We will probably spend about half the nights on the Te Araroa Trail in our tent. The rest of the nights are in DOC (Department of Conservation) huts (mainly South Island) and in Hostels. Therefore, the selection of a suitable tent was crucial during our preparations for the Te Araroa Trail.
Preparations Te Ararao Trail – Three important tent criteria
Our future tent should fulfil the following three criteria:
Weight: 3’000 kilometres. Every gram counts. The weight of our former MSR tent at home (2kg) was the main reason why wanted to buy a new one.
Price: We travel with a fixed budget. It doesn’t matter where we are and for how long. The money we spend for new gear goes into the same budget. Hence, the tent shouldn’t cost too much.
Weatherproof: New Zealand weather. Do I really need to say more? The weather conditions are pretty harsh and very unsteady. A stable and waterproof tent was obviously very important. A tarp was out of question.
It wasn’t possible to consider all three criteria without compromise. Lightweight didn’t match with the price and cheap not with the quality or the weight of the tent.
With enough cash we would probably have treated ourselves to a chic tent made of ultralight and robust Cuben. But as travellers on a budget it wasn’t worth it. Therefore, we bought a tent made of Sylnylon.
Example Weight vs Price
2P tent, weights 650 grams and costs about USD 600
2P tent, weights 1’300 grams and costs about USD 300-400
–> double the weight, half the price
Tarptent Stratospire 2
Our choice fell on the Tarptent Stratospire 2. Tarptent from California was one of the first companies that manufactured ultralight tents, and now offers a wide range of different models.
The following points persuaded us to buy the Tarptent Stratospire 2:
Space: The Tarptent Stratospire 2 is a tent for two to three persons. In the maximal width there is space for three sleeping pads side by side. It’s huge and suitable for some bad weather days in camp.
Double walled: The bug net works as a second tent wall (protection from condensations) and can be set up without the rainfly for dry nights.
Setup: Two hiking poles replace the tent poles. This allows an individual height of the tent and safes unnecessary weight. We have the hiking poles with us anyway.
Entries: Two separate entries make living in a tent much easier.
Vestibules: The two vestibules of the Tarptent Stratospire 2 are spacious enough, so that we can cook and store our backpacks in them. This is ideal for bad weather and safes us some space inside the sleeping area.
Price: USD 350 tent + USD 8 Seam-Sealing kit + USD 52 postage. Not very cheap at all, but still cheaper than a similar but heavier tent from a big outdoor brand.
Weight: 1,3 kilograms.
Seam-SealingIt’s usual to buy a tent from a small outdoors company from the US without sealed seams. The same applies to the Tarptent Stratospire 2. For an additional charge Tarptent does the job for you. But it’s much cheaper if you do it yourself. You can buy the seam-sealing solution and a brush with your tent order. They give you an instruction and there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube.
First testing phase with the Tarptent Stratospire 2
We ordered the Tarptent Stratospire 2 to Australia and used it for several hikes (Overland Track in Tasmania, Fraser Island and Hinchinbrook Island in Queensland). We could test it in different terrains and climates. So far we are very happy with it.
+ The Tarptent Stratospire 2 is a palace, …
– … which needs a lot of space to set up.
+ The airflow is superb, thanks to the two vents and the possibility to roll up the entries. We haven’t had problems with condensation so far.
= The setup is a bit difficult in the beginning but works fine after some tries.
– The ground floor viz. the fabric is very slippery. Some stripes with the seam-sealing solution make a better grip for the sleeping pad.
+ The Tarptent Stratospire 2 performs very well in windy and rainy conditions. To be on the safe side, we bought two additional tent guy lines and pegs, so that we can secure the tent even better against bad weather.
So far we’ve spent two weeks in the Tarptent Stratospire 2 in Australia. Therefore, this article is a temporary conclusion. The final rehearsal takes place on the Te Araroa Trail; the final conclusion follows afterwards.
Specifications Tarptent Stratospire 2
Weight: 1,3 kg
Floor Width: 132 cm -158 cm
Floor Length: 218 cm
Floor Area: 2,9 m2
Interior Height: 127 cm
Stakes: 6x 22 cm
Packed Size: 41cm x 10 cm
The specs are from tarptent.com.
Tyvek DIY Groundsheet
There are a lot of practical uses of a groundsheet. It protects the ground floor of your tent from the underground, sharp objects and humidity and serves as underground protection for your sleeping pad while cowboy camping (without a tent) or in a hut.
We made our own groundsheet with Tyvek. Coincidentally, we met an ambitious Tasmanian DIY hammock maker, who sells some essential materials for DIY usage through his online shop (tiergear.com.au). Along with other stuff we bought a sheet of Tyvek from him.
Tyvek for DIY groundsheet
Tyvek is a dense fabric made of polyethylene and is highly water-repellent but not 100% waterproof. It is often used for protective clothing (overalls), in building construction (weather protection), for water resistant maps and in the ultralight community for backpacks, groundsheets etc. The quality of Tyvek differs and not all of them are suitable for outdoors usage.
Polycro vs Tyvek
When we were researching about the fabric of our future groundsheet, we also found the material Polycro. It’s super light, waterproof and transparent. You find it as window insulation in hardware and home building stores. A lot of people from the ultralight community use Polycro for groundsheets. So we looked more into it.
At first sight it didn’t look like much and we doubted the robustness of it. But a lot of people from Internet forums confirmed the suitability of Polycro for a long distance hike. In the end we didn’t decide against Polycro because of our doubts. Nope, it was the size of the groundsheet. We would have had to buy two Polycro sheets with the sizes 200cm x 90cm and fix them together with tape. (The width of the Tarptent Stratospire 2 is 132cm to 158cm.) That seemed less stable and bulkier than one piece of Tyvek. But for solo hikers Polycro might be the perfect solution. Anyway, because of that we went with Tyvek. And if we would suddenly want to change to Polycro on the trail, we could easily buy it in every hardware and home building store.
DIY Tyvek Groundsheet Instruction
It’s very simple to make your own groundsheet made of Tyvek and it’s done very quickly.
- The size of the groundsheet should have at least the same size as the ground floor of your tent. Make it bigger if you want to protect the space in the vestibules or if you want to secure the groundsheet with tent pegs.
- To protect the groundsheet from sudden wind bursts during setting up, you can secure the sheet with tent pegs. To be able to do that, you can either attach four fabric loops (easy version) or insert four metal eyelets in the corners.
- Tyvek doesn’t fray and you can cut it in every form you like.
- You will quickly notice that Tyvek is very noisy (like paper). However, after some use the fabric smoothens and rustles less. You also find some instructions in the Internet that tell you to put the Tyvek in the washing machine. We don’t know if it works or if it’s good for the Tyvek.