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Want to get into tarping, need advice
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Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/15/2010 23:55:36 MDT Print View

Ok, I've decided both in the interest of trimming weight, and gaining flexibility, I want to get into a tarp setup of some sort.

I've currently got a tarptent contrail, and while I do think it's a well thought-out design, I've struggled finding suitable sites large enough to fit its footprint, level enough for it to properly shed rain, etc. Most of its use has come in GSMNP and nearby locales. I also can't stand silnylon. Pitching my tent, getting it all situated, and waking up in the middle of the night to a sagging flapping shelter is unacceptable to me. I'd like to steer toward either cuben or spinnaker, to avoid these stretching/sagging issues.

I realize that the usual advice is to get a cheap 8x10 sil tarp and give it a go, but it seems that such a large tarp, in the same material I'm currently fighting, would be a lateral move, save for possibly weight, so I figured I'd seek the advice of the seasoned tarp sages here. I'm not sure yet if I'd be using with a bivy or just a ground sheet, and advice on that would be welcome as well. Assume most use will be in the eastern US/AT, with occasional visits out west....I'd love to make it to the winds or elsewhere in the rockies this year.

Discuss, all input is welcomed.

Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 01:45:51 MDT Print View

I can recommend the GG SpinnTwinn which I have used during the winter and spring (currently loaned it to a mate) and which I like a lot. It is easy to pitch, doesn't sag - even if it rains all night & day. If you want a tad more protection go for the GG SpinnShelter, nearly the same just with more protection in the front and back.

Of course similar designs from the same materials from companies like Alpinlite, MLD or BPL's own Nano tarp all would suit your bill as well.

Re: ground sheet, I find it a waste of money and use my CCF mat instead, even in the soaking rain. That is a personal matter completely, I know many find a groundsheet an absolute must, but with a bit of though in choosing a campsite I find I can easily avoid using one.

Bivy on the other hand I find very useful, especially if it is windy and rainy. The bivy then protects your down sleeping bag from the rain the wind might carry towards it, or from condensation which might form on the tarp and be sprayed on your sleeping bag by the wind.

Thus I'd get rid of the groundsheet and MYOG or buy a bivy (in case you don't have one yet), and check the Gear Swap for tarps (I think there is a MLD Solo Cuben Tarp up there at the moment ;).

Have fun tarping - I'm love it!

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 05:59:16 MDT Print View

We backpack in a lot of the same areas so I can say that you will need some sort of bug protection most of the year. You will also find that a bivy will be too hot in the summer and have condensation issues in this humid environment. I currently use a Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter and a Alpinlite Gear Bug Tent 1.25 for a total weight of around 22.5oz (after seam sealing and including stakes 6 Easton and 4 Ti Shepard Hooks) so you don't save a lot of weight over the Contrail (which I also own) but you get great weather protection (better than the contrail (IMO) and a lot of versatility in a package that works better overall in the humid environments of the east.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 08:08:42 MDT Print View

I also use the SpinnShelter, in fact I have Bradford's previous SpinnShelter. I use an SMD Meteor Bivy in mine. I really like th 360 deg. protection when it's needed, but it can be opened up like a flat tarp if it's hot out.

On the subject of the silinylon stretch when cold and wet, I have a few things that I do to counteract it with my silnylon shelters.
First, I pitch it tight as soon as I start to set up camp and then re-tighten it before I go to bed. This is usually all that is needed.
Some add short lengths of thick bungie cord to the ties.
I haven't had a lot of experience with this, but opinions say that it will keep shelters wrinkle free.

Of course, this is not a worry with the SpinnShelter as spinnaker doesn't stretch when wet or cold.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 08:19:17 MDT Print View

I also have a SpinTwin. Great tarp, like everyone else stated. We don't get as much rain where I live, and don't use a bivy. The tarp can be used as a two person shelter, so there is enough room for one, with enough coverage, that a bivy is not necessary. Given your location, if bugs are an issue, get a net. I recently bought a BPL Nano tarp, because it is lighter. Almost the same size. Since you are new to tarping, I would go for the SpinTwin, as it is 1/2 the cost. If you like it, it is easy to sell here on BPL, should you want something lighter like the Nano.

