User Review: Tarptent Contrail
Design: Lightweight tarptent
Ease of Setup: Easy with a little practice
Weight: 1.5 pounds without the four stakes
Price Paid: $200
The Contrail is an excellent shelter for the long-distance hiker. So far I've used mine for 3300 miles over the last two seasons, and it's still going strong. This year I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern US. Last year I hiked 1100 miles on the Continental Divide Trail in the Western US.
The Contrail provided excellent shelter in heavy rain with moderate-to-strong winds, moderate hail, and light snow (2" or less). And it provides very good bug-free ventilation. I've never slept as well in harsh conditions as I have in this tent.
It's important to keep in mind that this is a lightweight silnylon shelter and it has its limitations. The user needs to be aware of condensation and misting issues. Site selection is very important. I would not recommend this tent for an inexperienced weekend hiker in heavy rain, for instance.
But for an experienced long-distance hiker, I haven't seen a better shelter. It's easy to pitch with only 4 stakes (but it takes a week or so to get really good at it), it's lightweight (23 ounces without stakes), easy to pack (no poles if you use a hiking stick), adaptable for different conditions, and there's nothing to break (again, no poles).
This is the third Henry Shires tent I've owned. I wore out the other two. I haven't needed help with the Contrail, but I was always impressed with the company's customer service.