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Shelter For JMT
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Nathan Chaszeyka
(n_chaszeyka) - F
Shelter For JMT on 08/23/2005 11:27:52 MDT Print View

I am trying to decide on a shelter for use in So. Nevada and the Sierras. My focus is particularly on the best decision for a JMT hike next year. I need the advice to the more experienced members to help me along.

Right now I own a BD Megalight. I am very happy with its performance but I'm trying to get as light as possible. I have decided to purchase a poncho/tarp as my rain protection but I'm wondering if it would not also be suitable for my JMT hike as my primary shelter as well.

To the point:

1. Knowing that the Sierras are comparatively dry would a poncho/tarp be a sufficient shelter for Aug. storms?

2. Is it possible to make a larger shelter from rain by combining two poncho/tarps? (my girlfriend is going as well)

3. Is there another suggestion that someone has which scraps the poncho/tarps all together and provides lighter rain protection while walking and shelter for two?

Sorry this was long but I wanted to be clear.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Shelter For JMT on 08/23/2005 13:42:22 MDT Print View

have only used one poncho tarp. have never "doubled-up" two poncho tarps, so can't give you any info on that configuration.

since you want to go as light as possible, if you decide against the poncho tarp approach, check out the 8oz (yes, you read that right "eight ounces") Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp ==> Click HERE to load the GossamerGear product webpage

Edited by pj on 08/23/2005 14:43:31 MDT.

Nathan Chaszeyka
(n_chaszeyka) - F
Thanks for the suggestion on 08/23/2005 14:11:18 MDT Print View

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll definitely go that route if I decide to purchase a full tarp instead of the ponchos.

Right now I'm pretty sure that Bivy Sacks and Poncho Tarps are what I'm going for. What I'm really interested in knowing is if others believe this to be a viable solution.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
combining two poncho/tarps on 08/23/2005 14:25:21 MDT Print View

I have done this in the past using two of the older military ponchos with snap buttons. If I remember correctly, in high winds and driving rain I did experience some leaking along the buttoned ridge line.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Shelter for (anywhere) about on 08/23/2005 14:50:49 MDT Print View

I like the Gossamer Gear products but they are heavy. The SpinnTwin Tarp is 120" by 110" at 8oz.

I have just ordered enought material to make what I am calling:

Cuben Bill's - Tobacoo Leaf** Tarp. It will be 126" by 108" and weigh between 2.8oz and 3.29oz. (give or take an ounce) but should finish up at or under 4oz. Then add some BMW AirCore Pro cord and a few Ti (.20oz each) stakes and I have a very light Tarp setup.

** The name "Tobacco Leaf" in reference to the Cuben material is regestered with the Dept of Agriculture and is not on the endangered substanced list yet.

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Shelter for (anywhere) about on 08/23/2005 15:10:17 MDT Print View

If you want to avoid using those heavy 0.20 oz titanium stakes you should check out Ray Jardine's website ( He states he will be selling (In early September) some carbon fiber stakes. Weight is given as 0.16 oz/stake (1.6 oz for 10 stakes is what he states). They will be 6 3/4 inches long. He says they are not meant to be pounded in with a large rock so unsuitable for hard ground probably but it sounds like they might be good for softer ground (He says they will be a much larger diameter than the titanium stakes). He mentions if you are carefull you can tap them into the ground.

Anyway, it's an interesting idea.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Carbon Fiber Tent Stakes on 08/23/2005 16:01:47 MDT Print View

Hi Daniel, Did they look anything like these? I have 6 that are between 7-5/8" and 7-7/8" long and weigh 0.14oz each.

They were left over from something I was making and are 15/64" in diameter.

Image hosted by

For anyone that is interested in something like this you can buy this size hunting arrow at Wal Mart for about $4.00 or less and get 5 (6.75") stakes from each arrow.

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Carbon Fiber Tent Stakes on 08/23/2005 16:46:42 MDT Print View


I have not seen the Jardine stakes. I only know about them based on the "teasers" that I have been reading on his website. He has not posted any pictures yet.

I'm assuming they will have some kind of capped ends, but maybe not.

How do yours work? Are they hollow? If so, does soil get in them? I'll have to check out those arrows.

Go with a Henry Shires tarp tent on 08/23/2005 17:02:08 MDT Print View

Here's a good article about poncho tarps on the JMT.

