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