I purchased the Tarptent ProTrail for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Up to this point, my only experience with tents was the ubiquitous double wall shelters with tent poles.
I have since used the ProTrail for close to 1200 miles and 65 nights in the cold, heat, wind, driving rain, bug swarms, and otherwise perfect conditions.
Here are the specs from Tarptent’s website:
- Sleeps: 1+
- Seasons: 3
- Weight : 26 oz / 737 g
- Interior Height : 24 – 45 in / 61 – 114 cm
- Floor Width : 30 – 42 in / 76 – 107 cm
- Floor Length : 84 in / 213 cm
- Stakes: 4 x 6 in / 15 cm Easton Nanos (included)
- Packed size : 12 in x 4 in / 30 cm x 10 cm
Lightning set up | The thing sets up in a flash . . . once you get used to setting it up. Numerous hikers commented on how fast the ProTrail sets up. As with any tent or tarp, there are intricacies to be mastered for changing the height and pitch to achieve certain characteristics such as more ventilation or less.
Design | It has a simple, no frills design. That’s the idea behind a tent modeled after a tarp and one of the reasons I selected it.
Spacious | For a single person tent, the Tarptent ProTrail is pretty roomy. I’m 6’1″ and have no problems lying down completely stretched out. On some of the really rainy days I had enough room to bring my pack inside the tent by turning it on its side and setting it next to me.
Weight | It’s ultralight. Not stupid or crazy ultralight, but still ultralight. With 6 tent stakes, 2 extra guy lines, and the stuff sack my tent weighs in at 794 g (28 oz). That was the brand new clean weight. It’s been through a several rainstorms and has dirt all over the place; I’m sure it’s heavier now.
Trekking pole set up | Sets up with my trekking poles so I don’t have to carry around tent poles. As manufactured, the tent requires the poles to have the handle in the dirt for set up. That doesn’t bother me all that much and I could use small pieces of rope if I absolutely wanted to flip the poles around to keep the handles clean. Tarptent sells adapters that allow you to have the handle out of the dirt if so desired.
Vestibule | It has enough room to keep my pack and my shoes outside but out of the elements. I also had plenty of room to spread out other stuff inside when it rains. And it has a velcro closure which means no possibility of a zipper failing.
Plenty of room in the vestibule to make breakfast in the rain.
Cost | It’s relatively inexpensive as far as name brand/cottage manufacturer products go. I paid $240 shipped.
The Not So Good
Perfect set up for HARD rains difficult to achieve | The perfect set up for gully washing downpours still alludes me. I’ve been through 3. My only real complaint with the ProTrail is this: rain drops hit the ground and cause splattering that goes through the bug netting and mists inside the tent. This happens at both the sides and the front. No problem with the rear as there is a panel that completely covers and closes the rear of the tent.
I imagine the solution to this is simply a set up issue where I haven’t quite gotten the sides of the tent close enough to the ground. For the front, I simply situate my pack to take the brunt of the splatter and prevent it from hitting me in the head while I’m sleeping. All that said, in all 3 torrential rains I never got soaked nor did any of my gear. I stayed relatively dry and my sleeping bag got only dampish. It’s just a bad annoyance to be misted while trying to sleep.
Flexibility required to move around inside | The rear is only 24″ high. Turning around to reach the inside rear of the tent requires a yoga move. You must lie flat to do anything, such as adjust the rear closure, at the end of the tent from the inside . This can be vexing when there is condensation inside.
Condensation | A problem with all tents and most problematic with single wall tents like the Tarptent ProTrail. Proper ventilation is the key. Cold weather coupled with heavy rain and the sides pitched close to the ground obviously gave me the most problems. The force of heavy rain hitting the tent top knocked the condensation off and misted me. Keep a PackTowl or similar with you to wipe the inside down.
Vent flap at top of vestibule too short on mine | You can see at the top of the vestibule there is a flap that covers the vent opening. On my tent, that flap was just a little too short. Rain or wind would push it back so that it was INSIDE the opening.
That small overlap on the vestibule vent flap is not enough to keep it from getting pushed inside in heavy rains or strong wind. This pic is from day 3 on the AT. Ideally, stiffer material could keep it pushed out away from the door.
Gorilla tape applied along the edge solved this problem for me by effectively lengthening the flap.
Pretty large footprint | The ProTrail requires a space approximately 9 feet long by 7 feet wide. This is sometimes hard to find and setting up on a slope yields weird pitch geometry.
Seam sealing | Tarptent does not mention this, but the corners of the bathtub floor require seam sealing. Small dribbles wick through the stitching and into the bathtub floor. I learned this on my first gully washing downpour and it happened on each of the subsequent two. This issue did not occur in light to moderate rain. I have since seam sealed all four corners, but have not had any heavy rain to test it out.
Tarptent ProTrail Summary
Synopsis | In light to moderate rain and in all other conditions, there is really nothing I do not love about this tent. Being a silnylon tent, it’s inexpensive, but it still has the issues of a silnylon tent in that it will droop and sag in moist conditions. Use of side ties (which I have) can somewhat eliminate this. The plus on the silnylon is that it is pretty durable, though not indestructible.
To set up the ProTrail quickly with the bathtub floor and side netting tensioned correctly so they are not either too tight or too loose takes some practice.
Heavy downpours will leave you a little damp, especially when it’s cold. I intentionally tented out at shelter campsites when I knew it was going to pour simply so I could test how the tent would perform and could bail out to the shelter if things got miserable or dangerous. The Tarptent ProTrail never let me get to that point.
Final Word | I love the overall ease of the Tarptent ProTrail and would purchase it again. If I had the funds, and was willing, I might look at some of the DCF tents now to shed a pound of weight. A DCF ProTrail with a higher bathtub floor to reduce the misting in heavy rain might just be the ticket.