Living With the Tarptent Stratosphere II

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I’ve been reminded that I haven’t yet written (as promised) a longer term review of the Henry Shires Tarpent, Stratospire II.

An initial review revealed how much I thought about this tent; longer term usage hasn’t really changed these views at all. So, to recap ..

… the Stratosphere II is a backpacking tent (for two people) that manages to combine a generous size with a light weight as a result of a design that utilises you trekking poles instead of tent poles; we you are using walking poles aren’t you? And there are two of you?

I’ve covered most of the technical details of the tent in my previous review. Despite being relatively lightweight the tent appears to be quite durable with one (if not critical) exception.

Space is the main thing about this tent; there is lots of it. There is space inside of the inner tent where there is easily enough space for two reasonably high people. Space is also a feature of the twin vestibules, although one is slightly bigger than the other; I try and use this vestibule for cooking in. That being said,. the second vestibule is no slouch and can hold a lot of wet gear.

The space is really appreciated on a multi day backpacking trip. In sunny weather the tent provides a lot of shade and ventilation and in bad weather the space makes this a comfortable tent to hold up in.

I wondered whether the footprint — which is large — might cause a problem  with pitching. On the TGO Challenge across Scotland pitching spaces can be a bit cramped if you are not prepared. With this tent I tended to stop a but earlier than usual if, and when, I found a pretty large and flat space on which to pitch. However, don’t let this mislead you. I never really found this difficult to pitch in a reasonably cramped space.

I did find it important to pitch the end of the tent into the wind. With this done you always have shelter in the vestibules — keep the door into the wind closed and you will still have a lot of space through which to enter and leave the tent and with which to gaze at the outdoors. One of the features of Henry’s tents is supreme attention detail and one thing I like a lot is how the outer fly really does provide a lot of protection to the inner tent below. So long as there is not much wind you will find that falling rain does not enter the tent or splash onto the inner.

The tent comes with mid side panel tie out loops for use in poor weather. I simply use these all of the time in the UK. These tie outs help tension the tent a great deal and so I use them even in calm weather (when the tie out points also ensure greater airflow between the inner and the outer. In windy weather you will need the tie outs as they help a great deal in keeping the shelter stable and ensuring that your head or feet are not battered by flapping fabric. There is a lot of fabric on this tent.

As a result of the ventilation condensation is not really a problem. I’ve only had condensation problems once when temperatures suddenly plummeted below zero one evening, although in these conditions any shelter would have gathered a lot of condensation.

The fabrics here are lightweight but appear to be durable. The only problem with the tent I had with the tent was during its first night of use — I somehow managed to sit on an over tensioned inner tent and I pinged and snapped one of the tiny plastic connectors that attaches the inner to the outer. This was easily fixed by use of some Dyneema chord — I subsequently replaced this with a short piece of bungee chord. These lightweight clips are fragile. They are used on a lot of lightweight gear and I’ve always managed to break one on every piece of kit I’ve owned!

Some general points:

I always use the side panel tie outs (as mentioned above). This means you need two sets of walking poles but that is not a problem if there is to of you. The poles don’t need any extenders but they give a lot of headroom, especially at the ridge line that runs across the tent. If you loose a poll (as I did at Loch Ness) you can improvise as in the photo above using a branch or  an old fence post (as I did on one occasion). I could have simply run the line from the mid tie out point straight to the ground and this would have improved rigidity, however, use ‘lifters’ and you will have an altogether better experience.

Make sure each supporting pole is adjusted to the right height for the piece of ground it is on. One of the great things about this tent is that it copes very well with undulating land or different levels. I tend to pre extend my poles to a standard height before installing them into the tent. Next, it is a good idea to ensure both polls are extended to the full, making sure that the tips of the polls are securely located in the grommets provided. You will be surprised how the height of each pole can vary, when you take the polls down.

Practice pitching in advance of your first trip. This is an easy tent to pitch but with all this fabric you don’t want to be experimenting for the first time in a heavy wind.

The guy lines that run from the top of each door can be simply run almost vertically to the ground and fixed with the pegs that you are already using for the door. I find a longer line used in pretty much a conventional sense — pegged out away from the door — is better. tension both lines and the tent become more rigid along the horizontal ridge line in the roof. The stretch of the pitch also helps stretch out the width of the tent. You don’t need to do this in calm weather but it just makes sense to me. To do this you will want to replace the guy lines that are already attached to the tent — they imply won’t be long enough to get a 45 degree angle peg out.

Always carry some lengths of spare chord and some bungee chord as well can be helpful.

There’s really not much more to say about this tent other than it is a superb piece of kit. The design is not particularly radical in itself and you can find other examples of this design from other  lightweight manufactures. What you won’t get from the opposition are the clever finishing features of the Stratosphere II.

If it had been left to me I would probably have bought a cuben version of this type of design  from Z Packs. Dan and Christy were using one of these on the Challenge and although not quite as roomy as the Stratosphere it was more than adequate. However, not only is this tent far more expensive not everybody likes cuben as it often feels too transparent for some people (Kate included).

In conclusion, this is an almost perfect backpacking tent for the UK and cooler and rainy climates. In a very heavy wind it will rock and roll a bit but then so will an Akto or Laser! It is light enough despite being huge — remember to shake off as much moisture as possible before you put the tent away; it can hold a lot of water!

So, there you go. I have no reservations after buying this tent whatsoever and have no hesitation in recommending it.

A fine piece of kit.

Comments

  1. Like my SS1 a lot. Lots of room and comfortable. Ideal. Not sure about winter yet- will have to find out!

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