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#177321 - 05/25/13 05:52 AM Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings.
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
I've touched on some elements of this review and thoughts previously, but the core elements are new. These components are my thoughts on a recent test-run of my newly acquired Tarptent Squall 2, and how I came to choose this particular beastie.

My background is that I started backpacking when I was an eleven-year old Tenderfoot recently bridged over from Webelos. I was taught from the get-go that tents were for car camping. They're heavy, bulky, extra work to setup and take down. From an early age, I was assimilated into the anti-tentite community. Everywhere I went, I relied on my trusty Taco and Bivy setup, and eventually a Silnylon awning I could prop up with my trekking poles. It was a comfortable system.
However, my most recent trip through Yosemite took place while the Vogelsang region was undergoing a massive hatch of mosquitoes. My best friend had lugged along his dad's 3-man REI Half-Dome tent, and it was a lifesaver, because there was nothing my awning could do to protect me from the clouds of skeeters. This rocked my anti-tentite faith.

Just about this time, I stumbled across the Big Agnes Scout 2 tent, and thought it was the finest thing around. I ordered mine from REI and waited a month with it on backorder, looking forward to trying it out. When it finally arrived, I kind of had to conceal my disappointment. Someone on another forum stated that it was 90% a great idea, but the Scout's missing 10% was the fraction that really counted. This was very true.
Determined to be happy with it, I tinkered with outboarding the trekking poles with extra cord and some bowlines, but it just never sat right with me. It was too poorly ventilated, too dismal, and just seemed to overlook the smaller details that could've made it great. The Scout was a poor argument in favor of tent-kind.
Sometime after this dawned on me, I came across Henry Shires' Tarpent site, and fell in love with the Squall 2. From my perspective, it was just an awning with a bathtub floor and bug netting. Reasonably priced and evident that it was designed for backpackers and not the bottom-line. I traded in my Scout and immediately bought the Squall, and it was no disappointment.

For starters, it's still fairly light. For about 12 extra ounces over the Scout, it offers far better ventilation, copious space, an airy environment and the simplicity I value greatly.
It's easy to setup: one small aluminum pole and four stakes and you're done.
It offers options: vestibule up or down? Extra tie-downs? no problem, there're extra loops on the sides. Bathtub or flat floor? you choose. One trekking pole or two? Sure, why not? Vestibule or ventilation? Either/or, anything goes.
I also love the copious interior space. It's conceivable to cram a pair of packs into the foot of the tent, and still have comfortable room for two adults.
Finally, Henry Shires seems to be a great guy doing exactly what he loves, and helping others share in the adventure along the way. He says what he means, his website makes it plenty clear that it's just him running the ship and he communicates exactly what he has in stock, and he follows through on his word.
I did encounter a few negatives on the way. Very minor ones when considered, but they're worth mentioning.
- It's difficult to coordinate setup with two poles. One always wants to slide off kilter or drop away. It seems to be easiest to set the tent up with one trekking pole, and then switch to two.
- The stock stakes are light, but offer little grip. I was setting up in fairly rocky soil, and these were so smooth that they'd just pull out. I have a few Y-shaped aluminum stakes (Groundhog) that bit the soil better, but my site just sucked for that night. It's not the tent's fault. I really like these stakes, and want to try and keep them, so I'll try spraying them with bedliner or something to up their friction and see if that offers more bite before I swap them out altogether.
- I'm still having trouble dialing in the bathtub floor. This is probably one of those problems that's caused by "the nut behind the steering wheel" and not the tent itself. More practice and thought, and I'm sure it'll work out.
- It took me longer than the promised 2 minutes for setup. To be fair, I was setting this thing up on the tail end of a nineteen hour day. I'm sure it was just me. On the site, a demo video shows it going up without time lapse of obvious jump cuts, and it spans just a few minutes, so I'm certain it's a practice thing.
At just around 2 pounds, this thing's a very nice, respectably designed lightweight and low-bulk shelter that, in the case of this former tent-hater, seems to hit all the right buttons.



Edited by Robotmoose (05/25/13 05:59 AM)
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#177325 - 05/25/13 12:07 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
When I got my beloved Squall 2, back in late 2005, it came with Ti needle stakes. I've had very little trouble with those! They don't have to be pounded in--in fact, they shouldn't be pounded, just shoved in by hand. If you hit a rock or root, just move the stake half an inch and try again. I really don't like the Easton stakes Henry uses now, for the same reasons as you, plus their heads tend to pop off after a while.

