Tarptent Notch Li Review (First Looks)
Mar 4, 2018 at 8:27 am #3522241Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Tarptent Notch Li Review (First Looks)
This Tarptent Notch Li Review presents the benefits of Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF) for ultralight backpacking shelters, assesses its design/feature set, and compares the Notch Li to its competitors.Mar 4, 2018 at 9:29 am #3522242John BrewerBPL Member
@jbrewerLocale: California Coast
The legendary tent maker finally caving in and using the best material currently available. I’m really looking forward to seeing what will come out of Tarptents doors. Well done Henry.Mar 4, 2018 at 9:32 am #3522243Mole JBPL Member
Great, thorough appraisal.
Very positive. And humourous too.
Good to see the careful construction.
I am Tarptent fan – we have 4. Including a Sil Notch. ( Scarp, Moment and Strat2). I/we have used the other 3 backpacking in Scotland and elsewhere in various weather conditions. The Notch I’ve used less so, yet – maybe 7 days on local hills.
I watched the Bungy B-roll’s video of the Notch Li yesterday and thought it looked great, though I had similar reservations about some features. If I was to splash out on such a big purchase, I’d want it a little nearer to perfection. This is what I wrote on another forum:
I actually watched a vid longer than 10 mins!
Looks really good.
To a point.
I like the new end pole arrangement.
And the inner adjustments.
Looks well put together.
Magnets? Keeps the lines clean, but as you can see…
Door fixing? Imagine leaning through to hook it up 2 handed in a downpour. Wet arms? A zip with long zip pull can be done easily with one hand and from completely inside in the dry.
And as already discussed, alternate direction doors will let wind and driven rain runoff into one of them. Makes manufacturing simpler though as only one side panels pattern needed as both sides made the same. An “ended” shelter like the Scarp is so much more practical for use in bad weather.
After using the ‘one-ended’Scarp for 7 years, I find the alternate diagonal doors of the Notch and Moment DW decidely sub-optimal for high wind and rain. To the point where one door can become unusable. In the narrow Notch inner, I find not being able to open doors at both shoulders somewhat confining and an irritation!
I look forward to a Stratospire in DCF. Maybe with better door fixings (Though my bank balance won’t! )Mar 4, 2018 at 12:35 pm #3522246James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I am not a fan of DCF (cuben) in general. I look for durability and DCF does nothing for floors. Anyway, Henry Shires did a good thing waiting to get the manufacturing problems straightened out, before taking the plunge into DCF.
I only use a single 4oz hiking pole. So, I will not be getting a Li. The SoloPlex is close to the same except for the huge number of stakes needed. I also have a small sil tarp that works well. It rarely exceeds 50F at night in the ADK’s (except in high summer) so it is fine with no bug protection.Mar 4, 2018 at 2:31 pm #3522253Brad PBPL Member
Very nice, thorough and objective review. I like that the review acknowledges that some people have different opinions on specific aspects of the tent.
Are silnylon floors really more durable than DCF? I only had brief experience with silnylon and didn’t care for how slippery the floor is. My Duplex floor seems more durable.
Based on this review, this tent would not be ideal for someone my height, but it’s a great addition to the market.Mar 4, 2018 at 6:46 pm #3522287Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
Thanks for this Ryan. Very helpful. Nice job.
It looks like a super tent for those in the market for a light double wall, and who are okay with a high price and somewhat small space.
Most attributes of the tent look really well done.
The door clips interest me because a good clip system has a lot of potential to reduce weight, cost and zipper failures. The challenge is making it easy to use. With clips like this, you need velcro nearby so the clips don’t fall open, but then to open it, you need to release the velcro and then use two hands to pull the clips apart, so it’s a lot harder than opening a zipper, and thus folks often just skip the clip and use only the velcro in mild conditions. I wonder if a better solution would be to use some type of buckle, rather than hooks which can fall open. With a buckle, you could eliminate the velcro, and releasing it would be a one hand job instead of two.
