Long Term Review: Tarptent Stratospire 2

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I’ve been asked, by a couple of people, to give some longer term views on the Tarpent II.So, here goes! There are two previous posts on this tent that you might want to look at, especially if you a seriously thinking of purchasing one of these!

First Review: Tarptent Stratospire 2

Living With the Tarptent Stratospire II

This shelter has an awful lot going for it. What follows are some more long-term reflections.

 

General

The Stratospire II is a lightweight shelter for two which provides an amazing amount of space for two people. In no short measure the weight saving here is due to the use of trekking poles to replace tent poles. the tent weighs in at just over 1 kilogram. The fabrics used are, in the main, pretty lightweight sinylon.

This is a very clever design. There is nothing particularly new in using trekking poles to replace tent poles, indeed, there are another of other shelters available that do more or less the same thing. However, the little design characteristics of the Tarptent make this a far more useable shelter.

 

Off-set Design

You might assume (as indeed I did) that the design is pretty straightforward. There would be a seam across the horizontal (as seen in the picture) with the pegging out points at the from and rear simply being at 90 degrees to the ridge seam. In fact, the line of the tent is offset which provides some real benefits. Firstly, the poles are not dead centre or in the same position, each is offset slightly. This means on either side of the shelter the pole is well our of the way of the inner door. Once erected properly you can more or less forget about the poles.Secondly, the design allows you to open both vestibules in two ways — you are always guaranteed of having some shelter from the wind.

 

Inside the Tent

This is a monster tent. There is an extraordinary amount space here which is very welcome in bad weather. You can buy this tent with two choices of inner, simple and lighter mesh or a more robust inner with solid sections and mesh only at the top of the doors. In cooler climates do not even consider the simple mesh. you will get more protection from the solid inner and although solid this is still very lightweight.

The bathtub floor might worry some people but I’ve found it more than robust enough to cope with the Scottish Highlands but — obviously — take a little care in where you pitch. The inner floor is very shiny and you will slip around inside a lot. The answer to this is pretty basic. take some silicon sealant and simply squeeze out a grid of silicon on the floor; this will make sure you don’t slip around.

There are two vestibules and two entrances to the inner tent. Both of the vestibules are nice and roomy. There is plenty of room to store gear, food and cooking gear. There is also plenty of room in which to cook — of course you will take care when cooking inside of your shelter! I tend to use either alcohol stoves for solid tablets and have never had problems with either of them. Even with one of the outer door flaps open you will still have protection from the wind (see above).

The tent is pretty high. At just over six feet tall I have no problems sitting up in the tent.

All in all, you will be amazed by the spaciousness of this shelter.

 

Rigidity and Pitching

The USA instructions assume that, often, you will camping in more benign weather than we do here in the UK. However, adopting a bad weather pitch provides more security.

In it’s most basic form the stratosphere only needs six pegs but you will need a few extra.  At both the front and the rear of the shelter there are pegging points that need to be adjusted properly. Side tension is provided by two guy lines that run from the apex of each door. You can see these in the photograph. These can simply run straight to the ground and attach to the single peg that is keeping the doors stable. However, I don’t find this really gives me enough tension across the width of the tent (or across the ridge seam). Using a longer guy rope, at an angle as illustrated allows the ridge line to be properly tensioned. You will probably need to replace the guy chord that comes with the tent but this is easy to do.

The tent also has two mid panel tie-outs at the front and the rear of the tent. The instructions suggest these are optional but I always use them. In the photo you can see branch taking the place of a pole (I lost the pole in Loch Ness!). However, in this photo you cans the tensioning effect more clearly.

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To use a trekking pole like this you will need to invest in a packet of inexpensive ‘line locs’. They are easy to find at places like backpacking light.co.uk.

This picture shows how the shelter can be pitched reasonably highly. The new pole guys at the front and the rear are effectively ‘lifters’. They ensure the ends of the outer tent are reasonably high. This increases space at either end. I don’t really like this shelter as much without the pole lifters. So, using this system you need two poles, but then there will be two of you!


Guys and Chords

I use a dyneema chord for my guys which I have bought from backpacking light.co.uk. this came on a large wheel and seems a lot. But you will never regret having spare chord around.

