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To tarp or not to tarp
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Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
To tarp or not to tarp on 07/04/2008 09:26:37 MDT Print View

I'm looking for some convincing argument about why I should ditch my current shelter in favor of a tarp. I have some fond memories of tarping as a Boy Scout (and some not-so-fond ones as well) so for some time I've been considering revisiting the world of tarp camping but haven't made the the plunge as-of-yet.

Right now, I'm using a Tarptent Contrail (24.5 oz.) for my solo hikes. When I factor in that bug protection is essential for 4-5 months out of the year here in the midatlantic, I can't come up with a tarp system that gives me a significant weight savings...weight doesn't seem to be much of a factor here. Maybe the once concern I'd have is that the Contrail has a low fiddle- factor when compared to tarping.

Any similar tent-to-tarp converts out there? Can anyone convince my inner-tarp-loving-camper that I'm missing out by not tarping? And, if you were approaching this from my direction, what would be on your tarp system wish-list?

I appreciate all the feedback, thanks in advance!

Timothy Foutz
(glad777) - MLife

Locale: Virginia
re:tarp on 07/04/2008 09:44:19 MDT Print View

hammock is the best of both worlds.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Hammocks on 07/04/2008 10:12:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for that but I've tried a hammock and I don't find it comfortable.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Hammocks on 07/04/2008 10:15:56 MDT Print View

impossible. were you using it right? or a crappy hammock? its just that out of about 200 people youre the first one who said a hammock is uncomfortable. but to be fair, that wasnt your question. so my answer is this... I had a Contrail, couldnt stand it so went to a tarp. to me, 7oz tarp and 1oz DEET worked great. If you had fond memories of tarping as a Boy Scout then it sounds like you dont need convincing, you already convinced yourself. GG also has a head-size bug net for 3oz

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 07/04/2008 10:25:43 MDT.

Timothy Foutz
(glad777) - MLife

Locale: Virginia
Re: tarp on 07/04/2008 10:51:28 MDT Print View

I tarp and bivy some as well but not that much any more since a got my HH. But tarps and bivys are cool combo I use a monbel bivy and a tarp from speer hammock total weight is about 1 pound 7 oz with ti stakes and spectra cord. Cant stand head nets so i wear Ex officio buzz off gear. Seems to work.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Hammocks on 07/04/2008 11:25:08 MDT Print View

Michael,

RE: Hammock- I tried a Hennessey Hammock. It was hung taught, no issues there. At some point during the night I sleep on my stomach. I can force myself to stay on my back, but I'd rather not. How do you pull off stomach-sleeping in a hammock?

RE: Contrail- What didn't you like about it? I'm pretty happy with mine but I keep coming back to tarps. What made you ditch it in favor of a tarp?

RE: Tarp- There's something about the aesthetic of a tarp that's appealing as you well know. Do you still sew tarps for others?

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F - M

Locale: SoCAL
Tarping is lighter on 07/04/2008 11:26:15 MDT Print View

I use a MLD Grace Solo Tarp Spectralite (6.5oz with stakes,sack,guy lines). For bug protection, I either use a 6oz bivy with a sewn in head net or if the weather looks good, I use a MLD Bug Bivy (5.3oz). That is a 12oz shelter solution. That is about half of what you are currently using.

There are other bug systems that weight around 7oz that are more like a small tent such as Six Moons Designs' Serenity NetTent or MLD's Serenity Shelter.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Tarping is lighter on 07/04/2008 11:37:21 MDT Print View

Sean,

I guess I should have stated this in my original post but weight savings isn't too much of concern for me right now. My pack weight is pretty low and for the 2-7 day trips I am usually pulling, shaving off another pound or two isn't giving me any returns. If I was thru-hiking I'd be giving every ounce a serious look but for right now it would be more of a bragging rights thing for me and I don't really go there...

I am interested in hearing about other folk's tarp set ups and why they selected that particular gear (even if it was just to shave off another few ounces). What I am not interested in is buying a complete tarp set-up, then ditching every component to replace it with something else...which is what I've done with just about everything I carry (sound familiar anyone?)...so if I go to tarping, I want to try to get it right the first go-round. I'll add that some added durability would probably trump a little extra weight.

