Tarptent Sublite Tent Review

Tarptent's newest, lightest solo tent is innovative and available in breathable Tyvek and traditional silnylon versions. At 18.5 ounces, the Tyvek Sublite is the lightest breathable fabric tent available.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

It's evident that the Sublite is the product of a lot of tent designing experience, plus the willingness to try something new. I really like the Sublite's fast set up, side entry, ample headroom where it's needed, bathtub floor, ample space for one person plus gear, and good ventilation. The boxed foot end is a design element that increases interior room while reducing weight. It's good that the A-frame support utilizes trekking poles, but adjustable trekking poles are needed (most fixed length poles are not long enough). The side entry of the Tyvek version is not protected and does not have a mesh door, but the silnylon version has a mesh door and extendable rain flap. It may have a couple of shortcomings (depending on the user and conditions), but there is a lot to like about this very lightweight solo shelter.

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by Will Rietveld |

Description

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 1
The Tarptent Sublite one-person single wall tent is available in Tyvek (shown) and silnylon.

The Tarptent Sublite is a one person single wall tent that comes in two versions: Tyvek and silnylon. The design is basically the same, but the two tents differ in details and performance. The Sublite is the first use of Tyvek in a tent, which is a breathable nonwoven fabric. Technically, this is the world's lightest breathable fabric tent.

The Tyvek used in the Sublite is type 1443R "soft structure" Tyvek, which is soft, lightweight, highly water-resistant, very durable, breathable, and inexpensive. It is NOT the house-wrap type of Tyvek, rather it is the lighter, softer type used in Tyvek protective clothing. Tyvek is a "spunbonded olefin" and is not a true woven fabric. Fabric weight is 1.25 oz/yd2, which is about the same as silnylon at 1.3 oz/yd2.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 2
Views of the Tyvek Sublite. The tent is supported by trekking poles (or optional sectional aluminum poles) in an A-frame configuration near the front of the tent, plus two sewn-in vertical carbon fiber struts at the rear. A zippered entry is located to the right of the trekking pole (top left). The end view (top right) shows its boxed foot end without any vent. The top view (bottom left) shows its proportions. And the head end (bottom right) has a closable vent at the bottom and high vent at the top.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 3
Entry into the Tyvek Sublite is from the side; there is no mesh inner door or rain flap to keep rain from falling into the tent.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 4
The Tyvek Sublite has a floating silnylon bathtub floor with a mesh panel on both sides for extra ventilation. There is a closable vent at the head end (left), but none at the rear end (right). The tent has plenty of room inside for one person plus gear.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 5
The Sublite has a high vent at the head end to enhance ventilation. The photos show the vent on the outside (left) and inside (right). A panel of mesh on the inside excludes bugs.

The silnylon version of the Sublite is the same design and dimensions as the Tyvek version. However, since silnylon is not breathable, the silnylon version has a few extra features to enhance ventilation: a closable foot vent, a larger vent at the front, a zippered mesh door, and an extendable rain flap so the entry can be left open for better ventilation in rainy weather.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 6
The Silnylon Sublite is the same tent design and dimensions as the Tyvek version, only it's made of silnylon and weighs 3 ounces more. The photo shows the tent set up with Tarptent's optional sectional aluminum poles. A zippered mesh door hangs partially open. It also has an extra guyline at the front.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 7
Because silnylon is not breathable at all, the silnylon version has a few extra design elements to enhance ventilation. These are the addition of a mesh door (left, rolled up in the photo), and a large closable foot vent (right) which is not present on the Tyvek version.

Performance

The Sublite is quick and easy to set up, and requires two 53-inch (135 cm) trekking poles (or optional aluminum poles) to create its A-frame support and a taut pitch. Most hikers don't use 135 cm fixed length poles, so adjustable trekking poles are necessary for the Sublite. The trekking poles in the top photos are 51 inches, my longest fixed length poles, and they are not quite long enough, so I resorted to elevating them with rocks get the needed length. In doing so, I had to futz with the tent to get a decent pitch and it is not as taut as it should be. Setting up the Sublite with adjustable length trekking poles also requires a fair amount of fiddling to attach them. The fastest, easiest and best support system for the Sublite is Tarptent's optional aluminum poles (4.75 ounces, US$10). They attach quickly and provide a taut pitch with no fiddling with Velcro attachments.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 8
The Sublite requires adjustable trekking poles or optional aluminum poles for support. The tips are inserted in a sleeve at the top (left) and the handles in a pocket at the bottom (right). There are two Velcro loops on each side to secure them to the tent body.

