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Tarptent Contrail (Sneak Preview) SPOTLITE REVIEW

Tarptent returns to its roots with a new fast and light bivy-weight 1-person tent.


by Will Rietveld | 2006-09-02 03:00:00-06


Another new Tarptent is coming - the third new one this year! Earlier this year Henry Shires introduced the Rainbow and Double Rainbow, both radically departing from traditional Tarptents. Now Henry goes back to his roots and gives us the Contrail, an A-frame front/truncated wedge rear design for fast and light solo hikers. It’s lighter than many bivy sacks, has no poles to insert, and can be set up in less than two minutes!

 Tarptent Contrail (Sneak Preview) SPOTLITE REVIEW - 1
Front and rear views of the new Tarptent Contrail. It’s a 1+ person single wall tent with side-opening front beak/vestibule and zippered mesh entry door. The tent has an A-frame front supported by one trekking pole, and a truncated wedge-shaped rear supported by two 14-inch high carbon fiber struts in sleeves. The front center and side center guylines are optional to extend the canopy and provide extra wind stability.

With the Contrail (available in mid-September 2006), Tarptent will have two solo shelters to choose from: the Rainbow and Contrail (the Virga2 will be discontinued). Both are rated as a 1+ person shelter - meaning there’s luxurious room for one, barely room for two people, or room for one person plus gear and a pooch. The floor dimensions of the Contrail are identical to the Virga 2 (42 inches in front/30 inches in rear x 84 inches long = 21 square feet). I will save the details for an upcoming full review, but that’s about where the resemblance ends.

In the near future, a “standard” Tarptent will come with a silnylon floor, and the floorless version will be an option. The standard Contrail (floored) weighs 24.5 ounces (manufacturer specification), and the floorless version will weigh 20.5 ounces. Either version is about the weight of a bivy (albeit a heavier one), and has a heck of a lot more room inside.

Rather than a rear hooped pole, the rear of the Contrail is supported by two vertical 14-inch carbon fiber struts, making it resemble the REI Roadster tent. The front is an A-frame shape supported by one trekking pole or an optional aluminum pole (2 ounces). Setup can be very fast (1 minute plus) because there are no poles to insert into pole sleeves and only four stakes.

 Tarptent Contrail (Sneak Preview) SPOTLITE REVIEW - 2
Closeup view (left) of the unique foot end of the Tarptent Contrail. The carbon fiber struts are in sleeves that stay attached to the tent. The center tieout pulls the center down for drainage; it can be attached to one of the struts instead of using a separate stake. Inside there is a storm flap (with Velcro patches to secure it) that rolls down to close off the end during storms. The interior (right) has plenty of room for one person plus gear. The standard Contrail will have a silnylon floor as shown, but an optional floorless version will be available.

With the Contrail, Tarptent goes back to its roots with a true ultralight thru-hiker’s tent with a very functional design and fast setup. It includes a few features gleaned from Tarptent’s other new tent designs, and introduces some new design ideas. I look forward to testing the Contrail in late summer and reporting on its functionality and storm worthiness this fall.

Specifications and Features

  • Manufacturer: Tarptent (
  • Tent Type: Single-wall with or without floor, front entry with beak/vestibule
  • Capacity: 1+
  • Fabrics: 1.3 oz/yd2 silnylon canopy and floor, no-see-um mesh entry and side walls
  • Dimensions: front height is 40-50+ inches (depending on trekking pole length), rear height is 14 inches; the sewn-in floor is 42 inches wide in front and 30 inches wide in the rear, length is 84 inches
  • Floor Area: 21 square feet; the sewn-in floor has 4-inch bathtub walls that lay flat to expand width and length by 8 inches in good weather
  • Included: tent with two 14-inch carbon fiber struts in sleeves, 4 aluminum alloy stakes, stake sack, tent sack, setup instructions
  • Weight: measured weight is 24.6 ounces; manufacturer specification is 24.5 ounces, floorless version is 20.5 ounces
  • Features: left side opening front entry beak/vestibule with vent, zippered netting entry door, silnylon floor, reflective Spectra cord guylines, two front storage pockets, rear storm flap, Easton aluminum alloy stakes
  • Options: floorless version, front aluminum pole, Tyvek groundsheet
  • MSRP: standard version $199, floorless version $175, front aluminum pole $5, Tyvek groundsheet $12


"Tarptent Contrail (Sneak Preview) SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-09-02 03:00:00-06.