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tarp-tent camping
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Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 13:23:04 MST Print View

This may be a dumb question...

I have always used solo tent style shelters for camping. I currently employ a eureka spitfire 1 tent. Recently, I have been really trying to get my pack weight down, especially for my summer backpacking set up and I have been looking at the tarp tent style shelters such as the msr twing and the integral designs tarp tent. I have never used one of these shelters before and I was wondering how it protects you from the rain or the morning dew. Wouldn't your sleeping bag get soaked? Even if it protects you from the falling rain the dry ground under you is going to soak up the water from the wet ground, right? I know, it sounds like a dumb question and a lot of people will probably laugh, but I am interested in these super light shelters. I just don't want to ruin my sleeping bag in the process... Any info on how people use these tarp tents would be appreciated. Let me know how you set up your sleeping rig.

Oh, I forgot to mention, one of my concerns is how big I am. I have a very large/muscular frame of 6'3, 315lbs and I use a big agnes lost ranger down sleeping bag size long with the matching air pad. Is there a specific tarp tent that I should be looking at that is better suited for larger people? Thanks.

Edited by judach on 01/02/2009 13:27:06 MST.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 13:49:47 MST Print View

No worries Justin, there are no dumb questions.

first off, what is the integral designs tarp tent? Do you mean the silshelter?

second, the msr twing is a straight-up tarp, not a tarp tent. if you are interested in a tarp tent, check out,, and some others.

i would think if you are using a tarp like the msr twing you would want to use some sort of groundcloth (like the GG polycryo) or a bivy (like those at either way, site selection is very important when you pitch a tarp. you want to pick a spot where water will not run excessively under your shelter. i wouldn't worry about your sleeping bad being ruined. if it gets wet it will be fine...but you will be cold b/c down provides little insulation when wet.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 14:11:23 MST Print View

Adding to Peter's good advice ...

I've used floorless Squall and Cloudburst models from and a floorless TT1 made from instructions at the same site. I'm 3" shorter than Justin but at the time was not so much lighter. I'm sure the Squall and Cloudburst will cover him just fine. Other alternatives probably will also but I don't have first hand experience with them to KNOW that. The solo shelters from would probably also do OK but I can't say that he'll be comfortable with that drastic a change from a tent (at least I wasn't at the time). Call or email Henry Shires, with his track record on customer service I'd be shocked if you couldn't buy a solo, set it up in your back yard and trade it in for a different model with little $$ lost except for the extra shipping if you felt uncomfortable with it.

Regarding site selection using a tarp. It IS very important. I avoid previously used prepared tent sites at established campsites. Look for sites with untrodden soil that are not in a bowl or where water would be funneled towards you and water will soak harmlessly into the soil (except for Noah's Ark scale rainfalls).

I don't think you can find a more cost/weight effective ground cloth than the Gossamer Gear PolyCryo that Peter mentioned. I've also used a 27"x82" piece of silnylon with good results. (ridgerest pad on top of the ground cloth and down bag or quilt on top of that)

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 14:15:42 MST Print View

Gotcha, thanks for the info peter. I didn't think there was a difference between a tarp vs. a tarp-tent. Now I know! So correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the major difference between a "tent" and a "tarp-tent" is a tarp-tent uses your trekking pole(s) to set it up, thus reducing the weight from tent poles and specialized equipment and allowing for a smaller pack size. Would this be correct? (generally speaking) I guess I'm still weighing the pros and cons of a tent vs. a tarp-tent. My eureka spitfire weighs in at about a total pack weight of 2.5 lbs. I might look into getting a tarp like the msr twing and a bivy at a later time for more of a summer/spring set up. Thanks for the info!

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 14:17:55 MST Print View

That is also very helpful jim, thanks! :-)

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: Re: Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 14:30:45 MST Print View

"So correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the major difference between a "tent" and a "tarp-tent" is a tarp-tent uses your trekking pole(s) to set it up, thus reducing the weight from tent poles and specialized equipment and allowing for a smaller pack size."

Not exactly. Both tarp and tarp-tent users commonly use trekking poles to setup their shelters. However, neither tarps nor tarp-tents are defined by whether they use trekking poles or normal tent poles for setup.

Tarp-tents are usually heavier and more protected than a plain old tarp. Tarp-tents are highly shaped shelters that are fully enclosed. They almost always have netting to protect from insects and they usually have a floor (but certainly not always). You can think of them as a minimal single-wall tent. However, the price of the extra protection of tarp-tents is increased weight over tarps. Also, many like the freedom and versatility of tarps over tarp-tents and normal tents. Sorry if I did not explain the concept of tarp-tents very well, but I could not find anywhere with a clear definition. Probably the best way to understand them is to head over to and browse their shelters.