For a solo shelter, the Sublite is very hospitable. The A-frame peak of the tent provides lots of headroom right where I need it when I sit up. There is plenty of room inside the tent for one person plus gear. Although there is no storage pocket inside, the mesh sides above the bathtub floor provide a handy ledge for stashing small items.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 9
The lack of an entry vestibule means that wet gear (or a wet dog) would have to stay outside or stashed at the foot of the tent. The Silnylon Sublite (but not the Tyvek Sublite) has a partial solution in the form of a rain flap (left) that can be extended to cover the entry. For some reason, the vertical part of the rain flap is sewn to the inside of the tent, so the mesh door cannot be fully zipped when the rain flap is extended (right), leaving a 3-inch gap for bugs to enter.

An unexpected benefit of the Tyvek Sublite is its white color reflects heat and its breathable fabric allows more air exchange, so the tent is significantly cooler in hot weather compared to its silnylon equivalent.

The only porosity test data I could find on type 1443R Tyvek is a Gurley Hill Porosity rating of 69 seconds/100 cc. This is the time required for 100 cubic centimeters of air to pass through one square inch of material under a pressure of approximately 4.9 inches of water (Test Method: TAPPI T460/ASTM D726). DuPont claims that this Tyvek is vapor permeable and six times more breathable than microporous film membranes (monolithic polyurethane).

In use, the Tyvek Sublite does seem to breathe quite will. On warmer nights (above about 50 F) with the door zipped closed to exclude bugs I did not have any condensation at all. On several clear/calm/cool nights I did not have any film condensation on the inside walls, which is typical for silnylon tents, but the inside walls were damp to the touch. The dampness did not wet my clothing when I brushed against it. On two occasions following calm/clearing nights after an afternoon rain, the inside tent walls were covered with small water droplets which dripped to the floor, but it was a minor issue.

Tyvek is rated as "highly water-resistant" but is not claimed to be waterproof. I have personally used this type of Tyvek as a groundsheet for several years and have had no problems with water passing through it. During a high intensity thunderstorm, I saw water droplets forming on the inside walls of the canopy that dripped onto me and my gear. The problem was accentuated by "condensation splatter" caused by hail impacting the outside of the tent. Tarptent's statement that the Tyvek Sublite is "fine for all night moderate rains but not recommended for long-duration intense rainstorms" is accurate. Bottom line, the Tyvek Sublite performs very well in non-rainy weather, short duration showers, and gentle rains, but it is not the best place to be during a prolonged intense thunderstorm.

 

For a better viewing experience, please download the Flash Player. Video tour of the Tarptent Sublite Silnylon Tent. NOTE: The audio portion where Will states that the tent held up just fine is in error. The tent actually leaked quite a bit.

Because silnylon is non-breathable, the silnylon version of the Sublite has extra ventilation features, adding up to mesh vents on all four sides, a mesh door, and a high vent. I found the Silnylon Sublite to be very condensation resistant most of the time, especially when there was at least a light breeze. However, like most single wall tents, it will develop condensation on the inside walls on a clear/cool/calm night with a large temperature drop, and during an extended rainstorm.

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review - 10
Condensation on inside walls of the Silnylon Sublite after a rainy night.

Assessment

I tested both versions of the Sublite in an assortment of summer backpacking conditions and found it to be an excellent ultralight solo tent. At just over a pound including stakes, I definitely can't complain about the weight! However, I have two issues with the Sublite; the first is the height of its A-frame is too tall for most fixed length trekking poles. It requires 53-inch poles, and that means heavier adjustable length poles for most people. The tent pitches faster and better with Tarptent's optional aluminum poles. My second issue is the Tyvek Sublite has no vestibule over the entry, so rain will fall directly into the tent. The silnylon version has an extendable rain flap, but it makes entry/exit more cumbersome, and the mesh door does not zip up on one side so bugs can enter.

Overall, the things I really like about the Sublite's design are its light weight, easy setup, side entry, ample headroom where you need it, ample floor space, and good ventilation.

