Tent Comparison: Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa

These two outstanding tents vie for the title of best two-person ultralight single-wall shelter – which one has the edge?

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by Alan Dixon | 2006-10-11 03:00:00-06

Introduction

The ultralight backpacking community is fortunate to have both Six Moon Designs and Tarptent. With each new model, Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs and Henry Shires of Tarptent vie for the title of best ultralight single-walled shelter. The competition has halved the weight of a traditional two-person tent and saved many of us a couple of pounds without sacrificing weather protection or comfort. But if you have to choose between the Tarptent Squall 2 and the Six Moon Designs Europa, which one will fit your needs best?

Ron and Henry are friends by the way, and this is a friendly competition. They even help each other with tent design. When I called Ron a couple of years ago, Henry was visiting him. I got to talk to both of them about the original Squall and Europa tents.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 1
The Six Moon Designs Europa on the left is the larger tent with about 25% more area. The Tarptent Squall 2 on the right has a tauter and more stable pitch.

Both the Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa are highly recommended with exceptional quality in materials and workmanship, outstanding field performance based on sound design principles, and a performance-to-weight ratio at the top of their class. The Squall 2 and Europa have similar designs and similar weights. They both have a rear aluminum hoop pole, mesh vents on the sides, and front beak-style vestibules. Both have a new floating bathtub floor to reduce strain on the silnylon floor fabric and improve floor durability. Each tent has its strengths. Pick the tent that best meets your needs.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 2
The Six Moon Designs Europa pitched near a humid sphagnum bog after a night of rain. The vestibule was left open all night, but the tent stayed mostly dry inside with minimal condensation. The overhanging front of the tent allows you leave the vestibule pulled back, even in moderate rain. This significantly improves ventilation and views.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 3
The Tarptent Squall 2 has a very taut and stable pitch and increased headroom due to a dual pole pitch.

Area to Weight Ratio

The Europa has a higher area to weight ratio, 1.31 ft2/oz versus 1.13 ft2/oz for the Squall 2. The Europa has 23% more floor area and 25% more total area. The Squall 2 closes the gap a bit when you sit up, with more headroom due to its dual pole pitch and greater latitude in pitch height. The Squall 2 is lighter at 32 ounces, versus 34 ounces for the Europa.

Comparison of Major Features
  Weight (oz) Floor Area (ft2) Vestibule Area (ft2) Floor + Vestibule Area (ft2) Area to Weight Ratio, Floor + Vestibule Area to Weight Ratio, Floor only
Squall 2 31.9 27.9 8.1 36.0 1.13 0.88
Europa 34.3 34.3 10.7 45.0 1.31 1.00
Edge to: Squall 2 Europa Europa Europa Europa Europa

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 4
The Europa has 23% more floor area and lots of storage. It has excellent ventilation for a single-walled tent due to large amounts of mesh on the side and rear walls. Also notice how well the mesh sidewalls keep tent contents (like sleeping bags) away from the tent fly.

Living Quarters

Both tents are roomy but the Europa has more floor area and more storage area. The Europa’s 7.5 foot long floor is 9 inches longer overall and 13 inches wider at the rear. That equates to 23% more floor area than the Squall. The Europa also has more storage places outside the main sleeping area to put your gear, like the side areas between the tent canopy and the inner mesh walls and the additional space at the end of the tent. You can move around a bit more easily side to side in the Europa because the mesh walls keep you away from the condensing tent walls. And the overhanging front of the tent means that you can probably skip the vestibule and get much better views and ventilation (assuming the tent is pitched so that rain is not driving in the front).

Floor Area Dimensions Comparison
  Floor Dimensions
(in)
Floor Area
(ft2)
  Front Rear Length  
Squall 2 59.5 41 80 27.9
Europa 57 54 89 34.3
Edge to: Squall 2 Europa Europa Europa

The Squall 2 has more livable space in the front of the tent when you sit up. The dual pole system of the Squall 2 provides more headroom than the Europa. Two can sit side by side and eat dinner together. The dual front poles and center opening zipper on the Squall 2 give equal access and make it easier to exit the tent without bothering your tent partner. Six Moon Designs addresses the central front entrance pole problem with a cantilevered front entry that allows you to get into the tent behind the front pole. But the side access zipper on the Europa means that one camper has to go across the camper on the zipper side to exit the tent. The Squall’s double poles may help headroom but they do not completely solve the tent exit problem. It is awkward to get around the front guyline on the Squall which is in the center of the tent exit. Nonetheless the camper on the non-zipper side of the Europa has a more difficult exit than either camper in the Squall 2.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 5