Sometimes, of course, you just have to tie the guy lines around rocks, or set rocks on top of the stakes. That's a good reason for taking a little extra cord.

If there's any chance at all of wind, it's a good idea to use those side guylines. I use them all the time and don't consider them optional. Just be careful not to have the side guylines so tight that you pull the roof down.

I particularly like these stakes because of the fluorescent orange coating, which (so far) appears permanent. Without it, if one of those gray Ti stakes flips off into grass or brush, it's gone forever. You can, of course, spray paint the normally gray Ti stakes orange, if you don't mind repainting at least once a year.

Franco Darioli (Tarptent's Australian representative) has a number of videos showing how he sets up the various Tarptent models, which differ a little from Henry Shires' instructions. I've found Franco's instructions to be faster and more effective. The Rainshadow II shown in this video is the three-person version of the Squall II. and is set up exactly the same way. I've never found the Rainshadow so narrow that I need to use the head-to-toe method Franco shows, though. In facdt, sleeping with your head at the lower foot end will result in a lot more condensation and in rubbing your head against the ceiling every time you sit up.

While I take a lighter tent now for solo use, I still use my Squall II if I'm going out for only one or two nights because it's so roomy. Of course I take it if a grandkid is coming with me. If two are coming along, I take the Rainshadow. I don't take all three grandkids out unless one of their parents is coming along; then we take both the Squall and the Rainshadow.

I own three Tarptents: Squall 2, Rainshadow 2 (the "2" is the model number, not the capacity) and the now-discontinued Squall Classic, manufactured by Gossamer Gear but designed by Henry Shires. IMHO, this last is almost the perfect tent when used for one person plus dog. I wouldn't want to use it for two full-grown people, though.


Edited by OregonMouse (05/25/13 12:23 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#177331 - 05/25/13 07:29 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: OregonMouse]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
Robotmoose
Glad you like it.
With most non freestanding tents it takes a little bit of practice to set them up but once you get it it will be like trying to figure out why the first few times you rode your bike you kept falling off.
Often I have emphasised that the shelter when correctly set up should look as it does on the web site.
So it needs to be nice and taut but not too much.
Good advice from the Mouse about stakes and securing them.
Keep in mind that they should be pointing about 45 degree away from the guyline, that way lateral tension should keep them in the ground.
Like this :


(the stake should be completely into the ground, I left it partially out to show the angle. Ideally the angle between the stake and the guyline should be 90 degree)
Piling rocks on them has another practical advantage for me and that is to make them more visible so not to trip over them as I often do...
Note that apart from the "speed record" attempts videos, my set up clips are mostly one-take so whatever happens the first time is what you see.
Of course I am rested and in my very flat backyard.

Oregon Mouse
Thanks for your kind words.
I set up the Contrail in at least 3 ways and don't really know which one is the best way. With the StratoSpire I and II my way is indeed different from Henry's however some have reported that my way does not work for them.
Still it is nice to have an alternative.

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#177334 - 05/26/13 07:36 AM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Thanks for the input, Franco and OM, it was all very interesting feedback and insight into how these things work.
I like the look of those titanium shepherd's hook stakes, but I'm pretty happy with my Groundhog stakes. They always live in my pack if I ever need to make an emergency shelter out of my tarp, and I like how aggressively they hold onto the soil, and their red anodized colour makes them easier to see.

I will be picking up some finer cordage for the mid-tie downs here soon in order to make the extra tie-downs functional, I think the added stability and wind resistance is worth the few extra grams it will add.

