Tarptent Notch Li Review (First Looks)
Mar 6, 2018 at 12:35 pm #3522644Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
In dryer climates a double wall tent that allows for just the inner to be set up sure is nice.
The only other double wall DCF tent I know of is the MLD mids (and Cricket ) with innernets.
Comparing the Duplex to the Notch Li isn’t valid because the 2 shelters are very different. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Sure, the Duplex is larger, but for backpackers like me who prefer a small footprint in order to more easily find a spot to pitch, the Duplex is too large. The Duplex is probably stronger in winds though.
EDIT: The HMG Echo II is also double wall, but it’s front entry so not something I’d personally consider.Mar 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm #3522669Brad PBPL Member
Yama Mountain Gear has single and double wall DCF and Silnylon tents. Also front entry.Mar 6, 2018 at 6:07 pm #3522704
For those comparing the Duplex, the 8 required stakes are not included in the 21 ounces. A more accurate comparison is est. 18.7 ounces vs. 21 ounces.
Here are a few key stats to compare:
Mar 6, 2018 at 11:33 pm #3522786Ryan JordanAdmin
- Duplex vs Notch Li Tarp (9.5 vs 10.1). This is likely due to the extra 8 inches of length of the Notch.
- Duplex sewn-in floor and mesh vs Notch mesh inner (10.0 vs. 8.2). The full net / separate interior makes the weights similar.
- Duplex vs Notch Li Stakes required (8 vs. 4) which can be 1-2 ounces difference depending on your stakes.
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Interestingly, the Notch Li appears to be quite a bit more stable than the Duplex in high winds.
I think for two reasons:
1. Smaller profile (less fabric that is broadside to wind);
2. The Duplex has giant rectangular end panels that are not very stable at all in high winds. There are guyline tieouts to the mid points of these panels but the angle to the ground is so narrow that they don’t do a lot to prevent the tent from buffeting.Mar 7, 2018 at 1:13 am #3522812DAMION STODOLASpectator
This may be a silly question but why aren’t HMG echo or ultamid shelters part of the comparables in the review?Mar 7, 2018 at 6:10 am #3522860Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
The question came up of why mylar surfaced materials, such as Cuben, exhibit less inner condendation than coated nylons and polyesters. In the l970s, Jack Stephenson, a former aerospace engineer and proprietor of Warmlite tents, observed in their catalogs that:
“The extremely low radiant heat loss of the Mylar surface results in a single wall tent with almost as little condensation as our unsurpassed double wall tents. …”
He also discussed their experiences in the field with materials using both aluminized and clear Mylar laminates (Note that the designaton ‘X’ was given to single wall tents, with ‘R’ for double wall tents):
“The 3X tent kept us dry in all weather, with never enough condensation to drip or run off – in fact the end was dryer than the 3RS and 5RS tent ends (except for one panel on one end that was put in wrong side out, which had very heavy condensation much of the time. With the nylon side out it acted just like regular single wall tents with high radiant heat loss and thus was chilled below dew point when the rest of the tent kept warm and dry.) We knew that the metalized myler would have very low radiant heat loss and thus be free of condensation, but were not expecting the clear Mylar to be this good. Thus the doubts about condensation … can be ignored. * * * One problem with the translucent [Mylar] version, the adhesive softens when wet, but regains full strength when dried. If treated roughly while wet it is possible to separate nylon from the Mylar, which then can be glued back. … On our 3X a spot by [the] front pole sleeve separated after 6 weeks of use … and a few days later some areas on the door separated. … The [metalized] gold fabric doesn’t have that problem.”
It is interesting that tentmakers were working on single wall condensation almost 50 years ago. I believe the references to radiant heat loss are synonymous with the term “emissivity” used on this and other BPL threads. While Warmlite continued for years to make the gold metalized tents, they eventually discontinued the clear or translucent laminates. It is worth noting, that even with the gold metalized fabric, the single wall tents exhibited some condensation, but much less than single wall coated nylon. This has been the experience of a number of posters on BPL, but it does not mean that Mylar-Dyneema laminates will prove as dry inside as a tent with an inner wall, particularly if the tent is small enough inside to make it difficult to avoid contacting the inner surface.
I hope this may be of some interest.Mar 7, 2018 at 11:12 am #3522872Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
That’s fascinating Sam, thanks!Mar 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm #3522906Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks for that input, Sam. Considering all I’ve heard and read so far, I’m tending to believe the emissivity link. It certainly comports with my experience that being under tree canopy makes more difference than just about anything. I can’t imagine conductivity mattering in material that thin. I also suspect there’s a perception thing having to do with silnylon’s water absorption (or stickiness or whatever). I probably won’t spring for DCF (I already have a regular Notch), but it’s nice to know of another verifiable advantage.Mar 7, 2018 at 3:55 pm #3522908Henry SBPL Member
It certainly comports with my experience that being under tree canopy makes more difference than just about anything.
