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Tarp - Tent - Tarp Tent??
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Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Tarp - Tent - Tarp Tent?? on 09/05/2006 08:21:34 MDT Print View

I was just looking at the Tarptent Contrail Spotlite Review. It looks really great for the weight. So far I have been using a Terra Nova Laserlite at about 1100g. I have never used a tarp before, always prefering a tent. However, the Contrail looks appealing at its weight.

My question is, What is the difference between a tarptent and a tent. From what I can see, it looks like the side don't reach the ground as is the case with a tent. Yet conversely, I know that you can pitch a tarp so that the sides are much lower.

What is the difference??? Can someone explain please to a potential tarp newbie!

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Tarp - Tent - Tarp Tent?? on 09/05/2006 16:55:29 MDT Print View

A tent usually refers to a double "walled" shelter... so a inner shell with lots of netting (or all netting) and an outer fly. The TarpTent is single wall. The problem with any single wall shelter is condensation, ventilation and bug protection. TarpTents mitigate that with the attached perimiter netting and the open ends.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Re: Re: Tarp - Tent - Tarp Tent?? on 09/05/2006 17:32:38 MDT Print View

David, if a tarpt ten has all an all netting interior as the pictures for the Contrail show, then doesn't that just make it a tent, or am I missing something?

Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
Tarptent vs. Double Walled Tent on 09/05/2006 17:58:32 MDT Print View

Yes and No. The photos of the Contrail look like the mesh goes all the way inside, but I believe that it does not, in similar fashion to all of his other tarptents. A double walled tent has the mesh covered (with a gap to allow for circulation of air) with the 'rain fly' for the actual weather protection. The Tarptents like Shires' models are single wall in that they do not have a mesh layer covered by a waterproof layer. So, they are like a tarp in that regard. However, since there is a perimeter of sewn netting and a net 'door', they are like a tent in that regard. (Hence the name). The idea (I think) is to try to capitalize on the benefits of both designs. This differs from a tarp alone in that the tarptent or regular tent (like a double walled) can not really be modified for differing conditions-- a tarp can be high in good weather for the circulation of air, and low in bad weather for weather protection. Also, an open tarp keeps you more aware and connected with your surroundings, instead of holed up in a nylon coccoon. Other than this benefit, I believe some prefer the tarp as it has a certain art/ asthetic that just doesn't happen with a regular tent. I'm sure the more experienced tarpers here can list a million other benefits, as well. If you have not already read Beyond Backpacking by Jardine, he goes into a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of each. Some of his points are debated here on this website, but it is certainly worth reading as a start point. Likely none of us would even be on this website if it were not for this influential work. (Pros and cons debate aside). Anyhoo, hope this helps, and I have not just restated the obvious to you.

Edited by dfliedner on 09/05/2006 18:03:05 MDT.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Re: Tarptent vs. Double Walled Tent on 09/05/2006 18:42:03 MDT Print View

Dane, thanks for your input. I hadn't realised that the tarp tents mesh was connected to the fly with no gap between. Never having actually seen a tarp tent in the flesh, all I had was the pictures to go on. Tarps whilst used in the UK, are not all that popular here.

Your comments have made it all a lot clearer for me. It's now just a matter of whether I can overcome that feeling exposed situiation that i am sure I would encounter if I started to use a tarp. A tent somehow has a psychologial benefit I think, unless of course you're the kind of person who hates to hear a noise outside your tent and then panic because you can't see it. It those situations a tarp might be better.

I'm still deliberating. I like the idea of the weight savings I could make with a tarp or tarp tent. I could practically halve the weight of my shelter setup.

Hmmm, I might just have to bite the bullet. A tarp tent might be a good step to take.

Thanks again!


David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: Tarptent vs. Double Walled Tent on 09/05/2006 19:17:37 MDT Print View

Hey Scott,

Henry's TarpTents are awesome... and compared to ultralight options (true tarps, bivy's, etc.)... they are pure luxury... very tent-like and TONS of room. The TarpTent is really more like a tent than a tarp in my mind. The only difference is that TarpTents are single walled and (aside from the Rainbow) not self-supporting... as most tents are. I don't think it will be a big leap for you. Sleeping under a true tarp or shaped tarp (like the Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter) with no floor would be a bit more of a leap. Do it once though and you'll wonder what the big deal was. Heck... on a warm night with no risk of rain... some folks just sleep outside... no shelter at all. I actually like not having a floor when I use my SpinnShelter. You don't have to worry about keeping the floor clean.

Edited by davidlewis on 09/05/2006 19:20:28 MDT.

Steven Scates MD
(scatesmd) - MLife
tarp trials on 09/05/2006 19:33:45 MDT Print View

I had always used a tent until about 3 years ago. I switched to a gore-tex bivy, then a tarp with a BPL bivy and have looked back only once.

Ray Jardine's book really made me think about things. The issue came to a head during a storm in Yosemite, while I had a tent instead of my tarp. Usually, Yosemite is pretty dry this time of year, but I was caught in a rainstorm near Glacier Point earlier in the season. I used my tent in March and was caught in a storm at Glacier Point. I was in about 8 feet of snow, but was wishing for my tarp when the condensation started in the tent and I had to cook in the rain. My equipment became quite wet while putting up the tent.

The sense of feeling exposed in a tarp was something I worried about, but it really never came to me as an issue.

What did hit me was bugs and dirt, both of which are tougher to keep away from with the tarp. I use the netting over my face in the BPL bivy and that pretty much solved the problem. I have a light groundsheet that helps with the rest, although I still throw dirt on myself at times.

The extra headroom with the tarp compared to my one-man tent is a good thing. The tent feels cramped and weighs 2 lbs more.

Except in real winter/4-season conditions, my tents will stay home. I just ordered a Henry Shires tarp/tent, so I will be able to compare it to the tent and tarp and choose what seems best.

Thanks, steve

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
Tarps, tents etc. on 09/06/2006 06:03:38 MDT Print View

as you will know, UK backpacking tents differ from US in that the majority are not freestanding and are pitched flysheet first or both parts together. If you pitch your Laserlight (or its successor the Terra Nova Laser Competition) without the inner you will have something which exactly fits David Lewis' definition of a shaped tarp. If you then use a BMW Vapr Bivy inside this "shaped tarp" it will revert to fitting the definition of a double walled tent (though one whose inner shell had extremely low side walls).

My point here is not to mock the earlier answers which correctly identified the main features of tarps, shaped tarps , Tarptents and tents. Rather I want to point out that there is great scope for flexibility in mixing and matching various features. What Henry Shires has done so well is to exploit this with his Tarptents. The only trick he has missed so far, in my opinion, concerns the Rainbow's anti-drip ceiling suspended below the outer skin. Great idea, pity it's not yet on offer for the Contrail.


Edited by Davidc on 09/06/2006 13:42:59 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Rainbow's Anti-Drip Ceiling on 09/06/2006 07:09:04 MDT Print View

I think I heard about the Rainbow's anti-droip ceiling before, but there certainly isn't one in my first generation Rainbow. What exactly is it? Is it difficult to make one and install it into my present Rainbow?

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
Anti-drip ceiling on 09/06/2006 08:41:40 MDT Print View

I thought I had read about it on the Tarptent website, but I have just looked and can't find any details there. Rather than give you my understanding of what I remember, I'll wait to see if anyone can give full details. The USA should be getting online about now.

From what I understood it would be a fairly easy modification. I'll come back later if no-one else answers.

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
ceiling description on 09/06/2006 13:56:11 MDT Print View

Found it. Third item on the second page of this thread