Tarptent ProTrail Li Tent Review

Tarptent ProTrail Li Review

The Tarptent ProTrail Li is a single wall Dyneema trekking pole tent that weighs 15.95 ounces. It’s basically a very simple A-frame style rainfly with a floating bathtub floor that is attached to the sidewalls and ends with noseeum mesh. This lets you pitch the fly “high” so that air can flow through the mesh or “low” to prevent windswept rain from being blown inside. Being a single wall tent, this extra airflow helps to significantly reduce any internal condensation, even on hot and humid nights or in the rain. Tarptent also sells a silnylon model which is considerably less expensive (click for our review.)

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight:
    • Tent: 15.95 oz
    • Stuff sack: 0.5 oz
    • 4 stakes plus stake stuff sack: 1.25 oz
  • Person: 1
  • Type: Trekking pole tent: 2 poles required (accessory poles available)
  • Construction: Single wall
  • Material: Dyneema DCF, noseeum mesh
  • Minimum number of stakes to pitch: 4
  • Includes: 4 x 6″ Easton aluminum nano stakes
  • Peak height: 45″
  • Floor width: 42″-30″
  • Floor length: 84″

If the ProTrail Li sounds like it’s one step up from sleeping under a tarp and in a bug bivy, that’s exactly how you should be thinking about it. It’s a single person shelter that you can use for narrow stealth or pre-existing campsites. But it is a tent with a front door, front vestibule, and a rear window, so it provides more protection than a tarp/bug bivy combo.  It’s also easier to set up and only requires 4 stakes to pitch. There’s a surprising amount of headroom, it’s easy to get dressed and undressed inside, and the bathtub floor is wide enough that you can sleep with most of your gear inside next to you.

The front vestibule has plenty of space for covered gear storage.
The front vestibule has plenty of space for covered gear storage.

Entry is through the front and there’s enough interior space that you can get in headfirst and still turn around inside. You’ll probably want to sleep with your head at the door end because that’s where the most headroom is, but you don’t have to. The front pole can be offset at an angle to make getting in and out easier. Unless it’s raining, I usually sleep with the front door open, but you can also close it for privacy.

The front door is flat and does not have a beaked vestibule
The front door is flat and does not have a triangular vestibule.

When the front door is zippered closed, it’s flat and doesn’t form a triangular front vestibule like many other front entrance tents. While this is less aerodynamic, it provides more usable storage space and makes it much easier to get in and out of the tent. You can also unzip the front door, roll it up, and “tie it back” using a magnetized version of a door toggle that Tarptent first introduced with their Dyneema Aeon Li Tent last summer. These are much less frustrating to use than the dowels and elastic loops you find on other tents.

The ProTrail Li has a single front entrance. The front pole can be angled for ease of entry.
The ProTrail Li has a single front entrance. The front pole can be angled for ease of entry. The zipper runs along the floor and up the left side.

The ProTrail Li also has a mesh-backed back window which can be closed with solid panels or left open for ventilation. It also uses the same magnetic tie-tieback system as the front door, although you must be inside the tent to configure it. When it’s open, it also helps prevent condensation from forming on the footbox of your sleep insulation.

Construction

The Tarptent ProTrail Li fly is made with a spruce green 0.51 oz/yd-2 Dyneema DCF, while the grey floor is made with 1 oz/yd-2 Dyneema DCF. The fly is strong enough for use in protected campsites without high wind, while the floor is thick enough for use without a footprint if you’re sleeping on top of forest duff and not on sand or more abrasive surfaces. If you do manage to wear a hole in the floor, Dyneema DCF is very easy to repair with a patch (supplied free from Tarptent) or tape.

The ceiling and walls are translucent. Those drops are rain on the tent exterior.
The ceiling and walls are translucent. Those raindrops are on the tent’s exterior.

The fly is translucent and lets in a fair amount of light and heat if you set up in direct sunlight. These can both be factors in your tentsite selection. The primary advantage of using Dyneema DCF, besides its 38% weight savings over silnylon, is that it doesn’t sag at night or when it gets wet. For example, when I’ve used the silnylon version of the Tarptent ProTrail, I’ve found it necessary to guy out the center of the sidewalls to counteract sagging in wet weather. That’s not needed at all with the ProTrail Li sidewalls which stay drumhead tight all night and/or when it rains. The ProTrail Li also does not require seam-sealing like Tarptent’s silnylon tents and dries very quickly when exposed to sunlight after a night of rain.