I have done the JMT and would recommend a Henry Shires tarp tent. Yes, its heavier than a minimalist tarp but it is so easy to set up, it has mesh to keep the insects out and is quite livable.

Nathan Chaszeyka
(n_chaszeyka) - F
jmt article on 08/23/2005 17:58:49 MDT Print View

Thank you anon. That was exactly the type of information I was looking for. It appears as though my setup is nearing completion now.

Pedro Arvy
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
More on JMT on 08/23/2005 18:43:42 MDT Print View

This is Anon with my real name.

I also spoke to the author of that thru hiker article directly and he said while the tarp worked, he would not use it again. It was too uncomfortable for his liking in major storms.

Ben Lyon
(Dynamo) - F
Re: Thanks for the suggestion on 08/23/2005 20:00:43 MDT Print View

"Right now I'm pretty sure that Bivy Sacks and Poncho Tarps are what I'm going for. What I'm really interested in knowing is if others believe this to be a viable solution."


It is my opinion that a poncho tarp is a very viable solution. I believe Ryan's initial SUL article is testament to this fact as well.

I started with a Campmor/Equinox Poncho Tarp and Equniox Bivy. After much use, in the cooler months here in the Southeast, I am moving on to a Integral Designs SilPoncho and BMW or Oware Bivy (yet to make the bivy purchase). It's hard to beat the weight savings of (1.) such a light shelter, and (2.) the multiple use savings in weight.

Get lighter with lighter materials, as are available through BMW, spin fabrics. I haven't gone this route for durability's sake, but nonetheless, you could pick up an additional 2-3 Oz.

In the Summer I use a Tarptent Virga (also highly recommended) for the bug protection and DriDucks rainsuit. Perhaps, at a moderate ounce penalty, this could be another consideration. Few shelters are as light as the Tarptents for what you get, and I have not come across any that are as easy to pitch. Furthermore, they just look cool.

Edited by Dynamo on 08/23/2005 20:03:23 MDT.

weights for this set up on 08/23/2005 22:13:59 MDT Print View

spinn twinn tarp 8 oz.
two 02 rainshield top/bottom sets 18 oz.
two vapor bivies 13 oz. (you can more surely use the lighter weight quantum bivy with a larger tarp?) two interior pack bags .5 oz
this set up: 39.5 oz. and a lot more coverage

two poncho tarps 20oz
two epic bivies 18 oz.
this set up 38 oz and you're shaking in your boots

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Mtn. Laurel Design Bivies on 08/23/2005 22:47:19 MDT Print View


Another SUL wt. bivy option is Ron Bell's Mtn. Laurel Design (MLD) bivies.

His bivies made with an Epic top are lighter than the Oware.

His bivies made with a DWR top are a tad lighter than the BMW Vapr bivy.

This is not to disparage these other two fine products. Merely alerting any new to these Forums who might be unfamiliar with MLD.

Mr. Bell makes his products to order, so it takes approx 2-4 wks in my experience. i ordered at a very busy time of the year (end of May/early June) and so was prepared to wait. He also does custom work at a very small add'l cost if you require it. He made me a custom Epic Soul bivy with several custom modifications. Looks so good one would think that he had made 100 just like it before. A true MASTER craftsman.

Here's link to the MLD home page

Hope this info is useful to someone.

Edited by pj on 08/23/2005 23:02:35 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Mtn. Laurel Design Bivies on 08/24/2005 00:04:32 MDT Print View

I am reviewing an MLD ultralight bivy for BPL - I like it.

It is a smidge lighter than the Vapr Bivy by a tad. The main difference is less volume in the MLD bivy, esp. in the hood area.

Great option and well made, though.

Edited by ryan on 08/24/2005 00:04:50 MDT.

Nathan Chaszeyka
(n_chaszeyka) - F
Input has been very helpful on 08/24/2005 00:34:27 MDT Print View

Thank you all for your input. I have made my decision for now by going with the poncho and bivy combination. Knowing the Sierra weather very well, and having read about some other's experiences I'm confident enough at this point that this is the setup for me. "Major" storms are more of a rarity in the Sierras.

Money is very tight with fall semester starting and the most viable option seems to be the Campmor Poncho w/extension (I will sew on ridgeline tabs) and the Equinox ultralight bivy to guard against any splash.

