Perhaps as a result of my penchant for hammock camping, I’ve recently found myself with limited options for tent camping on my adventures. I’ve had a range of tents over the years from the ultra light (MLD Trailstar, Gram Counter Gear Litehouse Solo) to the more traditional (Vango Spectre), not to mention a big base camp monstrosity suitable only for car camping. All however, either no longer suiting my evolving needs or were simply sacrificed to fund new kit.
As good as hammocks are, by the time you’ve loaded all the extras (tarp, insulation etc), they can be a bit bulky for loading onto a bike and sometimes I just like the simplicity of throwing up a tent at the end of a day’s riding.
Earlier this year, I made some progress towards getting a bike friendly, lightweight shelter in the form of the Naturehike Taga1. It’s a great little tent (especially when you factor in the price) but isn’t without a few issues.
After my condensation experiences with the Taga, I figured double wall was the way to go for the fickle UK climate. I wanted something lightweight (although not strictly ultra light), spacious, packable and capable of serving me year round. Hours of research lead me to the Tarptent Stratospire. It arrived from the USA last week and I got to put it through it’s paces on an initial overnighter in the woods right away. This is therefore not a full review and time will tell if it meets my requirements but after that first night these are my initial thoughts…
Last things first, if you want one of these – and you live in the UK – you’ll have to pony up for some eye watering shipping and import taxes. The actual base price for the tent isn’t too bad for the design, quality and features but you’ll need to factor in some extra £ to appease HMRC. Including the optional poles and shipping, the total came to £322 + just under £70 in import fees. That’s still cheaper than something like the Nemo Dragonfly Bikepack, Nordisk Telemark 1 and about the same as the new Sea to Summit Alto range, none of which offer the same amount of space (both internal and vestibule) nor a four season rating.
As stated, this is not a review, simply a run through after my first night wild camping in the Stratospire.
The Stratospire is a double wall trekking pole tent rated for 3/4 season use. I believe the reason for the 3/4 rather than full 4 season rating is due to snow loading capability (using trekking poles rather than cross poles) but by all accounts it will cope well with high winds due to the shape of the outer. An optional solid interior is available in addition to the mesh inner that I got (solid was out of stock) which would help keep the tent warmer in winter.
Pitching the tent is easy but pitching it well is somewhat of an art. Simply peg out the four corners, insert poles into the reinforced grommets and stake out the door guy lines. Almost endless adjustability is possible using the lineloc guys at the doors and the clever PitchLoc end struts – carbon fibre struts at the foot and head ends which help to give additional volume and stability to the tent.
Confusingly, the Stratospire and it’s inner are slightly offset – this does have the advantage of keeping the poles clear when entering and exiting – but meant I had to repitch a few times to get my sleeping position aligned.
One of the main reasons for choosing the Stratospire for me was the huge amount of space available. I’ve tried tiny single wall tents and at 6ft and carrying a few extra pounds find them to be too compromised in terms of comfort. With two doors, two giant vestibules, ample headroom and just about room to squeeze in two people, the Stratospire makes time in the tent as comfy as possible.
Both doors/vestibules can be rolled back fully, closed fully (obviously) or a combination somewhere in between meaning you’ve got plenty of options for creating waterproof storage whilst still enjoying the views either side. Having two doors also means one side can be dedicated purely to storage – one half swallowed a 60 litre holdall plus water bottles, bike helmet and cooking kit – whilst still allowing clear access to all the kit.
One of the neat features contributing to this lavish space is the ability to adjust the inner volume – a slider at the points where the inner attaches to the outer can be set either to maximise height for more headroom, or slackened off, dropping the inner down an inch or two creating additional width at the expense of a little headroom.
Attention to detail
Whilst the double wall design should help avoid some of the condensation issues experienced with the Taga1, there’s a few neat touches built into the Stratospire that further add to it’s ability to manage airflow.
The PitchLoc end struts mentioned earlier not only serve to provide increased room and stability to the tent but also provide venting. Simply undo the velcro fastening to allow air in at the base.
Both doors are also blessed with waterproof, two way YKK zips providing a multitude of options to suit conditions – fully zipped for weather proofing, half zipped from the top for venting and peaking out, or half zipped from the bottom.
The fly sheet door ties are also simple yet extremely functional – a simple toggle allows you to roll the door back and securely fasten it with no sag or droopy doors which are so often a feature of more basic toggle systems.
Could do better
Despite a solid initial start, there are a few things that bug me about the tent…
Whilst the fly sheet door toggles work very well, the inner relies on a simple tie system. For the sake of an extra couple of grams I would have preferred the same system as used on the outer.
The pitchloc end venting whilst clever, doesn’t actually (as far as I can see) have any system for securing the flap of fly sheet once undone from the velcro. This means that the outer material just kind of hangs in situ. Whether this will actually impact on venting remains to be seen but it looks and feels like a bit of an afterthought.
Footprint – the trade off for having so much space is that the Stratospire takes up considerable space on the ground! This thing is big for a one person tent! Tarptent have in fairness accounted for this through the ability to pitch the doors flush (they buckle together flat rather than angled) when space is tight. I’ve not tried this feature yet but it could be a handy offset when space is tight.
Stuffability – a drawback of the PitchLoc end struts is the inability to stuff the tent down into a small package. When breaking camp, you have to roll the tent around the struts, resulting in a sausage shape package the length of the struts (16 inch/41cm). This isn’t so much of a problem for me running a Pelago Rack up front but may be a deal breaker for bikepackers running soft bags. The vertical poles also don’t break down very small (same length as the PitchLoc struts), again no major issue with my current setup but for those looking to stuff poles into a framebag as I’ve done with the Taga this may be an issue.
Overall I’m happy with my purchase at this point. Sure, the Stratospire has some drawbacks but there’s always going to be compromises in one direction or another with any shelter.
For me, it’s a good balance of weight, space and weather resistance and I think will serve me well for the type of camping and bikepacking I do, which is mostly lowland three season trips with the confidence to know I could take it out in wilder weather or more exposed environments. I’ll report back once I’ve spent a few more nights inside.