The Tarptent Sublite one-person single wall tent is available in Tyvek (shown) and silnylon.
The Tarptent Sublite is a one person single wall tent that comes in two versions: Tyvek and silnylon. The design is basically the same, but the two tents differ in details and performance. The Sublite is the first use of Tyvek in a tent, which is a breathable nonwoven fabric. Technically, this is the world’s lightest breathable fabric tent.
The Tyvek used in the Sublite is type 1443R "soft structure" Tyvek, which is soft, lightweight, highly water-resistant, very durable, breathable, and inexpensive. It is NOT the house-wrap type of Tyvek, rather it is the lighter, softer type used in Tyvek protective clothing. Tyvek is a "spunbonded olefin" and is not a true woven fabric. Fabric weight is 1.25 oz/yd2, which is about the same as silnylon at 1.3 oz/yd2.
Views of the Tyvek Sublite. The tent is supported by trekking poles (or optional sectional aluminum poles) in an A-frame configuration near the front of the tent, plus two sewn-in vertical carbon fiber struts at the rear. A zippered entry is located to the right of the trekking pole (top left). The end view (top right) shows its boxed foot end without any vent. The top view (bottom left) shows its proportions. And the head end (bottom right) has a closable vent at the bottom and high vent at the top.
Entry into the Tyvek Sublite is from the side; there is no mesh inner door or rain flap to keep rain from falling into the tent.
The Tyvek Sublite has a floating silnylon bathtub floor with a mesh panel on both sides for extra ventilation. There is a closable vent at the head end (left), but none at the rear end (right). The tent has plenty of room inside for one person plus gear.
The Sublite has a high vent at the head end to enhance ventilation. The photos show the vent on the outside (left) and inside (right). A panel of mesh on the inside excludes bugs.
The silnylon version of the Sublite is the same design and dimensions as the Tyvek version. However, since silnylon is not breathable, the silnylon version has a few extra features to enhance ventilation: a closable foot vent, a larger vent at the front, a zippered mesh door, and an extendable rain flap so the entry can be left open for better ventilation in rainy weather.
The Silnylon Sublite is the same tent design and dimensions as the Tyvek version, only it’s made of silnylon and weighs 3 ounces more. The photo shows the tent set up with Tarptent’s optional sectional aluminum poles. A zippered mesh door hangs partially open. It also has an extra guyline at the front.
Because silnylon is not breathable at all, the silnylon version has a few extra design elements to enhance ventilation. These are the addition of a mesh door (left, rolled up in the photo), and a large closable foot vent (right) which is not present on the Tyvek version.
The Sublite is quick and easy to set up, and requires two 53-inch (135 cm) trekking poles (or optional aluminum poles) to create its A-frame support and a taut pitch. Most hikers don’t use 135 cm fixed length poles, so adjustable trekking poles are necessary for the Sublite. The trekking poles in the top photos are 51 inches, my longest fixed length poles, and they are not quite long enough, so I resorted to elevating them with rocks get the needed length. In doing so, I had to futz with the tent to get a decent pitch and it is not as taut as it should be. Setting up the Sublite with adjustable length trekking poles also requires a fair amount of fiddling to attach them. The fastest, easiest and best support system for the Sublite is Tarptent’s optional aluminum poles (4.75 ounces, US$10). They attach quickly and provide a taut pitch with no fiddling with Velcro attachments.
The Sublite requires adjustable trekking poles or optional aluminum poles for support. The tips are inserted in a sleeve at the top (left) and the handles in a pocket at the bottom (right). There are two Velcro loops on each side to secure them to the tent body.
For a solo shelter, the Sublite is very hospitable. The A-frame peak of the tent provides lots of headroom right where I need it when I sit up. There is plenty of room inside the tent for one person plus gear. Although there is no storage pocket inside, the mesh sides above the bathtub floor provide a handy ledge for stashing small items.
The lack of an entry vestibule means that wet gear (or a wet dog) would have to stay outside or stashed at the foot of the tent. The Silnylon Sublite (but not the Tyvek Sublite) has a partial solution in the form of a rain flap (left) that can be extended to cover the entry. For some reason, the vertical part of the rain flap is sewn to the inside of the tent, so the mesh door cannot be fully zipped when the rain flap is extended (right), leaving a 3-inch gap for bugs to enter.
An unexpected benefit of the Tyvek Sublite is its white color reflects heat and its breathable fabric allows more air exchange, so the tent is significantly cooler in hot weather compared to its silnylon equivalent.
The only porosity test data I could find on type 1443R Tyvek is a Gurley Hill Porosity rating of 69 seconds/100 cc. This is the time required for 100 cubic centimeters of air to pass through one square inch of material under a pressure of approximately 4.9 inches of water (Test Method: TAPPI T460/ASTM D726). DuPont claims that this Tyvek is vapor permeable and six times more breathable than microporous film membranes (monolithic polyurethane).