After viewing the Rainshadow II setup video you posed OM, i skimmed the other videos Franco offered as well, and got a better idea from them as to how the setup for the floor is intended to be. As far as I can tell, I'd been setting mine up slightly wracked and with the front stakes at bad angles, causing the sides of the bathtub to tip down and spill out from under the fly. Watching how you set up the RS tent, it seemed evident that the key is to get those front corners set up right, and the rear hoop properly tensioned, that is what gives the bathtub its shape. From there, the trekking pole(s) really just give the upper elements backbone and angle.
A little more practice and noodling through this, and I believe I'll have it down.
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#177335 - 05/26/13 06:05 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
A common mistake is the angle chosen for the tie-outs/guylines.
I might shoot a video clip just on that...
In the meantime , for a start, you can see the correct angle of the tie-outs for any TT shelter by looking at the tent diagram under " specifications" then "show dimensions" in the product page.
This is the Squall II :


BTW, if you use the side tie-out point (half a way along the long side) use that just to pull the fabric ouit not down, so as to keep the shape of the shelter as you see it above.
Like this :

As a hint ..
See the wrinkles on the rear left side ?
Those indicate that the pole tip on that side is not pulled back as it should.
(keep in mind that often in pictures that is more obvious than in reality, I often see that when I look at my photos but not when looking at the shelter ).
Same for the floor. When you see wrinkles across like that they point to the corner that is not set correctly.


Edited by Franco (05/26/13 06:21 PM)

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#177501 - 05/31/13 04:19 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
hshires Offline
member

Registered: 07/23/02
Posts: 169
Loc: Nevada City, CA
Originally Posted By Robotmoose

- It's difficult to coordinate setup with two poles. One always wants to slide off kilter or drop away. It seems to be easiest to set the tent up with one trekking pole, and then switch to two.


It's actually pretty easy to do it with two if you initially start with a "V" pole setup. Put the tips of the two poles into the outside grommets but bring the handles together so that they function as one at ground level. Continue the setup as you would for a single pole. Then swing the poles outward so the same assumes more of a "/ \" configuration and you're good to go.

-H

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#177664 - 06/08/13 04:59 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
lostagain Offline
member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 48
Loc: DFW, Texas
Robot: Thanks for this review. I've been debating different tents/shelters for solo use and the Squall 2 was one of them. I'm a large guy (6'1"/230) and most of the solo tents don't have enough room for me and my pack+boots. Living in TX, we have numerous threats that come out day or night and I don't particularly want to deal with spiders. tarantulas or snakes either in my boots or in my packs. So, bringing them in at night is pretty much essential. I make sure to cook away from my tent to minimize "visits" from bobcats, coyotes or feral hogs. (and you thought bears were the only thing to worry about smile ) Put my food trash in AlokSak Opsaks to kill the smell, so, bringing my pack inside is OK. When I hike in East TX or SE OK, or Arkansas I hang my food, so again NBD. But being able to keep the desert critters out is a HUGE deal and you helped me on the road to deciding just which shelter to get. Gracias! laugh
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#177694 - 06/10/13 10:39 AM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1143
Loc: Washington State, King County
Every tent has upsides and downsides; I think that any tent design involves some sort of compromises.

The upsides of the Squall 2 are pretty obvious --- lightweight and roomy. Some downsides I can think of (this is the tent I use when I hike with my wife):

- A front entrance tent for two people (even for just one person) is never IMO as nice as a side entrance. Side is just easier to use in general, and with two people, having your own entrance means less disturbance of your partner if you get up during the night.

- The max height is right at the door. For the Squall 2 this is less of an issue than for, say, the Contrail, but you still might have to scoot your butt a bit towards the door in order to sit upright

- The nature of the door opening is that for one of the two sleeping inside, if you want to get up in the night, you have to reach way over the other person to get to the zipper to open it up (a related issue to the front-opening design)

Of course there are various other issues inherent in a single-wall design --- condensation, and not being able to (much) split the weight between two people. And the flipside to this being a roomy tent is that it requires a decent amount of space to set it up.

It's a great tent. If I were buying a 2-person tent today I'd look at something like the Lightheart Duo instead, but the Squall 2 is plenty good enough that I'm disinclined to replace it.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#177700 - 06/10/13 12:33 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: BrianLe]
GrumpyGord Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 846
Loc: Michigan
Finally watched Franco's videos on the Contrail and discovered that I have been doing both the set up and packing wrong for the last few years. His method certainly looks better than my method. I guess that I will have to go again to try it.

Thanks. Do not assume that what you have been doing is the correct or even the best way. Old dogs, new tricks.

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#177712 - 06/10/13 05:26 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: GrumpyGord]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
My Squall 2 zips up the middle. Of course it's a 2005 model.

As far as dividing the weight, one person carries the tent and the other carries an equivalent weight of another shared posession, such as food. Dividing the weight does not mean that every shared item has to be split into two parts!


