Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tramplite Shelters

Tramplite Tarp with extended storm panel

Tramplite shelters began as a MYOG (Make Your Own Gear) project in 2013 for my New Zealand Te Araroa hike because I was increasingly underwhelmed with commercial Cuben Fiber shelters (Cuben Fiber has since been renamed Dyneema Composite Fabrics, DCF). I wanted a small, light, but stormproof shelter and many failed when it came to the last point as, generally, DCF shelters are designed in the USA for use below tree-line. Unhappy with what was available I made my own. That original shelter was a huge success and the design was further refined over many 1000’s miles hiking, and cycling, north of the Arctic Circle in Norway/Sweden/Finland, Scotland, England and USA. Version 2 was released in late 2016 that saw further improvements to the outer and the ability for the inner and outer to be pitched as a single unit. I also added the much requested option of an extended lower front door. 2017 adds some additional options including inner tent pockets, 2 styles of groundsheet protectors and an extreme weather kit.

Product testing in Norway (inner is yellow on production shelters)

Tramplite Shelters

Tramplite shelters are designed, and handmade, in the UK with Northern European conditions in mind. They are very strong, light (650g for outer and inner), and fully weatherproof (including taped seams). Side and rear panels pitch low to the ground to keep out driving rain and the shelter resists wind very well. The standard inner is solid walled for warmth.

There is the choice of 3 styles for the outer and 2 for the inner. All outers are essentially the same except for what type of front is fitted. All shelters have the same cut, are the same size, and take both types of inners. Two of the outers have a zipped front door and the third is a tarp with the option of a removable front storm panel. Inners can be all-mesh, or solid nylon sides/rear with a 3/4 mesh inner door.

Tramplite Tarp (left), 3/4 zipped (centre), extended zipped (right)
Basic Features

All outers feature adjustable Linelocs on pegging points and use a unique cord arrangement that will never slip. An adjustable mini Clamceat Line-lok is used for the beak front guy. A single front door guy is fitted on the 3/4 zipped version, that allows the doors to be held in a number of different arrangements, to maximise protection, space and ventilation. A double guy is used on the extended door to give even more options. On all shelters one, or both, doors can be left fully open while a mini beak protects from rain. The tarp and 3/4 zipped shelter require 6 pegs (stakes) while the extended zipped requires 7. The inner and outer are joined with adjustable toggles and a combination of shockcord and mitten hooks. The inner hanging points can be used to support a bivi bag. A Cuben storage sack is included. 

3/4 zipped door arrangment

Choosing between the various shelters can be difficult so I will try and identify the differences.


The first Tramplite shelter was a tarp that I used on my 2013 hike the length of New Zealand, 2014/15 TGO Challenges across Scotland, 2015 & 16 CDT hikes. I generally prefer tarps for my hikes but think they are best suited to more experienced hikers when used above the tree-line. The open front forces you to experience, and absorb, your surroundings more, in a tent it’s all to easy to zip up the door and isolate yourself from nature. There are other advantages of an open front inc superb ventilation and no moving parts (zips) to fail. Obviously the open front has disadvantages and you have to be prepared to re-pitch should the wind change direction and blow directly from the front. Swirling snow could be an issue and might sometimes find it’s way into the porch, regardless of wind direction. In 2016 I addressed these limitations and added 2 removable, and retractable, front storm panels. These panels provide additional weather protection from rain/snow, and light headwinds winds, but you still have a large open beak and may need to re-pitch if the wind is strong enough. Another consideration is the length of the front beak panels which can sometimes flap in strong winds. 

Tramplite Tarp with storm panel retracted

Tramplite Tarp in the Wind River Mountain Range, USA

The tarp is best suited to experienced hikers wanting the lightest, most reliable,  Tramplite shelter, or those that generally camp below tree-line. You can certainly use this shelters above tree-line, it performs as good as any Tramplite shelter, but be prepared to re-pitch and experience some flapping from the front beak in strong winds.

Tramplite Tarp with 3/4 storm panel

3/4 length zipped door

This was developed from feedback from the 2015 TGO Challenge because many people wanted a Tramplite shelter but didn't want a tarp. I added a 3/4 length zipped door to give the shelter most of the advantages of the tarp but with storm protection nearing that of a full tent. I used this shelter on my 2015 Arctic hike and 2016 cycle tour around Scotland and it performed superbly. The 3/4 length door still allows you to see out, even when zipped up, when laid down and  ventilation is still very good. There’s a permanent mini-beak which allows you to leave the doors unzipped in all but the worst conditions, further reducing condensation. You have excellent all round protection from wind and rain but a very strong wind from the front could still require a repitch, though it’s unlikely any moisture would ever reach the inner.

Tramplite 3/4 zipped with mini beak
This shelter is best suited to those with some experience, they will know how to pick a site that will minimise the chance of having to re-pitch should the wind do a 180. This shelter is the perfect all-rounder, giving you a tarp experience but with protection nearing that of a fully enclosed tent.

Tramplite 3/4 zipped door
Extended zipped door

This shelter takes the 3/4 length zipped door and extends it by 20 cm taking it closer to the ground and offering much more protection from wind blowing from the front. The front door is still raised slightly higher than other panels to help with a good taut pitch on rough ground. The extended door does isolate you more from nature and will reduce ventilation if fully zipped up. A twin door guy is fitted to allow the doors to be held in a 'V' configuration allowing for a large covered porch with superb ventilation (perfect if you need to cook in bad weather). Like the 3/4 version there’s a mini beak allowing the doors to remain unzipped, for ventilation, in all but the worst conditions.

