Home / Best Tents / Tarptent ProTrail Tent Review

Tarptent ProTrail Tent Review

manufactured by :
Philip Werner
Version:
2015
Price:
225.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On September 26, 2016
Last modified:October 13, 2016

Summary:

The Tarptent Protrail is an ultralight one-person single-walled tent designed for three-season use. Weighing just xx ounces, the Protrail is a trekking pole tent that requires two poles to set up. It is generously sized for one person with plenty of interior room for gear. Made with silnylon, the ProTrail is also relatively inexpensive compared to other ultralight shelters and costs $225.

The Tarptent ProTrail Tent is basically a pup tent made with an outer fly and a bathtub floor suspended with bug netting.
The Tarptent ProTrail is shaped like an A-frame tarp or pup tent with an integrated rain fly and internal bathtub floor that’s suspended from the fly with bug netting

The Tarptent ProTrail (MSRP $225) is an ultralight one-person single-walled tent designed for three-season use. Weighing just 26 ounces, the ProTrail is generously sized for one person with plenty of interior room for gear. Setup requires two trekking poles although conventional poles can also be purchased from the manufacturer if you don’t use them.

The ridgeline and sides of the ProTrail are curved which helps reduce the amount of fabric required - called a catenary cut. The front door of the ProTrail is shown closed.
The ridgeline and sides of the ProTrail are curved which helps reduce the amount of fabric required – called a catenary cut – and to make the tent more aerodynamic and wind shedding. The front door of the ProTrail is shown closed.

Design

The Tarptent ProTrail is shaped like an A-frame tarp or pup tent with an integrated rain fly and internal bathtub floor that’s suspended from the fly with bug netting. The fly’s curved ridgeline and sides helps reduce the amount of fabric required to make the tent, while making it more aerodynamic. The sidewalls of the bathtub floor help prevent the floor from being flooded in wet weather, while the bug netting provides insect protection.

The sidewalls of the bathtub floor help prevent flooding in wet weather.
The sidewalls of the bathtub floor help prevent flooding in wet weather.

The ProTrail also has a front door which can be closed in the event of rain, as well as a rear window, with two fabric storm flaps that can be rolled open for better ventilation or kept closed. While the front door creates a vestibule space good for gear storage, the sides of the vestibule are shaped like a giant funnel to help channel air through the tent and out the rear.

Pitching the ProTrail

Setting up the ProTrail is easy and take under two minutes with very little practice. Setup requires a minimum of four stakes: two for the rear corners and two for the front. Simply spread the tarp out with the black side facing the ground, insert a trekking pole into the rear grommet and stake out the two rear corners.

Closeup of the rear guyline system, which can accommodate poles longer than the suggested 24" length.
Closeup of the rear guyline system, which can accommodate poles longer than the suggested 24″ length.

The rear guylines are threaded in a unique way that only requires two corner stakes and can accommodate trekking poles that are longer than the suggested 24″ (collapsed Pacer Pole CF shown here). A third stake is not necessary to  pull back the rear pole in order to lengthen the tarp’s ridgeline. It’s hard to describe, but it works amazingly well.

The rear guylines create a lot of tension on the rear corners though, so you’ll want to use very grippy stakes here. I use 2 x 8″ Easton stakes,  MSR Groundhogs, or a MSR mini-groundhogs, depending on soil conditions. I’ve even doubled up stakes in very sandy and gravelly soil to prevent them from pulling out.

Next, move to the front of the tent. Insert your second trekking pole into the reinforced pole cap at the front of the tent with the handle on top if using a regular grip or the tip at the top if using a Pacer Pole CF grip, as shown. Then stake out the two sides of the front vestibule as widely as possible to maximize air flow. The pole can be slanted off-center to make the entrance more accessible.

The front pole can be slanted off-center to make the front door more accessible
The front pole can be slanted off-center to make the front door more accessible

Tighten the four corners, which have pre-installed cord tensioners, to remove any wrinkles in the outer tarp. You may need to reposition your stakes: the goal is to spread out the corners as widely as possible in order to stretch out the tent sides, including the bug netting which connects the floor to the walls.

Tighten the front corners of the bathtub floor to create vertical sidewalls.
Tighten the front corners of the bathtub floor to create vertical sidewalls.

Finally tighten the front corners of the bathtub floor (the rear corners are not adjustable) to create vertical side walls which will prevent rain water from  swamping the floor.

There’s also a guyline running from the top of the tent front. While you can stake in down centered or off to the side, it’s not really that necessary. The sides of the vestibule provide plenty of tension to keep the pole in place. This extra guyline can be tied to a tree, if you don’t want to use a front pole, although you’ll probably want to replace the guyline so it’s much longer, more on the order of 12-15 feet to wrap around thick tree trunks and still give you enough space to crawl into the front of the ProTrail. I’ve found a better use for this guyline which I explain below.

