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Tarptent Bowfin 1P Tent Review

The Tarptent Bowfin 1 is a one person, double-walled tent that weighs 37 ounces
The Tarptent Bowfin 1 is a one person, double-walled tent that weighs 37 ounces.

Tarptent Bowfin Tent

Comfort
Ease of Setup
Weather Resistance
Durabilty
Weight
Packed Size

Excellent

The Tarptent Bowfin is easy to setup and spacious with excellent ventilation. It's ideal for people who don't use trekking poles, but want the benefits of using a lightweight Tarptent.

 ($309) is a 1 person double-walled tent with two large, well-ventilated vestibules that weighs 37 ounces. It requires a long but lightweight center pole to pitch, making it remarkably fast and easy to set up. It comes with a mesh inner tent that has plenty of interior space for you and your gear. The Bowfin 1 is a good option for people who want a lightweight, affordable tent that does not require trekking poles to set up. However, I could see using it even if you do use trekking poles, since it’s such a comfortable and adaptable tent to use.

Specs At a Glance:

  • Weight: 37 ounces (actual 36.4 w/o seam sealing, tent stakes, or accessory stuff sacks)
    • Fly: 17.6 oz.
    • Mesh Inner: 12 oz.
    • Pole: 6.8 oz., aluminum
  • Inner tent dimensions: 50″ x 84″ x 40″
  • Minimum stakes required to pitch: 2
  • Doors: 2
  • Vestibules: 2
  • Fabric: 30d silnylon with 3000 mm hydrostatic head

The Bowfin 1 is a semi-frestanding tent that just requires a minimum of two tent stakes to set up, used to stake out the vestibules. A long collapsible tent pole is used to erect the main part of the structure and is inserted into a fabric sleeve that runs on top of the fly. A permanently attached cross-bar on the roof helps provide width and good head room so you can sit up, while end PitchLocs provide room and ventilation for the feet and head.

A piece of webbing connects the inner tent to the vestibule door. By pulling it, you can make the interior or the inner tent wider or unclip it if you need more vestibule width
A piece of webbing connects the inner tent to the vestibule door. It is adjustable so you can make the inner tent wider, narrow if you want a bigger vestibule, or unclip it entirely and stake it out separately.

The interior space provided in the Bowfin 1 is nothing short of outstanding. The inner tent can be made wider by tightening the piece of webbing that connects it to the vestibule door, so you can store all of your gear inside with you, if you wish. It can be made narrower by loosening the webbing or unclipping it completely, which is useful if you need to cook in the vestibule in bad weather (always ventilate well to prevent deadly carbon monoxide buildup). Of course having two vestibules means you can also use one for gear storage and one as a door.

Cross ventilation is excellent when you open up both vestibules
Cross ventilation is excellent when you completely open up both vestibules.

Airflow is also superb, since you can open both vestibules partially or completely to create cross-breezes (loops at the end of the inner tent webbing strap let you stake it out without being attached to the vestibule walls when they’re rolled open). If you ever wondered about the utility of having two vestibules on a 1 person tent, this is it.

PitchLocs

PitchLocs are a common design feature found on several of Tarptent’s tents and serve multiple purposes. First, they raise the end of the tent above the feet and head so the tops your feet don’t touch the ceiling and you’re not staring at the tent roof just inches above your face.

The Pitchlock ends are made with three carbon fiber struts. The horizontal strut holds the two diagonal struts in place when the cord in the lineloc is pulled taut
The PitchLoc ends are made with three carbon fiber struts. The horizontal strut spreads the two diagonal struts apart when the cord in the lineloc is pulled taut. The diagonal struts collapse for easy storage when the lineloc holding the horizontal strut is released and can be removed for packing.

The PitchLocs also provide additional airflow through the tent (they’re essentially foot and head vestibules) with fabric doors that can be tied open or kept closed with velcro to block horizontal rain.

When the lineloc holding the horizontal strut is loosened, the three struts collapse vertically and can be easily rolled up with the tent for storage
When the lineloc holding the horizontal strut is loosened, the three struts collapse vertically and can be easily rolled up with the tent for storage.

Finally, the PitchLocs act as a “base” for the tent and help prevent it from tipping over. In fair conditions you don’t need to stake them (the vestibule stakes are sufficient), but you can secure them further with a hook stake for more stability in breezy weather or when both vestibules are fully rolled open and the tent doesn’t really have anything anchoring it to the ground. The PitchLocs make setting up the Bowfin on wooden tent platforms a breeze because that the tent ends are self supporting don’t need to be tied down.