Twin door guy for ventilation
This shelter is best suited to those that want the full protection of a tent or those that camp regularly in snowy winter conditions. Pitching height is most critical with this shelter, and should be very close to 125cm. Ventilation is reduced when zipped up so when possible don't!  This shelter requires an 7 pegs to pitch properly. 

Tramplite extended zipped door
Extra pegging point for extended door

Both inners are the same design and feature a proper bathtub floor with sealed seams. Both have a ’T’ zip arrangement for the front door which allows better access to the inner and also have a single zip at the rear for access to an external covered storage area. Inners can be left permanently attached to the outer but are easily removed when required. The main difference between the inners is the fabric, with one being all mesh with a DCF base, and the other with solid nylon for the rear/sides and a 3/4 mesh door panel with solid nylon lower door strip, again with a DCF base.

Inner can remain attached and pitched as a single unit
For UK use I prefer the solid inner with 3/4 mesh door as it keeps drafts off you and deals with condensation drips better. For warmer climates mesh may be the better option and may be cooler.

Solid inner with 3/4 mesh door (left), full mesh inner (right)


All shelters use 0.74oz Dyneema Composite Fabrics for the outer fabric and inner base, normally in Spruce Green.  Seams are rolled, double sewn, then sealed and bonded rather than simply joined together with double sided tape (most other DCF shelters are built with simple taped seams, particularly the cheaper ones). A rolled and sewn seam has a number of advantages for a shelter where strength and stability are paramount and gives a very strong point to add guys and pegging points which are sewn through 6 individual layers of fabric. A shelter built like this will also pitch much tauter for a flap free pitch. The only reason other manufactures tape panels together is to save time, and therefore cost. At Tramplite Gear I’m only interested in suppling you the best kit even if that takes me much longer to construct. Zips are from YKK and use a lightweight No.3 as standard but a heavier No.5 can be fitted to the outer on request. The dome where the pole fits is lined with Dyneema Gridstop Fabric to prevent wear. The solid inner uses a very breathable high quality 30D yellow coloured  nylon fabric and all mesh is midge proof.


Tramplite shelters are designed for users up to 188cm (6' 2"). Users a little taller than this will fit but be aware, with a thick sleeping mat and winter bag, head and feet may touch the sloping inner sides.  Smaller users will have masses of storage space above the head and below the feet. Tramplite zipped shelters use a single hiking pole for the main support that needs to extend to a minimum of 125cm, the tarp requires 2 adjustable hiking poles.


Extreme Weather Kit

While the basic performance of a Tramplite shelter is class leading for such a light shelter some may prefer the security of 3 additional external guys. Many users will not need this kit but those that like to camp high, and/or exposed, should consider it. You can add this kit at a later date if you wish to try the Tramplite 'as is' but it does need to be factory fitted. This kit can be fitted to all Tramplite shelters, not just the later 2016 V2 shelters.

Extreme weather kit Howgill Fells, England
Inner Pockets

Two simple mesh accessory pockets fitted to the lower inner tent door panels. Useful for storing your glasses or a torch.

Groundsheet Protectors 

Cuben is tough but not very abrasion resistant and unless pitching on grass a groundsheet protector is recommended. I can supply simple custom sized protectors in lightweight clear plastic or Tyvek. Tyvek has superb puncture resistance, is almost indestructible, and is recommended for areas where you will likely be camping on sharp rocks, or around spiky plants (desert campers this is for you!). Plastic is much lighter, more water resistant, and offers good abrasion resistance, but a lot less puncture protection. I've tried many different plastics over the years and these are made from the best I've found. They will not last as long as Tyvek, and if punctured can tear, but with care I normally get 1 long hike (4-5 months) from each protector. All edges of the clear plastic protectors  are bonded to help prevent rips and if punctured they can easily be patched with most tapes.

Groundsheet Protectors, Plastic (46g) left, Tyvek (125g) right

Tramplite Product Weights

All weights are estimates and can vary due to differences in supplied fabric batches and any modifications. Weights include all standard items and a cuben storage sack. I weigh every shelter that goes out and the weights here are averages unless stated otherwise.


3/4 zipped 327g
Extended zipped 340g
Tarp 270g
3/4 storm panel for trap 57g
Extended storm panel for tarp 64g


Nylon inner with 3/4 mesh door 320g
Mesh inner 281g


Groundsheet protector Tyvek 125g
Groundsheet protector plastic 46g
Inner pockets, mesh*2 TBA
Extreme weather kit 26g


To order email me using the forms on this site. Please note Tramplite Gear is not a full time occupation for me and there may be a waiting list. See About Tramplite Gear for further information.

Prices are current for Oct 17 but is subject to the value of the £ when I order fabrics and actual price could be higher or lower.

All shelter outers are (each) £437
Tarp 3/4 front door storm panel TBA
Tarp extended front door storm panel TBA
Both inners are (each) £243
Extreme Weather Kit £40
Twin inner mesh pockets £20
Groundsheet protector, white Tyvek £30
Groundsheet protector, clear plastic £20

UK P&P by next day Special Delivery £12
Overseas shipping (enquire for cost)

Tramplite Tarp New Mexico

Tramplite Tarp (with extended storm panel) and 2 Tramplite 3/4 zipped shelters on the TGO Challenge (Scotland)