Setup/Packing

The ProTrail Li is trivial to set up and you can do it in the rain without getting the inside of the tent wet. As a Pacerpole trekking pole user, I also really appreciate that trekking poles are inserted into grommets in the ceiling, tips up, so that the tent can used with any style of trekking pole handle. Tarptent has a lot of UK customers where Pacerpoles are popular and I wouldn’t be surprised if this design choice was deliberate for that reason.

Tearing down and packing up the tent is also quite simple because the ProTrail Li doesn’t have any additional carbon-fiber struts (called Tarptent Pitchlocks) incorporated into the tent body. The Tarptent models that have these struts can be impossible to pack horizontally into narrow backpacks because they have a fixed length that’s wider than the pack bag. But the ProTrail Li can be folded and rolled up quite narrowly, so it can fit horizontally in any backpack. That’s a big deal for me, which is one reason why I purchased this particular tent. I also really like this shape and style of tent for forested, more protected terrain.

Comparable Dyneema DCF Tents

Key: SW=Single Wall, DW=Double Wall

Make / ModelSW/DWPeopleVestibulesWeightPrice
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV Carbon 2DW2122 oz$850
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 1 CarbonDW1116 oz$800
Big Agnes Scout 2 CarbonDW2011 oz$700
Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 CarbonDW2222 oz1,000
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo IIDW2129 oz$695
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2SW2228.5 oz$795
MLD Duomid + Nest (all DCF)DW2126 oz$705
MLD Trailstar + Nest (all DCF)DW1120.5 oz$675
Tarptent Stratospire LiDW2227.7 oz$689
Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform SWSW2127.1 oz$750
Yama Mountain Gear 2P Cirriform DWDW2128.2 oz$765
Zpacks DuplexSW2219.4 oz$599
Tarptent Aeon LiSW1115.8 oz$535
Tarptent Protrail LiSW1115.95 oz$499
Tarptent Notch LiDW1218.7 oz$500
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform SWSW1120.8 oz$630
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Cirriform DWDW1122.6 oz$630
Zpacks PlexamidSW1115.2 oz$549

Recommendation

The Tarptent ProTrail Li is a 15.95 oz ultralight, single-wall, Dyneema DCF trekking pole tent sized for one person. It has a spacious interior, lots of headroom and excellent airflow to offset the buildup of internal tent condensation that can plague single wall tents if you’re not careful with tent site selection (See How to Prevent Tent Condensation.) I like the ProTrail Li because it’s easy to pack in narrow ultralight type backpacks, it’s absurdly lightweight, and it’s easy to find well-protected and forested tent sites for it because it’s relatively narrow.  Those are pretty narrow and well-defined criteria for tent selection. If you’re trying to decide if the ProTrail Li (or the less expensive silnylon ProTrail) is right for you, consider the climate where you plan to use this tent, the size, and characteristics of the tent sites there, and if you prefer a front-entry or side-entry tent. That will help you decide if the ProTrail Li is as right for you as it is for me.

Disclosure: The author purchased this tent.

Read our other Tarptent Reviews

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23 comments

  1. Great review! I also just got this tent and have had it out on its first couple weekend trips. One point I’d like to add which I hadn’t previously considered. While the footprint is very small, and that makes elements of site selection easier, I’ve also had a related issue. Since the stake out points are so close to the tent body, and the angles to get a very taut pitch are rather narrow, it means there’s little flexibility in the stake locations relative to the tent position. I had a site where the good tent site had big tree roots at the ends of the tent, which made the pitch tricky. With more classic tent designs with long guy outs, this isn’t usually an issue as you just change the length of the guy out, or alter the angle to find good ground for the stake. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something I hadn’t anticipated.

  2. This is a trivial point (unless it affects you), but I was wondering about the magnetic front door clips you mentioned. When crawling in and out on all fours, where is the magnet relative to your head and chest? I’m wondering if the magnet is near enough or powerful enough that it might affect those with pacemakers or hearing aids. (I’m not trying to suggest it does; since I use neither, I don’t have any real way to judge this. I just thought it might be worth asking.)