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 08:48:27 MDT Print View

@Bradford

Do you really find the bug protection essential?

My last trip out I spent a bunch of nights in the open-air AT shelters, and never once had much of a problem with bugs, at least while I was sleeping. Evening hours around dinner, and relaxing before bed, I did notice the usual black flies and such, but never at night. I assumed that sleeping without netting would be ok as a result of this, but perhaps the lean-to shelters are not analogous to an open tarp from a bug standpoint?

It's funny that everyone's suggesting the spinnshelter, I found a thread where Bradford posted his setup, and it looked like a really nicely put together system, as if the components were made for one another. My main hesitation with that was the weight, it's barely lighter than where I'm at currently. There was also one very negative review on here of the spinnshelter, which reading it leads me to believe that it was mostly user error, but as a tarping n00b, I don't want to jump into a tarp that is better suited to more experienced tarp pitchers.

Anywho, keep the advice coming people, and if you need more info from me, shoot!

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 09:10:49 MDT Print View

For me, the big advantage that the Spinnshelter has over other tarps is the 360 degree protection from weather.
I find that many times the wind direction would change when a storm would hit. This would force me to re-pitch my tarps in the past.
You don't have to re-pitch the SpinnShelter if the wind direction changes. You can make most adjustments, if needed, from inside.

As far as bugs go, there are some areas, during some times of year, that I feel a bug net is essential. Other times, not so essenial. I often times, just use my Meteo Bivy as only a ground cloth, if there isn't a bug issue.

I have also used it to add warmth when it got unseasonably cold one night. A bug net can help hold in some heat by reducing cold air flow.
The bug net basically makes the SpinnShelter a double wall tent.

Edited by brooklynkayak on 06/16/2010 09:13:12 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 09:17:34 MDT Print View

Note, The Spinnshelter is basically an ultralight version of a long time standard/proven/respected design.
I previously used a Golite Hut 1, almost identical except the SpinnShelter is half the weight.

I don't understand how people can write bad reviews of this type of design as I have found them to be very good in very rough weather.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 10:01:39 MDT Print View

The SpinnShelter only weighs 8.8 oz. Added weight is for a net. Nets are a personal thing... bugs don't bother me. Even in the High Sierras, when people complain about mosquitos, I can get by with just DEET or sometimes a head net.

A SpinnShelter is not going to be as roomy as a large tarp. And I suppose it would be helpful with crappy conditions, but I have always done fine with a tarp, set-up for the conditions.

I have a Wild Oasis, I have used a few times in rain and light snow conditions. Cramped room, and it caused much more condensation than a tarp. I suppose a SpinnShelter would produce similar results. I much prefer a tarp. Again, everyone is different.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 10:11:18 MDT Print View

The Spinnshelter can be pitched in many ways and is very roomy when pitched open. I would compare it to my 8x10 in flying diamond mode.
They always show pictures of it pitched tight to the ground, in storm mode. It is rare that you would actually pitch it like that.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 10:20:44 MDT Print View

On bugs. Most places don't require a bug net. Other places can be thick with biting insects and not just mosquitoes.
The biting flies in the CA and US NE Atlantic and NW Pacific coast, the UK and many other places can be intolerable.

I personally don't enjoy hiking with hundreds of little welts all over my body, itching and burning. It's hard to hitch a ride if you look like you have some kind of disease.

Dry arid areas are usually fine, but the scorpions in the SW US will crawl on you at night and their sting can be quite painful.

Tropical areas are an even bigger concern.

Edited by brooklynkayak on 06/16/2010 10:21:51 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 10:34:11 MDT Print View

I've used a SpinnShelter for a couple of years now, and it suits my purposes for summer. I sewed some mosquito netting into it, and that includes a 5" skirt plus a couple of panels near the front door. I use it with Fibraplex poles, but the problem is that I need to be able to raise the front pole height by one inch to get better ventilation for a warm summer night.

--B.G.--

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
SpinnTwinn and Bugs on 06/16/2010 10:47:22 MDT Print View

I've used and loved my SpinnTwinn for a while now and tried to be cavalier about bugs in VA/WV/PA. But this spring has seemed to bring a torrential amount of ticks and flying bugs and I've added an MLD Superlight with full net hood for comfort's sake. Skip the sleeping bag and add some silk and life is good (and bug free).

