The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Tarptent StratoSpire Li Review

This is one of the best, most liveable ultralight shelters money can buy.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $700 List
Pros:  Great weather protection, lightweight, adaptable
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Tarptent
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 7, 2018
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 16
  • Livability - 30% 10
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 10
  • Adaptability - 10% 4
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 6

The Skinny

The Tarptent StratoSpire li is spacious, liveable tent that stands rock solid against high winds and heavy precipitation. Everything about this tent is slick, from its offset pole design to its magnetic storm flaps. These features are unique and useful, not superfluous gimmicks that weigh you down. Speaking of weight, the Stratospire isn't as light as the Zpacks Duplex, but for some folks, the huge vestibules and storm protection will be worth the extra 6.4 ounces.

Two large vestibules really set this tent apart from the competition. They are game changers when you are faced with days of bad weather, giving you storage space for your gear and room to cook while staying dry. One of our testers wanted to give this tent a "Top Pick for Festering" award after a particularly rainy trip. The Stratospire has plenty of other strengths, but this underscores how liveable this tent is when stacked up against some of the lighter options out there.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

When set up correctly with all tie-down points in use, the Stratospire is as weather resistant as the Editors' Choice Award Winning Zpacks Duplex and higher performing than SilNylon tents like the Black Diamond Beta Light, which may absorb water and stretch. It doesn't dominate in the weight, game, but earns top marks in every other one of our metrics. While weight is the most important aspect of the "ultralight" category, the StratoSpire's vestibule space make it a better choice depending on your specific needs. It's also worth noting that this tent comes with six ultralight oz stakes (2.3 0z for all 6), which Tarptent includes in their overall listed weight.

Performance Comparison


Good weather? Great! Bad weather? Bring it on! This tent has excellent weather protection at an exceptionally lightweight.
Good weather? Great! Bad weather? Bring it on! This tent has excellent weather protection at an exceptionally lightweight.

Weather Resistance


Fortunately (unfortunately for our testers) we had ample opportunity to test the Stratospire's weather resistance on a very rainy, eventually snowy, week-long climbing trip in the Sierra.


This tent is constructed with Dyneema, a material that's totally waterproof, plus the seams are taped. We got rained on for days and never experienced a single leak.

Dyneema is completely waterproof and won't absorb water or stretch like tents made from SilNylon.
Dyneema is completely waterproof and won't absorb water or stretch like tents made from SilNylon.

Our initial set up was a little sloppy, we didn't guy out every tie down point, and when we returned to camp after an unexpected snowy afternoon, one of the stakes had pulled out from snow loading. Neither of the trekking poles fell, and despite the collapse of one wall, no moisture got inside the tent, and all our stuff stayed dry. After brushing off the snow, reinforcing our stakes with some heavy rocks, and tightening all the tie-down points, the tent remained bomber through the night. This tent doesn't have the steepest angle; you'll need to be diligent about brushing the snow off if it starts nuking.

When properly set up with all the guy lines taught  this tent can handle a moderate amount of snow loading.
When properly set up with all the guy lines taught, this tent can handle a moderate amount of snow loading.

Liveability


If you need to hunker down for a while, this is the ultralight tent to do it in. We loved the vestibule space for storage, cooking, and as a place for our canine friends to bed down.


The vestibule space also lets you keep muddy shoes off the tent floor without getting wet. The vestibules are much more spacious than those of the Zpacks Duplex, but it has slightly less square footage on the bathtub-style floor, so space is tighter for two but still decadent for one.

There is plenty of space for cooking in the huge vestibules  and great ventilation helps keep condensation to a minimum.
There is plenty of space for cooking in the huge vestibules, and great ventilation helps keep condensation to a minimum.

There are a number of thoughtful design features that add to the liveability factor. The StratoSpire has two vents on top where the trekking poles support it, and another vent at each of the vertical corners that are supported by carbon fiber shunts. The result is excellent ventilation that effectively prevents most condensation. One tester boiled water for coffee and oatmeal every morning and again for tea at night. He forgot the lid to his pot, so there was plenty of steam inside the tent, creating an ideal scenario for condensation, and still, there was none. The poles, like those of the Gossamer Gear One and the Zpacks Duplex, are on the outside of the floor and bug netting instead of the center of the living space like the Black Diamond Beta Light. There are mesh pockets on either side, so finding your phone or headlamp in the dark is no problem.

