As a newbie to backpacking I can sense that the bug protection issue while using a tarp as shelter has been discussed ad nauseum. However, I feel like it's all been discussed so long ago that I can't find the conclusions that most people have drawn, or maybe there aren't any? Anyway, for those who ignore long messages, I just have one question: how prevalent are no-see-ums? I live and camp in Ohio (not exactly a backpacking mecca), but I will probably do portions of the PCT or the Sierras in general with my brother every year or so. I also foresee going to the Appalachian Trail with the Scouts. I'm not sure this should go in this forum or the gear forum, but I'll try it hear.
I'm trying to reduce my weight, and I'm moving to a tarp instead of a tent. But that brings up the bug issue. So I'd like to review all of the bug protection schemes I've found out there and get your expert opinions and advice on the best solutions. Sorry for the length of this post but maybe it will be helpful to someone else in my position, just starting out. I'll also mention the drawbacks and advantages to each of them (from my perspective).
First, there's the full protection bug bivies, such as the Integral Designs BugaBivy and the Outdoor Research Bug Bivy. Advantages: 1) full protection. Disadvantages: 1) I'm 6' 5" and probably won't fit well (although supposedly the BugaBivy fits up to 6' 7", 2) kind of on the heavy side, 3) not much room, and 4) the integrated floor. The last one is a disadvantage because I don't always want to use the bug bivy, so I want to bring a ground sheet too. I could sleep on top of the bivy, but that gives less flexibility in ground cloth size and I might damage the bivy.
Next, there are the full bug tents, such as the GoLite Nest, the ID Bug Tent, and the REI Bug Hut. Advantages: 1) full protection, 2) can mate well with tarp depending on what one you get, and 3) roomy. Disadvantages: 1) relatively heavy, 2) what I mentioned above about the floor, 3) expensive.
I'm putting one solution in a class of it's own, the A16 bug bivy. The REI Bug Hut is similar, as is the Repel Sleepscreen, but I'd like to talk about the A16. Advantages: 1) pretty lightweight, 2) self supporting. Disadvantages: 1) I'm a big guy and I hear this doesn't work well for big people, 2) I toss and turn a lot and there's no way I can keep a good seal on the bottom, 3) I'll be using a tarp and it would be trivial to attach a bug canopy to the tarp, making the weight of the pole unnecessary, 4) again the problem with the integrated floor.
Then there’s what I call bug canopies, such as the Equinox Mantis and the Gossamer Gear Bug Canopy. I'm leaning towards the Mantis now. Advantages: 1) very lightweight, 2) corners can be staked or tied down, which helps if I toss and turn, 3) should be easy to tie to tarp or pole, 4) Mantis has an elastic drawcord at the bottom that can be used to cinch it up around me, 5) GG doesn't have a floor, can use my own ground cloth. Disadvantages: 1) not sure how useful the drawstring will be since I have a 2.5" thick InsulMat sleeping pad, 2) with my height these solutions might be upper chest instead of mid torso, which might create problems with my arm placement, 3) there may be some situations in which I want a free-standing canopy.
I've also considered making my own canopy by using Grip Clips and buying no-see-um mesh. The problem is that the mesh must be pretty wide in order to be elevated and still tuck under my pad, although I think I found one or two places that sells it in a width of over 100 inches. Advantages: 1) adjustability, 2) hopefully lightweight, 3) use my own ground cloth. Disadvantages: 1) sew in loops to stake out (I can't sew), 2) cost of buying everything (net, loops, clips, shipping), 3) getting in and out.
The solution that I really want, is to use a hikers mosquito net like the Sea to Summit Mozi Net or the Mombasa Defender Mosquito Net. Advantages: 1) roomy, 2) not too heavy, 3) allows me to use my own ground cloth, 4) almost full protection (some gaps between ground sheet and net but that's no big deal in my mind), 5) corners can be staked out, 6) fairly inexpensive. Disadvantages: doesn't work against no-see-ums (I asked about the Sea to Summit one, since it looked like it might).
So that brings me to my original question, how much can I expect to see no-see-ums? I can’t say that I have encountered them yet, but I’m not sure if I was mistaking mosquito bites for no-see-um bites. Thanks.