Does anyone have anything to say about the Equinox ultralight bivy with the mummy shape? With it's weight and price and provided that it's more for extra splash protection than for full storm sanctuary will it work for this?

Oh and Ryan, I noticed that you have combined two ponchos in the past. How have the results been for you?

Edited by n_chaszeyka on 08/24/2005 00:35:39 MDT.


Locale: South West US
jmt shelter on 08/24/2005 03:05:44 MDT Print View

One thing to condisder is the bug factor. Went for a four day section of the JMT two weeks ago and the bugs were pretty gnarly, especially around water. I used a golite cave 1 tarp and even though we carried adequate bug personal bug protection, (headnets, nylon clothing, etc.) my girlfriend and I found it was quite uncomfortable to sleep in. Particularly the head net. Personally I am looking to getting a tarptent with a floor for next time.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
poncho tarp on JMT on 08/24/2005 09:38:51 MDT Print View

I finished a JMT through hike this year using the ID poncho-tarp/BMW Vapor Bivy/Arc X combo. The hike was from 7/24-8/11. I found this setup performed extremely well.

As far as bugs: I understand that earlier in the season the bugs are worse, so they are probably better now. If you come to a spot with bugs, just keep on hiking and camp somewhere else. If you can't, just put on DEET. Also, the bugs really calm down after dark. Once in the bivy I didn't have any problems with bugs at all. I didn't spend alot of time hanging around in my shelter so I don't think a tent or larger tarp would have made my trip any better.

It rained 5 times during the trip. Twice while the shelter was setup. A couple tips: Seam seal the ID poncho tarp. I would get pools of water around the hood and since I didn't seam seal it, it leaked a little -- not bad through. Also, if it's going to rain, pitch it low. We got hail during a rain storm and we were camped in a area with alot of dirt and the hail kicked up the wet dirt which flew everywhere. Got all over our stuff. The next time, we pitched it lower and put all our stuff in our packs and this was not a problem.

I found it very comfortable to sleep in the bivy. Always staked out the bivy and tied up the hood. Very roomy and the bivy adds alot of warmth. The only time I had any condensation in the bivy was on the night it rained. And it was minimal (not like back east.)

That being said, I don't think I would use this setup for me and my girlfriend. I would want to snuggle up at night, so the bivy wouldn't work to well for two people ;)

Edited by bobg on 08/24/2005 09:40:34 MDT.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Re: Shelter For JMT on 08/24/2005 17:37:05 MDT Print View

Southern Sierra weather divides up into three categories. 1)Clear and warm. The early part of summer is mostly this. 2)Scattered thundershowers. These typically start in July and go through August. Thunderstorms are local and so are totally unpredictable, but generally short. They can occur in the afternoon or after midnight. 3)And then there are the pineapple expresses. One to three weeks of daily rain, sometimes lasting for hours, though almost always with long breaks between onslaughts. But again you can't predict them. Most years there are none. In my experience they mostly occur in July through early August. They are rare.
Mosquitos are dependent on water and above freezing nights. They are at their worst early in the season and typically have pretty much died down towards the end of July. But this is all dependent on how late the "spring" rains lasted. And that is totally erratic. This year they went on forever. Last year we had a drought.

There are places in the Sierra where mosquitos are incredible (Mosquito Lakes above the South Fork of the San Joaquin is very aptly named, mosquitos on the top of a breezy 12,000 foot peak, argggghhhh), and others where they are mild. Sierra mosquitos typically avoid direct sunlight and go to bed fairly early. There are always a few early birds to bug you in the morning. They die out quickly when the weather drops below freezing.

Basically what it comes down to is be prepared for rain, but you probably will have to do little hiking in it. And it probably it will never last more than a couple of hours. But those pineapple expresses, no fun there.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Integral Designs Sil Poncho Tarp on 08/24/2005 18:53:31 MDT Print View

I just returned from a week in the Eastern Sierras (Lake Italy area) and found the Integral Designs Sil Poncho/Tarp @ 9.5 oz. & bivy combo a solid choice even with afternnon thunder showers, cold/windy 40 degree nights and my 6'4" frame. But if only they could replace the 4 metal snaps with something lighter, use a thinner cord and smaller lock on the hood and drop the over all weight to 7 oz. while still using the same lightweight sil/nylon material they would have an excellent ultralight solution that wouldn't have to be babied.