The Tarptent Notch ($285) is a single person, double walled ultralight tent weighing 27 ounces with two doors and two vestibules. With a removable inner nest (including bathtub floor), the rain fly can be pitched as a standalone tarp or as a complete double-walled tent depending on your needs.
When I bought the Notch last year, I intended to just use the fly shown below, but the inner nest has grown on me, and I carry it on backpacking trips when I don’t mind a little extra weight.
When purchased new from Tarptent, and before seam-sealing, the Notch fly and inner nest weigh in at 27 ounces, combined. After seam sealing, and with one extra guyline cord, mine weighs 28 ounces total; 17.2 ounces for the fly and 10.8 ounces for the inner nest.
Requiring two trekking poles to pitch, The Notch is what’s called a dual Apex shelter, meaning it has two peaks. This design provides a lot more space for an occupant than a pyramid tarp with a center pole.In addition, The Notch provides greater clearance between the shelter ceiling and top of your face and feet, increasing livability. The footprint required for the Notch, that is the ground space required to pitch it, is also quite small making it an easy to pitch in very dense forests with few suitable tent sites between the trees.
With dual (zippered) vestibules, The Notch has excellent ventilation, including keeper toggles along the side seams, so you can roll up the side doors. You can also regulate the amount of airflow by pitching the fly higher, so there is more space between the ground and the bottom of the fly, or lower, so the fly bottom is flush with the ground. The latter is helpful in storm mode and heavy rain where you want to direct as much water away from the tent as possible, so it doesn’t seep under the fly and back into your living space.
The Notch also has two end ports, which can be opened or closed with a flap of silnylon, to allow more airflow through the inner. These are useful in cooler weather to prevent cold air from blowing onto your head and feet, and in warmer weather, to prevent condensation in those same locations.
The triangular areas at both end ports (head and foot) are created by two sewn-in carbon fiber struts connected by guyline cord and line-loc adjusters, allowing you to control how high/narrow or low/wide the ports are. Although these struts complicate storage of the fly a bit in transit, they are one of the reasons that the interior space in The Notch is so livable. By raising the ends of the tarp about a foot higher, than say a pyramid shelter where the ends touch the ground, the struts reduce the angle of the fly (making it flatter and not as steep), providing more usable length above the feet and head.
Pitching The Notch
The Notch is very easy to pitch once you practice it a few times and get the hang of it. The first thing to do is to lay the fly out on the ground in a diamond shape. Next stake out the four corners: the two end ports and the guy lines at the base of the vestibule zippers.
Next, raise the side of each vestibule and slip the tip of a trekking pole into the grommet located in the apex. Repeat for the second side, walk around the fly and tighten the guy lines. The height you set your trekking poles at will depend on the weather and wind. I like to keep some airflow between the base of the fly and the ground, but there are many factors which can influence what you set the height at, depending on weather, temperature, humidity, wind direction, wind speed, dust levels, etc.
The Notch also includes line-locs on the outside side of the Apex points, which can be useful to reinforce the outer fly in wind, or to help pull the apex points a bit wider apart. I’ve semi-permanently added one such line on my Notch for this purpose, because I prefer a taut, non-sagging lateral pitch between the two apex points. I rarely have to deal with wind issues, below treeline and in forest.
Adding the Inner Nest
The Inner Nest is included standard when ordering The Notch from Tarptent. It has a bathtub floor and two side zippers to provide access to the vestibules. It can be erected after the fly has been set up or left attached, enabling you to set up the entire tent at once. The value of setting up the inner nest separately becomes evident in rainy weather, where you don’t want to compromise the dryness of the inner tent when you set it up or take the tent down the next morning.
To add the inner nest to the fly, you suspend it with hooks from plastic loops located in each apex cone and at the end portals. This is best done by first attaching the three clips shown above to the three loops at one of the end portals. The middle hook attaches to the top of the triangle formed by the carbon fiber struts and the left and right hooks attach to the bottom sides, all on the inside of the fly. Next attach the three plastic hooks at the other end, before attaching the hooks at the mid-point of the Inner Nest to the plastic loops next to the grommets in both apexes. If doing this in the rain, you will probably have to leave the dry area under the fly to complete the setup, which can be a bit fussy with these little clips.
Once set up, the inner nest hangs about 2-3 inches below the fly. The resulting air gap provides enough ventilation that it can stay ahead of internal condensation if the vestibules are both closed, the end ports are open, there’s a respectable air gap between the floor of the fly and the ground, and it is not raining outside. However, after long periods of rain, internal condensation will drop onto the inner nest and begin to splash through the mesh above you and onto your gear (this is really no different from most double walled tents). In those circumstances, your best bet is to wipe down the inside of the fly with an absorbent cloth and wring it dry periodically There is enough space in the vestibule to reach around the top of the inner nest and perform this maneuver without having to get out of the nest or the fly.
The Tarptent Notch is a very flexible one person double walled tent that can be pitched as a standalone fly or a complete double walled tent with an inner nest and rain fly, making it a cost-effective option for many kinds of trips ranging from UL fast packs to car camping. In addition to its low weight, I like fact that The Notch is so easy to pitch even in dense forested settings where space is very limited. While I also like flat tarps in these circumstances for their flexibility, pitching The Notch is so much faster and provides a large livable and weatherproof shelter. This can be further enhanced with the inner nest on those trips where you want a little bit more comfort and increased weather protection, the ground is wet or the bugs are swarming. While there are a few things I don’t like about The Notch, like the fussy inner nest hooks and the difficult of packing a tent with end struts, on the whole I’m rather pleased with The Notch and like it more and more on every trip I take with it.
For more information about the Tarptent Notch, visit The Notch product page at Tarptent.com
- Inner nest can be pitched after fly, from the inside, to keep it dry in rain.
- Requires small footprint. Easy to pitch in narrow forest pitches
- Excellent ventilation
- Side nest attachments points are not pacer pole compatible. Requires two extra shepards hook stakes to pitch.
- Small hooks on inner nest attachment points are a bit fussy to secure.
- End pitch loc struts make the fly more difficult to store in a pack.
Disclosure: Philip Werner bought this product with his own funds.
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