Monday morning was a sight to see in Duluth; it was the last week in March, 25 degrees outside, and a fresh layer of snow had just fallen, recovering the brown grass for just a bit longer.
So much for out like a lamb.
None of that bothered me as I opened my mailbox to find the purple package slip was finally there. That's the sucky thing about living on campus; mail takes an extra day to reach me.
Success! I was first in line when the mail room opened at 2:00 and was quickly signing the dotted line. As I headed home, I had to resist the urge to rip apart the box and marvel at its contents. Not wanting to be stared at too awkwardly, I chose to wait for the privacy of my living room.
This was the piece of gear that I had never quite gotten around to getting... ever. In preparation to my Superior Trail hike, I never quite found a tent that fit my needs, plus my funds were extremely limited then. That led me to the tent I've been using since; a five pound bullet-proof Wenzel Ranger. While that tent is nice, it was/is WAAAY more than I will ever need for my style of hiking. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that The One from Gossamer Gear wouldn't work out for me, but I think I found something just as good.
With no more crazy narratives, I give you Henry Shires' Contrail.
I discovered this tent a few months back, put wasn't planning on buying one because I had The One all lined up. However, after that situations change, this tent seems like my best bet.I know I've said that a lot, so I bet you want to know why...
The first good reason is because it's lightweight, weighing in at about 24 ounces. While a pound and a half isn't too remarkable, it'll be a lot better than the 5+ I was carrying. Another good reason I like it is because its a tent, but it also incorporates some great concepts from the tarp variety. Instead of having the traditional seamless four-wall and floor style, the waterproof shell is basically a staked-out tarp. The break-point in the front is created by pitching a trekking pole while the back is partially supported by two 12" struts. The bathtub-style floor is over 7 feet long and 30-42 inches wide, making it more than spacious. The bathtub floor then connects to the layer of big netting, which extend out to the shell. basically what this does is minimize the possibility of contact with the shell, which could result in water transfer.
The front also extends to act as a vestibule, allowing me to keep my gear there instead of at my side or feet. The picture above shows the foot-end open (did I mention it could do that?) as well as the shell has slightly off the ground. In windy, wet, or stormy condition (like Scotland), the rear struts can be lowered in order to bring the shell all the way to the ground, preventing water and wind from penetrating under the tarp. While the floor is 'waterproof,' I will still use a second layer groundsheet (Tyvek) to stop water and protect the tent itself.
The fabric for both the shell and the floor is a high-tenacity ripstop nylon that has been impregnated with silicon (commonly referred to as Silnylon). While not 100% waterproof, it will be waterproof under anything but high-velocity wind and rain (or if I pitch in a lake or river by mistake).
In addition, it does not need to be rolled, pampered, or babied like a normal tent does. It comes with a stuff sack that allows the tent to shrunk down to about 14" by 4" and dropped inside my pack.
normally, I would include pictures or the tent in action, or tell you how its better then it looks, yada yada yada. However, with the lack of space in my tiny 4-person apartment and a good 6 inches of snow outside, that hasn't quite happened yet. Hopefully within the coming weeks I'll be able to pitch it up and try it out for a night. Nevertheless, I fell very confident in this tent's attributes and abilities.