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 6

The Squall 2 has more room in the front of the tent when you sit up (left). The dual poles of the Squall 2 provide a lot more headroom than the Europa. Two can sit side by side and eat dinner together. The center exit on the Squall 2 is nice in concept but dodging around the front ridgeline isn’t significantly easier than getting around the center pole. Although two people can sit side by side in the Europa, it is more cramped. However, its high center peak makes it very roomy for one to sit up (right).

Condensation Management

Condensation may be the Achilles heel of single walled shelters, but the Europa does the best job to date at controlling it. The front overhang on the tent is enough that you can skip the vestibule, or just use half, in many conditions. This dramatically increases airflow and reduces condensation compared to a tent with a closed vestibule (especially if you also roll back the mesh door of the Europa). Two thirds of the inner tent walls are mesh for improved ventilation and the mesh keeps sleeping bags away from wet outer walls.

The steeper sidewalls and more headroom on the Squall 2 help reduce brushes against wet inner tent walls when exiting the tent. But the lower wall protection of the Europa’s larger mesh walls probably matters more because it keeps sleeping bags from extended rests against wet tent walls while sleeping.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 7
The Europa does a better job of controlling condensation than the Squall 2. The front overhang on the tent is a key element since you can skip using the full vestibule in many conditions, which dramatically increases airflow and reduces condensation over a tent with a closed vestibule (especially if you also roll back the mesh door of the Europa). You can even cook under the shelter of the overhanging front.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 5

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 6

Side wall detail. The lower two-thirds of the Europa’s (left) sidewalls are mesh. This and a large rear mesh panel contribute to the Europa’s excellent condensation management. The Squall 2 (right) has significantly less mesh in the sidewalls.

Pitching

It is easier to get a good pitch in the Squall 2 and the resulting pitch is tauter than anything you can achieve in the Europa. The Squall 2 has a slightly more complex pitch with two poles (requires a bit more tweaking) and four stakes. The Squall 2 is somewhat more flexible about front pole height, which you can vary a number of inches without significantly affecting the tautness or quality of the tent’s pitch.

The Europa has a slightly simpler pitch with a single pole and four stakes. It pitches very quickly once you have the front pole height dialed-in. Both tents have a limited range of pitch heights that will keep the tent body taut and let the bathtub floor locate correctly. But the Europa is pickier and only comes reasonably taut at a narrow range of pole heights (around 48 inches is best). If you vary the tent pitch height as the Six Moon Designs literature suggests, the tent body loses some tension and the floor geometry is off by a bit. The front tieout angle on the Europa may be too steep to apply full tension to the ridgeline.

Stability

The Squall 2 has a tauter pitch and tauter ridgeline. The dual poles add some side-load stability to the tent. The additional side tieouts on the edge of the fly also add considerable side stability. They are much more effective than the middle of the side tieouts on the Europa.

Weather Protection

A slight nod goes to the Europa. Both tents do a good job of keeping rain out. Both have good bathtub floors. The Europa has a larger overall protected area (area under the entire tent fly, not just the floor and vestibule). The overhanging front of the Europa provides better rain protection with the vestibule open or half open. This and a better vestibule vent make it easier to cook and get views and ventilation in rainy conditions. The vestibule on the Europa is larger and extends closer to the ground. With the two-pole design on the Squall, water can pool on the flat dual ridgeline surface as the tent looses tension in a strong downpour.

Vestibule

The Europa has a better vestibule. With the Europa’s overhanging front you may not need to use the vestibule (although we wish they would go back to the more substantial overhang in the previous model). The Europa has a larger vestibule that extends closer to the ground. The Europa also has a more functional vestibule/cooking vent. The side areas on the Europa between the canopy and the inner mesh walls also make a good vestibule-like storage area and give you a place to put shoes and such if you decide to keep the front vestibule open. But the vestibules in both tents need help. The center Velcro closure is difficult to reach and fasten from inside the tent. It is difficult to close from outside the tent when under normal tension. In both tents, the vestibule angle limits the front tieout to a very specific angle.