Since you're a member, the Single Wall Tent SOTM Report should be required reading - it is VERY informative.

Justin Chaussee
(judach) - F

Locale: Earth
Re: Re: Re: Re: tarp-tent camping on 01/02/2009 14:39:54 MST Print View

I will check that out right now. Thanks again peter!

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
tarp/bivy on 01/02/2009 15:04:35 MST Print View

I use a two person SPIN TWIN tarp, and it's pretty snug for two, and AWESOME for me when I'm alone. I'm tall, and it's plenty long, and plenty wide.


THat'll solve any issues of size.

And - I have a lot of tarp experience. If it rains, I find I do surprizingly well. One thing is that I spend a little time picking the perfect site (where a puddle won't form) and sheltered enough so I won't suffer from excess wind. That's pretty simple.

A synthetic bag might provide a little extra water resistance - but a down bag is fine. Adding a bivy is helpful.

And - BPL sells a twin bivy, and that would be a solution to a down bag, and it would nix the need for a ground-cloth. It's kind of expensive, so I can't truly recommend it. Actually, a big bivy sack would be nice, because they are all so dinky.

(Hmmmm - I bet if you wrote a nice letter, the folks at BPL might send it to you to test - before buying - maybe)


Also - The tarps are all open, so they are super as far as air flow, you'll be DRYER under a tarp than in a tent (really)!


Jim Andrews
(vja4Him) - F

Locale: Central Valley
Which Tarptent ? on 01/16/2009 06:24:18 MST Print View

The tarptent looks like something I could use ... I need to find the right tent to carry on my Electra Townie for camping, mostly by myself, but I'm hoping that one of my boys will tag along sometime ....

I need something that will keep the water out, that is rugged, and compact to pack onto my bicycle.

Any suggestions much appreciated ... !!! Thanks!

-- vja4Him * Riding 4 Life

Dennis Hiorns

Locale: Michigan
Which tarptent? on 01/16/2009 08:39:00 MST Print View


I recently bought both the Cloudburst tarptent and the Rainshadow tarptent. The Cloudburst is a 2-person tent that could probably fit myself and my two kids (5 and 7 year old). Because it is 8' long, I can also get my gear inside. It seems to be more durable than other "tarp-style" tents I've seen. It also compacts down quite small and weighs less than 3 lbs.

Hope this helps...

Dave Weston

Locale: NW
Big Guy Tent on 03/30/2009 23:49:51 MDT Print View

I am similar to your size. I was 6'2" 260 (until a recent weight loss) and really like my tarptent cloudburst. It is designed for 2 people and I fit in it fine with a second person. It has lots of room for my shoulders, which seems rare in 2 person tents.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
tarp for a bike on 04/11/2009 18:33:23 MDT Print View

Rugged and compact: I have a 6x8 tarp to which I added an 8" "beak" to the front. It fits into a pouch with a zipper 5"x8"x2" with four stakes and tie lines which all together weighs 15 oz. For instance I am wearing a fleece vest right now with two side pockets. The tarp easily fits into one pocket, when holding it flat in my hand< I can still see the tips of my thumb and fingers. When pitched it is supported by two hiking poles, but it could be tied off between trees or your bike or a couple of sticks, etc. It is a flat or Cat Tarp" well made by Oware USA out of silnylon.
If you need mosquito netting SMD Wild Oasis has room for yourself and gear needs only one supporting pole. Look for reviews at this site. It is a great product weighs less than a pound by itself and tie-outs, packs very small for your bike or pack.
The principles of lightweight backpacking apply to bike camping as well. No need to bike with a heavy tent.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"tarp-tent camping" on 04/11/2009 18:38:05 MDT Print View

Frank I flip my bike upsidown and use it as a main support for the tarp, no poles and I make stakes out of small branches. Ali

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
tarps on 04/12/2009 10:09:46 MDT Print View

Here is another source for tarps:

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
tarp-tent camping on 04/15/2009 15:35:24 MDT Print View

This is a set up that I put together for someone else. It's the Contrail,22 oz.
The bike becomes the pole, it stays up for the same reason a pole stays up, vertical pressure. This way the bike is close to you and pretty impossible to steal/damage. The entry will be a bit aquard but doable. Note that you get extra height by having the bike up this way rather than turning it upside down. For extra security you could always apply the brakes ( a piece of velcro rapped around to keep them pulled in)
BTW, it should also give the OP an idea of what a Tarptents looks like.
For Tarptent pics see products and what's new
Contrail and bike