Tarptent Scarp1 – serious quality issues

by backpackingbongos

I really do not know whether to be upset or angry at the moment.

For the last few weeks I have been an excited man as I finally put in an order with Tarptent for a Scarp1.  I have to admit that I have been lusting over it for a very long time now, but putting the purchase off because I could not really afford or justify another tent.  The sense of ‘want’ rather than ‘need’ suddenly became too strong one day and I found my credit card details being entered into the Tarptent website.  Then there is the usual lengthy wait whilst things get sorted and posted from the States.

Therefore I was rather chuffed to find out that it was waiting for me after work last Thursday.  The downside was having to drive across the city to pick it up from Parcel Force and pay V.A.T and a ‘handling’ charge.  A tidy £33 to bring a tent into the country, although I knew I would be hit by some sort of charge.

The great thing is that I was heading off to Wales the following morning for a three day backpack.  My trusty Akto was replaced by a brand new Scarp1 in my rucksack after a quick check to make sure that outer, inner, poles and pegs were all present.

I arrived at my wild campsite in the middle of the Black mountain and set up my shiny new tent.  After pitching I started to give it a quick check over to make sure that all was OK.  I was initially dismayed to see that along one of the seams that runs the length of the tent there had been some sort of mistake in the initial sewing.  Just below the seam there is a long row of needle marks meaning that there are loads of tiny holes in the flysheet.

Obviously a bit dismayed I checked the seam on the other side of the tent where things got even worse.  Here there is a section of the seam where there is no thread whatsoever.  You can even put your finger through it!  This effectively means that there is a large hole in the flysheet.  This ended up becoming an issue later in the night during heavy rain which was not forecast, gear in the porch got wet.

Finally I noticed that the top of the zip rain flap is not sewn properly, it is a mass of loose thread and is not connected to the main body of the tent.

I really am shocked how the sewing on such an expensive piece of equipment can be so poor.  There has either been some sort of lapse in quality control or Tarptent thinks it is acceptable to send out a product this poorly made.  What I find really strange is that they shipped something half way around the world that is not fit for purpose.

I have been using a Hilleberg Akto for about ten years now, only recently replacing my ancient one with a second hand, newer and lighter version with the door hoop.  Nearly ten years of heavy use and the original one is nearly as good as new.  Both are constructed with great attention to detail, there is not even a single loose thread on either!  Obviously I hoped and expected that this would be the case with the Scarp1, a tent that would be a bit lighter and more bomb proof.  My confidence in using companies such as Tarptent is now shattered.  Maybe the company has grown too suddenly and the quality can’t be maintained?  Hopefully it is a one off and someone was having a bad day at work or it was the first bit of sewing that they have done.  A big shame as the Scarp1 has been raved about by numerous bloggers.

To me a backpackers tent / shelter is one of the most important pieces of kit that they carry.  This is especially the case in the UK where the weather can charitably be described as ‘changable’.  The fine weather that I had expected in south Wales was a yarn spun by the weatherman.  There were some hefty storms and strong winds.  I did not expect to be sitting in a substandard leaking tent!  I sat in the Scarp1 looking across at my friends Akto feeling strangely guilty for abandoning mine.

I suppose that the main thing now is to see how Henry Shires responds to the email I have sent to him outlining my concerns (complete with photos).  I have not mentioned this post in that email because I don’t want to influence how he deals with my complaint.  Let’s hope that a small cottage company can surpass the big boys when it comes down to customer service.

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24 Comments to “Tarptent Scarp1 – serious quality issues”

  1. wow… I have liked those tents in the past. My next “most wanted” is (aside from a big family tent) a Gossamer gear the one.

    There’s just no way Henry Shires let it go out that way knowingly. I expect you’ll get it righted, even though it cost you quite a bit of time (and customs cost? booo).

