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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24 Responses to “Tarptent Scarp 1 – impressions from the first 3 nights”

  1. It is so stable in the wind it is the best I have used. I have had: Akto, Laser, laser comp. Solar, Some Akto clone Vango tent, Voyager, DuoMid and there was a Northface tent as well. None is as good in the wind. Well, the Voyager was tasty in the wind. Love two porches and I have to agree Henry should add hope guy lines as stranded. But I have always had a good experience with Tarptent. Silnylon will sag in the damp and you should give the guy lines a tighten before bedding down. I would do a belt and braces sealing on the hoop so to avoid any problems Robin had with water ingress there. Also you noticed what I did and that is the crossover poles make it sooooo stable. All in all a good tent. The best out there? There is always room for improvement.

  2. I’m glad someone else had a problem with water dripping from the crossing pole loop. I think it wicks from the outside to the inner via the webbing loop for the crossing poles, then onto the loop securing the inner. The cure is to seal the crossing pole loop. I also sealed the top of the pole arch inside and out. That seems (pun!) to have cured the problem. Remember to use the right sealant. You need McNett Silicone Sealant NOT the normal seam sealant which doesn’t stick. The crossing pole loop can become a bit stiff so I’ve added a loop of cord for the crossing poles. The other tip is to puts some lines or dots of sealant on the groundsheet to stop your sleeping mat slipping. I’ve also put some on the underside of my mat (POE Ether Elite) as well. Despite it’s thinness, the groundsheet is water tight BTW.

    I agree the netting is a bit flimsy. On the inner tie backs, I’ve sewn one into a loop and used a cord grip on the other. This works well as a tie back.

    I think the Scarp is the least condensation prone tent compared to the Akto and Laser Comp, but in high humidity any tent will get condensation. As you say, it’s so roomy that it’s not a problem (unlike the Comp!). I carry a microfibre cleaning cloth to mop up any moisture.

    Overall I think it’s a great tent. The stability and room puts it above the Akto and Comp in my book.

  3. I’m really considering buying one of these. If I flog my Akto, LC and old Space Explorer I’ll have change but then I have as much trouble actually selling stuff as a hobbit giving away a ring!

    Is there enough room for 2 blokes in it at a push, in extremis, ala mountain marathon? The LC is a joke in this respect and for one night if the weather is ok then just bearable as you can cook and chew the cud outside. A door each side and maybe a bit more space means this could be workable once or twice a year in worse weather? Do you actually prefer it to the Akto and or Comp? I’m now going to cut n paste this question on every blog i can find!

    Cheers Wurz

  4. Martin I have to agree, it really is one of the most stable tents that I have used. Why there is not a bag for the tent poles and a guys for the pole baffles me a bit as surely this would not add much to Tarptents costs. I think I will re-seal the seams as I don’t fancy leakage during a winter storm. I think that if Hilleberg nicked this design you would have the best tent out there. i.e take the great design and match it with the superior quality of Hilleberg. Would be a winner. Saying that if my Voyager was the same weight as the Scarp1 then that would be the best tent out there!

    Robin, how did you seal the crossing pole loop? Did you just do where it is sewn onto the loop or cover the whole thing is sealant? I think I will do the same as you and put some sealant on the floor of the inner as when on a slope things do slide a bit. I will get in an order for a microfibre cleaning cloth for when I am campping more than one night, nothing worse than pitching a wet tent from the night before.

    Wurz if you can get two inside a laser comp then you can definately get two inside a Scarp1 as there is loads more room. You may have to spoon though! Just having two porches would make a huge difference as you would not be climbing over each other. I definately prefer it to the comp which I never really liked very much. I think that the Akto is a great tent so will have to reserve judgement until I have used the Scarp1 more.

  5. I sealed the entire webbing loop. The sealant soaks in, then you know it won’t wick. I also sealed the pole arch down to the tie outs. I couldn’t see much point in going further. I think the Scarp will grow on you once you’ve sorted out a few glitches. I ordered 2×50 ft of cord for the guys from Tarptent for my revised guying system. The shorter Easton pegs are worth trying as well.