This tent isn't massive  but it will comfortably accommodate two  or one person with a lot of gear or a canine friend.
This tent isn't massive, but it will comfortably accommodate two, or one person with a lot of gear or a canine friend.

Weight


The entire package including the floor and bug netting, stuff sack, six stakes (2.3 oz for six!), and the short carbon fiber struts weighs 1.75 pounds or 28 ounces. Remove the floor and bug netting (this is super easy thanks to adjustable clip-in points) and you save an additional 11.5 ounces.


The StatoSpire is lighter than the Black Diamond Beta Light, which doesn't have a floor or bug netting. The Zpacks Duplex is about 6.4 oz lighter and probably a better choice for through hikers traveling alone without a lot of gear. If you're in the backcountry with climbing, photography, or hunting equipment, the StratoSpire Li is better for you and all your stuff. For the most space available in the ultralight category, check out the Hyperlight Mountain Gear Ultamid2 or the less expensive Black Diamond Mega Lite. Each of these tents fits four, or a ton of gear.

Adapatability


This a very adaptable tent. It's easy to remove the floor and bug net thanks to the clip-in points. TarpTents offers a smorgasbord of purchasing options for this modular tarp shelter. There is the option of a solid interior instead of mesh for cold weather, and also a "sidecar" interior option to turn one of the vestibules into a floored, bug net enclosed area for small kids or dogs. Don't want to carry trekking poles? Tarptents offer a pair of four ounce foldable aluminum poles.


This isn't a freestanding tent. You'll need solid stake-out or tie-down points to set it up. The Zpacks Duplex offers a flexible pole option that makes the Duplex almost freestanding and makes it easier to set up places where it's difficult to secure a tent to the ground, such as granite slabs. Ultralight tarps like the Hyperlight Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp are the most adaptable, since they can be set up in countless configurations depending on your anchor options. Bring along some extra cord, and you'll be able to take advantage of larger rocks, trees, and other tie-down points, making the Stratospire even more adaptable.

This design keeps the trekking pole supports out of your sleeping space.
This design keeps the trekking pole supports out of your sleeping space.

Ease of Set-up


The StratoSpire sets up quickly and easily due to its adjustable guy lines. Without any instructions, our eager testers had this tent set up in about ten minutes; the set up is very intuitive.


Much like the Black Diamond Beta Light or the Mega Light, we staked down the corners, crawled inside to set up the trekking poles, then made adjustments the to guy lines. For those who are smart enough to follow instructions and do things right the first time, Tarptent's website (one the best manufacturer websites we've ever seen) has an excellent video to streamline the process. They recommend staking down a vestibule, put a trekking pole in through the vent hole op top and then repeat this process on the other side. Stake the low corners, tension all the lines and you're finished. Assuming you're on a surface that easily takes stakes, the process takes two to five minutes.

Best Applications


This tent is a great ultralight option for through hikers or anyone looking to trim down their kit weight. It has ample room for two, and it's very spacious for one. Its double door, dual vestibule design makes the StratoSpire exceptionally liveable tent to wait out storms or use as a base camp set up on climbing or ski trips.


Value


Strong, waterproof, tear-resistant Dyneema isn't cheap. The version of the StratoSpire Li we tested with the mesh interior and the Dyneema floor retails for $679, making it one of the most expensive tents we reviewed. At that price, lodging for your PCT hike is going to cost you around $5.70 per night; more if you're moving at a slower pace. That being said, these tents are well designed and constructed from some of the lightest, strongest materials available. If this tent is within your price range, the StratoSpire is a worthy investment.

Conclusion


We are very impressed with the performance of the Stratospire in crummy weather, its ease of setup, and spacious design. Only the Zpacks Duplex scores higher due to its lightweight, but the StratoSpire holds up better in poor weather. For expeditions where you could be tent bound for a while or you'll be base camping, the StratoSpire Li is one of the best ultralight tents on the market.


Matt Bento