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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Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Sublite Responses on 01/08/2009 08:08:33 MST Print View

Hi all, my responses to Sublite questions:

Dondo: Regarding the Tyvek Sublite leaking in an intense thunderstorm, I submitted a video documenting that, but for some reason it did not get included in the published review. High impact rain/hail does seem to force water through the Tyvek, so it does leak under those conditions. The impact of large raindrops and hail splatters the condensation on the inside, and gear inside gets pretty damp. Note that this occurs only under high impact rain/hail and not necessarily in a gentle prolonged rain. Henry's statement regarding this is accurate.

Petras: I would give the silnylon Sublite a Recommended rating, not HR, because the rain flap as presently designed does not allow the zippered mesh door to completely close. Henry is working on a modification. The lack of a true entry vestibule is a drawback, but that becomes an individual decision based on individual needs. If an entry vestibule is an important factor, then I suggest getting the Contrail instead, and it readily sets up with fixed length trekking poles.

Best wishes, and happy new year!
Will

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Sublite Responses on 01/08/2009 09:06:48 MST Print View

Thanks for your response, Will. I think I'll stick with silnylon.

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Reverse Poles on 01/08/2009 12:23:19 MST Print View

I've had damaged pole grips from critters chewing on them at ground level.
I pitch my Contrail with the grips up, tips in the ground.
Can the poles be reversed in the SubLite?
Tim

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Reverse Poles on 01/08/2009 12:29:57 MST Print View

Tim... No they can't be reversed in the SubLite. The tips have to be used in the apex and the handles fit in the adjustable ground "pouch".

Zip Pulls on Sublite

Edited by Quoddy on 01/08/2009 12:34:12 MST.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Reverse Poles on 01/08/2009 12:36:43 MST Print View

Actually, trekking poles can be reversed. The Sublite Sil ships with grommets inside the ground level pole handle adapters (to support the optional replacement pole set). The first iteration of the Sublite (tyvek) didn't ship with those grommets but we added them if the Sublite was ordered with the optional pole set. The new production run will ship with grommets. The issue for both the Sublite and Sublite Sil is the apex where both models ship with a sleeve adapter that is designed to accept trekking pole tips or the end of the (thin) optional poles. However, that adapter clips to the apex and is completely detachable. One can easily make a new one that accepts trekking pole handles (or ask us to do it at purchase time).

-H

Edited by 07100 on 01/08/2009 12:37:49 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Reverse Poles on 01/08/2009 14:50:36 MST Print View

Good on you Henry! Continuous improvement.

Cheers

Charles Jennings
(vigilguy) - F

Locale: Northern Utah
Tarp, covering the door on 01/08/2009 21:57:35 MST Print View

I ordered and received the Tyvek version due to its lightweight and breathability. Here are my thoughts on a "porch". Why not take a lightweight tarp and set that up over the entrance? Wouldn't that work, using trekking poles to suspend the tarp, on the outer corners of the tarp?

Christopher Smith
(Schmitty) - F
tyvek vs. silnylon strength / durability ?? on 01/09/2009 10:05:33 MST Print View

What strength / durability differences between the tyvek and the silnylon? I am very interested in the sublite and trying to decide what would be my best choice. Most of my outings are four season in the Sierras. which of these two would be the most appropriate for my conditions and have the best durability and strength? Are either of these tents weather proof enough to use in most weather conditions with a down bag or would a bivy sack in conjunction with the tent be recommended for wet conditions?

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Sublite; silnylon vs tyvek on 01/09/2009 10:30:10 MST Print View

IMO if I was planning to use the Sublite as an all season, do everything, shelter I would go with the silnylon version. If the Sublite use was limited to three season trips only I would select the tyvek model.

Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Color on 01/09/2009 20:03:22 MST Print View

Is Tyvek only possible in white?

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Color on 01/10/2009 10:53:50 MST Print View

Yes, from the manufacturer. Tyvek will take a dye so you can stain it if you wish.

-H

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Sublite on 01/10/2009 11:24:36 MST Print View

Make a pink sublite, LL Bean would be all over it.

Dave Heiss
(DaveHeiss) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sublite Tyvek on 01/11/2009 22:11:04 MST Print View

Henry, if you're still looking for input on the Tyvek version, I would like to see the front window/vent be enlarged to match the size found in the Silnylon version. That way you can have views out the front (plus looking up)without adding a screen to the side entrance.

Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Side vent question on 01/16/2009 18:04:41 MST Print View

Are the side vents closable? A problem with a lot of tents is that they get fine sand blown in during the day in the desert.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Sublite Tyvek user comments on 01/19/2009 16:12:42 MST Print View

I hope folks are still looking at this thread. I received my Tyvek Sublite a few weeks ago and was able to test it's breatheability for the first time on the coast north of Bodega Bay. The weather was clear, cool, humid and mostly windless.

The tent set up very easily using my LuxuryLite Trail Sticks trekking poles. I used a short piece of spectra core line, and a found stick, to make a toggle to attach the tent to the hand loops on the poles. The ground was fairly flat and it was easy to get a nice taut pitch.

The tent is everything Henry advertised. I had packed for an overnight backpacking trip and the tent is roomy with plenty of room for me and all my gear. The only things left outside were my shoes and LuxuryLite pack frame.

I woke several times during the night and checked for condensation. There was never a hint of dampness and I look forward to more testing in more difficult conditions.

When I ordered the tent I also ordered the optional aluminum poles, to be used in lieu of trekking poles. When pitching the tent with the optional poles, if I moved the pole tips away from the tent to the maximum allowed by the tent configuration, I noticed that the optional poles deflected in a sag curve when I tried to get the same taut pitch I was able to achieve with the trekking poles. If the pole tips were moved inboard the curve disappeared but the pitch was "soft" and not taut. This loose pitch would be a problem in windy conditions. I fiddled with this for a while and found that the optional poles sagged less if I only used the (EDIT "lower") Velcro pole "clips". I need to play with this system to see if I can get it to work in a "looking good" pitch.

Having to get in and out of the tent several times during the night, I noted a modification that might be worth some thought. The silnylon tent floor, and the bug screen between the silnylon and the tent door, are both black. In the dark you can't tell the difference. Especially wearing heavy socks. Several times I stepped on the netting by mistake. This is liable to degrade the netting and allow infiltration of "creepy crawlies". I would suggest the netting along the bottom of the door be replaced, either with Tyvek or by extending the floor material out to the door zipper.

I would also like to see a few small tie-out loops be added to the inside of the tent to allow for hanging a flashlight and, in my particular case, a place to hang my glasses. In making Tyvek ground cloths for this tent, and my Evolution 2P, my experience with Tyvek and Tyvek Tape has shown me the ruggedness of this material. I will probably fit my Sublite with a few tie out loops

In the rear view photo, posted in Will's review above, there appears to be a tieout, on the edge of the tent body, mid way between the trekking pole and the foot of the tent. On the top view photo I think I can see the same tieout loop. This feature is missing from the production model tent and might be useful in windy conditions. I would also like to see an optional bug screen door, so you could have more ventilation for those no-available-shade-pitched-in-the-hot-sun afternoon naps. If it clouded up you could reach out and close the Tyvek door. Snug as a bug. I really like this tent.

Here are a few photos:
Tarptent Sublite door side
Tarptent Sublite door side view
Tarptent Sublite back side view
Tarptent Sublite back side view
Tarptent Sublite front view
Tarptent Sublite front view
Tarptent Sublite rear view
Tarptent Sublite rear view
Tarptent Sublite pole detail
Tarptent Sublite pole attachment detail (excuse blurry cell phone photo)

Edited by redleader on 01/19/2009 23:22:41 MST.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Sublite Tyvek - Feb '09 update on 02/11/2009 11:53:37 MST Print View

All,

Just a quick note to say that the next version of the Sublite (Tyvek) will have a separate mesh door. The new production run will finish up in the next couple of weeks.

Henry

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Sublite Tyvek - Feb '09 update on 02/11/2009 12:47:47 MST Print View

Henry,
When might we place an order for the new Sublite version (with bug screen)?

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Sublite in heavy rain on 02/16/2009 21:16:06 MST Print View

I had a thought about the Sublite Tyvek in heavy rain. If one were to take a GG polycro ground cloth and duct tape it to the inside roof, directly over the sleeping bag area, would that adequately protect from drips? It would only be an emergency setup, but it might add that extra bit of confidence in the event of an unexpectedly strong storm. It would also give the polycro dual use as groundsheet/double wall inner. Any thoughts?

Edited by jcarter1 on 02/16/2009 21:18:16 MST.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Re: Sublite in heavy rain on 02/23/2009 15:33:57 MST Print View

Sure, sounds feasible to me. A better way to attach would be to use the included glue to attach some velcro patches or hooks in strategic places. The ground cloth can then temporarily attached as/if necessary. Always happy to provide bits of scrap fabric, notions etc.

-H

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Sublite in heavy rain on 02/23/2009 17:25:14 MST Print View

Very cool, thanks for the response! I like the velcro/hook idea; that way the ground cloth could be kept up against the apex.