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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Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 12/03/2010 12:58:30 MST Print View

Or buy a Moment for the same weight as a Sublite and small tarp.

kevperro .
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Re: Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 12/03/2010 13:05:19 MST Print View

Plenty of ways to skin a cat. I guess I fret over condensation more than I do rain. I've yet to have either actually cause me serious grief so I'm not sure why I worry about it.

kevperro .
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Tarp-Tarp-Tent on 12/08/2010 17:41:08 MST Print View

Ok... I've moved on this idea. Henry sent me the Sublite in Tyvek pronto so I already have that and after getting some measurements and cutting a prototype tarp from plastic I ordered a custom 6'x6' square flat Cuben tarp from Joe at ZPacks. Weight on my Sublite with stuff-sack & tent pegs is 20.4 oz. I don't have the tarp yet but based upon Joe's weights for his larger tarps, it should be 3oz or less. Stakes and guy lines add another 2 oz at most. Total weight of the system should fall in the 25-26oz. range.

Total Cost... $179 for the Sublite & $95 for the 6x6 tarp from Joe which puts it in the range of most premium solo tents.

Benefits:

*Basically a hybrid double wall tent design that is really flexible due to the use of a simple flat tarp for optional outer.
*Should provide excellent rain protection with the extra tarp covering the body of the Tyvek tent. The mostly vertical portion is exposed by the head so water should sheet off easily and even if there is penetration it is at the head of the tent not on your down bag.
*Huge vestibule area with adjustable height for cooking in good or bad weather.
*Very breathable condensation resistant inner that is usable on it's own in good conditions. Leave the tarp behind if you have known good weather.
*Full-rain coverage for door.
*Neither material will stretch like silnylon.
*Quick easy pitch without the need for trees.
*Pitch in the rain without getting inside of tent wet.
*Tarp on it's own is an emergency shelter or can be used for other treks with different tents.

Edited by kevperro on 12/10/2010 12:27:35 MST.

kevperro .
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Update on 01/10/2011 22:02:13 MST Print View

I'll update this as time goes on for the sake of others looking to purchase the tent.

I have the tent and at this point have only set it up for seam sealing. First impression is that the size is perfect. The area inside the tent is perfectly sized, not too large, not too small. The area at the foot is more than sufficient to keep my bag from brushing against a wall. The front is perfectly proportioned for easy sitting up and changing clothing without resorting to contortions. I'd say that dimensionally Henry nailed this one for solo use.

I played around with various ways to tighten the pitch thinking of possibly adding a tie-down on the sides but with experimentation came to the conclusion that Henry has already done a good job. There are two spots on the side that allow you to stake out the sides which may give a more taught pitch and I think that is more than sufficient for the design envelope of the product. I'm adding some glue to the main support... top and bottom because the entire tent is supported from this one location. Glue on both inside and outside seams in this area.

I'm replacing the Easton stakes with my own Titanium ones and/or MSR ground hogs. I'll carry some of each because in some locations the ground hogs are tough to beat.

I have yet to receive the tarp. Once I have that and we get some good weather I'll update with some photos and weights. Then once again I'll update this over the year as I use the system.

William Moon
(moon) - MLife

Locale: Central Utah
Re: Tarptent Sublite Tent Review on 02/23/2011 14:39:53 MST Print View

This will probably sound like a dumb question but where would be the best place to put a pack inside the Sublite to keep it dry without it touching the sides of the tent?

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Where to put your pack in Sublite on 02/23/2011 17:57:52 MST Print View

William,
I put my empty pack under my sleeping pad at about the level of my knees.