Mountain Moxie reviews the TarpTent Stratospire 2, a unique ultra-light shelter. Amazingly, it is completely sewn and constructed in North America! Read the full review below to find out the features of this tent and how it can possibly be so light!
Your choice of shelter on a multi-day trip can have a big impact on your overall comfort. Try camping in Northern Ontario without a bugnet or inner tent and you will know what I mean. Conversely, carrying around a heavy tent on a technical alpine climb can seriously compromise getting to the ledge before dark. To make the choice to bring a tarp or a full-fledged tent easier, TarpTent has created the Stratospire 2.
At 1370g for a two person tent (or three people in a pinch), it’s hard to come up with an excuse not to bring it!
Tarptent has been creating U.S.-sown shelters since 1999. The commitment to providing jobs within North America has been maintained as the company has grown over the last 17 years. All tents are assembled in Seattle, Washington before getting assembled, checked and shipped from their workshop in Nevada City, California. The main vision of Henry Shires is to lighten your pack’s load by building innovative shelters. While Tarptent’s main following is amongst thru-hikers on trails like the Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide trails, it provides an excellent option for any light-weight aficionados. In the case of Mountain Moxie, the tent came along on many overnight backpacking trips, several alpine climbing trips and a three-week trip to Morocco. In the case of the Morocco trip, the tent spent a lot of time in the first few weeks in the backpack as we did some urban sightseeing. It’s light weight was particularly appreciated on that trip!
While we only tested the Stratospire under moderate snow loads, we found it to cope quite well. It is unlikely it will stand up to 50 cms of fresh snow overnight, but it was not really designed for that either.
Testing the Stratospire 2 during the shoulder season. Photo: Maarten van Haeren
The Stratospire 2’s main design was based around the traditional A-frame tent but with a twist. The two vertical pole supports are provided by (adjustable) hiking poles or the (optional) Easton aluminum poles. By off-setting the poles, they are both outside of the living compartment and out of the way when opening the vestibule. The tent sports a traditional double wall design, with two vestibules along the long side of the sleeping compartment.
Due to its unique shape, initial setup was slightly confusing. Testers found it hard to determine where the doors/vestibules would end up. After a few times, it became a lot easier. The Stratospire 2 comes with a choice of two different inner tents (more on those below), the fly, 6 aluminum Easton tent pegs and a seam sealing kit. Additionally, we purchased a Tyvek groundsheet (recommended!), two Easton support poles (more on those later) and a gadget to allow the use of your hiking poles basket down (didn't find any use for them). Watch a quick setup video below.
The setup requires two supports and 6 pegs (22cm Easton aluminum pegs were provided with the tent). On the non-vestibule corners, a unique system called PitchLoc keeps the corners slightly off the ground. The system is essentially a bi-pod that has two tensioners, coming together in one stake. Due to the dual tensioners, it was really easy to pitch the fly fabric taut.
One of the main things that stood out, even before ordering the tent, were the amount of options for setup. By using two support poles, it is possible to set up only the fly, only the inner tent or both. With most other tents (such as most of MSR and Mountain Hardwear’s offerings), these options require an additional footprint. When ordering the tent, it is possible to get the warm-climate mesh inner (we’ll call this one “summer”), or the partially solid inner tent for colder climates (“winter”). Using the fly-only option was a great choice for winter camping, where you're not looking for bug protection.
This option provided an incredible amount of space for the weight of the shelter. Conversely, the bug-net only option was great for bug-free star gazing!
The fly-only setup creates space for 4 standard-width pads. Photo: Tarptent
The bug-only setup allows for beautiful star gazing, without the bugs. Photo: Tarptent
Many ultra-light shelters cut corners by minimizing length of the inner tent. Often, the price of ultra-light is sacrificing some comfort. In the case of the Stratospire, I had no trouble fitting in my long Therm-a-Rest XTherm (63 x 196cm) inside. Additionally, the Stratospire’s internal height is quite substantial at 127cm, especially considering it’s low weight. In comparison, the (highly popular) MSR Hubba Hubba NX tops out at 99cm internal height. For myself (at 194cm tall), these 28 cms made the difference between being able to sit up in the tent or scraping the frost off the inside of the fly. Our other (tall) tester also appreciated the internal height and length of the Stratospire. It easily accommodated two tall people (190+ cm), which can not be said for many ultra-light shelters. Check out the 3D model below to see how two 185cm people fit in the Stratospire 2.
