Product Review: The Ultralight Sublite Tarp Tent

 

On the Quick:

Sleeps: 1
Weight: 19.5oz
Floor Area: 20sqft
Interior Height: 42in
Length: 86in
Width: 42in
MSRP: $209
Available From: www.tarptent.com

As an Ultra-Lighter, I’m always doing whatever I can to shed any extra weight from my pack,  from trimming tags to eradicating luxury items. But despite all the little tricks I use to cut ounces here and there, there have always been two essential items that have driven me mad: my tent and my sleeping bag. There was a time when I was carrying close to five pounds on a trail in tent weight alone, completely unacceptable for my 13lb. max base weight goal. Then, I found the Sublite by Tarptent, a Northern California company. The Sublite tent weighs in at just 19.5 ounces according to the company, but I’ve been able to get it down to a 16-ounce trail weight.

Packed Sublite 1

Packed Sublite 2

From the outside the tent is quite basic – a tarp with a bathtub bottom connected by a strip of mesh. It’s only available in white, which helps to reflect heat and keep the tent cool even in fairly hot temperatures. Entry into the tent is very simple. The entry point is located on the side, and there are inner and outer doors. The inner door is a simple mesh bug door and the outer door is made of Tyvek – a lightweight, water-resistant, and breathable fabric . Both function with basic zipper designs. It should be noted that there really isn’t much of a fly entry space (only the outer Tyvek door), so if it is raining you’ll basically be hopping in and out.

Sublite Entrance Mesh Closed

Exterior with the mesh door closed.

 

Sublite Entrance Door and Mesh Open

Exterior with door completely open.

Inside the Sublite, you’ll find a spacious one-man bathtub-bottomed tent with a small mesh lining connecting the top portion of the tent to the bottom half, allowing for more ventilation. It boasts a total floor area of 20 square feet – roughly the same size as a twin bed – which leaves more than enough room for you to bring in your gear if it’s raining outside. There are also two extra mesh ventilation spots: one at the head of the tent with a Velcro open/close option and a small covered window at the very crown of the tent.

Sublite Interior Front View

Interior Front View.

Sublite Interior Feet View

Interior Rear View. Note the ventilation running along the entire base of the tent.

Sublite Top Vent 2

Top Ventilation.

Sublite Bottom Vent Exterior

Bottom Ventilation.

The setup for the Sublite is basic, but it definitely does take some practice. The key is in the two rear adjustable struts that sit vertically on the ground with the tension guylines running through them, which serve as the main points of tension for keeping the tent upright. After these are in place, the two trekking poles must be put into the middle and fully spread apart and the front two non-adjustable guylines must be pulled out and staked. I’ve typically found that setting up this tent takes only a handful of minutes.

Unpacked Sublite

Rear Adjustable Struts

Adjustable Struts. Note: only the tension on the line is adjustable with the Sublite, there is no adjusting the height of the strut.

Rear Adjustable Struts 2

Finding the right angle can take some getting used to.

Rear Adjustable Struts Overhead

Sublite Rear Adjustable Strut 2

Sublite Rear Adjustable Strut CU

Sublite Exterior Velcro for Poles

Trekking poles attach via Velcro.

Sublite Front Guyline

Front Guy Lines.

Sublite Included Stake

Ultralight Stakes Included.

There are two things that make this a great tent – the first is the Tyvek fabric. As many of you know, being a “lightweight” product is not the same as being a “high-quality” product, but the Sublite tent manages to be both. Unlike many tents on the market, the fabric is difficult to tear, meaning that you can finally leave your footprint at home unless you’re desert camping on sharp ground, in which case Tarp Tent offers a Tyvek footprint.  It’s also water resistant, but it allows water vapor to pass through it, so while Tyvek is quite trail-tough, it is also breathable enough that condensation won’t collect inside, so you won’t wake up in a moist tent.

Sublite Complete Rear Angle

The second key to the success of this tent is that the Sublite is not a freestanding tent and instead requires trekking poles to be properly setup. This greatly reduces its weight, and, like many Ultra-Lighters, I’m always looking for dual use products. It does, of course, mean you have to be willing to use trekking poles. (If you don’t own a pair already, Tarptent does sell a set of superlight non-extendable trekking poles).

Sublite Zipper CU

Zipper Quality at Entrance.

Sublite Complete Front Angle

One drawback of the Sublite is that although it’s water resistant, it isn’t designed to be used in heavy rainstorms. And because it isn’t a freestanding tent (supported by poles like traditional tents), I’m a little doubtful about its structural integrity in strong winds, though I personally haven’t had any issues with it thus far . One other issue I have run into is with the rear struts. They take some time getting used to and can be difficult in very soft or very hard ground.

Sublite Entrance Pole and Zipper

Note how close the pole is to the zipper entrance. A minor flaw but doesn’t interfere with performance.

In the short time I’ve had my Sublite I’ve fallen in love. It cuts down on my trail weight substantially without giving up much in the way of comfort or space. Here in Southern California, this is my go to tent, and for the price, I have yet to find a competitor.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Join the Modern Hiker Newsletter

Learn about new trail guides, outdoor news, and be the first to learn about events in the free Modern Hiker Newsletter. All original content and guaranteed not to flood your inbox -- new issues usually come every 2-3 weeks.