Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First impression of the Tarptent Moment

Trying out a single wall tent is kind of inevitable if you're interested in reducing the weight of your pack. When starting out you'll hear people mention the big three: your pack, shelter and sleeping bag - these are the items that potentially can reduce your pack weight the most, and it's where you get the most bang for your buck. Paying for instance 20 dollars to reduce the weight of your spoon by fractions of an ounce isn't wise spending when a 100 dollars on of the big three can reduce the weight by several pounds.

So far I've gained some experience in using double wall tents, tarps and hammock setups. A single wall tent hasn't been in my posession until now. This summer I sprung for a Tarptent Moment, a state of the art solo single wall tent that has lots of good things going for it. I was going to wait for the accessory "clip-in liner" to be released for it, but in the end my curiosity got the best of me and I picked up a second hand Moment in the Gear Swap section of backpackinglight.com.

The Tarptent Moment was released in 2009, a year the designer Henry Shires released several models. Stated weight  is 810 grams including everything (!) and a very affordable price of 215 dollars. Mine weighs a bit over 900 grams now that it's been seam sealed and after I've added some extra guylines. Still very light compared to a traditional double wall backpacking tent that typically weighs 6 pounds, and a bomber solo double wall like the Hilleberg Akto which clocks in at 1.5 kilos (excellent tent by the way, I'm a happy owner of that too).

Some key features of the Moment are: a single arch pole, bathtub floor, mesh for mosquito protection, lots of ventilation options, silnylon fly and very fast and easy setup.

The first time I put it up I was very impressed by how easy and quick the process was, and how the adjustments on each end made it easy to get the fly drum tight, something that's important if you want a good nights sleep while experiencing high winds. I was also impressed by the amount of room inside and the features. I received it right before I left for Rondane, so I didn't get to test it before my recent trip visiting family in Northern Norway. While there I did an overnighter on the island Hugla.

The spot I chose was quite exposed to wind, but oh so scenic. I pitched the Moment while the sun was setting, bathing the surrounds islands and sea in beautiful light. A light fog hugging the mountains added to epic views, and strangely the wind was very, very light. That changed during the night though when it picked up and hit my shelter on the right side. I didn't bother to reposition it since it seemed to cope with it just fine, being guyed out on the sides as well as having an extra guy line (making it two) on the northern facing end, supported by one of my trekking poles. The shelter can be set up with just two stakes, and I have no doubt that would have worked just fine, but would probably meant more movement in the tent and more wind noise.

Small droplets of condensation formed on the fly during the night, but as soon as the sun went up over the horizon and heated my tent it evaporated. I would've never have seen the condensation if I had slept through the night (which I sadly almost never do while sleeping outdoors). I think I got a small part of my sleeping bag damp from touching the right side of the tent, but that was no issue, and wouldn't have happened if I had positioned the shelter with the end facing the wind. That would've provided better air flow through the tent too, probably reducing the amount of condensation, but frankly I don't worry too much about condensation, well, as long as it doesn't drop down on me. I don't see that being a problem in this case as most of it will just run down along the fly and never touch me. The fly itself is very tight so I don't see it being shaken to an extent that it will make it rain inside :). I plan to bring a towel or bandana next time so that I can wipe it down during the night if needed.

(photo from the book "Lighten up!")

So, like you've probably understood, exposure to condensation is one of the drawbacks to using a single wall tent. A double wall tent will also have condensation form on it, but you will be protected from it by the inner tent. The inner tent will also make the tent warmer. A single wall like the Moment, made up of non-breathable silnylon fabric, needs plenty of ventilation to try to reduce the condensation, and all that ventilation means that it will be drafty and colder. On the other hand it is roomier without the inner, but that is also needed so you don't brush into the condensation and get your bag or clothes wet. I highly recommend reading the article "Condensation in Single-walled Shelters: Contributing Factors and Tips for Reduction" on backpackinglight.com if you want to learn more about condensation issues in single wall tents and how to deal with it.

Some positives and negatives to sum up this first impression review:

  • Low weight
  • Affordable
  • Ridiculously easy and fast to set up, and only needing two stakes. Can be done in under 1 minute with practice.
  • Easton pole.
  • Rain protected entry
  • Good interior space
  • Nice features like pockets and lots of ventilation options
  • The way you can tighten the fly on each end is genius!
  • Just cool looking!

  • Need to seam seal it and test if afterwards to make sure it is completely watertight
  • Can experience so called "misting" in very heavy downpours even though the jury is still out on that one
  • Light materials so you need to be more careful when handling it and picking a spot
  • The door and ends have ribbons to tie them back, not hardware. This is of course to save weight, but it comes at the expense of usability - often you will have to retie them since the material is so slippery
  • at this time they're backordered 3-4 weeks if you order a new one direct from www.tarptent.com
  • Drafty (but you can reduce that by closing off the ends and the top vents, and by putting clothes or other items on the mesh at each side - but this will of course lead to less ventilation and thus more condensation buildup.)

