra-brilliant. Floors are always a good thing in buggy New England ... even after a few frosts we're not immune.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Squall Classic vs. Contrail on 11/12/2006 23:15:39 MST Print View

The problem with Spinnaker's no-stretch gig is that when it fails, it fails catastophically. It is drastically weaker than silnylon.

When I was prototyping Stealth (LITE) Tarps, I blew out two in one weekend of high winds in the Tetons. Those were near-seam failures that were subsequently "managed" by better seams, but the reality is that the fabric explodes when it does go!

All of the GG designs deal with Spinnaker fabric well enough that this won't be an issue if you are camping in mild weather, but if you are in high winds, it should be something hanging out in the back of your mind :) That was the impetus behind making a "PRO" version of the Stealth tarps, that fabric is really strong and we've never had a fabric failure on those.

I don't think I'd worry about it in the Squall Classic, which is designed for thru-hiking the AT or PCT during the summer.

Edited by ryan on 11/12/2006 23:16:39 MST.

Eric Carlsen
(cooleric1234) - F
Length? on 01/17/2007 19:30:29 MST Print View

I know this is an old thread but I was wondering if any owners of this tent know if it can fit a long sized sleeping pad and bag? The pad is 78" long. I'm not sure how much longer than that the bag is, but it's usually well over 80". I'm 6'5", or 77" long. Just wondering if I'll fit in this thing.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Spinnaker Fabric in high density/volume rain. on 10/28/2010 16:32:39 MDT Print View

I have used the Squall Classic tent on 3 JMTs during Mid-July/Mid-August, but this third JMT, we had a rain storm that was super severe with lots of hail. It penetrated the Spinnaker Fabric badly, and it was seamed very well. The problem was not with the seams. There were two of us and we had a second tent, which we setup without poles beneath the Squall Classic, and we stayed dry.

I remember something that Spinnaker (is it the case with Silnylon or Cuben Fiber -- I don't know) is not 100% waterproof but only waterproof until the volume of rain per interval of time is not so great, but after that "breaking point" the fabric lets water through (sure, not like it's a screen, but enough you get wet).

Anyone know more about this phenomena -- does it happen to Silnylon or Cuben Fiber in severe enough storms?

Thanks.

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Spinnaker Rain Penetration on 10/28/2010 18:55:40 MDT Print View

Roleigh,
Are you sure you weren't experiencing the "misting" of condensation inside the Squall? About 3 wks ago my daughter & I weathered a 2" rain over 3 hrs in my Squall Classic in a relatively sheltered low wind environment. The spinnaker did not "wet out", but had copious condensation which misted & splattered due to the force of the rain hitting the canopy, & resulted in a considerable amount of water on everything inside the tent.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 10/28/2010 18:59:29 MDT Print View

Misting and condensation being knocked off the fabric are not the same things. With sufficient force due to marginal hydrostatic head, a fabric will let water in as 'mist' in a best case scenario, leaks in a worst case scenario.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Gossamer Gear / Tarptent Squall Classic Tent REVIEW on 10/28/2010 19:21:56 MDT Print View

I imagine that the equivalent hydrostatic head required to combat most sizes of hail would be 20,000mm+ - which is beyond what most fabrics are capable of handling. I encountered this recently in 2 fabrics - BD's Nano fabric (2000mm) in their 2010 HiLight and Gore-Tex Paclite (~25,000mm?) with a polyester face. Both appeared to have moisture penetration from the outside in when pummeled with driven hail intermittently for an extended period of time. This is not surprising, but I will admit that it is difficult to distinguish between condensation and moisture penetration under most circumstances. It was not a significant detractor to the performance of either one and temperatures were around 20 at night and 35 in the day. The wind was blowing around 45 kts as well, so this is another reason I suspect penetration (misting, if you will). Even a severe thunderstorm can produce water pressures against a fabric that would require it's resistance to be in the realm of 11,200mm, per Richard Nilsey's very helpful figures posted in this thread:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=24349&skip_to_post=243080

edit: this is probably better moved to another thread dealing with the subject of misting specifically, rather than in a review.

Edited by biointegra on 10/28/2010 19:23:04 MDT.