    • Haven’t “heard” of any complaints on that score. Those magnets aren’t new. Henry used them on the Aeon Li too.

  3. Good review, Phillip. I hope you’ll do a long term follow up review. The zippered door is a far cry better better than the velcro closure on the old sil version. Speaking of which, on your review of the sil version, you used the front guyline behind the vestuble to tension it from billowing. I loved that idea and now set my sil Protrail up that way. Also, that Henry kept the price lower than competition wi not go unnoticed!

  4. Would love to see you do a review on the Moment DW sometime. It seems to check a lot of boxes.

    • Troy,
      I’ve had both the original Moment single wall and for the past 5 yeas the Moment DW. Love ’em both.

      With the optional Crossing Pole shortened 6″ and run UNDER the fly It supports much better in heavy snow of high winds.

      I like it that TT now gives the DW fly 4 fly hem stake loops for hight wind situations.This GREATLY reduces flapping. (Don’t ask)

      Also the new DW has a slightly heavier duty main pole than the gen. 1 version. That’s good, as are the 2 main pole guy points as opposed to one guy point on get gen. 1 version.

  5. Is the vestibule of this tent big enough to cook in it or not? I love to make hot tea in a tent when it’s raining.

    • Yes, but the usual caveats apply. I’d use a canister stove only and you have to be careful not to set the tent on fire.

  6. Thanks for the review…Looks as though it would be perfect for stealth camping in northern forests!

  7. I’ve never used a front entrance tent. Is it as inconvenient as people say?

  8. I like it, but would be tempted to add a side pullout on each side. Any idea why they don’t do that ?

    • It’s included on the silnylon version to counter sag. But it’s not needed on the Dyneema version because it doesn’t stretch.

    • Just to be clear, there are two perimeter hem tabs per side. They are located closer to each end because you can pull as hard as you like and tension directly against the adjacent pole. A mid side tab has nothing but fabric to pull against and all that does is distort the canopy.

  9. I like double wall ents so I have the TT Notch Li.

    BUT… if’n I wuz a-lookin’ fer a single wall tent it would be the AEON Li.

    Henry Shies likely has more Dyneema tent models now than all the other Dyneema tent makers combined!

  10. I might be wrong, but I did not se the word “wind” at all in this writeup, rater “well protected” and “forested”. The ProTrail – at least this style of tent is considered to handle wind quite well, by many. A comment on how the Li will function in open mountain/alpine environment would be nice. Thanks.

    • The flat door and back window are non-starters for wind. You’ll want a shelter with angled doors and walls for that. The tarp tent Stratospire is the right shape.

      • Thanks.
        Yes, have the same thoughts on the door, the back end I cannot get my head around.
        Have a X-Mid and a Helsport Ringstind SL so I am well set up in that weight range.
        Lots of interesting info in your newsletters and accumulated on the web site. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Hike safely, eh

  11. Thanks for the review and write up. I have an old 3 person Tarptent (sorry, don’t remember the model) that’s perfect for my wife, the dog and me. One quibble though; and it’s not just with Tarptent. I really wish that all these companies would list the actual carry weight of their shelters. Saying the tent is under a pound and then you have to add the weight of the stakes, stake bag, tent bag, etc. is really ridiculous in my opinion. Just give us the weight of the shelter that includes what you need to carry it & set it up and let the chips fall where they may. I realize that some folks are so weight aware that they’d carry the stakes w/o the bag but that’s not the majority of the world so give us “real world” weights so it’s easier to do comparisons between shelters.

    Just my two cents. Take it for what it’s worth.

    That’s all for now. Take care and until next time…be well.

    • Have you visited Tarptent site since you purchased your model? They list the exact weight of every component so you can compare with other models and competitors. I agree though, some mainstream and cottage tent companies generalize on weights but not Tarptent/Henry Shires.

  12. The Pro Trail is the successor to the early Contrail, which was my 1st Tarptent. The Pro Trail is a more sind-worthy design than was the Contrail.

    I’m now on my 5th Tarptent, the Notch Li. I still nave my Moment DW and Scarp 2.

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