  6. BTW I forgot to say, the flysheet material does stretch when wet, hence it can droop a bit when there is a lot of dew. I make sure I tighten the guys last thing at night.

    • Cheers Robin, I thought that may be the best thing to do, i.e seal the whole webbing loop. What Easton pegs did you get?

  7. Thanks for the info. In reverse order I have just replied to Robin and Martin. I also much preferred the Akto to the Comp. As I said to them the 2 porches is great; in normal use wet boots and sac in one and cook in the other. For a competition the extra space, sleeping top to toe and having a door each would be much, much better than the Comp. Thanks again.

  8. The tops on the easton pegs pull of. So unless you get them spot welded to stay on they will fail on you. Shame as they are very good apart from that. Akto is being redesigned at last. But it will be for dwarfs still most likely. Super Voyager James must be the best rival to the Scarp? But the Scarp is so quick to pitch on your own when it is pouring down with rain. Outer pitch every time for me.

    • Unfortuntaley that happened to one on my last trip Martin, it was then bloody hard to get it out of the ground. A shame as they are excellent otherwise. I will glue it back together and see how long it lasts. I would be interested to see a new rediesigned Akto although they do need to improve the headroom. I’m just 6ft and I can’t sit up in the Akto. Agree that outer pitch first is the way to go.

  9. New Akto!!! Oh dear, here I go again. I wouldn’t call myself a midget but at about 5’9-10″ I don’t have a headroom issue with the Akto.

    • If the rumours are true I will need too hide my credit card from myself! At 6ft I find I have to crouch in the Akto a bit.

  10. Really enjoyed this review -and the pics.

    I’ve had my eye on this tent for some time and am seriously thinking of purchasing one.

    I’ve used more tents than I care to mention but this one really intrigues me. All shelters have their foibles but what appeals to me on the Scarp 1 is stability and two porches – for the weight.

    Brilliant.

    But I must admit, I’m put off by the apparent poor customer service. Sod’s law I’d have the same experience.

    • Thanks Terry. Stability and two porches is the selling point of the Scarp1, it really does not flap at all with the crossing poles. Fingers crossed I had a one off experience, a crap one all the same.

  11. I think you’ve just had one of those chance poor experiences. Don’t let that put you off!

    • Hi Andy, I do hope that it was a one off poor experience with Tarptent – it’s just frustrating when it happens to you!

  12. I really wish someone like Bob AKA Backpackinglight would act as an agent for Tarptent so that there would be a go-between for sorting out any post purchase issues. Dont know how feasible that would be although a sole trader with exclusive distribution rights in the UK would help sell more tents for Mr Shires

    Secondly, I love the look of the tarptent as I really rate a taut fly. By comparison the Akto must be the ugliest tent I have come across 🙂

    Enjoy

  13. Interesting report James. I recently bought the Scarp II for Paul and have to say it was completely the opposite so I second Andy’s words that this might have been an unfortunate one-off.

    Paul had to seal the pole arch but he went all out and pretty much sealed the doors shut so no chance of leak with his!

    I think the design is almost perfect but I find (at least with the two-man version) that its a colder tent than my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2. The fly does sit quite high off the ground on a flat pitch and I’ve noticed a good draft every time we’ve used it. Suppose its good practise if I’m going to move to a tarp…….

  14. I’m close to purchasing the Tarptent I based on your review amongst others. I’m planning to do the GR20 which is notorious for it’s stony ground. Could I save myself a bit of weight and effort and omit the pegs and just take the cross poles? I know they weigh 340 grams but I wouldn’t need to hammer pegs into stony ground at the end of every day. The website features a video of the instructor moving the tent around without any poles so it seems feasible…

    • Hi Darren. The Scarp 1 is a very good tent. I personally would not recommend leaving the pegs at home and just using the crossing poles. A least the 4 corner pegs are needed to give it rigidity and stability. Otherwise it would end up being a very expensive kite!

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