John Quinn
(inspector8598) - M

Locale: Northeast
Re - tarps on 07/04/2008 11:50:21 MDT Print View

I also do most of my backpacking in the mid-atlantic region and understand how essential bug protection is during certain months. For that time of year, I carry a BPL Nano 7'X 9'tarp (5.2 oz) and a MLD bug bivy with spectralite .60 floor (4.8 oz) (Total weight 10 oz) During the "non-bug" months, I exchange the bug bivy with a MLD soul bivy w/side zip and wire hoop (9.2 oz) (Total weight 14.4 oz) The soul bivy offers additional protection in wet/cold weather. I have never considered going back to tents since using the tarp/bivy method. I hope this helps in your conversion.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
"To tarp or not to tarp" on 07/04/2008 11:58:18 MDT Print View

Russel
A simple and relatively low cost set up would be a Tigoat bivy with bug net window (6 oz. / $115.00) used with a MLD Grace Solo tarp (silnylon being 8 oz. / $95.00). With this set up you would go from your 24 oz. Contrail weight to 14 oz. tarp-bivy weight saving 10 oz. of shelter weight. One can even save slightly more weight by spending considerably more money to go with either spinnaker or cuben faric for the tarp.

You did not account for the weight of a ground sheet with the Contrail so I did not with the tarp-bivy combo.

The main trade off I see in giving up the Contrail to save weight is that with the tarp-bivy you only get the bug protection when confined to the bivy. The Contrail provides a larger bug free area for shelter.
Thom

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Re: Hammocks on 07/04/2008 12:04:20 MDT Print View

oh yes, stomach sleeping and HH are not compatible. Only hammock that might do the trick is the JrB Bridge. It has a true lay flat design, (see my avatar) but stomach sleeping might still be a trick. Dude, the only place I can honestly do it is at home. I cant even stomach sleep on a Prolite. Wake up w/ sore ribs...

Next chance you get, try a Bear Mtn. Bridge hammock. Provided you dont have King Kong shoulders you might like it.

so, i still sew tarps, making one as we speak actually.
however I dont even use the products I make. Funny?!

the contrail never pitched right and I always had trouble finding the rear carbon struts had fallen over in the night. The other thing is I found flying insects were never a huge problem. The other day I saw a guy (coffee) who made a nano see-um stuff sack that doubled as a head net. Then again, sleeping in such a thing would be a nuisance. I use permethrin or deet instead of extra 12oz of tent. IF i were to go to ground sleeping on occasion Id use something else. Lunar solo? the "one"?

in my case its obvioulsy not about weight savings (over a 7oz tarp) because the bridge hammock is around 37oz with netting attached. the comfort is what sold me..

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 07/04/2008 12:07:10 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: To tarp or not to tarp on 07/04/2008 12:07:57 MDT Print View

Better yet, why not a SMD Gatewood Cape and a Serenity Shelter with it. You have floor protection as well as netting. You can stake the cape down to the ground for complete inclosure, taking away the need of a bivy. I have used mine now for a season and a half and love it. Oh and it doubles as rain protection and a pack cover ta boot!

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: To tarp or not to tarp on 07/04/2008 12:44:39 MDT Print View

Ken- I've considered a Gatewood Cape but I've ruled it out. I don't need a pack cover and I need separate rain protection for some of the hiking I do. If I'm cruising the AT its not so much of an issue but if I'm off-trail I wouldn't feel comfortable exposing my shelter to some of the bushwhacking I do. Also, one of the main reasons I'm interested in a return to tarping is for that 'wide open' feel of sleeping under a tarp.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: "To tarp or not to tarp" on 07/04/2008 12:52:37 MDT Print View

Thom,

I don't typically carry a groundsheet unless cowboy camping is in the forecast or I might be sleeping in a shelter (nasty floors=dirty bag). I suppose I could get by with a using my collapsed Contrail but my groundsheet is only an ounce and a half (GG polycryo).

How storm-worthy in general is a tarp the size of the MLD solo? If I am likely to see prolonged rain, I assume that a good WPB bivy is necessary. Also, how do you like the TiGoat bivy? I've been checking them out for some time now and their prices seem very respectable for the product they offer.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hammocks on 07/04/2008 12:59:39 MDT Print View

Mike,

I'll try the Bear Mtn if I have the opportunity. I have friends who hammock on occasion but it hasn't stuck with me. I also don't have much of a comfort issue sleeping on the ground, using just a GG foam torso pad...go figure.

As for the Contrail, I've had better luck with the struts. I usually find a flat rock if the ground is really soft or soaked. A friend has the new Contrail which pitches tauter with less fuss since Henry redesigned the canopy.

If I wanted to discuss details for having a tarp made, should I just PM you? Or do you have a website?

