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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Gear Guide 2009: Tarptent Contrail Tent Review

The lightest solo tent tested is also--surprise--the biggest.

by: Kelly Bastone

Tarptent Contrail (Seth Hughes).
Tarptent Contrail (Seth Hughes).

Gear Guide 2009: More 1-Person Tents
Search through our extensive library for more reviews.

Top Ultralight
When the lightest tent in a category is also the biggest, we know we have a winner. The Contrail's 91-inch length and 45-inch peak height pleased our largest testers, and its pound-plus weight made our ultralighters giddy. What's the catch? No poles. The non-freestanding shelter pitches with a trekking pole and four stakes, and achieving a taut setup initially requires some practice. Properly rigged, the Contrail held firm against moderate wind as long as the foot end was angled into the gusts. Broad mesh vents around the perimeter allow plenty of airflow. The 10-square-foot vestibule shelters a pack and boots, and the lightweight siliconized ripstop nylon fabrics withstood being pitched on Sierra Nevada granite. Bummer: The trekking-pole support blocks the middle of the entrance, making entry and exit awkward. $199; 1 lb. 6 oz.

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Reader Rating: -


May 13, 2011

Caution about buying from Tarptent!! I own a Rainshadow 2 and used it on the JMT for 3 weeks the tent worked great in the dry high altitudes of the Sierra Nevada Mtns with little condensation problems. I like the roominess of the tent but after only 3 weeks the stitching on many of the stays and pole attach sections started coming apart after several field repairs we were able to complete the hike. I sent the tent back in for repair to Tarptent and to my despair I found that Tarptent took almost a year to repair it! After sending multiple emails to Tarptent they finally responded after I threatened to come by there shop in person to talk to someone. They stated that they had some kind of weather incident and that there shop was damaged and they could no longer find my tent. Low and behold they finally agreed to send me a new replacement tent but what arrived was my old tent and a message stating that they found the old tent in a corner of the shop. The tent had been returned with two large 10" rips to the bottom and I had identified the areas of repair needed but only half of them were re-stitched. I again emailed Tarptent to see what could be worked out and they have at this time still failed to respond they did although send me a tube of silicone and some patch material which I believe is an unacceptable way to handle the repair. I had heard good things about Tarptent so I am not sure if this is an isolated issue but there lack of communication and fairness to my issue should be considered before buying one of there products.

Mar 05, 2011

Thru hiked AT with a Contrail. Added a front guy line, and used 2nd trek pole on rear. VERY stable that way. Angle front pole & get in/out = easy. Loved it!!

Tony R
Aug 17, 2009

I used the contrail for the first time on a 9 day loop trip in the Yosemite wilderness over the Clark Range. Ofset the pole and entry is a brieze. Used rocks instead of steaks on soft dirt or while pitching on granite. Practice speads set-up and consistent tautness. Love all the room inside. My bivy may never get used again since its lighter than my northface bivy.

Jun 18, 2009

I've only used the tent twice, the first was a rainy trip to Point Reyes National Seashore and the other was a snowy trip into the John Muir Wilderness on the Sierra National Forest. The tent never leaked a drop. It has lots of room. I do not find the pole in the middle to be a bother.

Mr T
Jun 04, 2009

I'm happy to see that Backpacker is show casing true ultralight gear. BTW great choice. I have one that I use for long thru hikes. Light weight, great venting and easy to set up. It has been through some really rough storms in the Rockies above 11,000ft and I came out dry and the tent in one piece. Ditto on the "A" frame setup.

Apr 30, 2009

I love my contrail. Ive had it for two years. Actually quite easy to set up. I hike with two trekking-poles so I use them both, in an "A" shape, making it easy to get in and out

Apr 22, 2009

You say "Bummer: The trekking-pole support blocks the middle of the entrance, making entry and exit awkward", but the tarptent web site shows the bottom of the pole offset to one side, which gives more room for in/egress.


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