The Tarptent Notch is a single-person, trekking pole supported backpacking tent produced by Henry Shire’s Tarptent. With lines resembling a stealth fighter, the Notch is a 3+ season tent capable of fending off harsh rains and winds and light snow conditions. Its double wall design offers excellent breathability. The Notch has been my “go-to” shelter for the past 3 or 4 years.
Tarptent Notch Specs
- Weight: 27 ounces
- Floor Area: 15.2 square feet
- Interior Height: 43 inches
- Max Interior Width: 34 inches
- Max Interior Length: 84 inches
- Seasons: 3+
- Type: Double Wall, Trekking Pole Supported
- Sleeps: 1
- Doors: 2
- Vestibules: 2
- Price: 285
Tarptent Notch Overview
The Tarptent Notch is not a tarp. It is a fully enclosed, double walled tent. The Tarptent Notch is supported by two trekking poles at its mid-point and two sets of short carbon-fiber struts at its ends. The use of trekking poles saves weight for those who already carry them. (For those who don’t carry trekking poles, Tarptent does offer a set of lightweight replacement poles or you can check out the very similar Tartpent Moment DW.) The struts at the end points serve to raise the height of the roof over the floor, increasing usable space. They also form “end ports” which can be opened or closed to enhance ventilation or keep out harsh weather. The Tarptent Notch features two vestibules and diagonally opposed doors an each side. The narrow sleeping area is long enough for tall hikers and wide enough for most sleeping pads.
Trekking Pole Support
Like many lightweight backpacking shelters, the Tarptent Notch is supported by trekking poles. I really like the idea of using trekking poles to support my shelter because I already carry them. I think it is a shame to carry purpose-made tent poles all day that do nothing for you except at night. There are some circumstances when trekking pole support may not be ideal. Using trekking poles, the Tarptent Notch is not self-standing. It must be staked out in four directions to stay erect. This may be difficult in snow, sand, or on rocks. Trekking pole tents also don’t make ideal base-camp tents because they cannot be left up while you go out on day-hikes. Tarptent does offer optional lightweight poles for the Notch. These could be a good option that like the idea of a trekking pole tent but want the option to leave it set up during the day. Tartpent also makes a very similar model called the Moment DW that is supported by a single hoop. The Moment DW has the additional advantage that it will remain standing with only 2 stakes.
End Ports & Struts
The two narrow ends of the Tarptent Notch are supported by removable carbon-fiber struts. These struts serve to increase usable floor space by raising the ceiling over the sleeper’s head and feet. The struts are light, but they prevent the tent from being stuffed into a sack. The struts can be removed for those who want to stuff the Tarptent Notch. The A-Frame shaped end ports can be opened or closed using Velcro to increase ventilation or block out weather. I keep my end ports open in nearly all conditions because I prefer the cold breeze over a stuffy interior.
Vestibules & Doors
The doors on the Tarptent Notch are diagonally opposed. This means the door at your feet is to the right while the door at your head is to the left. I really like this arrangement. With either narrow end pointed into the wind, at least one door can be opened without exposing the interior to the weather. This is superior design to many tents with symmetric door arrangements. The vestibules of the notch aren’t huge, but offer just enough space for your pack, boots, and other belongings. I use an s-biner to hang my pack from a trekking pole inside the vestibule. This keeps the pack off the ground and allows me to reach it easily from the interior.
In its normal configuration, the Tarptent Notch is supported on its sides by guy-out points at the corner of the vestibule. Newer Tarptents come with linlock fixed to each apex that can be used to support an optional guy-line. Using this guy line, the entire side of the Notch can be rolled back for superior views and ventilation.
The Tarptent Notch can be ordered with full-mesh or partial-solid interiors. The full-mesh interior provides excellent ventilation and bug protection during warmer seasons. The partial-solid interior has white fabric that covers the wall about halfway up the sleeping area. This white fabric serves to block the wind and reflect heat radiant back at the sleeper. the Tarptent Notch Rainfly and both interiors can be set up on their own. In normal configuration, the interior is pre-installed, maintaining a dry tent even when set up in the rain. Each interior comes with a rugged bathtub floor.
Setting up the Tarptent Notch is easy and can be done in less than two minutes with practice:
- Spread out the tent body and loosely stake out he two end guy-out points.
- Set your trekking poles to 115 centimeters or 45 inches.
- Slide a trekking pole into one of the open top vent-ports and place the point into the grommet
- Loosely stake out that side of the tent
- Slide the other trekking pole into the open top vent on the other side
- Stake out that side of the tent
- Walk around the tent, adjusting the positions of each stake and the tensions on the guy lines
- Open the doors to adjust the position of the trekking poles and spread out the interior
- Velcro the interior to the bottom of each pole.
High Wind Setup
In its normal configuration, the Tarptent Notch only uses 4 stakes. This, combined with its steep walls, make it vulnerable to high winds. While I have slept soundly in my Notch in winds up to 40 mph, others have had issues when the winds really start to blow. For these conditions, the Tarptent Notch can be pitched with extra guy-out points. Each Apex on newer Notches is equipped with a linelock that can support an optional guy-line. Guy-lines can also be tied to the tops of the trekking poles and slipped out the top-vent for additional support. Preferably, a narrow end of the tent should be pointed into the wind and these extra guy-lines should be angled in that direction. Additionally, profile of the Tarptent Notch can be lowered by reducing the height of the trekking poles.
The Tarptent Notch is an excellent, full-featured tent capable of providing superior weather protection in most 3 season conditions and light snow. While the interior is small, the full mesh walls make it very livable. Side vestibules place gear storage in easy reach of the sleeper. The Tarptent Notch sets up quickly and remains dry even when set-up in the rain. High vestibule walls and open end ports provide excellent ventilation, but can be adjusted if weather is severe. I have used the Notch for most of my Appalachian Trail Section Hiking trips, covering over 600 miles from Pennsylvania through Vermont. I used to rely mostly on flat tarps, but I discovered that the Notch is actually a lighter solution after considering the weight of a tarp, stakes, and guy-lines.
I would recommend the Notch to anyone looking for a lightweight tent for fast and light backpacking trips. Using traditional materials and US Labor, it is an affordable tent that will make you proud while not breaking the bank. If you don’t use trekking poles or are looking for a tent to primarily serve in base camp, consider one of Tarptent’s other models like the Moment DW or Double Rainbow. Likewise, if you plan to occasionally share the tent or like some excess space, consider the Tarptent Stratospire. For a tent hat can withstand harsher weather conditions, consider the Scarp. Tarptents are light, but not the lightest. I believe they strike the best compromise of function, weight, comfort, and affordability. If you’re looking for the absolute lightest tent and are willing to pay for it, look to other manufactures for cuben-fiber options. If you’re only planning to car camp, consider less expensive options with more interior space.