Over the past three years, the shelter that I’ve used most is the Scarp 1 from Tarptent. I reckon I’ve used it for about thirty nights in all sorts of conditions. I think it’s time to do a proper long–term user review.
Of all the tents I’ve owned, and there have been quite a few, I think it’s the best all rounder. It may not be the lightest, but it has the best combination of features and characteristics of any tent I’ve used, including the late lamented Phoenix Phreeranger.
So what do I like about it?
Storm-worthiness: The Scarp is probably one of the most storm-proof one man, double skin tents on the market. I’ve been in some horrendous storms, most notably below Scafell a couple of times and the Scarp has shrugged off strong winds and torrential rain with ease. Indeed, it seems to be very stable whatever the direction of the wind, comparing favourably against tunnel tents and geodesics, which generally need to be pitched end to the wind. The key to its stability is the Pitchloc ends, which mean, unlike the Terra Nova Laser Competition, the ends are rock solid. Not only does this control and significantly reduce the flapping of the fly sheet, it helps take the strain off the single transverse hoop. The hoop is stabilised by the side guys but can be further strengthened by my pole arch tension modification (there’s a new variant on the way BTW). There is also the option of making the tent totally bombproof with the crossing poles, although I’ve yet to encounter conditions where I’ve needed them. Clearly, they are a great option for exposed pitches and camping in snow. They also make the Scarp virtually free standing. Just about the only one man tent I can think of that is stronger is the Hilleberg Soulo, which is a good deal heavier and more expensive.
Roominess: Comparing the Scarp with similar tents like the Laser Competition and the Akto, the Scarp is more spacious. It’s certainly larger than the Comp and it makes better use of its footprint than the similar sized Akto. The rectangular inner with decent headroom at either end beats the Akto and Comp hands down. Unlike the Comp, it doesn’t feel like sleeping in a coffin. While individually the porches are smaller (than the Akto or Laser Comp), having two gives tremendous flexibility for storage, particularly in bad weather, where one porch can be used for wet gear. Two porches give some flexibility if the direction of the wind shifts, unlike tents with a single porch. The porches are also large enough to cook safely with a gas stove. Although the Scarp has a similar floor area to the Akto, the rectangular shape of the inner means it’s more usable and can easily accommodate a full size air mattress, rucksack and miscellaneous loose gear. Even when I’ve been holed up in the Scarp all day because of bad weather, it’s never felt claustrophobic.
Ease of pitching: The Scarp is very easy to pitch and takes very little effort to pitch perfectly. Both the Akto and Laser Comp are notoriously difficult to get a taut pitch. With the Scarp it’s a doddle. If it’s windy, peg the the corner guys of the non–door end. Insert the pole into the pole arch, then pull the tent out and peg the door end corner guys. Straighten the end middle poles and peg the guy lines. Peg the pole arch guys and then readjust the other guys to get a taut pitch. It’s so simple. Even on uneven ground, I’ve yet to have a bad pitch. It’s virtually impossible to get wrong. Because it’s held in shape by the corner guys, it’s much easier to accommodate uneven or poor ground than having pegging points directly attached to the fly sheet, a particular problem on the Laser Comp. Detaching the inner to pack separately if it’s needed in bad weather is also simplicity. Having two doors also makes it easier to wipe down the inside of the fly sheet to reduce the damp from condensation before packing. I’ve found the Scarp to be significantly less prone to condensation than the Laser Comp or Akto, probably because of the roof vents.
I think those are the areas in which the Scarp excels. Of course, it’s not the lightest tent in its class. With all my mods and seam sealing (a bit OTT, it has to be said), mine weighs 1.55kg without pegs, similar to the Akto and a bit heavier than the Laser Comp. Both the MLD Duomid and Trailstar are lighter with OookWorks inners but the Duomid is not as storm–worthy and the Trailstar has a significantly larger footprint. In any case they are both rather different tents, utilising trekking poles as supports, which should be taken into account when comparing weights.
No tent is perfect. One of its charms for me is that I’ve been able to improve it with some tweaks (see my Scarp mods). The two best I think are the pole arch tensioners and the door threshold cords. It’s also worth re–guying it with thicker cord to avoid the end guys slipping. All the seams and the crossing pole loop need to be sealed with silicone sealant to ensure that the fly is totally waterproof.
If I was being picky, some of the stitching is not as neat as it could be. I think the pole arch material could be less “sticky” as inserting or removing the pole, particularly when wet can be a trial. I’ve also added a stitch on the sleeves of the Pitchloc struts so the struts don’t slip out.
There are things I’d like to see on a Scarp mk3:
1) Decent pockets on the inner tent. The current ones are pathetically small and in the wrong place.
2) Diagonally opposing doors. Instead of having both doors at one end, why not have them diagonally opposing so that whatever the direction the wind is coming from, one porch will be sheltered.
3) Inverted T doors on the inner. The current J zips make it slightly awkward to reach one end of the porch. I much prefer inverted T zips which allow the whole side to be opened.
4) Threshold cords and pole arch tensioners as standard.
5) Double side guys like the Akto.
6) Zip pullers. I’ve made my own but it would be better to have ones as standard.
7) PU coated groundsheet. The new F10 Nitro Lite has a lightweight PU coated groundsheet which is not slippery and has a higher hydrostatic head compared with the Scarp.
8) Inner tent door tie backs. Why not use elasticated loops and toggles? Much better than the ribbon ties supplied.
9) Snap clips to secure crossover poles.
10) Better quality mesh on doors.
From my perspective, the Scarp now has a serious rival in the F10 Nitro Lite 200. I can see myself using the Nitro Lite quite a bit. It’s about 100g lighter, packs smaller and has a much larger inner, big enough to be classed a 2–man tent. As a classic tunnel, I expect it to be pretty storm–worthy, although perhaps not quite as good as the Scarp. However, it is much larger inside and has a good sized porch. Ease of pitching is similar to the Scarp. All in all, it looks a pretty good competitor to the Scarp, with the added bonus of taped seams.
At the moment, I still think the Scarp is the best all rounder, particularly with the flexibility of using the crossing poles to make it a true winter mountain tent. It really is a fantastic tent for Northern European backpacking conditions. Perhaps the best recommendation is that I’ve often missed it when I’ve taken other shelters instead.