Out of the box, the Tarpent ProTrail seems like a great tent. Admittedly, I’ve only had one real outing in it, and one backyard overnight. I’m not a fan of “unboxing” or “first impressions” reviews of anything (they’re usually a waste of time) but, I did want to mention a couple of changes I made.
All tents/tarps with sewn seams should be seam-sealed prior to use. This involves spreading a thick layer of silicone over any stitches or potential gaps where two pieces of fabric have been joined.
I’ve gotten away with not doing on this on a couple tarps in the past, but in a real downpour you will get water inside. Typically, if your pitch is taught and vertical enough, the water just rolls down the inside of the tarp and drips off the ends. No big deal.
No big deal, because I only use tarps on overnight or otherwise short trips. The reality that this tent is essentially my home for the next five or six months, has fueled a desire to make it as bomb-proof as I can.
Tarptent will seal your tent for you for a small fee. I opted to do it myself, as a tube of Sil Net is about a third of the cost.
In addition to sealing the usual areas, Tarptent recommends running a few beads of silicone along the floor to create a non-slip surface. Great advice, as my first night in the tent I slid all over the place. After putting a few Sil Net “X’s” on the floor however, I stayed put. This a great tip for any tent.
While this is a well-designed tent, I hate the stakes. The rear form of the tent depends completely on distributed tension along a line that runs the whole back of the tent. It is anchored at two points. Unfortunately the included stakes did not hold the ground well, and the line can easily slip off the top of them as pictured below.
I opted instead for full-sized MSR Groundhogs with a small stainless carabiner.
This setup offers much better purchase and a more reliable pitch.
“There are two colors in the woods, orange and lost.” I’m not sure who said this, but it’s so true. Hence this giant length of orange reflective cord on my stake bag. This is cut down from an old tarp guyline.
In addition to visibility, I wanted a couple extra feet of line to aid in pitching the tent in high winds, and this way I always have that line available. I am using four full-sized Groundhogs for the main setup of the tent, with four more mini-Groundhogs for backup during storms.
So far I really like this tent. It pitches fast, feels stable, and has plenty of ventilation. Hopefully we’ll have a nice strong storm before I set out, so I can give it a thorough storm-test. Prior testing is worth the peace of mind, even if your family or friends think you’re nuts.
I used to sleep on my apartment balcony in single digit weather to test my sleeping bag’s capabilities. I did the same in rain storms to see how it would fare a little wet. When staying out and listening to the rainfall is more attractive than the warm, dry room a few feet away; you’ve found your setup.