The Tyvek version is definitely unique. It breathes as well as any Epic fabric tent I have tested, and the weight and cost are a lot less. Tyvek is very strong, so I don't have any concerns about it not holding up over time. The shortcomings of the Tyvek version are 1) the entry does not have an inner mesh door (only one Tyvek door) so there are minimal views from the tent, and 2) intense rainfall will force water through the Tyvek. Thus, the Tyvek version is best suited for climates where prolonged intense rainfall is uncommon.

In its size and weight class, the closest comparison to the Sublite is the Gossamer Gear One. The One is made of spinnaker fabric, which is lighter, noisier, and more delicate. Both tents have a side entry, but the One has a large vestibule over the entry, which is a real plus, and still weighs an ounce less than the Tyvek Sublite. However, the One costs $100 more.

Specifications

  Manufacturer/ Year/ Model

Tarptent 2008 Tyvek Sublite and 2008 Silnylon Sublite (http://www.tarptent.com/)

  Style

One person single wall tent with floor and side entry. The Tyvek version is breathable fabric

  Fabrics

Tyvek version is type 1443R Tyvek (1.25 oz/yd2/ 42.4 g/m2) with a silnylon floor; silnylon version is 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon canopy and floor

  Poles and Stakes

Two carbon fiber rear struts (sewn-in) plus two 53 in (135 cm) trekking poles or optional Easton aluminum poles, four 6 in (15 cm) Easton tubular stakes

  Floor Dimensions

86 in long x 26/42/24 in wide x 42 in high (218 x 66/107/61 x 107 cm)

  Packed Size

14 in x 4 in (36 x 10 cm)

  Total Weight

Tyvek Sublite 1 lb 3.4 oz (550 g); manufacturer specification 1 lb 2.5 oz (524 g); Silnylon Sublite 1 lb 6 oz (624 g), manufacturer specification 1 lb 5.5 oz (610 g) (includes tent, 4 stakes, 2 stuff sacks)

  Trail Weight

Tyvek Sublite 1 lb 2.9 oz (536 g), Silnylon Sublite 1 lb 5.5 oz (610 g) (includes tent and four stakes)

  Protected Area

Floor 20 ft2 (1.86 m2), no vestibule

  Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio

17 ft2/lb for Tyvek Sublite; 14.9 ft2/lb for Silnylon Sublite

   MSRP

Tyvek version US$179, silnylon version US$199

  Options

Footprint US$35, 10.3 oz (292 g) with stuff sack; aluminum poles US$10 , 4.75 oz (135 g)


Citation

"Tarptent Sublite Tent Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/tarptent_sublite_review.html, 2009-01-06 00:05:00-07.

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Tarptent Sublite Tent Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 01/06/2009 19:55:42 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Tarptent Sublite Tent Review

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Hybrid on 01/07/2009 08:36:27 MST Print View

Am I the only person who would like to see a hybrid version of this? I'd like to see the horizontal panels on top made from something impermeable (spinnaker, etc.), and the side panels out of tyvek. With a screen door, of course......

Edited by skinewmexico on 01/07/2009 10:37:37 MST.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Hybrid on 01/07/2009 08:56:36 MST Print View

Wow! This just never occurred as a possibility. Great idea!

Scott Smith
(mrmuddy) - M

Locale: No Cal
Tarptent Sublite Hybrid on 01/07/2009 09:19:18 MST Print View

Again, throw in a Vesitbule and I'll buy one .... yesterday !

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 01/07/2009 09:38:12 MST Print View

Looks as if room could be improved at minimal weight by putting a short carbon fiber rod horizontally between the hiking pole tips. Perhaps that could change the geometry in a way that would allow Will's fixed-length poles. Useful idea? Creeping featurism?

Edited by blean on 01/07/2009 09:38:55 MST.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Tarptent Sublite Tent Mod on 01/07/2009 10:32:24 MST Print View

I received my modified silnylon SubLite back from Henry this morning. The change from a .75" apex attachment point to a 1.5" should make a major strength improvement when used in heavy snow or very, very high wind. I'd estimate that the weight difference is only 1 or, at the very most, 2 grams. It's my understanding that is to be the standard size for future production.

Love this TT.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Sublite on 01/07/2009 10:38:34 MST Print View

Creeping featurism. Great term.

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re:Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 01/07/2009 14:13:37 MST Print View

Wills review was very good but it did not mention what the Sublite is like in windy conditions.

As I am looking at the Sublite as a possible 4 season tent, I would like how it handles strong winds strong winds.

