Posts tagged ‘Tarptent’

July 14, 2014

Backpacking Upper Teesdale

by backpackingbongos

These days Reuben is quick to work out when I am getting ready for a backpack. The pile of gear and boots by the front door being the most obvious clue. Unfortunately on this occasion he was left to sulk in his bed. The North Pennines are one of the least dog friendly hilly parts of the UK. There are plenty of footpaths where he can walk but much of the access land prohibits dogs. This is mostly to do with disturbing grouse which are due to be blasted out of the sky in less than a month. I did try to explain this to him but he said that it defied common sense. What do dogs know?

Total distance – 47 kilometres with 1045 metres ascent

Upper Teesdale

Day 1 – 14 kilometres with 460 metres ascent

There are no restrictions on leaving a vehicle overnight at the car park near the Bowlees visitor centre, so that’s what I did. As I was getting ready I looked on jealously as a woman opposite fried some fish and then fed some returning walkers. I put on my hungriest face but she barely glanced my way.

Bowless gives quick and easy access to Low Force, which is a picturesque spot but not at its best during a dry spell in summer. I was heading towards the end of the road past the small hamlet of Holwick. The meadows were a riot of yellow, a beautiful sight under the steely grey sky. They are great to look at but soon had my nose streaming as the hay fever kicked in.

I had my sights on the unremarkable summit of Bink Moss, a 2000ft Nuttall which has eluded me for years now. To be honest it has not really eluded me, I have just avoided it. Looking at the map it does not scream out, ‘Climb me’. The ascent turned out to be easier and more pleasant than anticipated. A good path took me up Holwick Scar and onwards to Rowton Beck, the air full of the calls of Curlew and Golden Plover. I then followed a wall or fence over moorland to the summit (I have no recollection if it was a wall or fence, my memory has erased that detail). With not much in the way of stones or boulders in the vicinity the summit is marked by a post with a welly on top. I think that was the summit but just to be sure I wandered around onto various lumps and bumps just to be sure. It’s that sort of exciting place.

After another trackless moorland jaunt the large cairn at the wonderfully named Hagworm hill was reached. The plan had then been to take the non-existent right of way to join up with the bridleway across Cronkley fell. With a bird’s-eye view the going looked like it would be grim. Therefore I decided I would climb up onto the summit of Long Crag and cobble together a route from there.

Once on the extensive plateau the going was easy with a faint path along the northern edge. I soon ran out of access land and found myself face to face with the Warcop range. I then mounted a minor incursion and snuck across the line, heading for Merrygill Beck to get back to where I was allowed to be. A sense of wrong doing added a little excitement to this excursion and there were great views from the northern tip of Long Crag. Mickle Fell looked tempting but I thought that would be pushing my luck. I will leave that for a non firing day.

After collecting water from Merrygill Beck I pitched just above the River Tees, a light breeze just enough to keep the worse of the midges away. The view as I lay in my sleeping bag after dinner was superb.

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Day 2 – 19.5 kilometres with 445 metres ascent

There was a fine drizzle in the night which may have been midges attacking silnylon. I did not open up to investigate fully. Instead I shivered in a new Montane Prism sleeping bag which I bought to take to Arctic Sarek in a few weeks time. It has since been returned for a refund, heavier and not as warm as advertised.

After packing up I followed a delightful stretch of the River Tees along its south bank, all the time looking for a place to cross over to the Pennine Way. It would have been easily wadeable but would have meant boots full of water. Instead I continued upstream and crossed the nearly empty Maize back, Cauldron Snout thundering nearby. It’s always an impressive sight.

Once I had climbed up to the dam it was a very long trudge along the track on the east side of Cow Green reservoir and all the way to the summit of the B6277. Once the reservoir has been left behind there is a shooting hut which has an unlocked room at the end. This provided a good excuse to get the stove on for a coffee and a big pile of fig rolls.

The track allowed for quick and easy progress, Cross Fell beginning to dominate the landscape as I got closer. There is a real sense of space and although not wilderness it’s about as wild as you can get in England on these moors. As if to emphasis this it started to rain for a while.

The road with its fast traffic was a brief intrusion in the feeling of being somewhere remote. I simply crossed it and started climbing towards the summit of Burnhope Seat. A line of grouse buts gave a feature to follow but I was dismayed to come across several empty bags of animal feed discarded on the moor. Pretty poor and lazy land management in my eyes.

I knew that the trig siting on its large concrete plinth does not mark the actual summit of Burnhope Seat. This lay across a very boggy stretch of moor which had to be crossed twice.

With cloudy but settled conditions I decided that I would spend the night pitched right on the summit of Great Stony Hill. To get there I had to cross a great swathe of moorland with various disused mine shafts dotted about. I have to say that I have a fear of falling down a deep hole and not getting out again. I paid close attention to where I was going and was almost disappointed that I did not see any bottomless pits.