The front door secures on one side with velcro but is oddly flat.
The front door secures on one side with velcro but is oddly flat.

Front Door and Rear Storm Flaps

If it’s raining hard, you can close the front door ,which has velcro along one side to keep it secured. This creates a closed vestibule space which blocks rain ingress, but still permits air to flow under the door and through the tent. The front door is strangely flat, not beaked and pointed outwards as one would expect to help shed wind. It’s also difficult to get the door to hang tautly in place between the vestibule walls so it doesn’t flap in the wind.

You can run the front guyline behind the front door to give more of a pointy, prow-like shape
You can run the front guyline (see left) behind the front door to give more of a pointy, prow-like shape.

You can create more of a beak however, by running the front guyline behind the door to create a “prow” although it’s not really pronounced enough to be a robust wind shedder. It does help take up some of the slack fabric in the door if flapping becomes an issue and increases the vestibule volume. If you can’t find a more protected campsite with ground or tree cover, point the rear of the tent into the wind on breezy nights to reduce its wind resistance profile. The catenary cut of the ridgeline and sides will then help channel air hitting the tent away.

Rear storm flaps closed (top) and rolled open (bottom)
Rear storm flaps closed (top) and rolled open (bottom)

You can also close the two rear window flaps at the end of the tarp to keep rain from entering the tent at the rear. Otherwise, these should be kept rolled open and secured using elastic ties to maintain good airflow through the tent.

Condensation Management

The ProTrail’s silnylon walls will stretch overnight and lose some of their tension. All silnylon tents do this. While you can get up in the middle of the night and tighten your guylines, there’s usually no need to do this in dry weather unless the wind flaps the ProTrail’s outer tarp loudly. I almost always camp in well-protected campsites surrounded by trees, so this isn’t usually an issue for me.

If however, you start to experience a buildup of internal condensation in high humidity or you expect rain overnight, you’re going to want to get as much air flowing through the ProTrail as you can, especially if you have to close the front door and rear storm flaps. Otherwise, you’re bound to get you wet from internal condensation if you touch the side walls.

The ProTrail has four additional guy out loops on each side.These can be used with self-tensioning guylines to counteract silnylon sag.
The ProTrail has four additional guy out loops on each side.These can be used with self-tensioning guylines to counteract silnylon sag. Shown here with the two inner loops staked out.

If rain is expected, I suggest tying out the sides of the ProTrail which comes with four additional guy out loops on each side, using self tensioning guylines. A self-tensioning guyline includes a segment of elastic cord which will take up any slack in the fabric when it stretches. I use a Dutchware Tarp Worm (see video demo) with a reflective guyline and piece of elastic cord for my self-tensioning lines. They work great with the ProTrail.

Interior view of side walls when stretched open using self-tensioning guylines to counteract silnylon sag.
Interior view of side walls when stretched open using self-tensioning guylines to counteract silnylon sag.

These side guylines compensate for silnylon sag, maximize airflow through of the tent’s side bug netting, and help maximize the interior width of the tent so you can avoid the sidewalls if they do collect moisture.

Dimensions

The ProTrail is quite spacious for a one person shelter with plenty of extra space to store gear inside the tent or under the front vestibule. But it is essentially an A-frame tarp with a front peak and a sloping rear end, which limits the amount of usable space for moving around inside. While I can sit up fully in the front of the tent, turn around, and get dressed, I spend most of the time lying prone in the ProTrail.

  • Floor width (in./cm): 42/ 107
  • Floor length (in/cm): 84/213
  • Interior usable height-front (in/cm): 45/114
  • Interior usable height-rear (in/cm): 21/53

While the interior space can be confining, it is relatively easy to find good protected campsites for the ProTrail as long as they are long enough to fit the tent and wide enough to get it staked out. The floating bathtub floor also helps compensate for uneven ground, provided that you use an inflatable pad to ameliorate the discomfort of sleeping on top of rocks or roots.

The ProTrail is compact and easy to pack.
The ProTrail is compact and easy to pack.

Damp Management

If, despite your best efforts, condensation forms on the interior of the ProTrail, or if it rains and the exterior becomes wet, the entire tent will get soaked inside and out when you pack it away the next morning. This occurs with all tents, except a handful of double walled tents (including the Tarptent Scarp 1) where the inner tent is pitched independent of the outer fly and can be packed separately.

While there’s a good chance that the ProTrail will dry quickly when you set it up before bed that night, it’s best to budget a 30-60 minute rest break during the day to dry the ProTrail in the sun. You don’t have to re-pitch it for this to occur: simply drape it over a tree branch or drape it out on some rocks in sunlight.