All in all though, I really like this tent! I may be bringing this to the PCT in 2012 if I end up going.


  1. What a fantastic photo. Henry tested clip in panels for the Moment in Scotland which help control condensation with a small weight gain. Should make what looks a good shelter even better.

  2. Amazing image! Guess condensation will always be an issue in a single wall shelter but it does not sound like there was too much. Is it good enough for 4 season use or is it a 3 season shelter only?

  3. Martin: thanks :). Yes, I think I'll order the clip in panels when they become available

    Maz: thanks :). My impression is that this is a three season tent. If you add the optional crossing (lengthwise) pole you will get better snow handling, but I think all the mesh will lead to snow blowing inside it, and it will be drafty. Personally I would rather be snug inside a bomber double wall in winter :)

  4. The Akto yet to be surpassed for winter...

  5. Maz: yes, i think the Akto is good for winter use, even though the snow loading could be better (people report having to hit the fly during the night to get the accumulating snow off it or risk waking with the fly in their face). The Hilleberg Soulo is probably better suited as it is a dome design with crossing poles, even though it weighs a pound or so more

  6. Thanks for the great link about condensation issue :o)

  7. Dear Thomas,
    I'm a subscriber to your wonderful blog although I have never commented on it, so firstly many thanks for the interesting posts. I was wondering if you could briefly comment on the suitability of extended day in day out living in the Moment over the Scarp1? I realise you might not have any experience of the Scarp but you state you have an Akto which is pretty similar… I am torn between the two, and really mean/ask whether you'd be able to comment on whether a double wall or single wall Tarpent would be better for all around Scandinavian conditions for 2/3 months come May.

    I'm off in May for 2/3 months of 'moped hiking' around Scandinavia, coming from Herefordshire (near Wales) on my old Honda C50. I say moped hiking as I hope to be able to park and then hike for a day or two each time. Thus keeping my pack weight down is essential, not to mention because the bike handles better with less weight and I'll also be carrying a heavy helmet with me too!

    My comfort zone says that for living/camping day in, day out, an enclosed tent is always nicer/cleaner/... than even something like the Duomid and this is what's making the decision a hard one. I'll be in the far north as well as the south, so a double skin seems the better option, but perhaps it's overkill for even a far north Scandinavian summer…
    My last and only previous tent was an awful £10 Tesco single skin so my experience of tents is limited, and I was worried about the heat of the Scarp in summer, or does a double wall insulate you somewhat from the heat, or allow it to be vented before it passes into the inner chamber?!?
    I would be using a Golite Ultralite 3+ Season quilt, with silk liner, and merino for versatility, a thin CCF pad, and a 3/4 length thin self-inflator for versatility.

    My other problem is that I'm a PhD student and so with limited cash flow, and especially as I've been working double during these last few months of researching gear so as to pay for it, the Holy Grail of multi-season/multi-use/one-fits-all gear becomes all the more important. Likewise I don't think I can afford both inners for the Scarp, or something like the Duomid. For the same reason I plumped for the regular Bushbuddy rather than the Ultra...

    So would you possibly be able to briefly comment on how hot I might get, or well a double skin might be able to vent, or whether the Moment would suffice perhaps, especially with its clip-in liner and extra pole? I'm dithering like an old maid and would greatly appreciate some experienced advice.



  8. Hi Wilbur, thanks for your comment. My experience with the Moment is limited to a single overnighter, and with regards to the Akyo maybe five, so I don't know them intimately. I will however recommend that you get a double skin tent if you plan to travel in Norway, especially in the mountaineous regions where it can get pretty cold and windy even in summer, and with some heavy rain. I'm not saying it's typical weather in summer, but you should be prepared for it. The Moment will get you through it for sure, but it is a cold (drafty) tent compared to the Akto, and I'm thinking you want a warmer place to hang out after driving all day and maybe getting chilled. It's also bomber with the very strong fabric and lots of guy lines, without weighing that much more compared to the Moment. It is pricy however and small so it is not somewhere you want to be stuck for longer periods of time. If you want to go that route then I would look at the Scarp 1 as it is cheaper and lighter.

    Personally I would get something bigger, maybe a pyramid with an inner so that I'd have lots of headspace to be able to easily change clothes, hang stuff to dry, and just have more space in general for my gear and sleeping system.

    But that's just me, it's hard to choose a shelter, especially if it is the only one you'll have available for some time. Definitely remember to think about future trips and what your needs will be.

    Hope this answer was of some value.