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 5

Comparison of Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa 2005 - 6

Without any stiffener to shield it from rain, the front vestibule vent on the Squall 2 (left) is only usable in dry conditions. The Europa’s vestibule vent has a stiffener so it stays open for ventilation and keeps rain out (right).

Conclusion

Both tents are superb examples of ultralight two-person shelters with full weather and bug protection. Although there are many similarities between the tents, there are enough differences in design and performance that an understanding of those differences and your preferences and use patterns should help you choose between the two.

The Six Moon Designs Europa is probably the better all-round tent for most backpackers. It has more room, a higher area to weight ratio, more storage, and a bit more rain protection. It has significantly better condensation resistance. The overhanging front entry and huge mesh walls are major contributors to its better condensation management. With the vestibule open and unavailable for weather protected storage, there is still plenty of room in the rear of the tent and along the sides under the fly to stow gear. Most times you can cook under the shelter of the overhanging front without worrying about humidity buildup in the tent or poor ventilation caused by a closed vestibule. And an open vestibule gives you better views and less claustrophobia.

If you push the limits of tarp tenting and camp above tree line where high winds are possible, then the Tarptent Squall 2 may be a better choice. It has a tauter pitch and is more stable. The dual poles, better side tieouts, and tauter pitch give it greater resistance to strong side winds. There is the option to drop the pitch height to a lower and more wind-resistant profile.

The Squall 2 has more headroom in the front of the tent. If sitting side by side is a high priority then the Squall 2 may be a more attractive option. Two can sit up and comfortably eat dinner in the Squall. We think the dual pole WOW! factor may be a major reason why people buy the Squall.

Note for tall campers: the Europa provides almost a foot more length.


Citation

"Tent Comparison: Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa," by Alan Dixon. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/tt_squall_2_and_smd_europa_2005_comparison.html, 2006-10-11 03:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Tent Comparison: Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa


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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Tent Comparison: Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa on 10/10/2006 23:32:56 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Tent Comparison: Tarptent Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Europa

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Comparision between the Squall2 and Europa on 10/11/2006 09:03:45 MDT Print View

I think your comparision is great. I have had an opportunity to use both shelters in the last year and think you accurately captured the spirit of these two shelters. The one place my experience is slightly different is when it comes to condensation resistance. I agree that if the weather is such that you can leave the vestibute open on the Europa but need to close it on Squall2, that the Europa is much better. But when the vestibule can be open on both I found condensation to be the same in practice, even though there is more mesh in the Europa.

I can certainly understand why the Europa is given a slight nod as the best general purpose shelter. I have found that the Squall2 is slightly better for me due to it's superior pitching. This works out in two ways. I often see more extreme conditions, especially high winds where the Squall2 is a better performer. Second, I am regularly loaning my Squall2 to people I am introducing to light-weight backpacking. The Squall2's easier setup helps win them over.

Henry Shires
(07100) - F - M
Cost comparison on 10/12/2006 11:22:56 MDT Print View

Just wanted to note that the Squall 2 (including stakes) is $225 and the Europa (not including stakes) is $290. You can't find that information in the article although it is listed in each of the individual reviews.

-H

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
The Squall 2 Is a Better Value on 10/13/2006 08:07:22 MDT Print View

Henry Shires of Tarptent makes an excellent point. The Squall 2 definitely gets a nod for value. The Squall 2 is less expensive than the Europa for a similar tent. The Squall 2 includes four Easton tubular stakes while the Europa comes without stakes.

$225 = Tarptent Squall 2
$298 = Six Moon Designs Europa $290 + (4) Easton sakes $8

Comparing similar packages, the Europa is $73 or 32% more than the Squall 2. As such, the Squall 2 is an excellent value for a high performance ultralight shelter. We apologize for not mentioning this in the comparison.

-Alan Dixon
(Backpacking Light Staff)

Shane Perry
(Rymnel) - F
Squall 2 for tall hikers on 10/14/2006 17:37:57 MDT Print View

In response to the taller hiker issue. I'm 6'7" and have no problem with length in the Squall. Perhaps the argument is that one needs room for proper gear storage inside the tent. I have not found this to be a problem as I place my gear to the right and left at the wider end of the tent. It seems to me that the additional length would be an unneccesary weight addition. Just my 2 cents.

Shane