The Bowfin's pitchlocks help keep your feet from touching the inner tent, preventing the transfer of condensation to your sleeping insulation
The Bowfin’s PitchLocs help keep your feet from touching the inner tent, preventing the transfer of condensation to your sleeping insulation

While the inner tent can be removed and packed separately, it’s not practical to set it up after you’ve erected the fly in pouring rain. There are too many hooks to attach (12, in fact) and small ones that require fine motor control to mate. The mesh inner tent is interchangeable with one where solid fabric is used on the bottom half to block wind from blowing through the tent. This is useful add-on option if you want to use the tent for camping in cooler weather.

An inner tent with partial solid walls is also available for camping in cooler weather.
An inner tent with partial solid walls is also available for camping in cooler weather.

Can you pitch the Bowfin without an inner tent and just use the rainfly by itself? Not really, because the length of the inner tent and its attachment points help maintain the height of the parabolic curve formed by the center pole. Without the inner tent floor, the parabola loses tension and height. This isn’t a defect of the design, but worth noting because other Tarptent models can be used perfectly well with just a fly.

The Bowfin Fly cannot be satisfactorilly used without an inner tent to help maintain the height of the arch.
The Bowfin 1 Fly requires the use of an inner tent (primarily the floor) to help maintain the height of the arch.

Additional Observations

If you’re interested in learning more about the Bowfin 1, be sure to watch the . Here are a few additional observations that I have about setup and use.

  1. The Bowfin includes two 6″ aluminum Easton tent stakes (the blue ones) to stake down the side vestibules. While these stakes hold well in many soils, the vestibules can put a lot of tension on them. I’d probably upgrade to a longer or even an MSR Groundhog for better gripping power.
  2. There are several places where you can anchor the Bowfin more securely in wind: extra loops along the bottom hem of the vestibule doors, the PitchLoc corners, and two guyout points at the halfway point of the pole. There are no apex guy out points however.
  3. While Tarptent rates the Bowfin as one of it’s most wind worthy tents, this is only the case when the vestibules are closed and staked out. The pitch loses its tautness when you roll open the vestibules. Can’t have it both ways.
  4. When breaking down the tent, it’s best to push the long pole out of its sleeve rather than pulling on it. Otherwise the pole segments get stuck in the sleeve and become difficult to remove. Not unique to this tent, but common with tents that have pole sleeves.
  5. The apex vents don’t have wire stiffeners or a prop to keep them open when used, although a glove hook is proved to keep them closed in driving rain.
  6. The carbon fiber roof cross-piece and PitchLoc struts are removable, so you can stuff the fly, making it easier to pack. However, reinserting the CF cross-piece and struts will make set up time longer. If you don’t take them out, the tent rolls up into a long cylinder which is a bit harder to pack if you carry a small volume backpack.
  7. You want to avoid sitting on the carbon fiber cross-piece and PitchLoc structs to avoid breaking them. Depending on how you pack, this might mean not sitting on your backpack.
  8. Don’t forget that you need to seam seal the Bowfin.

Recommendation

is a lightweight, spacious, and well ventilated tent that’s very easy to set up. Weighing 37 ounces, it’s ideal for camping in a wide range of conditions from hot and humid to desert, for backpacking or car camping, and everything in between. While it’s on the heavier end of the ultralight tent spectrum, it’s still quite appealing to use, and I like it more and more every time I sleep in it outdoors.

The ventilation, storage, and access provided by the Bowfin’s dual vestibule design is fantastic and you’ll have no problem keeping your gear close at hand. The internal living space is giant, especially the width, and you’ll never feel confined. But the thing I like the most about the Bowfin is its nearly freestanding design. It’s really remarkable how simple and fast the Bowfin is to set up and tear down, even in the pissing rain. That’s important to me when I’m done for the day or want to get out of camp fast the next morning.

I’ve owned several tents made by Tarptent over the years and have always been impressed by the value and ingenuity that the owner, Henry Shires, puts into his tent designs. is another great one.

See also:

Disclosure: Tarptent loaned the author a tent for this review. The author has no business relationship with Tarptent.

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25 comments

  1. I have this tent. You are correct about the room inside for a solo tent. I do have an issue, however. You only have that extra room assuming you have clipped the bathtub foor to the vestibule, which then renders the vestibule space almost useless. If you unclip one of the sides, it becomes a floppy mess on that side. My recommendation would be to simply increase the length of the tension straps to permit mantaining of the shape of the bathtub floor and increasing the vestibule space when needed.

    • Not sure I see the problem. Why not leave it connected and simply release the strap tension to give you the space you need or stake out the floor separately at what ever width you choose since you can push a stake through the loop at end of the tension strap?

      • Because just releasing the strap tension provides very little additional vestibule space. If I completely undo it and use the internal floor hook the inner becomes a floppy mess on that side. May try staking it out.