Damp management becomes a bigger concern if it rains for multiple consecutive days and the tent and all of your other gear becomes wet. If you can get off the trail for a few days and dry out, that’s sometimes your best option rather than gutting it out and being miserable.

Waterproofing

The ProTrail is a silnylon tent made with 30d siliconized nylon which is permanently waterproof. How waterproof? Tarptent is using silnylon that has a hydrostatic head of 3000 mm-3500 mm in the ProTrail fly and not the 1500 mm that they used in years prior which was prone to misting bleed-though in very heavy rain storms. The newer silnylon is much more waterproof and mist-resistant. In fact it’s more waterproof than the rain flies found on most conventional tents.

However, the ProTrail must be seam-sealed before being used in rainy weather. This is an easy process you can do at home (see how to seam-seal a tent or tarp) or one you can have Tarptent do for you for a small fee.

The Tarptent ProTrail doesn't require a huge space footprint making it easy to pitch in wild, stealth sites.
The Tarptent ProTrail doesn’t require a huge space footprint making it easy to pitch in wild, stealth sites.

Recommendation

The Tarptent ProTrail is one-person, single-walled tent that weighs 26 ounces, designed for use in three season weather conditions. Appropriate for use in arid and more humid forested environments, the ProTrail is easy to pitch and has modest footprint requirements, making it easy to find wild, stealth campsites to set it up. It also packs up quite small, a real advantage compared to bulky conventional tents that hog up lots of backpack volume.  Priced at $225, the Tarptent ProTrail is an exceptional value, perfect for backpackers who want to experience the benefits of an ultralight tarp camping without sacrificing the benefits of a bathtub floor and integrated bug netting.

Likes

  • Easy to pitch, highly refined, and simple design.
  • Compatible with fixed and adjustable length trekking poles.
  • Great airflow to reduce/eliminate internal condensation.
  • Bathtub floor and bug mesh provide excellent livability over a floorless tarp with relatively little weight penalty.

Dislikes

  • Breezy in cold weather. Limited to three season use.
  • Flat front door looks awkward; I’d prefer more of a pointed beak-style vestibule.

See Tarptent.com for a complete set of ProTrail specifications

Disclosure: Tarptent loaned Philip Werner a Tarptent Protrail Tent for this review. Philip Werner does not have any business relationship with Tarptent. 

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24 comments

  1. I would be interested which other Tarptent options you have tried and how you think this compares to the Scarp, Moment, etc. I was looking at a Moment DW to extend into the winter a bit more than this would. The extra weight might be worth the difference…

    • I’ve owned the Scarp 1, the Notch, and the Squall 2.

      The ProTrail is definitely a warmer weather shelter.

      The Scarp 1 is a bomber winter and four season shelter. Very refined and comfortable.

      I’ve had my eye on the Moment DW for a long time. It’s on my short list of shelters to try for personal use. Looks like you can get the optional solid interior for it which would really help in autumn/winter.

    • I have the Tarptent Stratospire 2 for my partner and I, and can highly recommend it. Some of the features include: Double-walled, dual entry, outer pitch first, good headroom and massive floorspace, hiking poles for pitching… I haven’t found either condensation or sagging to be an issue (when pitched correctly), even when using it in higher winds and constant moisture and/or rain. I put the inner in a separate bag so that if the outer is wet the inner always stays dry. I’ve even used it as a lunch shelter for cooking, just pitch the outer and you have a dry, sheltered spot for cooking/eating out of the wind and rain. On top of all this the service from Tarptent is great and they are priced very affordably (In fact I would say great value for money considering it is a good quality, hand made product). It’s pretty likely that my next tent will be a Tarptent as well.

  2. How does the Notch compare to these other Tarptent models?

  3. You mention here that TT’s new 3000mm head fabric is superior to their old 1500mm. According to Big Agnes, my solo tent (Copper Spur UL1) is “ultralight silicone treated nylon rip-stop with a 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating”. I’ve been in some pretty heavy rain without a problem. Practically speaking, should I be more worried about misting or puddling??

  4. I used the predecessor Contrail for many years and found it to be my favorite when I wasn’t using a simple tarp. After a few uses I was able to set it up in under a minute. As long as I wasn’t going to be away from the Contrail during snowfall, I was able to stretch it to 4 season. It did require snow removal, particularly with wet snow, or it would eventually cave. For me, who usually used a small tarp even in winter, the Contrail (Pro Trail) was luxury.

    • Great to hear form you Quoddy!

      I’ve seen Contrails up close, but never used one. The carbon fiber struts always struck me as a bit odd and a pain to pack.