Great Stony Hill has a few stones scattered around its grassy summit, I’m just not sure that it qualifies it to have the words great and stony in its name. I pitched on a flat area of close-cropped grass, keen to ensure that the pegs were secure in such an exposed spot. Water was collected from a nearby small tarn and filtered. An unexpected bout of wind and rain then lay siege to the tent so I hunkered down to read my Kindle. A break in the weather led to impressive skies, dark clouds lit up by shafts of sunlight. The weather then closed in for the night, rain singing on the flysheet all night. Clouds descended leaving me in a grey swirling world. I kept half an ear out for thunder, ready to flee with only a hint of it approaching. Thankfully it did not.

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Day 3 – 13.5 kilometres with 140 metres ascent

It was another cold night, especially considering that it was close to mid summer. The mist had dispersed by the time I had packed up and set off. I passed more old mine workings and what looked like an unfenced shaft at the bottom of a depression in the ground. I decided against having a closer look.

The summit of Three Pikes is located across moorland that can be best described as boggy and peaty. Progress was slow as I worked my way between many hags, luckily the peat had dried enough not to be the dreaded black ooze that tries to remove boots. A fine cairn overlooks Harwood, a good place to rest and listen to the sound of summer on the high Pennine moors.

The actual summit was located before dropping down into the headwaters of Langdon Beck. This was followed downstream before climbing to High Hurth edge along the boundary of access land. Dropping down into pasture I had to pass a large herd of cows with calves. Aware of the potential danger I skirted along the edge of the field rather than follow the path through the middle of them. One gave me a cold hard stare.

Tracks and lanes led back to Bowless where I was tempted into the visitor centre for a bite to eat. I left with just a can of drink as I baulked at the price of a sandwich. I decided to drive home powered by left over fig rolls.

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October 30, 2010

Scarp 1 – a belt and braces approach

by backpackingbongos

After one slightly drippy night in the Scarp1 where I was not sure if rain had come in through the vents or a leaky seam, I thought that I would test its waterproofness in the garden.  I decided that I would pitch it during a rainy night or leave up whilst at work to see if any drippy spots appeared.  I then thought better of it as I started having images of my nice new tent not being there in the morning / after returning from work.  If some tea leaves have no qualms about nicking a buddha statue and a pop up plastic greenhouse out of our garden then my tent would be gone in a jiffy (ahh the joys of city life!).

Instead of worrying about its waterproofness on my next backpack I thought that I should go for the belt and braces approach to seam sealing.  It has already been done once by Henry at Tarptent, although so fine you can only just about see it in a certain light.  Seeing as today is warm and sunny I pitched the tent and did my best at re-sealing it this morning.  I mixed up silnet with white spirit (about 50/50) until it was nice and runny and applied along both sides of the outer pole sleeve, paying extra attention to the crossing pole loop.  I only went as far as the tops of the doors as I am only worried about drips on the inner.  The stitching on the roof vents got a good soaking along with the inside of the crossing pole patches.

All in all, much easier than I thought it was going to be.  It is drying in the sun and I have noticed that one side is nice and neat and the sealant is becoming almost invisible.  The thin sealant ran a bit on the other side so there are a few thick patches.  At the end of the day though any cock ups are only cosmetic and won’t affect the actual performance.  Insects are sticking nicely to the sealant as well!

I now hope that my Scarp1 is waterproof as well as wind proof!

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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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August 25, 2010

Tarptent – new invisible seam sealing technique?

by backpackingbongos

Good news yesterday when I got home from work, a card from Parcel force saying that there was something waiting for me at my local post office.  A quick visit this morning confirmed that my replacement Scarp1 flysheet had arrived.  I had escaped the customs and Parcel force handling charge this time round.

A cursory glance before setting off for work and the stitching appears to be ok on this one, although a pitch in the garden or on a hill is the only real way to confirm this.  But of course there had to be something that made me unhappy.  When emailing Henry from Tarptent I had requested that he seal the seams for me, I thought that this was only fair considering the hassle of receiving a faulty fly.  To this I received this reply: I shipped you a new (correct) one yesterday. I seam-sealed it for you so it’s ready for use. Now, either my eyes are completely failing me or Tarptent use some sort of new invisible sealant that is also unidentifiable by touch.  From what I can see not one single seam has been sealed, not even a tinsy winsy little bit.  Obviously not that happy about that, I will email Henry to see what has been done.

Anyway another little Tarptent rant over, it’s a real shame as there were other products of theirs that had been interesting me.  Fingers crossed all will be all ok when I pitch it in the garden later this week.  I suppose I will need to get an order in for some sealant and hope for a sunny day.

Update:

I received an email from Henry at Tarptent today saying that he did seal the seams for me and said that it is very very feint, just enough to seal the threads.  I still can’t see it but will take his word for it, a spot of rain will be the best way of checking that out!  Fingers crossed I will have it pitched on a mountain this weekend.

An update of this update:

I have pitched the Scarp in the garden this afternoon to check that all is ok.  When the light is just right I can see very light brush strokes across the seams and along the pole arch.  So the answer is yes, Tarptent do use invisible seam sealing techniques!  I did notice however that there are tiny little holes at the corners of the ventilation loops on the roof, just where the stitching ends.  I dabbed a bit of neat Silnet inside and outside the tent on those spots.  Hopefully that will do the trick.

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August 16, 2010

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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