Edited by OregonMouse (06/10/13 05:37 PM)
_________________________
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#177726 - 06/10/13 10:40 PM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: GrumpyGord]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
GrumpyGord
There is really no "one right" way of setting up something like the Contrail.
I do that one in at least three different ways and in fact my fastest time (something I do for fun...) was using one that I thought of a few minutes before starting that particular record set-up video.

As for packing it up, the tents come packed up from TT USA differently then I do them so again there is more than one way.
(they are packed up by hand not a machine)
I did the packing up videos (Contrail,Double Rainbow and the Moment) simply to show that it is easy to do. This was prompted by a forum member that felt he had the right to publicly insult me for suggesting that it could be done...

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#177736 - 06/11/13 06:11 AM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Franco]
GrumpyGord Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 846
Loc: Michigan
Franco:
I have always staked the foot end first and then the head end. I think that is what the original instructions said but I am not sure. For packing I have always rolled it up part way and then put it in the stuff sack and stuffed the rest in around it. I have always gotten it set up and gotten it back in the stuff sack so you are right, it is all OK.

Editied ;

I just went to the TT site and that video shows him setting it up foot end first so that is probably where my method came from. Actually your method looks better because I always have to go to the foot end and reset the stakes.


Edited by GrumpyGord (06/11/13 12:42 PM)

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#177774 - 06/12/13 10:12 AM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: Robotmoose]
Robotmoose Offline
member

Registered: 04/19/13
Posts: 79
Sorry for the long delay, I've been distracted in my newfound aspirations toward "the strenuous life" as TR would call it.


Originally Posted By hshires
Originally Posted By Robotmoose

- It's difficult to coordinate setup with two poles. One always wants to slide off kilter or drop away. It seems to be easiest to set the tent up with one trekking pole, and then switch to two.



It's actually pretty easy to do it with two if you initially start with a "V" pole setup. Put the tips of the two poles into the outside grommets but bring the handles together so that they function as one at ground level. Continue the setup as you would for a single pole. Then swing the poles outward so the same assumes more of a "/ \" configuration and you're good to go.

-H


Wow! Straight from the horse's mouth! That is certainly something one wouldn't see with a big mega-corporation;s product. Henry, I hope I've made it clear that I'm very happy with this product. As it is, I consider the Squall 2 I own as close to perfect as I could have asked for, and the few troubles I did have really were end-user issues.

Originally Posted By lostagain
Robot: Thanks for this review. I've been debating different tents/shelters for solo use and the Squall 2 was one of them. I'm a large guy (6'1"/230) and most of the solo tents don't have enough room for me and my pack+boots. Living in TX, we have numerous threats that come out day or night and I don't particularly want to deal with spiders. tarantulas or snakes either in my boots or in my packs. So, bringing them in at night is pretty much essential. I make sure to cook away from my tent to minimize "visits" from bobcats, coyotes or feral hogs. (and you thought bears were the only thing to worry about smile ) Put my food trash in AlokSak Opsaks to kill the smell, so, bringing my pack inside is OK. When I hike in East TX or SE OK, or Arkansas I hang my food, so again NBD. But being able to keep the desert critters out is a HUGE deal and you helped me on the road to deciding just which shelter to get. Gracias! laugh


Nothing starts my day like a nice morning boot-scorpion!
Honestly, I get alot of odd looks when I say bears don't really bother me, but feral hogs truly do terrify me.
Bears are relatively predictable or at least can be "tabled": human action X = bear action Y, etc. Feral hogs are just plain ornery and sometimes downright vicious. Bears won't usually gore someone just because they're there, but a razorback won't think twice about it.

Anyway, I hope you find a tent that suits your fancy, I love this model because it lives up to my "Keep it Simple, Stupid" life model, but not everybody rolls that way.
_________________________
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
"The joy of living is his who has the heart to demand it."
- Theodore Roosevelt

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#177777 - 06/12/13 10:47 AM Re: Tarptent Squall 2 commentary and musings. [Re: lostagain]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By lostagain
Put my food trash in AlokSak Opsaks to kill the smell, so, bringing my pack inside is OK.


Uh huh. There's a test report at backpackinglight.com that says Opsacks work as well as ziplocks against dogs - which is to say, not at all.

I've never trusted them since bears can detect food through sealed cans.
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