  2. From what I have read about Tarptent and Henry Shires that seems very odd. Martin Rye and Robin Evans speak very highly of the Scarp 1. That, however, seems like poor workmanship – that said, I guess there has to be one in every batch, but that does seem pretty bad. One thing I have found is these sorts of suppliers live off their reputation so he should see you right with a completely new tent and, I would venture to suggest, something else for your trouble (and wet kit). You’ve got to have confidence in your kit and your shelter most of all…

  3. No compensation for you, but my Scarp was very well finished. I’m sure Henry will arrange an exchange. Be sure you seam seal the pole arch and the loop that secures the crossing poles.

  4. Bad luck – I have been thinking about one of these for a while. I guess this is one of the enhanced risks you take from ordering via the US – if stuff is not right it takes extra time and money to get it sorted. It would hope all additional P&P and customs charges will be refunded too…

  5. Hi Guys, cheers for your comments. A quick update, Henry emailed me back within 30 minutes saying a new fly will be posted to me. Hope that this is a good one and all is well in the end!

  6. Cottage industries realise, I think, that their reputations are everything but they’re also people like us who are passionate about what they do and have had the balls to turn it into an industry. Good work from Tarptent answering so swiftly and sorting that one out.

  7. Wow, that’s pretty apalling. I’m glad that he responded quickly and is sending a new fly, but still…

  8. I am surprised it was sent like that. I am sure Henry will be telling his staff to check their work better. Make sure he does not check any value on the package as customs will charge you VAT still.

  9. Things like this do happen. This looks like a slip up – Lets hope so. I purchased a Power Lizard back in Feb and only found recently that the end poles were 1.5 cm too long. Vaude have admitted the mistake on the initial batch and have now replaced it.

    The Power Lizard is in my opinion a great tent but I have seen some bad postings about slip up on manufacture and by judging the comments on the Scarp tent – it is a great tent as well. You problems with the Scarp is the main reason I decided to go with the Power Lizard – not dealing with a company (Tarptent) with no UK importer – but looks like a good result for you on this occasion. The fact that they responding quickly is good and maybe I will look at importing again. By the way do you think with the extra cross over poles, the Scarp would be good for winter high up or is a Hilleberg Soula better ? I looking for a bombproof winter tent. Be interested in your comments

  10. Maz, Mark, Martin – I am glad that it is getting sorted out and top marks for Henry getting it sorted so quickly. I was cheeky and asked him to seal the seams whilst he is checking the stitching (a good way of checking all is ok). Hopefully he could do this. Still should not have been posted out like that.

    Mark, good that you got your Vaude sorted out. I used the cross over poles at the weekend and the tent seemed pretty stable in strong winds. A bit more testing is needed though and I need to add some side guys. There was no flapping at all. I would imagine the Soula is about as bombproof as it comes though. Never used one as they are pretty expensive!

  11. Yes – Soula – list is £515 and heavy – well 2 kgs !! A few year’s back I would have said that this was very light for a tent. How the latest generation of tent designs have changed people’s perception of max weight to be carried.

  12. Mark: I had the same problem with the Power Lizard! Bob at Backpackinglight.co.uk contacted me quickly about it and sorted it out.

  13. Maz- I found out about this via your post on blogpackinglight. – I then spoke to Bob about it. He was great as always and talked me through it and his suggested mods – even though he didnt sell me the product. I bought this back in Feb – I must have been one of the first to buy it – got it thru Cheaptents as Bob was not stocking them early on. Always wondered why the side poles were so tight to get in – until I read the post. I actually cut down the poles and the fly sat better with less stress on the tent. In the mean time I spoke to Cheap tents and they have agreed to replace – so should be there waiting for me at home when I get back from hols. Hopefully everything will be OK. You can see the cut down version on the Honister Hause trip report on my blog. I think this is a great tent which I will review shortly when I get the new one and mod it. Once again thanks and blogpackinglight for the heads up on this one.