Me too. A few feet can make all the difference between wet and dry. I had a Sil Notch set up last summer in an Oregon coastal river valley adjacent to a hedge with a tree overhang and a Notch Li set up 5 feet away out from under the tree overhang and exposed to direct sky. In the morning the Notch Li fly was wet and the Sil Notch was dry.Mar 10, 2018 at 10:49 am #3523559Gordon BedfordBPL Member
@gbedfordLocale: Victoria, Australia
The only problem I have with the Notch is the size of the vestibule. In wet weather this is what matters. Two vestibules is nice but I would prefer one larger one, or better still a larger and smaller.
I use a SMD inner in a modified Zpacks Hexamid plus. I added a zip and extended the porch wall. makes it liveable in wet weather.
GordonMar 10, 2018 at 5:10 pm #3523586jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“2. The Duplex has giant rectangular end panels that are not very stable at all in high winds. There are guyline tieouts to the mid points of these panels but the angle to the ground is so narrow that they don’t do a lot to prevent the tent from buffeting.”
I’ve never used a Duplex but just looking at them in the wild this has been my impression; it’s the first thing that strikes me. My old single pole Hexamid solo on the other hand had a pretty good wind profile and preformed fine in winds–as long as they were blowing from the back. The fact that I couldn’t drop the tarp down to the ground at the entrance always made me worry about winds from that direction gusting into the tent and turning it into a sail. Never happened though.Mar 12, 2018 at 1:06 am #3523866Damien TougasBPL Member
Great article Ryan, but it contains some inaccuracies regarding the design of the Gossamer Gear The One: It only has one entrance, and thus also only one vestibule.Apr 6, 2018 at 4:11 am #3528972Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
This is the best tent review I have ever seen. Thorough, well photographed and very detailed comparisons. It is these well-informed comparisons that make this review even better. Thanks Ryan.
All the Notch Li needs are zippers on the fly doors. If I had a Notch Li door zippers and fly hem stake loops are the only mods I’d make.
Henry chose his lightest solo tent design as his first Dyneema tent. With hiking poles for supports it’s about as light as they get and he still gives us all the nice things I love about my similar Tarptent Moment DW solo tent – well maybe except the snow load capability. But 90% of the owners of this tent will be using it for 3 seasons.Apr 18, 2018 at 9:00 pm #3531230RON PETITTBPL Member
If TarpTent would make a DCF MID, I am pretty sure I would be in on that. That was my Sierra High Route in the picture in this review. Ryan knows this as we got some pretty significant snow the last to nights of that trip. It did really well but as Ryan said, it did have some stretch under that load. It was nothing that could not be compensated for by adjusting the pitch accordingly but who wants to get out of the tent and do that? I am still using that tent today.Apr 18, 2018 at 10:46 pm #3531247
@bigcooly01 There are quite a few quality DCF Mid options on the market (MLD, HMG, Locus). I don’t TarpTent being able to offer much differentiation to make it worth it for them to enter the world of Mids.Apr 19, 2018 at 12:55 am #3531266Franco DarioliSpectator
@francoLocale: Gauche, CU.
The StratoSpire 1/2 were designed to be an alternative to the typical mid design.
Since then there have been a couple of somewhat similar designs but yes as far as making another mid, there are plenty around.May 3, 2018 at 7:16 am #3533487Thomas EBPL Member
Ryan, didn’t you say there was an update right around the corner in the latest podcast?Aug 4, 2018 at 12:18 am #3549731Ben PearreBPL Member
I bought one. The process was great, with Henry quickly answering my questions and getting it to me quickly. I haven’t used it very much yet—one pitch in a fortuitous downpour in my back yard, and two nights in the woods near Groton, NH, USA, in warm, humid, rainy weather.
I was curious about ventilation. So I used two SensorPush logging thermo-hygrometers to track outside and inside conditions: one hanging from the ceiling inside the mesh, and one outside the tent but under a shed roof, at a similar height. This is the full-mesh version. A full analysis is beyond the scope of this little post (more to follow), but feel free to check out the (rather limited) data here:
I pitched the tent pretty high, as you can see from the photo. The end vents were both open. I kept the vestibule doors closed due to threat of rain. You can see when I entered the tent in the evenings, and I tended to get up around 7. There was clearly some direct sunlight on the tent around noon. This was below treeline: basically no wind, and a fairly scant view of the sky.
