Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW

This upgrade to the classic Virga is a quarter pound heavier and includes some nice improvements, and some changes that need more tweaking.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-12-06 03:00:00-07

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW

Introduction

The Virga 2 is an upgrade of the classic Tarptent Virga one-person single wall tent. It’s grown a little in size and weight, and has morphed into a 1+ person shelter. The floored version still comes in under 2 pounds and provides full weather and bug protection, which is pretty darn good. There are a few pros and cons to the design changes - is the Virga 2 resoundingly better than the classic Tarptent Virga, or has something been lost?

What’s Good

  • Full weather and bug protection
  • 1+ person shelter for less than 2 pounds
  • Pitches in less than 2 minutes with only four stakes
  • More pitching options for the front
  • Sewn-in floor has bathtub sides
  • More headroom and elbow room than the previous version
  • Lightweight aluminum poles and titanium stakes

What’s Not So Good

  • Front strut needs to be removed to stuff the tent
  • Front vent is not very functional
  • Velcro closure on the front beak is cumbersome

Specifications

  Year/Model

2005 Tarptent Virga 2

  Style

1+ person three-season single-wall shelter with optional sewn-in floor

  Fabrics

1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silicone impregnated ripstop nylon, 1 oz/yd2 (34 g/m2) no-see-um netting

  Pole Material

Easton 7075 aluminum, 5/16 inch (8 mm) diameter

  Weight, Full Package
(as supplied by manufacturer with all included items)

1 lb 12.2 oz (799 kg)
Shelter 23.3 oz (661 g), rear pole 2.7 oz (77 g), 4 stakes 1.6 oz (45 g), stuff sacks 0.6 oz (17 g) measured weight.

Manufacturer’s specification 1 lb 14 oz (850 kg). Front poles are optional

  Weight, Manufacturer Minimum
(includes minimum number of items needed to erect tent)

1 lb 11.6 oz (782 kg) measured weight (assumes using a trekking pole for the front tent pole)

  Weight, Backpacking Light Minimum
(same as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz Ti stakes and 0.004 oz/ft Spectra guylines)

1 lb 10.8 oz (760 kg) measured weight (assumes using a trekking pole for the front tent pole)

  Area

33 ft2 (3.1 m2), sewn in floor area is 23 ft2 (2.1 m2)

  Area to Weight Ratio

1.23 ft2/oz

  Dimensions

Length 94 in (239 cm), front width 60 in (152 cm), rear width 42 in (107 cm), front height 45 in (114 cm), rear height 17.5 in (45 cm); sewn-in floor measures 46/32 in wide by 86 in long (117/81 x 218 cm)

  MSRP

$205 with optional sewn-in floor. Floorless model is $170, front poles are $5 for one or $9 for two

Performance

The new Virga 2 is the little brother of the Squall 2, which won a 2005 Backpacking Light Lightitude Award. The Virga 2 has grown up a little from the previous version, the Virga. The biggest change is the flattened top with two ridge seams and an 18-inch wide aluminum front strut, which combine to provide more headroom and interior space. Notable dimension increases are: headroom 3 inches, front width 6 inches, and rear width 10 inches. Other changes include the addition of bathtub sides to the sewn-in floor option, a 6-inch extension of the floor that zips to the mesh entry door, two inside storage pockets, and an extended front beak that has a Velcro closure in the center.

As the size increases, so does the weight. Compared to its predecessor Tarptent Virga similarly equipped with sewn-in floor and one front pole, the Virga 2 weighs about 4 ounces more. That’s a significant weight increase.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 1
The most obvious change with the Virga 2 is the flattened ridgeline with two seams. Catenary curves in the ridgeline and rear provide a tight pitch and good wind stability (top photo). The Virga 2 comes with an aluminum rear pole and an 18-inch aluminum front strut, plus four titanium stakes and stuff sacks (second photo); front poles are now optional since many people use trekking poles instead. The optional sewn-in floor has a 6-inch extension to the front; the mesh door has a center zipper and also zips to the floor (bottom left). The floor now has bathtub walls (bottom right), and small storage pockets have been added on each side.

With the upgrades and dimension changes, it’s no surprise that the Virga 2 is now rated as a 1+ person tent. So how roomy is it? It depends a lot on one’s body size and need for space, but I personally (6’ tall, 170 pounds) found it to be luxurious for one person and adequate for two people who like to snuggle. Note that the Squall 2 weighs only 4 ounces more and is 18 inches wider in the front, so it may make more sense to get the Squall 2 if you are going to use it as both a one-person and two-person shelter.