Tony

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
extra pole on 01/07/2009 14:41:37 MST Print View

An examination of design and actual use reveals that an extra pole horizontally between the two support poles would be completely superflous. The tent pitches tight and the tyvek model, at least, experiences no sag or droop with damp cool air. There is ample room for a single ample sized adult hiker without slightest feeling of being cramped. There would be no experiential enhancement resulting from an extra pole. There is a bird's eye photo looking straight down on the tent showing the design outline in the review which might illustrate this.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Strut for 2-person Tarptent Sublite on 01/07/2009 15:29:29 MST Print View

John,

I agree that the existing Sublite doesn't need a strut similar to the Rainbow to increase headroom. However, do you think a strut could be used to increase the Sublite to a 2-person shelter? I think so, and bet it would be well under 2 pounds.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
2 person Sublite on 01/07/2009 16:15:23 MST Print View

Casey,

There sure would room enough for that little darling on your shoulders but the peak design of the of the Sublite would require some major design alteration to accomodate two adults, in my opinion anyway.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Sublite for Two on 01/07/2009 16:19:05 MST Print View

Go with duel doors and a single interior center pole, design done. Peak height would likely need to be raised for additional width when sitting upright.

Edited by thomdarrah on 01/07/2009 16:31:30 MST.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Sublite on 01/07/2009 16:37:26 MST Print View

Every time people add dual doors and a vestibule to the Sublite, I get a picture in my mind of a............Double Rainbow.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Sublite on 01/07/2009 16:41:49 MST Print View

I would leave the TT lineup as is. I feel that the options desired by most are well covered by the shelters now offered.

Scott Smith
(mrmuddy) - M

Locale: No Cal
Sublite "Improvements" on 01/07/2009 17:43:20 MST Print View

Sure .. I'll take a Rainbow .... In Tyvek !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 01/07/2009 19:02:39 MST Print View

Nicely balanced review, as usual, Will.

I was initially more attracted to the Tyvek version but this statement gives me pause:

>>During a high intensity thunderstorm, I saw water droplets forming on the inside walls of the canopy that dripped onto me and my gear. The problem was accentuated by "condensation splatter" caused by hail impacting the outside of the tent.

Based on your use, would you say that the silnylon version would be more appropriate for the kind of thunderstorms we get in the Colorado high country? Thanks.

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Tarptent Sublite Tyvek Water Resistance on 01/07/2009 19:09:25 MST Print View

I have used my Sublite Tyvek on one 2 day trip thus far and can report its wind worthiness is excellent. Haven't had it in rain yet but it seems to me that due to its horizontal orientation, the only panel that would leak when "wetted out" is the one spanning from the apex to the rear carbon fiber struts. The other panels are quite steep & it would seem that water would just wick down the sides & drip off the lower edges. Has anyone considered using something like Scotchguard just on the one horizontal panel? This would be an easier, less expensive variation of Joe's idea of "hybrid" panels & would presumably not alter the tent's breathability that much. Any thoughts or comments?

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
rain and hail on 01/07/2009 19:50:12 MST Print View

I would like to hear more from Will regarding water dripping through. As you might know, this is not consistent with my usage which includes both rain and hail. The last storm using the PROTOTYPE TySub was in November consisting of approximately 6 hours of moderately heavy rain. The tent walls not only did not drip but were dry to the touch during the rain and there was no condensation. Following this VERY FAVORABLE TEST RESULT I bought and paid for a production model of the tent. Apparently, from Will's experience and from reports from folks in the NW, certain conditions will not resist penetration of precipitation.

Edited by johnk on 01/07/2009 22:19:48 MST.

Scott Smith
(mrmuddy) - M

Locale: No Cal
Tyvek Rain worthiness on 01/07/2009 21:08:29 MST Print View

I'll echo John's experience..

I spent a full day in constant rain in my Sublit Tyvek .. with ZERO condensation issues..

Granted . it was August . in the Sierras .. at @ 9000 feet .. However, again ( sorry guys /... for my contsant whining on this subject ) the only thing I missed was a vestibule to store gear / cook my dinner in ..

Peter Surna
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Performance comparisons with the Contrail? on 01/07/2009 22:42:40 MST Print View

If you have adjustable trekking poles and get the sil nylon version, it seems this would turn the Sublite into a highly recommended shelter. Is that right?

Some performance comparisons with the Contrail would be good - which one of these shelters should a hiker buy?