I’ll also throw in for now that I _really_ am not getting along with the zipperless fly. Can anyone who likes this design help me figure out how to use it? Here’s what I’m having trouble with:
- Opening/closing it requires two hands. Since the floor-latch distance is greater than my arms’ length, this means that I have to get a third appendage in the mud as well just to support my weight. And I can’t (yet) operate the latch with gloves on or without light, but those may be learnable skills.
- Seems hard to keep the stretches between velcro strips closed during pitching (even in calm conditions), partially nullifying the weatherproofing advantage of pitching mesh and fly at the same time.
I’ll be using the tent on a somewhat longer trip in the highlands of Newfoundland in a couple of weeks, and likely on a kayak tour in Nova Scotia. Hopefully I’ll have more to say afterwards, but meanwhile I’d love to hear tips from other owners!
-BenAug 4, 2018 at 10:04 pm #3549865Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Yeah, I’d say Henry needs to look closely at YKK’s new lightweight zipper to see if it would hold up well enough to use on the Notch Lithium.
Otherwise a zippered fly door on the Notch Lithium needs to be an option, a few extra ounces giving greater storm security.Sep 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm #3554630Ben PearreBPL Member
A quick followup. I’ve now used the tent in some wind and rain, so perhaps these additional observations will be useful. Or, better, someone can tell me how to adapt to the problems I’ve been having!
I find the fly closure even worse than I’d thought.
- Gods help you if the hook side of the velcro gets caught in the bug mesh inner. Careful handling seems adequate to prevent this, but a prominent warning would have been appreciated.
- It is difficult to close, especially from inside, and even from the outside if there’s much wind.
- The gaps between velcro panels blow open enough to let some rain blow in in around ~20 knots of wind.
- The velcro itself can be torn open in gusts around ~30 knots, which lets in a whole lot of water.
- The gaps between velcro patches only seal when the tent is up, and are wide open during pitching, so despite the single-step pitch, this is actually NOT a “European-style” tent that I can dry-pitch in the rain.
The magnetic closures are an interesting idea. I like them a great deal in calm weather (and agree with the First Look that the tab should be longer). However, the snaps don’t reliably stay snapped in much wind (~20 knots). Magnet clips that can withstand lateral loads have been developed—the effective ones I’ve seen have a surface that isn’t flat but rather has a pin-and-hole design so the magnet holds it closed while the pin takes lateral loads. Those are designed for purposes like this, but presumably they’re a little heavier, and the hole could get packed with snow…?
Despite Henry’s assurances, I didn’t find that the tent ventilates well enough in dead-calm conditions. As the data I posted above show, when there’s no wind, the peak vents are too small for much convective throughflow. If you want to see what an effective peak vent looks like, check out the Hilleberg Kaitum. Such vents could be on the steep non-door faces to preserve entry/exit clearance headroom.
In wind, any tent ventilates plenty. Ventilation can be increased by opening the fly IF it’s not raining or just raining vertically, but zippers would allow partial opening/closing (that could stress the zipper, so it is risky!). Other adjustments require getting up, possibly getting dressed (a pain in winter or even rain), and going outside in order to raise or lower the pitch height (if you have adjustable-length poles) or even to open/close the end panels. Typical and fair ultralight compromise: you definitely lose something in functionality over a non-SUL tent, although big adjustable peak vents would add far more livability than weight.
Ridgeline guys are crucial. Indeed, even the pitching process is difficult without them, since the tent blows around a bit when you have just one pole in, and the ridgeline guys are far easier to stake out to approximately usable positions during pitching. I’m disappointed that I immediately had to go shopping for extras at this price point, and I regard the decision to cut important equipment to reduce apparent weight as halfway between over-optimistic and deceptive.
A couple more tie-out points on the ends would make me more comfortable: the windward end of the tent takes an awful lot of load in a breeze. I’ve had no failures so far, but the pitch is sensitive to any shifting of that peg, and the single-peg design requires placing that peg in just the right spot. Meanwhile I hope that the single tie-out there is as strong as Henry’s usual superb workmanship would suggest, since a failure there would turn the tent into an especially poor bivy sack.
The fabric continues to be magic. This is my first DCF tent, and the construction quality seems superb so far. No leaks, no tears, no weakening that I can detect after a few days in slightly windy conditions. The layout would be lovely, but is <i>again</i> hampered by the difficulty opening/closing the fly.