Several key features really stood out in the design of the Stratospire. The ability to use your hiking poles as your tent support cut down substantially on the weight. Particularly while using the tent in the rain, it was easy to reach into the vestibule and extend the poles so the tent remained taut. This prevented the fly from sagging onto the inner tent, keeping the occupants much dryer. This was a surprisingly convenient feature we haven’t seen on any other tent!
We also tested the optional Easton aluminum poles. While they functioned as advertised, they were relatively flimsy. Unlike the hiking poles, it was impossible to lean your pack against them since they would simply bend over. In stormy weather, I’d have my doubts about the stability of these poles. However, at 122g they are substantially lighter than bringing two hiking poles. Edit: Henry informed me there are much more sturdy poles available since we tested the tent. An alternative trick is to bring a 130cm piece of cord and collect two sturdy branches at your campsite to function as supports. This worked excellent but would only work camping below tree line. One of our testers preferred this method while using the Stratospire for canoe camping.
Another feature that was quite unique was an additional clip where the inner tent attaches (in the roof) to the fly. By clipping the inner tent to the lower clip, interior space was increased and there was enough room for another standard width sleeping pad. The compromise is losing the full-height bathtub walls, but at least everyone could sleep bug-free! This feature also allowed the tent to transformed into a cooking shelter by dropping the inner tent down while keeping the fly erect.
By using the guylines from the top of the support poles, it was possible to remove both sides of the vestibule for maximum breathability. It also created a nice open-concept feeling, bringing the outdoors a little closer while keeping the bugs and rain outside. The guylines on both pole ends are 2mm reflective Spectra cord, which prevented tripping over them when both vestibule doors were folded away.
Folding away the sides of the tent completely during a warm evening. Rif Mountains, Morocco. Photo: Maarten van Haeren
The fly fabric is a 30d siliconized ripstop nylon. This offers a good balance between light weight and durability. Over time, the tent fly should not see too much abrasion, though it is nice to see Tarptent sprung for 30d fabrics over 10d or 20d.
The two different inners both use no-see-um polyester mesh. The entire summer inner tent was constructed out of this mesh. The winter inner tent was constructed from 30d uncoated ripstop nylon around the lower 2/3rds of the inner, with mesh at the top of the side walls for extra breathability. It did an excellent job of retaining some extra warmth, as well as keeping frozen condensation away from the inside of the tent. Upon ordering the tent, it is possible to get either or both of the inner tents. A separate inner tent can also be ordered afterwards. The difference between the two inners is roughly 100 grams.
When reaching out to Tarptent, they were very helpful regarding repairs and warranty. Since we are dealing with a small(er) company, it was nice to have a real person to talk to that actually knows the products in and out. If you have a tent failure due to something they did, they will happily fix the issue. If the tent broke due to wear & tear, they will repair it (with the appropriate materials) for a reasonable fee.
- Exceptionally light weight for full-sized 2-3 person tent
- Multiple setup options using the same tools
- Different inners for different climates
- Re-tension fly from inside tent during rainstorm
- Excellent weather resistance, both rain and snow
- Built in the U.S.
- Optional poles were flimsy and did not complement the other aspects of the tent
- No two-way zipper on the fly door
- Not a free-standing design
While the Stratospire 2 isn't an ideal car camping tent, it's a beautiful shelter for many different adventures! Especially when the trip is long, or you are not sure if you'll need a tent, the light weight of the Stratospire will be much appreciated.
Thanks to Ken Wood for introducing me to TarpTent in the first place, the rad opening image and additional review points. This product was purchased by Mountain Moxie staff.