In use, the Tyvek Sublite does seem to breathe quite will. On warmer nights (above about 50 F) with the door zipped closed to exclude bugs I did not have any condensation at all. On several clear/calm/cool nights I did not have any film condensation on the inside walls, which is typical for silnylon tents, but the inside walls were damp to the touch. The dampness did not wet my clothing when I brushed against it. On two occasions following calm/clearing nights after an afternoon rain, the inside tent walls were covered with small water droplets which dripped to the floor, but it was a minor issue.
Tyvek is rated as "highly water-resistant" but is not claimed to be waterproof. I have personally used this type of Tyvek as a groundsheet for several years and have had no problems with water passing through it. During a high intensity thunderstorm, I saw water droplets forming on the inside walls of the canopy that dripped onto me and my gear. The problem was accentuated by "condensation splatter" caused by hail impacting the outside of the tent. Tarptent’s statement that the Tyvek Sublite is "fine for all night moderate rains but not recommended for long-duration intense rainstorms" is accurate. Bottom line, the Tyvek Sublite performs very well in non-rainy weather, short duration showers, and gentle rains, but it is not the best place to be during a prolonged intense thunderstorm.
For a better viewing experience, please download the Flash Player. Video tour of the Tarptent Sublite Silnylon Tent. NOTE: The audio portion where Will states that the tent held up just fine is in error. The tent actually leaked quite a bit.
Because silnylon is non-breathable, the silnylon version of the Sublite has extra ventilation features, adding up to mesh vents on all four sides, a mesh door, and a high vent. I found the Silnylon Sublite to be very condensation resistant most of the time, especially when there was at least a light breeze. However, like most single wall tents, it will develop condensation on the inside walls on a clear/cool/calm night with a large temperature drop, and during an extended rainstorm.
Condensation on inside walls of the Silnylon Sublite after a rainy night.
I tested both versions of the Sublite in an assortment of summer backpacking conditions and found it to be an excellent ultralight solo tent. At just over a pound including stakes, I definitely can’t complain about the weight! However, I have two issues with the Sublite; the first is the height of its A-frame is too tall for most fixed length trekking poles. It requires 53-inch poles, and that means heavier adjustable length poles for most people. The tent pitches faster and better with Tarptent’s optional aluminum poles. My second issue is the Tyvek Sublite has no vestibule over the entry, so rain will fall directly into the tent. The silnylon version has an extendable rain flap, but it makes entry/exit more cumbersome, and the mesh door does not zip up on one side so bugs can enter.
Overall, the things I really like about the Sublite’s design are its light weight, easy setup, side entry, ample headroom where you need it, ample floor space, and good ventilation.
The Tyvek version is definitely unique. It breathes as well as any Epic fabric tent I have tested, and the weight and cost are a lot less. Tyvek is very strong, so I don’t have any concerns about it not holding up over time. The shortcomings of the Tyvek version are 1) the entry does not have an inner mesh door (only one Tyvek door) so there are minimal views from the tent, and 2) intense rainfall will force water through the Tyvek. Thus, the Tyvek version is best suited for climates where prolonged intense rainfall is uncommon.
In its size and weight class, the closest comparison to the Sublite is the Gossamer Gear One. The One is made of spinnaker fabric, which is lighter, noisier, and more delicate. Both tents have a side entry, but the One has a large vestibule over the entry, which is a real plus, and still weighs an ounce less than the Tyvek Sublite. However, the One costs $100 more.
Manufacturer/ Year/ Model
|Tarptent 2008 Tyvek Sublite and 2008 Silnylon Sublite (http://www.tarptent.com/)|
|One person single wall tent with floor and side entry. The Tyvek version is breathable fabric|
|Tyvek version is type 1443R Tyvek (1.25 oz/yd2/ 42.4 g/m2) with a silnylon floor; silnylon version is 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2) silnylon canopy and floor|
Poles and Stakes
|Two carbon fiber rear struts (sewn-in) plus two 53 in (135 cm) trekking poles or optional Easton aluminum poles, four 6 in (15 cm) Easton tubular stakes|
|86 in long x 26/42/24 in wide x 42 in high (218 x 66/107/61 x 107 cm)|
|14 in x 4 in (36 x 10 cm)|
|Tyvek Sublite 1 lb 3.4 oz (550 g); manufacturer specification 1 lb 2.5 oz (524 g); Silnylon Sublite 1 lb 6 oz (624 g), manufacturer specification 1 lb 5.5 oz (610 g) (includes tent, 4 stakes, 2 stuff sacks)|
|Tyvek Sublite 1 lb 2.9 oz (536 g), Silnylon Sublite 1 lb 5.5 oz (610 g) (includes tent and four stakes)|
|Floor 20 ft2 (1.86 m2), no vestibule|
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|17 ft2/lb for Tyvek Sublite; 14.9 ft2/lb for Silnylon Sublite|
|Tyvek version US$179, silnylon version US$199|
|Footprint US$35, 10.3 oz (292 g) with stuff sack; aluminum poles US$10 , 4.75 oz (135 g)|