The TarpTent MoTrail is a spacious two-person tarp-tent style shelter that requires at minimum two trekking poles to set up and features 30D SilNylon fabric. Complete protection comes from sewn-in bug netting and a SilNylon bathtub floor. In contrast to the other tarp tents in this review, it aligns so that users sleep with their head and feet parallel to the eave of the tent, rather than perpendicular to the eave.This orientation has the notable advantage of allowing more length end to end inside the tarp while also allowing more head and foot clearance while sleeping. It feels large and spacious but has an extensive profile on the sides to catch the wind. While there is a lot to love, including how livable it is, it is relatively heavy, not super adaptable, and not the easiest to set up with stability. It's an excellent option for couples seeking a tarp to use over relatively flat terrain in sheltered areas as it's not very adaptable and susceptible to weather.
Tarptent MoTrail Review
Cons: Bulky and relatively heavy, large broadsides can catch wind, not very adaptable
Our Analysis and Test Results
The MoTrail is a tarp tent that is pitched lengthwise in A-frame mode, similar to how one would set up a catenary cut tarp. It's cut in a way that the rear, foot end of the A-frame is lower than the entrance end, and because it includes sewn-in bug netting tent with a bathtub floor, it is not adaptable to be set up in different configurations. It is also not "cat" cut on the eave, but instead incorporates an added triangular piece of material with a tensioning bar. We found these systems to be reasonably effective, but a bit "overdone". Regardless, it is very livable and affordable, although it has some issues.
Your purchase comes with the tarp and sewn in the inner tent, as well as four stakes (a minimum of five required for setup), a long tubular stuff sack, a small sack for the stakes, and printed out setup instructions that are very comprehensive with diagrams. The included stakes are light and strong but are not very effective because they don't have a notch to hold cords, which easily slip off. Furthermore, a minimum of five stakes are needed if you want the vestibule staked out, so we recommend purchasing at least five of your preference. You will also need a minimum of two adjustable trekking poles, although it is possible to set up with three trekking poles if desired for a little bit of added stability.
This shelter ranks right up there with the best we have used when it comes to livability. We have already mentioned how long the interior space is, enough for plenty of extra equipment or a dog while still sleeping comfortably. There is also plenty of headroom on the door end of the tarp. It includes sewn-in bug netting and a bathtub floor that cannot be removed but does have tensioner straps to each corner of the tarp to allow for fine-tuning dependent on the site specifications. The foot end of the A-frame comes with Velcro affixed storm or privacy flaps, a nice touch that can be pulled back for better airflow.
There are also strips of sewn-in lightweight netting that keep the feet of your sleeping bags from coming in contact with the tarp, another nice touch for preventing wetting due to condensation, a standard-issue with single-wall tents. There are two pockets for storing fragile or valuable items, and the vestibule, while not huge, is large enough for packs and shoes.
This tent weighs just over two pounds without stakes or the mandatory two trekking poles, making it a heavy tent for an ultralight. We aren't surprised, considering how much fabric and cordage is including in its construction. There are virtually no options for modifying the tent to lighten the load that wouldn't compromise its performance. Furthermore, it doesn't pack down very small compared to the competition — its stuff sack is large, long and tubular, and sort of awkward to pack. While it is still light compared to an average backpacking tent, it is heavy in the ultralight world.
This shelter is fairly effective dealing with rain, but with its dual long, broadsides, a bit of a sail in the wind necessitates optimal site location. It is made entirely of SilNylon, so when wet, it is prone to stretching and needs to be tensioned further. Luckily it comes with line locks on all stake-out points, so this is not such a big deal.
A fascinating and unique feature we have not seen on other tarps is a tensioning bar above the door, sewn in conjunction with a triangular piece of material on the eave of the tent. This bar allows for the use of a tensioning strap if using one pole at the front, or the option for dual pole front setup, both of which slightly increase the stability of the tent in the wind. It is also removable if desired, although this will compromise overall tarp tension in this case.
One issue we had with this design was that in the rain, the triangular shape of the eave allows water to pool on top of the tent, without always running off the sides as desired. This piece of fabric was small enough that the pool couldn't get big enough to compromise the structural integrity of the tent, but it is a flaw none-the-less. We also wish the stakeout cord on the vestibule was longer, as one night, we found it to be too short for our site to stake it out properly.
Unlike standard tarps, it cannot adjust to many different layouts dependent on the site. It must be set up the same way each time, and with very large broadsides that can catch the wind, we recommend a sheltered site. It is also not freestanding, so the softness of the ground must be considered, as well as the slope of a site since sleepers can only orient in one direction. Lastly, none of the components are modular, so it is what it is; not a terribly adaptable tent.
Ease of Setup
Due to its relatively large size, we found this tent to be moderately difficult to set up with one person, especially in the wind, although with two, it becomes quite a bit easier. For us, it was a challenge to get the trekking pole heights perfect each time, and trying to hold them vertical while hammering in stakes is hard. Compounding is the fact that with this setup, tips need to orient upward into grommets, rather than downward where they can stick into the ground. A very taut set up would be easier to achieve with a long stake-out on the vestibule, and an added guy out from the top of the rear pole; we would change both of these things after purchase if it were our tent. Even with a little practice, we did not find it to be significantly easier than erecting a standard tarp if alone, which translates into challenges!
The MoTrail is an affordable, fully enclosed option in the ultralight market. While it wasn't one of the highest scorers overall, it has some nice advantages, and for the right purpose or trail could represent a fantastic value purchase.
The TarpTent MoTrail is a uniquely designed tarp tent that is spacious and comfortable on the inside and includes built-in bug netting and a bathtub floor. This tent is for those people who want space and affordability, and who anticipate sheltered camp spots.
— Andy Wellman
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