So after much more research and a chat online with Henry from Tarptent, I decided my new tent would be the Stratospire I for several reasons:
- Suitable for folks of my height (6 ft) – although its a little tight compared to my Solong 6 the carbon fiber rods create head room and if I brush against the netting, it’s a double-wall tent so no condensation issues like the Solong single wall section.
- Double walled with removable inner. This is a big advantage over my Solong 6 for trips with multiple days of rain and no time to dry out the tent. I can set up the Stratospire in the rain and then get underneath and set up the inner, as well as pack everything up in the rain and keep it dry before getting out into the weather to take down the wet tent.
- Two doors – I really have got used to having an entrance/exit on my solo tent, and having a second door/vestibule for gear and tent cooking. It’s a luxury that is worth some extra weight to me.
- Large vestibules allow lots of room to dump wet gear outside the inner tent and have at least some drying out in long rainy days.
- MLD Trailstar and Duomid look like great tents as well, but I personally went to the Stratospire so I could have two doors and less bending of my lower back getting in and out compared to the Trailstar (I have constant back issues so this was a major item).
- I liked the weight savings over the Scarp, and Henry said the Stratospire has been used a good bit in Scotland. Therefore, it should suffice for high wind situations assuming I guy it out properly.
The initial back yard setup was a breeze. I got it almost perfectly pitched the first time with minor adjustment in two stakes. The ends with the carbon fiber poles make the setup and adjustment very easy and give a little more head room inside when laying down.
The last week I have played around with different stake types at the different corners to see what works best, and also worked with the trekking pole adapters to see if I prefer the pole handle up or down. The pole adapters work fine, but are a little more finicky during setup so I decided to ditch them and deal with dirty handle tops if that occurs. You have to be careful to make sure the pole tips get in the grommets but the one time I allowed that to slip out the reinforced tent suffered no damage – well constructed!
As far as tent stakes go, I decided to carry two of the long Easton stakes that come with the tent for the ends with the carbon fiber poles, 4 Y stakes and 4 titanium nail stakes for the other corners depending on the rockiness of the ground, and a couple of larger ascent stakes and really light shepherd hook stakes for guying out the lines in different terrain.
On top of that I have seam sealed it twice -once all over, and again on the upper pole grommet stress points. This worked for the most part but not 100% as I still got a drip or two and could see moisture built up in the reinforced area (photo above). I queried Tarptent and Henry suggested that I use the two week old thicker sealant solution without wiping it off after application. I did this and it seemed to work. You can see below that the sealant is inside the seam (dark areas), and this did the trick under another soaking from the hose.
Overall I am very happy with the Stratospire I, in theory, as a balance of weatherproof, room, accessibility, and weight, but have not been able to real-world test it yet…a combination of work deadlines and lower back issues have made me cancel my monthly wilderness trips for now…stay tuned for a full review and update once I get back on the trail!
And so it begins again…every few years I end up looking around for a new tent. Two basic reasons….one, I enjoy tent shopping from scouring detailed reviews and videos on line to putting together a list of my key features and rating each potential tent’s pros and cons (yes I geek out and use Excel spreadsheets for that). Secondly, there is no such thing as a perfect tent!
I still really like my Lightheart Gear Solong 6. It’s relatively light at 36 ounces (seam sealed but not including stakes), uses trekking poles for support, and is gigantic inside – large enough that my 6 foot frame has ample room and all my gear can go inside as well. The two doors are a must for me – one entry/exit and one for rainy day operations and cooking. This is still my go-to tent for most trips in the southeastern US and many other areas. It’s not the lightest option but really fits my “comfortably light” style of backpacking.
However, this is not the tent I will need for a future trip to Scotland. Whether I get lucky and am accepted into the TGO Challenge to walk across Scotland in 2018 or if I instead go on a solo trip to the highlands of my birth, I am planning to do a lot of training in the high country treeless areas during wind and rain – the only real way to prep for a Scottish walk! The Solong 6 is not the tent for this environment although it has held up well to some significant storms. The awning is great, but it is not enough room for me personally to operate during multiple days of rain.
So here are my thoughts on the new tent for 2017:
- Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Trailstar – this seems like the bomb proof option for Scotland based on many reviews, but it’s only in the top 3 for me right now but hanging in strong due to its unique nature and great reviews. I will probably go visit Ron at MLD sometime to see a Trailstar in person. The livable space is unbeatable, but I have concerns that the low pitch and crawling in and out won’t be great for my lower back issues.
- Pyramid Tent – either the MLD Duomid or another similar tent from other manufacturers. I have looked through several of these but none seem quite to fit my tastes. Lots of really interesting options, but several top contenders were dropped due to issues like no really good shelter area for rainy day cooking or (like the Duomid) a requirement for a pole extension to reach the right height for me.
- Tarptent Scarp 1 – after an initial infatuation with Trailstars, I moved over to the Scarp as my number one choice (it is now second or maybe tied for second with the beautiful Trailstar). This is another bomb-proof option that can be seen in many blogs, videos, and photos of Scottish hiking. I really liked this one and it seemed to fill the gap of Hilleberg without the price tag of those fantastic tents. It weighs 52 ounces though, and that is tough to swallow for a longer trip. On top of that it is a lot smaller than the Trailstar or the Scarp’s cousin the…
- Tarptent Stratospire 1 – this is my current favorite option, but the real details have yet to be analyzed. It seems to bridge the gap of relatively light weight (36 ounces) compared to the Scarp and close to that tents windproof ability. The key to my interest is the vast amount of room – 48 inches height inside, ample inner netted living space, and two large sheltered vestibules with two doors.
So right now as we round the third turn, the Stratospire 1 is in the lead. I can see myself living out of it through multiple wet and dreary days, and on the sunny day(s) I can have both doors wide open for the views that I really enjoy. I’ll update once a final decision has been made but there is still work to be done on all the details, and a couple of tent manufacturers to talk to….always fun and educational as these guys know what they are talking about (and have my dream job)!