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643)

Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: To tarp or not to tarp on 07/04/2008 13:03:52 MDT Print View

Hi Russel,

I'm in a similar boat as you. My primary shelter is a six moon designs lunar solo, which at 23 oz is pretty close to your contrail. I've looked at various tarp combinations, and it's pretty hard to come up with something significantly lighter without adding quite a bit of a fiddle factor and decrease in comfort. At the very extreme, I could come up with a shelter system in the 12-16 oz area (with full bug protection), but that's only a weight savings of 7-11 oz, which I'm hardly even going to feel on my back. I'd be adding quite a bit of fiddle factor/complication from using separate components (tarp/bivy, or tarp/groundcloth/bugnet), plus the combination is hardly going to be as comfortable as my lunar solo.

So I've more or less given up on the idea of tarping, at least when bugs are out. I don't really feel like I'm missing out on tarping with regards to being closer to nature either, since the lunar solo is pretty airy, and when opened up feels practically like a tarp in a lean to setup with it's big side entrance.

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: To tarp or not to tarp on 07/04/2008 13:36:11 MDT Print View

Daniel,

Maybe I have the wrong tarp tent haha! I love my Contrail but it sure feels more tarp than tent to me. As I stated, this isn't an exercise in weight reduction for me. Its more for aesthetics than anything else. As for fiddle-factor...I suppose I can deal with a few more minutes in pitching my shelter in trade for the 'tarp experience' if you will.

General question for tarp users- I love the idea of being as exposed as I can but protecting my sleeping bag is a concern. I've got a WM Ultralight and the shell won't fend off substantial water. How realistic is it that I can set up under a small solo tarp, say 8x7x5 in occasional med-light precip without using a bivy? Is this simply a no-go for down bag users?

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
"To tarp or not to tarp" on 07/04/2008 13:38:43 MDT Print View

Russell,
I feel the additional coverage provided by the MLD Grace Solo Plus is much more user friendly. Ron's Solo tarps in spectralite and spinntex are cut to this slightly larger size and with using the lighter, and more costly fabric, there is no weight penalty as compared to the smaller silnylon Solo.

I believe the Tigoat bivy is very well thought off on this site but MLD and others offer comparable bivy bags with regard to weight, fabric, features and performance.
Thom

Edited by thomdarrah on 07/04/2008 13:39:15 MDT.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F - M

Locale: SoCAL
To Tarp on 07/04/2008 16:20:57 MDT Print View

Since you don't consider weight to be a factor, I'll move on to the secondary reasons I tarp. The significant weight savings was the main reason that made me consider it. I do most of my trips in Calfornia and have to deal with the Sierra Neveda and it's legendary hoards of mosquitos so bugs are a issue that I have to deal with.

A tarp is easy to set up during the day to get out of a rain storm while you eat or rest or if you just want some shade. It is less a problem to deal with when wet since it's smaller. There is no inside floor that needs to be protected from getting wet. You have just a ground cloth/bivy that is packed up before the tarp comes down and it's easy to keep the top dry. A tarp is just a single sheet that is easy to lay out and dry quickly when the sun comes out.

I am really lazy. I don't even bother to use my tarp on most of my trips unless the weather calls for it. I camp out in the open or in a bug bivy for bug protection. It is easy and fast to set up camp if you aren't setting up a structure that isn't needed. I don't mind carrying something that only weighs a few ounces that I may not use. My MLD bug bivy gives me enough space to read or write. It works for me since I don't like sitting inside a tent for long unless I'm sleeping. I'd rather be outside as much as possible.

MLD's Grace Solo tarps are larger then some other manufacturers solo tarps. They offer an extended length if you need more security from rain. I've weathered hard rain and snow in mine with no trouble. It's easy to cook under one. I've never sat under one for more then a few extra hours waiting for the weather to clear. If the weather is going to rain all, day I will not stay under it all day so the smaller size isn't an issue. Instead I'll hike in the rain or I would have planned my trip to avoid such weather if possible.

A smaller tarp does take more skill to use efficiently in weather, but it doesn't take long to learn. I started with a silnylon 8x10 tarp that I quickly decided that I wanted a lighter and smaller one.

Edited by Miner on 07/04/2008 16:28:16 MDT.

Peter Surna
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Hammocks on 07/04/2008 23:29:20 MDT Print View

I also didnt find a hammock too comfortable but would be willing to try again. I had a Hennessey Ultralight.