Rakesh Malik
(Tamerlin)

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Re: Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 10:48:26 MDT Print View

"There was also one very negative review on here of the spinnshelter, which reading it leads me to believe that it was mostly user error, but as a tarping n00b, I don't want to jump into a tarp that is better suited to more experienced tarp pitchers."

Don't let that intimidate you so much -- just plan ahead.

Once you settle down on your tarp (I went whole-hog and got an MLD Grace Duo in Cuben -- not something considered a "beginner's" tarp, by any means), and tried it out over the weekend.

I picked a spot that was only around a 20-minute hike from the car, and on a night with a good forecast. For peace of mind, I also brought my Scarp1 with me, so that I didn't HAVE to rely on the tarp, and therefore not on my not-yet-existent skills at getting a good pitch with a tarp.

My pitch wouldn't have stood up to much wind (not taut at all), but it DID keep me warm. I used an MLD Serenity rather than a bivy, and being a 2-person tarp, if I'd pitched it properly (so that the ridgeline wasn't so saggy :)) I'd have had enough room NEXT to the Serenity to cook, eat, and even reload film holders. That last part is one reason that I opted for a Grace Duo rather than Solo.

My next time out I'll be in a campground, so it will pretty much be car-camping. That means that I can try out my quilt as well as get some more practice pitching my tarp without anxiety, since I can once again bring along my trusty (but heavier) TarpTent.

If the weather gets nasty, and I'm not confident about my Grace pitch, I pull it down, pop up the TarpTent, and try again the next time I get cooperative weather. With any luck, I'll have the tarping thing figured out before I head for Cutthroat Pass.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 13:27:15 MDT Print View

Mat-

It really depends on where you are. At higher elevations and exposed ridge campsites I don't seem to have as many problems with bugs as I do in more sheltered lower elevations sites. I also see a lot of bugs around water. I tend to have more problems with gnats than I do with mosquitoes. I have also had one run in with ants and another with millipedes.

The beauty of that system is you can mix and match for the conditions you expect.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Re: Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 14:36:39 MDT Print View

Regarding:
"I sewed some mosquito netting into it"

I remember when that discussion came up. I wonder how much lighter it is than using a separate bugnet bivy or net tent.
I think my Meteor bivy weighs less than 8 ounces and includes the ground cloth. Other bugnet options weigh even less.

Having a separate, as opposed to attached net gives you more freedom as to how you pitch. This time of year can be bad as bugs can be at their max, but it can be so hot that you want to raise the sides of the SpinnShelter up like an awning to allow more breeze.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Spinnshelter vs. Other Tarps on 06/16/2010 14:40:59 MDT Print View

"I wonder how much lighter it is than using a separate bugnet bivy or net tent."

I measured it, and the added mosquito net was 3 oz.

--B.G.--

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice on 06/16/2010 15:39:21 MDT Print View

@Bradford

I've also noticed fewer bugs up high, and I don't think I've ever really experienced much as far as mosquitoes go, just the black flies/gnats.

I agree on the flexibility, that was another driving force in me wanting to jump to tarping. Being able to mix and match components for given conditions.

keep the suggestions coming!

Lance Marshall
(Lancem) - F - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice. Stretching/sagging issues. on 06/16/2010 17:08:24 MDT Print View

Mat,
One technique for addressing tarp stretching/sagging is to set up your tarp with the front pole at an angle. If/when the tarp stretches and sags during the night, you can reach out from your sleeping bag and adjust the pole to a more upright position. Works pretty good.

-Lance

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Want to get into tarping, need advice. Stretching/sagging issues. on 06/16/2010 17:24:04 MDT Print View

Lance,

That's the only thing that's worked for me thus far, but the pitch of the contrail can be pretty finicky sometimes, and sometimes that doesn't do enough through the course of a rainy night to keep things tight in any real wind.

I'd rather not have to deal with silnylon stretch at all anymore. I know there are ways to cope with it, but I'd rather not have to.