The Virga 2 sets up in less than 2 minutes, which is just as fast as the classic Virga. The process is to insert the rear pole, stake the rear, insert a pole in the center grommet at the front, stake the front, and then stake the two front corners. Four hefty 7-inch titanium stakes are provided. The guylines are 2-mm reflective spectra core cord equivalent to Kelty Triptease Lightline. There are two optional side tieouts; I recommend that you use them to increase interior volume and wind stability. Guylines and stakes are not provided for the sides, so you will need to add them. Front poles are now optional because many people use trekking poles instead, which work perfectly for the front of the Tarptent, and save 2 ounces per pole.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 2
The front strut has three grommets (top) for different front pole options, consisting of a center trekking pole (center left), two trekking poles angled to the side (center right), or the same configurations with available aluminum poles (bottom left and right). Two angled trekking poles provide solid support and the easiest entry. The sleeping pads and bags in the photos provide some scale so you can assess the interior space.

I took the Tarptent Virga 2 on seven backpacking trips, sleeping in it by myself on three trips and sharing it with my wife on four trips. The Tarptent sheltered us from numerous showers, and one all-night deluge. Some people don’t bother to seam seal the ridgeline and front seams, but I feel it’s essential. The process it to thin one part DuPont Silicone II or McNett SilNet with three parts mineral spirits (so it’s the consistency of nail polish), then brush it over the seams. We found the Virga 2 to be storm worthy and wind-resistant, even during 13 hours of continuous rain.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 3
The front of the Virga 2 can be configured a number of different ways to provide any degree of bug and storm protection you need. The bottom of the front beak clips to the guyline (center) to secure it. Configurations are shown with two front poles; it can also be setup with one center pole.

Condensation is a fact of life with single wall tents. The moisture from your breathing inside the tent condenses on the inside of the tent. Since you can’t avoid condensation, the best approach is to manage it by venting the tent as much as the bugs and weather will allow. When there is condensation on the inside of the tent, the trick is to avoid brushing against the inside walls. (Tip: wipe the inside of the tent with a bandana or pack towel to keep the moisture from transferring onto your clothing.) I have packed up a thoroughly wet Tarptent on many occasions and stuffed it into an outside pocket on my pack. When I set it up the following evening it dries out in a matter of minutes.

The upgrades to the new Virga 2 also add some complexity. While the increased headroom is nice, the front strut makes it difficult to stuff the tent. If you’re a stuffer, it's best to remove the front strut and carry it with the rear pole, which means that you have to re-insert it the next time you set up the tent. If you’re a tent roller, you can leave the strut in.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 4
The front of the Virga 2 is supported by an 18-inch aluminum strut that slides into a sleeve (left). If you like to stuff your tent, its best to remove the strut first. The extended front beak has a Velcro center closure (right) that is tedious to close, especially from inside the tent at night.

The split front beak with its Velcro closure is also the source of some consternation. It’s a tedious two-handed job to line up the Velcro to close the beak, especially when there’s impending rain at night and you’re inside the tent trying to do it. (Tip: it helps to loosen the front guyline to take the tension off the beak before you close it.) Also, the small vent at the top of the beak is funky and doesn’t provide much ventilation. After several months of testing the Virga 2, I feel that there’s room for improvement on the design of the front beak. With its wrap-around front beak that attaches to Velcro strips on one side, it just doesn’t have the simplicity and convenience of the classic Tarptent Virga and Squall.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 5
The Virga 2 has a small vent above the front beak with a simple Velcro arrangement to hold it open or closed. It doesn’t work very well, and should be re-designed or eliminated.

The sewn-in floor is a very nice feature, and weighs about the same as a Tyvek groundsheet, but look at the next photo to see what you give up when you get the sewn-in floor. With a floorless Tarptent, you can pull one corner stake and flip that side over the top, giving you lots of room to sit in your tent and cook. That’s a pretty convenient arrangement! The new Virga 2 without the sewn-in floor allows this too, but not as easily as the original floorless Virga and Squall. Maybe Henry will consider bringing back the classic Tarptent Virga and Squall for those who still want it simple and light.

Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW - 6
Master through-hiker Jim Smart cooking breakfast in his classic floorless Tarptent Squall. Jim has a highly refined camping system, which includes opening up one side of the Tarptent in the morning to allow him to cook while sitting in his tent. In order to do this you need to have the floorless version.

What’s Unique

For only 28.2 ounces with the optional floor (22.2 ounces without), the Tarptent Virga 2 provides full weather and bug protection for one person, or two people who get along well, or one person and canine friend.

Recommendations for Improvement

Although most of the upgrades to the Virga 2 are definite improvements, the front vent and beak design still need some work. One possibility is eliminating the vent and going back to the extended beak used on the classic Virga, which had a Velcro attachment on one side. Another possibility is extending the beak even more so it can be staked to the ground (creating a vestibule), adding a vent to the top of the vestibule, and adding a zippered entrance. And finally, how about continuing to offer the classic Virga for those who just want light and simple?


Citation

"Tarptent Virga 2 REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/tarptent_virga_2_review.html, 2005-12-06 03:00:00-07.

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