Regarding the magnetic closures, I can see some promise to this design but I also have some concerns. I worry that if you have snow or frost build up on the tent panels (e.g. heavy condensation that ends up freezing) then the door roll would be larger and you’d have a hard time securing it with a fixed length strap and limited securing magnet. I think the door clips are an idea worth refining, whereas the magnetics look okay but I don’t see the same benefit to perfecting this.
Brad: IMO Silnylon floors are far more durable than 0.5 – 0.7oz DCF and moderately more durable than 1 – 1.5oz DCF. DCF gets pinholes quite easily, and these translate into leaks when you’re pitched on soggy ground. The >1oz DCF has thicker mylar so it punctures less easily, but still much easier than silnylon. I think 0.5 – 0.7oz DCF is “stupid light” for a floor, whereas 1 – 1.5oz can be a reasonable choice if you’re willing to take care of it. Indeed silnylon is annoyingly slippery. I suspect sil/pu coated poly is the best floor material.Mar 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm #3522295
Excellent and detailed review Ryan – thanks. It’s good to see some innovations like the door clips and magnetic closures – we’ll see how these two features change over time and with customer feedback. As Dan suggested, a simple buckle (side release buckle) would probably be easier to use one-handed from the inside. The 8 attachment points holding the inner tent to the tarp would also benefit from a one-handed buckle of some kind. I find the mitten hooks fiddly and imposible to use with one hand, especially the six that are harder to reach at the head and foot of the tarp.Mar 4, 2018 at 9:14 pm #3522316H DOUGLAS CBPL Member
I had a Henry Shires silnylon solo tent years ago. I hated it. The condensation inside was terrible.
I have owned two Z-pack tents, used them a season and then sold them on eBay. Terrible mistake. The Z-pack tent is still, in my estimation, the tent to compare all other Cuban fiber tents to.
This review was well done, except one of the most important stats is the cost and I missed seeing that.
And the size of the TarpTent Notch Li is small smaller than the z-pack soloplex tent and I think it might weigh a bit more.Mar 4, 2018 at 9:43 pm #3522320Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
The article repeatedly mentions DCF being “less prone” to condensation. Being in coach class I can’t read your referenced article, so how about a one-sentence explanation why DCF would be less condensation prone? Are you referring to how moisture is absorbed by (or “sticks to”) the fabrics, or literally to how much condensation forms?
Also, I’ll point out that the Notch Li is double-wall, double-door, and double-vestibule, so comparisons to the Soloplex are not valid in all respects. Are there any other DCF tents out there with those characteristics?Mar 5, 2018 at 12:05 am #3522349Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
As most here know I am an unabashed Tarptent fanboy, having owned 4 of them.
The Notch design, IMO, is likely the best hiking pole supported solo tent design on the market at this time. Being the owner of a very similar Tarptent Moment DW I can attest to the good design of the Notch and its livability in both good and inclement weather. And, I’m very happy to see see Tarptent finally including mesh pockets as standard equipment.
Since I’m an inveterate “modder” of my gear I wee several mods I’d love to make on the Notch Li. But as-is it is a great piece of gear for thru-hikers and geezers like me who must lighten up.
Now if I can just win a lottery I’ll buy one…Mar 5, 2018 at 1:30 am #3522377Andres KabelBPL Member
Such a fulsome, honest appraisal, Ryan! I’m an unabashed Tarptent fan and here in Melbourne, Australia, I’ve probably onsold (i.e. successfully recommended to others in my bushwalking club) well over a dozen Tarptents. My wife and I have had a few Scarps. Just yesterday I bought my first Zpacks products, a rain jacket and some gaiters, and I’ve been looking forward to checking out DCF tents, simply with a view to reducing weight. So this review is very opportune. For me, because I don’t hike with trekking poles and so would buy the 227-gram Tarptent standalone poles, the Notch Li is an 800 gram (28 ounce) one-person tent, a saving of 50%. I’ll be quite willing to be a guinea pig with regard to some of the features that might not be quite ideal, as noted by you and other commenting experts. The only issue standing between me and an immediate purchase is that the Notch Li is shown on the Tarptent website as out of stock!Mar 5, 2018 at 4:19 am #3522411Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
Thanks, Ryan, for the very comprehensive review.
