Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Tarptent Scarp 1 Tent - An Opinion

This is not really a review as such. It is just my opinion of the Tarptent Scarp 1 based on my wild camping experience in the Lake District over the past 2 years in a variety of typical weather conditions for the region. I can't compare it to any other tents yet, as this is my first one.

I bought the Scarp 1 about 2 years ago after researching backpacking tents on the Internet. My requirements were; lightweight (under 2kgs), able to withstand the high winds and adverse weather conditions found on UK mountain tops (ideally in all 4 seasons), plenty of room for 1, a good sized porch, quick and easy to pitch & preferably fly first, bathtub floor & I didn't want an all mesh inner which is popular with many US tents. I had narrowed the selection down to the following tents, all of which I'm sure would have made excellent choices but had the following niggly issues (according to reviews) when compared to the Scarp 1; Hilleburg Akto (expensive, low head height, heavyish for the size, condensation issues), the Terra Nova laser competition 1 (very light but pricey and a bit fiddly to pitch tight, smallish, 3 season), Wild Country Zephyros 1 (slightly small internally, heavyish, 3 season), Vaude power lizard (very spacious & light but apparent condensation issues & can be fiddly to pitch tight, 3 season). The Scarp 1 seemed to tick all the boxes including the additional benefits of having 2 porches and being a true 4 season shelter with the option of using additional cross over poles to make it self-supporting and capable of withstanding snow. The only concerns were that I would need to seam seal it myself and that I would need to have it imported from the US cottage manufacturer Tarptent, of which I new very little.


After some deliberation I placed my order and about 2 months later my new Scarp 1 arrived, complete with an import duty fee of around £35. Despite this, it was still cheaper than all the other candidates bar one. Having studied the pitching video on the tarptent website I set it up in the garden and sealed the seams using McNett silicone sealer thinned with a little white spirit as described in this Gossamer Gear article. I was now ready to take it out to the fells and perhaps a little ambitiously, chose the summit of Scafell as my inaugural wild camp. That trip is described here, and a selection of other wild camps since then are listed here.    


Two years later I can confidently say that I have no regrets at all in buying this tent. It has exceeded my expectations and provided a great introduction to wild camping. That does not necessarily mean it will be right for others. It's certainly not the lightest tent at 1.4kgs including 6 stakes (cross poles add a further 340 grams) but for me the extra weight is more than compensated for by the usable space and wind stability. The following points are worth mentioning though, particularly if you are considering ordering one for yourself.



  • The 2 porches are a godsend. I stash my rucksack and boots in one porch and all my food and cooking gear in the other, which also serves as the door. If the wind changes direction, I can easily swap sides.  
  • Pitch the tent 'end on' to the wind and situated so that the doors open onto the sheltered side.
  • The cross poles are really not needed unless heavy snowfall is expected. They don't seem to add any obvious additional wind resistance except that they can help keep the fly from blowing onto the inner, but so can the use of trekking poles - see next point. If not using the cross poles then tie the straps to each other to stop them flapping against the fly sheet. I know of some Scarp users who felt confident enough to remove the straps entirely so that they can no longer use the cross poles and yet have still used it in all 4 seasons with no problems.
  • If the wind is blowing strongly, you can use a trekking pole and some guy line to 'lift' the fly on the windward side (see picture below). This stops the fly from blowing onto the inner. I have also since added a small loop of shock cord to the tent attachment point so as to avoid a sudden gust tearing it off (which happened to me on High Stile). You can use this set up at either end or just the windward side depending how strong the gusts are.
  • When pitched with hoop guys and pole lifters this tent is rock solid in the wind. I have been in it in some wild weather without any drama.
  • The tent does not include guy lines for the hoop attachment points but thankfully the excellent backpackinglight.co.uk sell a cord & cleat bundle which is great value and will do the job nicely. I find using the hoop guys adds considerably to tent stability, especially if the wind changes direction and comes from the side.
  • With this tent there is the option of an 'all mesh' inner. For UK hill top conditions I wouldn't advise this. It would be too draughty. Go for the 1/2 solid 1/2 mesh option unless you only plan on camping on balmy summer nights in midge inhabited areas.
  • The tent pitches inner and outer as one, which is great in poor weather. You can use it as a single skin shelter and leave the inner at home if you wish. 
  • I use a Tyvek groundsheet to protect the floor from abrasion. I bought this from Tarptent along with the Scarp. It weighs about 70 grams. You can also get Tyvek from backpackinglight.co.uk who sell a single size just big enough to cover the floor footprint and double size which will extend out to cover the porches. I have also heard of other using Wickes secondary glazing film but cannot comment on its strength & durability. The Tyvek has been fine. 



Overall I have no hesitation in recommending this tent for UK wild camping. Do your research though. There may be more suitable alternatives for you. It also comes in a very spacious 2 man version (Scarp 2) which I have also read very favourable reviews. I have added a few links below which I found useful when researching the tent.




First pitch in the Garden - note the cross pole straps tied to each other


Without the inner it becomes a huge single skin shelter for 1, and perfectly usable for 2


Using the cross-poles on Scafell
 
Using the extra hoop guys on Sail
 
A winter dawn on Sail



Using a single trekking pole as a lifter during a windy camp on Hindscarth


A great spot on Grasmoor


Looking pretty under a full moon

 
A video showing the scarp being pitched in perfect conditions on Grasmoor summit in the English lake District.


 
... and a somewhat more 'tongue-in-cheek' video of it being pitched less than perfectly in windy conditions on Hindscarth, also in the English Lake District. Enjoy !!

7 comments:

  1. Nice review and photos Steve, what length of cord have you used to stake out the hoop pole, and same question re using walking poles to lift the fly. Cheers Paul

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    1. Thanks for commenting Paul. Ive just measured them. They are 1.8 meters for each hoop guy (which I keep permanently attached) and 2.5 meters for each pole lifter guy (which I only attach in high winds and often just the windward side unless its a real hoolie). Using the line locks means you can effectively shorten these lengths by up to half in use. I must admit I just guessed at these lengths 2 years ago but they seem about right in use. I could probably get away with slightly shorter hoop guys but better to be too long than too short. I'm not sure how much taller the hoop is on the Scarp 2 so you may need them slightly longer.

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  2. Thanks Steve, bought this from backpacking light http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/shelter-accessories/WA115.html

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    1. Ah yes that would be perfect. Hadn't realised they sold this neat bundle of cord and line locks. Much cheaper too. Thanks Paul, will update the post to include this.

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  3. Simply the best tent I have used. I regrettably I sold mine, as at the time I was seduced by the Trailstar. I miss the Scarp.

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    1. It just seems to tick all the boxes. A great all rounder. Am curiously awaiting the rumoured Mark 2 version. If Henry takes on board some of points raised by Robin and others then it could be tent perfection - if such a thing exists !

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