Archive for October 25th, 2010

October 25, 2010

Tarptent Scarp 1 – impressions from the first 3 nights

by backpackingbongos

It really was not a pleasant and satisfying experience purchasing my Scarp1 from Henry Shires based in the States.  You may remember the experience I had of pitching my brand new tent in the mountains of Wales back in August.  The quality was shockingly poor with missed stitching meaning that there was a large hole in the flysheet.  In fact the stitching on the whole tent was abysmal, almost embarrassingly so.  I personally would be ashamed to charge someone for it before posting half way around the world.  Luckily Henry Shires was quick to post off a replacement fly which I received a few days later and this time made by someone who could actually sew.  I got the excuse that they had been really busy when my original had been shipped, a sign of a company suddenly becoming too large and unable to cope?

There was then another Tarptent experience that left me feeling a bit frustrated.  Henry had asked me to post back the original fly, I was originally a bit miffed because I was planning on getting it repaired by a professional and keeping it as a spare.  Anyway I dutifully packed it up, went to the Post office and sent it off to the States.  I emailed Henry to let him know I had done so but got no reply.  No thank you, nothing.  I had been told that they would refund the postage to my card, but nothing had been forthcoming.  Over two weeks later I emailed a bit of a moan and immediately got a reply apologising for not getting back to me and saying that they would refund my postage which they did in the end.  I was peeved that I had to push the matter, I wished that I had kept the fly instead!

So it has to be said that ordering from Tarptent has not been a pleasant experience and is not one I plan to do again.  It has rather put me off ordering from the States as things can be a pain to sort out if things go wrong.  Also after dealing with companies such as Backpackinglight where the service is simply outstanding you end up really noticing other retailers shortcomings!

So anyway I now have a fully functioning Scarp1, how has it fared on its first two backpacking trips?

The first night I used it was at the beginning of October high on a hillside in Mid-Wales.  It was windy, very windy and a battle to stop it becoming an expensive kite as I struggled to pitch it.  It was actually pretty easy to pitch considering the conditions, much easier than my Akto.  Because it was windy I had brought the crossing poles with me.  These were a little fiddly to attach with webbing and clips and I found the webbing a little too long leaving it to flap on the flysheet.  I ended up looping the webbing around itself which worked well but would be difficult with cold fingers.  When fully erected and guyed it really was as stable as a rock, no chance of tent flapping in my face that night!  The night was full of unpredictable gusts of wind hitting the tent from all directions, however it hugged the ground like a limpet with pretty much no flapping at all.  Therefore in terms of stability I would give it 10 out of 10 when using the crossing poles, possibly the most stable and taut tent I have used.

Being inside it was a joy, the inner tent is very spacious for a one man tent and it would be easy to avoid touching the inner if it got wet from condensation.  In fact with all that space I was not sure what to do with my kit.  I ended up putting my rucksack and wet muddy stuff in the porch not being used with my boots and cooking kit going in the other.

Dawn brought wind driven mist and mizzle, not rain as such but the air was very wet and you could just hear it being blasted by the wind onto the flysheet.  After a few hours of this I noticed some drips at the apex of the inner tent, especially around the central clip of the inner.  Now I am not sure if this is due to a leak through the stitching or if the mizzle had been forced through the upper vents.  I had shut up the windward vent as best as possible but the velcro strips do not go the full length of the vents.  Henry said he had sealed the seams for me so it should not leak.  I think I will test by pitching and leaving in the garden overnight next time we have heavy rain.  With me tucked up nice and warm in bed there should not be any mistaking leakage with condensation!

The second night was not really a test as it was dry, mild and with a good breeze.  I awoke in the morning with no condensation.  What I can say from that night is how easy it is to get the tent as tight as a drum (pictured below next to a baggy Akto).

The third night was an altogether different challenge for the Scarp1.  This time it was pitched in the dark without using the crossing poles.  It really is an easy tent to pitch and once again I had a separate porch for wet and muddy gear and another to cook in.  It was a very still night with temperatures around zero with a light frost coating the fly by morning.  I awoke to find that the inner tent was saturated with condensation and I had to be careful to ensure that I did not get too much of an early morning shower.  I had left the upper vents fully open and one of the fly doors was clipped at the bottom but left unzipped, therefore there was not a lack of ventilation.  I think to be honest that any tent would have struggled that night to be dry inside, the benefit of the Scarp1 being that you have more room to move without touching the sides.  The top of my sleeping bag was damp even though it had not been dripped on, it was simply moisture from my body condensing on the outer in the cold air.  These things are unavoidable in certain conditions.

One thing I did notice is that the fly of the tent was not as tight as I have managed to pitch in the past.  This could be down to the fact that I pitched in the dark or the heavy wet dew and frost made the material sag a bit?  More use will tell.  One thing that I have noticed is that the bug netting on the inner doors is not very robust.  The door closes by tying a piece of elastic and it is difficult to roll up the inner without exposing a bit of netting to the elastic.  This means that I have a few runs already where the netting has snagged.  Could be an issue if it gets worse and there are midges about.

However it was a joy to have both doors open to enjoy the morning views!

My impressions so far………

Pros: Very stable in wind with no flapping, easy to pitch, roomy inside for the weight, two porches.

Cons: Quality control issues, the general Tarptent ordering ‘experience’ was fairly poor, inner netting not very robust, no guys supplied for the hoop, no pole bag supplied,  not yet convinced it is waterproof! (even though I was told it has been seam sealed).

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks it will get a good drenching in the garden to test if fully waterproof before getting another outing.  Backpackingbongos will not be covering up any shortcomings!

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October 25, 2010

Some gear posts cometh

by backpackingbongos

I really have been neglecting  over the last year what many regard as the staple of an outdoors blog, probably the main reason why people read outdoor bloggers waffle.  That be the Gear post.  Reason number one is that to be honest I sometimes can not really be arsed and often don’t have the time between doing the outdoorsy thing and going to work.  Reason number two is that I don’t want to end up being a free advert* to all things made out of lovely technical fabrics.  However something that has really put me off is the general worshiping of most things being reviewed by bloggers, is everything produced and purchased really that good?  Why are people not a little bit more critical?

It may be a personality thing as I often expect everything that I buy to be perfect but often end up feeling a little underwhelmed when I have got said gear home.  My partner is often rolling her eyes when I appear showing her a loose thread that has taken me an hour to find!  During the last year or so I have made a few purchases and used that equipment fairly extensively on the hills.  Overall I have been pretty impressed but find that even the best pieces of gear that I own have at least a small fault / room for improvement.

As the nights get shorter and my enthusiasm for wild camping is dampened a little I will make up for lack of hill time by doing a few reviews.  I even got carried away and got my partner to take photos of me doing some modelling in the garden recently.  See I am taking this seriously!

The first in my sights will be the Scarp1 made by the often hero worshipped Tarptent.

Now that it has been on a hill I have a few things to say about it, some good, some bad.  That should be done for tomorrow.


*If any gear manufacturers would like to use me as free advert, please get in touch.  However if your gear is shite I will say so!