From all I can gather, the Li has a full net inner.
Have yet to get even damp using tents with a full net inner, so long as the net is reasonably durable, and kept taut by the design. So I think that a full net inner, especially one that pitches simultaneously with the fly, may be a major plus for the Li over its competition. And with the reported 8000mm HH and lower condensation on mylar surfaces, there should be much less chance of water falling on the roof of the inner.
And thank you Dan for your enlightened comments on Sil/PU coated nylon floors.Mar 5, 2018 at 6:03 am #3522429Ted CBPL Member
Thank you Ryan and all the commenters for a very enjoyable and informative discussion, I learned a lot. Also, checked out Mariah’s article on condensation, very technical but still very understandable. It’s a good read for even people like me who think they understand condensation.Mar 5, 2018 at 4:22 pm #3522475Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
…how about a one-sentence explanation why DCF would be less condensation prone? Are you referring to how moisture is absorbed by (or “sticks to”) the fabrics, or literally to how much condensation forms?
Okay, answering my own question here. I still can’t read the article but found the thread discussing it. Best I can tell, the claim that DCF is less condensation prone is not confirmed and not supported by any strong theory. My guess is that condensation is less bothersome on DCF because it runs off more easily and dries faster. Water sticks to silnylon like syrup on a pancake. Also, maybe DCF shelters tend to be more open and airy and hence ventilate better. Who knows. Maybe now someone can do some side-by-side comparisons of the Notch and Notch Li. Maybe an Aussie affiliated with the mfr? :-)Mar 5, 2018 at 8:54 pm #3522517Paul S.BPL Member
I don’t have time to read it all but I think the summary is thermal conductivity of fabrics. If they don’t conduct heat well they won’t cool as fast and thus have less condensation.Mar 5, 2018 at 9:51 pm #3522522
My guess is that condensation is less bothersome on DCF because it runs off more easily and dries faster.
This following informal experiment lends some support to this argument:Mar 5, 2018 at 10:08 pm #3522525Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Regarding the condensation issue.
Water absorption may play a role, I haven’t studied that very much. My anecdotal observations of shaking out / packing up water-soaked silnylon and DCF shelters certainly suggests that silnylon absorbs gobs more water.
But as for the actual physics of condensation formation, maybe we consider fabric emissivity (e) as well. Low-e glass retains heat better than standard glass, that’s why we use low-e coatings on our windows up here in at 7220′ in Wyo (so we don’t get condensation forming on the inside on wintry days).
So I recall from (what might be a foggy) memory that polyesters and nylons have emissivity values in the range of 0.5 to 0.8, depending on coatings and whatnot. Silicone emissivities (I think) are higher than polyurethanes, so it would make sense that silnylon would be more condensation prone than, say, a silpoly or a PU-coated nylon.
Mylars, on the other hand, have very low emissivities. I think they are on the order of ten times lower than nylons.
So if the emissivity of the fabric is important, then mylar-based fabrics should outperform sil/PU coated nylons.Mar 5, 2018 at 10:46 pm #3522531Mark WBPL Member
That’s a nice looking tent. And nice review. However, you didn’t mention Z-packs anywhere for comparison. I’ve got the Duplex and wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s a single wall but has TONs more interior room 45″x90″ (21oz) vs 34″x84″ (20oz) and similar vestibules. Not sure the double wall and 1oz savings is worth a 30% decrease in room. IMHOMar 5, 2018 at 11:13 pm #3522536Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
Where does the 8000mm HH come from? Is that the non-aged value for either the floor or tarp fabric? Doesn’t seem right, unless of course when changing to DCF from Cuben something else changed as well?