  2. So with the inner tent, it’s a minimum of 50 ounces?

    • Nope – 37 ounces.
      You can buy an additional solid wall inner tent to replace the mesh one for cold weather camping. It’s an optional add-on. I’ve modified the article spec so no one else makes this mistake.

  3. Looks like a Notch morphed a bit for people who don’t carry trekking poles. :) The inner is quite a bit wider than the Notch, but the fly is the same width on both, so I’m wondering if you could use a Bowfin inner with a Notch outer…

    • You could buy both and try it :-) After using a Notch for many trips, the Bowfin is a big step up in interior space and comfort. Maybe because I know what the Notch is really like.

      • I know what that old Notch of yours is like…

        For me, the Notch is a step up from the Sublite, which I used for several years.

      • I think you have more shelters than I do at this point. :-)

      • …and they keep showing up with New England return addresses!

      • Yeah, I’ve been using a Notch for the past couple of years and my only complaint is the interior room. It pitches fast and easy, very light, easy to configure for open air or protection as needed… I just wish it had a little more side space by my hips to lay out clothing in the morning, which is a pretty minor thing.

  4. This tent looks appealing but having only used more traditional double walled semi to fully freestanding tents by the likes of REI, Big Agnes, and Nemo it’s tough making the leap. I’m also looking at the REI Quarter Dome UL1 redesigned for 2017 as my solo option. I’m tall 6’3 225 and will be using on tent platforms mainly in the White Mountains during the Spring and Fall. What are some advantages and disadvantages between the two tents?

    • The tarptent is easier to set up on a tent platform, has much better ventilation, and is twice as waterproof as the REI tent. The disadvantage is that you can’t return it like the REI if you don’t like it.

  5. Any reason you can think of to get a Double Rainbow over the Bowfin? How about compared to the lighter Nemo tents like the Hornet or Blaze?

  6. Hey Philip,

    You write “The pitch loses its tautness when you roll open the vestibules. Can’t have it both ways.” – but according to the setup video on the TT site (around 2:00) it seems like it stays taught even when vestible is rolled out. Am I misunderstanding you (which can totally be?)
    Thanks!

  7. Do you recall the width and/or brand model of sleeping pad you used in the Blowfin? Just wondering about how wide a pad would work in this tent.

    Thanks

    • Probably a 20″ neoair. It’s what I use mostly.

    • I used a wide-long rectangular inflatable pad (78×25) with this tent. It’s a tight fit which puts pressure on the corners of the inner tent just a bit. In the beginning, it looked like it would eventually tear the seams but it help up for the entirety of a thru hike. This fit ended up being a huge positive since my pad was essentially locked-in to the floor of the tent.

  8. I can’t decide between the Bowfin 1 and the Rainbow. I like the 40 straight inches available in the Rainbow and the few less ounces to carry around. But I am concerned the Rainbow will be more cold and wet on the AT in late March/early April than a Bowfin with that wall insert.

    Anyone have any insights into this. The weights are close enough that it doesn’t matter too much, but the Bowfin is 20 inches at the ends of the floor, expanding to 50 in the center, while the Rainbow is 40 straight across and about 3 ounces lighter. But probably it is more of a hassle to wipe down the condensation given the days on end of rain while thru-hiking.

    I realize both are heavy for thru-hiking but I haven’t found any other tents I like as much, and even with one of these my base is about 17 winter, 13 summer. So it’s not terrible. Other than that I sort of like the BA Scout but it looks like a hassle with 13 stakes and possible difficulty trying to find a place to pitch.

    The Notch is not roomy enough, and like the idea of a tent that is freestanding without trekking poles. I’ve already spent about 1200 miles in a Fly Creek and that was fine but I’m over it. The Copper Spur is a Fly Creek with a side entrance, and I’ve looked at it but it’s pretty thin and no lighter than these options. I have an REI Dash 2 that is actually pretty great but too cold for March and April on the AT. I’m going to ponder it for another month but I appreciate your thoughts.

    • I can’t get excited about using a tent on the AT. The tent sites at shelters suck and crowding makes it worse. Try a hammock.

      • Based on my experiences in the Adirondacks and Whites, shelters and the areas around them attract food seeking critters and a number of annoying people. I avoid camping near others if a all possible. Hammocks play havoc with my back and require some decent trees. To each their own.

  9. Will the Bowfin 1 accommodate a NeoCore 77″ X 25″ sleeping pad?

    • It accommodated my NeoXTherm Max Rectangular pad 78×25. It was a tight fit and wished either my pad was 1 inch shorter or the innerbody was 1 inch longer. Yours should definitely fit

  10. CAPT G M Andres, USN (Rey)

    U Turn:::I am in exact same situation. I am between Rainbow and Bowfin1 also; I just asked Tarptent if they could do a two door Rainbow! Hoping for a 2018 AT T-hike.

    Philip—as always—most excellent review.

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