User Review: Tarptent Virga
Design: Three-season, ultralight, not freestanding, modified A-frame shape
Ease of Setup: A tad awkward for me. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I try to keep the front pole up while I pitch out the rest; I think this coming season, I'll try staking out the body BEFORE I put in the front pole. Why didn't I think of this sooner?
Weight: 1.5 lb. (24 oz.) minimum, plus 6 oz. for sewn-in floor
Price Paid: About $175
This review applies to the Tarptent Virga of about 2002 vintage; the newer Virga 2 looks to have more headroom and a slightly larger sewn-in floor (optional).
I got the tent with the optional, sewn-in floor. There are no real vestibule and no interior gear-pockets. However, the extended "beak" has kept my boots/shoes dry; I park the backpack outside with its raincover over it; and I use a collapsible dog-bowl (2 oz.) to hold small items (glasses, flashlight, etc.). I would never cook in a tent or its vestibule, so that is not a consideration for me.
I've used my Tarptent Virga for three seasons now and have found it to be as promised: spacious, dry (no condensation and no rain problems), and incredibly lightweight for all the room you get.
I've simply been amazed at its performance. I was so certain that such apparently flimsy a product couldn't stand up to wind and rain, but danged if it hasn't done vastly better than my Eureka! Zeus Exo 1 for about half the weight. I've tried several bivy sacks and one-person tents, and the Virga is THE WINNER by a long shot.
For a late-season backpack last year, I took my Bibler Bipod Bivy instead of the Virga, imagining I'd be warmer in the bivy. Wrong -- and for me, after the Virga, the bivy was quite claustrophobic. (If you need extra warmth, loosely drape an unfolded 2-oz. metallized-mylar emergency blanket over your sleeping bag. This will reflect some heat back onto your bag with little condensation.)
Earlier in the year, I had hastily pitched the tent near the end of a couple hours of steady rain and had spent a comfortable night in it. Packing up in the morning, I discovered to my astonishment that I had pitched it right over a long, narrow, deep puddle. The underside of the floor was wet, but the inside and I had been dry.
I did manage to break the curved rear pole once by bending it too much and too hard, but Henry Shires (Tarptent's founder) promptly replaced it, and it's been fine since. (Since I'm a small, older woman with weak hands, I tend to assume I CAN'T overstress poles, and then, surprise!, I DO.)
Shires' support for his products is outstanding. You'll get timely, personal responses to your inquiries.
The unaltered floor is very slippery, but some silicone "lines" on the floor and on my sleeping pad fixed that (Shires' advice, not my idea).
If I were in the market for a new backpacking tent for 1 to 3 people, a Tarptent would be at the top of my list. They're available directly from the maker at www.tarptent.com. I don't believe they are retailed.
FYI, I backpack almost exclusively in California's Sierra Nevada, which is not nearly as rain-free as some people imagine.