"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.