I’m 187 cm tall. I sleep on a NeoAir, and use a thick pillow when I sleep on my side. It takes me a little fidgeting to find a position in which no part of me is less than one mosquito-length from the mesh, but it can be done. And maintained all night if I hiked hard enough ;) At my height, sitting headroom is <i>great!</i>
In summary: I continue to believe that this tent would be SPECTACULAR for a certain set of conditions:
- Enough wind to ventilate adequately given the humidity and temperature at the time.
- Not enough wind to cause the various of trouble described above (< ~20 knots).
- Consistent enough conditions that you don’t need to adjust ventilation between pitch and strike.
- It should <i>only</i> rain while you’re away/asleep! Because:
- It’s hard to dry-pitch since the fly only sheds rain when pitched taut, not when flapping around during pitch.
- Closing the fly is just too fiddly.
Evidently I camp in conditions that Henry does not?
So my own requirements would be:
- FLY ZIPPERS!!!!!!
- 2 more pegs and guys.
- A bigger stuff sack. The provided one is pretty but is too fiddly to actually use.
- Bigger, adjustable, held-open-with-a-stick peak vents.
Without those little details, I still think that the tent is the most brilliant prototype I’ve seen in ages, but it’s not quite ready yet.
Not a comment on the tent, but another thought on hiking-pole shelters in general: After one of my 110-g hiking poles randomly snapped in cold-but-mild conditions (I wasn’t even less-than-surefooted when it snapped!), I don’t think that hiking-pole shelters are as good an idea as I used to. Something exposed to strong forces during slips and falls is reasonably likely to break if it’s built too light. If a failure of the hiking pole would leave you without shelter, you need to put enough extra weight into your hiking pole that it’s really not going to break (or carry enough materials that you can guarantee a strong repair). So it seems to me that you can carry 3 ~100-g poles, a good repair tube, or some really strong hiking poles. Thoughts?Sep 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm #3554635
Not a comment on the tent, but another thought on hiking-pole shelters in general: After one of my 110-g hiking poles randomly snapped in cold-but-mild conditions (I wasn’t even less-than-surefooted when it snapped!), I don’t think that hiking-pole shelters are as good an idea as I used to. Something exposed to strong forces during slips and falls is reasonably likely to break if it’s built too light. If a failure of the hiking pole would leave you without shelter, you need to put enough extra weight into your hiking pole that it’s really not going to break (or carry enough materials that you can guarantee a strong repair). So it seems to me that you can carry 3 ~100-g poles, a good repair tube, or some really strong hiking poles. Thoughts?
I use very sturdy poles (8.5 oz carbon) that would take quite an effort to break, not the 3-5 oz SUL poles that some prefer. I worry more about poles failing on a descent that would mean serious injury than about weight so I err on sturdy, which is a great carryover to tents. I have had one break by being stepped on, so it would be wise to know how to setup your tent with one less pole (practice with a stick, or have extra line to rig the top to a tree). The nice thing about a single-pole design is you have a backup by default.Sep 5, 2018 at 5:23 pm #3554641Damien TougasBPL Member
I have had Tarptents for years (both the Stratospire 2 and the Notch). Regarding ventilation… I tend to treat these more like a tarp than a tent, which is to say, 90% of the time I am sleeping in them with both vestibule doors wide open and enjoying the fresh air and great ventilation. Only when it rains do I think about closing up the vestibules, even then, unless it is a heavy rain or very windy, do I consider doing the vestibule doors up all the way. We thru-hiked the AT using them this way, and loved them.
Granted, the ones I use have had zippers, which makes partially opening/closing doors quite easy. I am not sure what I would think about the non-zipper version without trying it first.Sep 5, 2018 at 7:05 pm #3554660Katherine .BPL Member
“another thought on hiking-pole shelters in general: After one of my 110-g hiking poles randomly snapped in cold-but-mild conditions (I wasn’t even less-than-surefooted when it snapped!), I don’t think that hiking-pole shelters are as good an idea as I used to.”
I would probably feel the same if that happened to me. That is the case for the ‘mid. I prefer to used both poles for an inverted-V, but it does reassure me to know I can still go with a single center pole if I had to. But then there are other things I dislike about mids, that TT solves.
+1 for leaving the doors open for ventilation. One thing I love about TT is the attention to where the drip line line is, no tent inner directly below open sky (on all I think?). My 2P is a StratoSpire (sil).Sep 6, 2018 at 12:05 am #3554720Brad PBPL Member
You could add additional velcro to keep the doors closed.Sep 6, 2018 at 4:29 am #3554747William ChiltonBPL Member
But at the price of a Notch Li, should you have to?
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