      One pitch I didn’t try with the ProTrail (thinking about it last night) was simply hanging it from two trees like an A-frame tarp. Awkward with the lower guyline on the rear, though.

      I thought about asking Henry if he’d consider making a pure Rayway A-frame with the bathtub floor/netting and front and rear beaks. That wouldn’t be a bad shelter when you think about it. I must be getting old. There was a time when I slept under rectangular tarps all the time without all these comforts!

  5. Would love for you to test Moment DW. Looks like a great shelter

    Thom

  6. I have a ProTrail and love it’s (lack of) weight. But in damp weather, there will be condensation. Period.

  7. I like my Tarp Tent, I forget how long ago I bought it. But it is the two man model of this one by the looks of it…. I would not recommend using it past Summer, meaning into Fall when the Temperatures get down to 50 an below at night.. It is just too airy in my opinion an no protection from the cold winds… that aside, mine is probably over 10 years old now an works as good as the day I took it out of the packaging…

  8. I don’t understand why Tarptent refuses to offer cuben/dyneema materials. I do not want a silnylon shelter, but understand that some consumers don’t want cuben. At least offer us a choice!

    Goat

    • From the Tarptent FAQ:

      We don’t make cuben fiber products due to the extreme fabric expense, problems with seam taping and poor abrasion resistance. Not only is cuben fiber nearly 5x the price of the fabric we use now, but cuben fiber seams behave poorly under stress and must be seam taped. That’s not too hard for simple shelters with straight seams but very labor intensive for more complex shelters with curved seams such as the Double Rainbow (and many more). Our prices would likely triple for curved shelters, an outcome which would violate everything we strive for in making affordable shelters. Finally, weight wise, using cuben fiber would mean a typical weight reduction of 4-6 ounces ( ~150g, a gulp of water or perhaps 3 candy bars) and we would argue that no one can notice that kind of weight difference in a loaded pack.”
      https://www.tarptent.com/faq.html

      From Philip:
      Yep, a gulp of water.

  9. Highly recommend this tent. I’ve used it for the past two years. Simple setup; condensation isn”t an issue with your head at the big front entrance; lots of room for one. Recommend using one tieout on each side to keep out the weather.

  10. Tap tents are wonderful but….
    Disregarding weight considerations you can’t compare Cuben fiber fabric to Silnylon fabric for burst strength or waterproofness.

    Cuben fiber is an improvement by a magnitude of 4 to 5 times. It is the fabric of the future. Yes it is expensive but it is better in every way I know. Last Spring I did around a thousand miles in J tree and on the Pacific Crest Trail. Cuben fiber, be it in a pack or tent doesn’t disappoint. In a way it is a sacrificial fabric but so is silnylon, it will wear out eventually but I don’t know/didn’t meet anyone who regretted their cuben fiber tent purchase especially if they came from one of several USA manufactures.

    Cuben fiber repairs or reinforces easily, Gorilla tape sticks like glue to it. I get Sil nylon, no problem but there is no way I’m going back. I’ll be back on trail in June at Kennedy Meadows with all my Cuben fiber tent, pack and my 10 degree Zpacks sleeping bag. The big three are worth dropping cash on.

    Bill

    • I drive a Mazda because I can’t afford a Mercedes. It’s a perfectly nice car and I like it a lot. Never really understood why people waste their money on more expensive cars when they accomplish the same thing.

      I’ve owned several cuben fiber shelters, but I can’t sleep well in them because they let to much light through the semi transparent fabric. However, I’ve always felt that the shape of a tent us a lot more important than the material it’s made with, provided its waterproof and structurally sound.

      There’s certainly a place in the market for CF products, but they’re not affordable for most people, and I agree with Henry that the weight reduction they provide is hardly worth the added cost when it’s equivalent to a gulp of water. They’re a luxury, not a necessity. I’d rather spend my money on other things. To each is own.

  11. I’m interested in a new smaller footprint A frame style one person tent, and I love TarpTents, but how do you think the TT ProTrail compares to the Trekkertent Stealths?

    Thanks,

    Marty

    • It’s not a question of the shelter but the manufacturer. I found Trekker tent to be very unreliable and wouldn’t advise buying their products based on my experience. Tarptent is a real company however.

      • Oh. Thanks for the heads up. That’s too bad. Noticed they are not taking orders right now anyway. Guess I’ll stick with good old Henry and TT. Thanks.

        Marty

  12. I have never written a product review, but I have a few comments about my new TT protrail after 6 day trip in Grand Canyon. Negatives: difficult to set up in wind by 1 person, needs large space vs smaller space for other free standing tents, flaps around in the wind, tub floor tightener broke 1st night. Positives: light & warm.

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