The guys need to be generously cut, in other words pretty long. They need to fixed properly, so please don’t go out into the hills without proper practice and preparation! Line locs are amazing things which really do hold chord tight but use them the wrongly up and you won’t be able to tension anything! Similarly, the way the chord threads though the tents own line line locs (at the apex of each door) is important — use this the wrong way around and you will again have no tension.

With only a little practice is it pretty easy to get a tight pitch like that in the photo above. There’s nothing particularly technical about it. You just need to practice a bit.

 

The Walkng Pole Poles!

Practicing in a back garden (or Park) will allow you to find the optimum length for your poles when using them as poles. This ground will usually be pretty even but the ground you will be camping on may not. With this system it is very easy to have one pole shorter or longer the  the other, to cope with uneven ground. This helps keep everything nice and tight. I much prefer this system to using fixed length tent poles.

 

Storms!

We have had our Stratospire in some pretty horrible weather. There is a lot of fabric here so things will flap around a bit but this is no more of a problem (in terms of noise) than most other shelters. Certainly, if you have used a tunnel tent, you won’t find this any floppier!

So long as your guys — and pole lifters — are tied properly you will find that windy or story nights won’t impact on these much. You might find in the morning that the shelter has lost some of its tension but then this is a common issue with sinylon. However, I’ve never felt in any danger of the shelter collapsing or flying away!

One thing you might find is that one of your tent poles might have slipped a little. However, it is very easy to adjust the poles, in other words given them a small height boost, from inside of the shelter.

For such a lightweight shelter and for such a tall shelter this is remarkably stable.


More on Doors

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This picture gives you a better view of the vestibule. You can’t quite see it here, because of the angle, but the pole is actually located well away from the inner door. You can see the vestibule space. 

One thing to be careful about. When putting the tent up you slip the poles through a sleeve at the apex of the door. The poles are pitched handle at the floor. At the apex of each door is a re-enforced patch of fabric and a metal eye attachment which the pole sits in. Be careful with this s the pole can slip out of its eye holder. this recently happened to e when I was putting he shelter up for the first time in a while. The tip of the pole went through the outer fabric. This was hardly critical as this bit of the door carries no tension. I patched this with a very small piece of sinylon from a stuff sack stuck on using silicon seam sealant — you have to sue silicon sealant and NOT glue.  An easy and effective repair to make.


Coping with the Footprint

As I’ve said, this is a very roomy shelter and it has a big footprint. However, in practice the footprint is not quite a big as you might think. The vestibules can easily deal with lumps and uneven ground. the length of the guys could be an issue. on my side guys I have two loops, one at the end of the guy and one further in which makes the guy shorter. However, if your chord and line locs are working well it is pretty easy to shorten and tension the guys. i’ve never been unable to find a pitch for the shelter.

 

 

Conclusions

This is a fabulous shelter, roomy, light and pretty good value for money — even allowing for import from the USA. If left to myself I would probably have bought the cuben equivalent from Z Packs, however, this would have been more expensive. With experience though I will stick with the Stratospire 2 and put up with the extra few hundred grams of weight; the door and vestibule arrangement really is that good.

This is a lightweight shelter. You won’t be able to use it right out of the packet, so to speak. But it is easy to crack the guy system so long as you give yourselves the space.

We will be using this in a few weeks time when we all across the Highlands. I shall report back if there are any difficulties, but I don’t imagine there will be any!

Comments

  1. Vicky G says:

    Great write up.Our experience with this tent pretty much matches yours. We have added an extra peg point in the middle of each side to enable us to pitch the outer lower to the ground and provide further tension. That appears to work well too. Vicky G

  2. I agree with your comments Andy, I had a Stratospire 1, and it survived some pretty rough windy weather in Norway and yet inside was like being in another world. The design coupled with peg out points and 2 poles make it an ideal shelter for above treeline.

  3. Hi Andy. I’m having trouble visualising the size of the footprint without seeing the tent ‘in the flesh’. How does it compare to, say a Trailstar? And a year on any more reflections about how the Strat 2 handles high winds? That would be ny major worry.

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