  14. Maz / Mark, I think that the moral of the story is if you don’t ask you don’t get!

  15. The stitching on my Tarptent Moment was a little shoddy, completely running off line on one section. However, It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as your Scarp though, and didn’t cause any problems in relation to leaks. Nevertheless, the pole hood did leak badly, but luckily I discovered this whilst it was pitched in the garden! As robin has noted, the problem seems to stem from the loop that secures the crossing pole or the crossing poles on the Scarp.

    I recently received a Scarp1 after a lengthy wait and the stitching is fine. I did ask for the Scarp to be seam sealed though due to the problems I had with the Moment. I’ve also applied some additional sealant around the top of the hood and the loop attachment! Overall, the Scarp looks very good and I cant wait to try it next weekend.

    • Hi Glynn, did they do a good job of seam sealing the Scarp? I have asked for my replacement to be seam sealed free of charge as a way of checking that all seam are sealed properly. I can say that it is a very stable tent after the two nights I have spent in it, no flapping at all. I hope my replacement comes before next weekend.

      I just hope that the stitching thing is not a common problem with Tarptent.

  16. I haven’t bought a tent for a while, but last I heard Hilleberg pitch everything before sending it out and that is the way it should be. Many years ago, I replaced a worn out Phoenix Phantom with a second and the second had such bad stitching on the fly it could not be pitched properly. I too had not had a chance to pitch it before taking it to Wales. Phoenix replaced it free of charge, but their quality control is probably why they stopped trading. Henry should worry, even though his tents compare favourably on price just now.

  17. And I should have said how sorry I am to hear of your disappointment.


    • Thanks John. My Hilleberg tent has the name of the person who made it sewn inside, a good way of ensuring quality! Surely every tent manufacturer should be erecting tents before sending out of the factory as a matter of course? Sorry to hear that you had a simular experience with a tent.

  18. Seam sealing wasn’t that great to be honest. A very light coating, which is fine, but it did seem to have been rushed, in that some of the attachment points for the crossing poles had been clearly missed and it hadn’t been left long enough to cure as the tent was all stuck together when I received it. I was charged for this service too, which I thought could have been done as a good will gesture considering the problems I had sealing the Moment, which Tarptent were aware of.

    Overall, I’ve not been that impressed with the service I’ve received from Tarptent. This mainly relates to poor communications and not the product problems listed above. When I received my Scarp part of my order was wrong, nothing major and something that could have been resolved really easily. However, I had to send 3 emails in relation to this before I got a response. I finally got a response after 11 days and it started with ‘Busy here…’ rather than sorry for the delay. Very odd considering the the emails I sent were all reasonable and polite, which remained the case even after the response I received. There’s additional reasons which made this communication delay / breakdown even more frustrating, but I didn’t come on here to bash Tarptent, so will leave it at that. Plus, I’m well aware that the service I received from Traptent seems at odds with the service the majority of their customers receive.

    Anyway, I’m glad you got a quick response in relation to your Scarp and I hope the replacement fly is OK. As you’ve already said, the Scarp seems very stable, and I’m actually very impressed with so far.

    • Mmm sounds like a hash was made when sealing the tent too, surely it should be left to dry for a good 24 hours before shipping? I really hope that he does a good job this time, will not be happy if I have to unstick my new fly! He did say that he seam sealed and posted ‘this afternoon’ so I do hope he gave it time for drying. Sounds like you had a frustrating time with their customer service, can’t be that difficult to answer an email. Fingers crossed back in time for the bank holiday!

  19. Like you have just got my scarp (in USA early august 2010) but have not found any cause to complain on the build quality.Trial pitch in the states and at home great, but your blog sent me back out again today with a fine toothcomb.Really sorry for you, but as the old saying goes ——-I’m alright!.Am sure that you will be too

    • Hey Davie, I think that it is just luck of the draw. There is always going to be a duff product rolling out at some point, just a shame it happens to you! I hope that you enjoy getting out in your new tent.

  20. Long time viewer / first time poster. Really enjoying reading the blog, keep up the excellent work. Will definitely start posting more oftenin the future.

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