Be interesting to see someone’s WET (soaked + shaken) weights for the Cuben vs Silnylon Notch’s. Now that we have a tent that is close to identical (dimensions and major design at least) in both fabrics. Aged tests as well would be good, with a few replicates for each tent. More hard data is always good :-)Mar 6, 2018 at 12:13 am #3522545
More hard data is always good
It’s a little surprising that DCF tent/tarp manufacturers have not taken steps to collect more hard data on wet weight gain of DCF versus silnylon. Would this not be useful for product marketing purposes? Under wet conditions, real-world weight reduction beyond the dry weight specs could be significant. Such data could even be collected using flat tarps made from both materials, adjusting the results to apply to other shelters, although this would not be a compelling as using the exact same shelter.Mar 6, 2018 at 3:18 am #3522587Richard NisleyBPL Member
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Deleted; my post linked to a water weight gain study, that I discoverd after posting, was already shown in an earlier post… sorry.Mar 6, 2018 at 3:38 am #3522593Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
Agree Lester; there’s lots of potential good ways of collecting such data. Flat solo tarps is probably a cheaper and straight forward way to get replicable data. I think its helpful to try and emulate field conditions but in a replicable way. To do this, one would have to control variables around the person underneath, and environmental variables. The person, perhaps with an electric heater pumping out ~100watts, and a device to emulate humid breath of a person. Easier to replicate and control that putting different people inside different shelters. With careful randomised site selection and enough n (number of tarps of each material), decent data could be collected, that would at least guide on whether there is a statistical difference, and by how much, % wise.
I’m wondering as well whether groundsheets/tent/bivy floors behave much differently here. I expect that a groundsheet and tent floor would be more similar than a bivy floor, with the bivy floor more likely to have condensation issues on the topside (humid air is much more trapped and likely to condense on the inside of that floor). I suspect they would mostly behave the same…underneath the mat/person, on the ground side. But, I dare say that side never gets close to the kind of saturation that happens on the outside of a shelter from rain. That’s my recollected experience. Though its more common that there is some moisture on the ground side, as opposed to none. I can’t really remember having condensation moisture on the top side of a ground sheet or tent floor, ever. So the % difference on the numbers for cuben vs silnylon might be less pronounced as a floor material…weighting decisions back towards silnylon? I’ve only used a (old Bibler Toddtex Bivy) a few times in the past, so I’m not sure what inside floor condensation is like on those? Or is it mostly underside of the upper fabric where issues occur?Mar 6, 2018 at 4:49 am #3522607James AugustineBPL Member
@chirodrLocale: Southern California
Great job Ryan…as usual! I was wondering about the Zpacks Duplex cuben fiber tent? I understand that it weighs 21 oz but it’s larger inside and seems to be a great comparison.
JimMar 6, 2018 at 11:53 am #3522637James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Ryan, I looked up the emissivity. It is VERY difficult to translate a lot of these to real world measurements: coatings, denier of fabric, dyes, thickness, doping, wavelength, etc.
Overall nylon6,6 has about twice the emisivity of PTFE (teflon), PET, Polyurethanes or others roughly, very roughly speaking. (It varies a lot.)
Thermal conductivity across nylon6 was about 0.25 W/(m·K) where as for HDPE it was around 0.45 W/(m·K) …indicating it was a better conductor for heat, again about twice.
I strongly suspect that the actual condensation on cuben/DCF vs Silnylon could be a product of the better heat transfer between the inner surface and outer surface, thus removing a portion of the temperature difference between the two surfaces…hence, less condensation…not so much caused by the lower emissivity since this is only around 5-10% of the heat transfer at camping temps, around -20C to 20C. Conduction(convection) would play a *much* greater role in my estimation. Of course at higher wind speeds and 100% RH, you still get condensation…and, it is a thin membrane…and, I assume equal thickness for both fabrics…and, I do not account for coatings…and so on.Mar 6, 2018 at 11:53 am #3522638Brad PBPL Member
The Duplex isn’t an apples to apples comparison since it’s a 2 person tent and the Notch Li is a 1 person tent.
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