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Going tentless
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Samuel Kau
(Skau) - M

Locale: Southern California
poncho/tarp and bivy on 01/06/2011 17:24:27 MST Print View

If you use a poncho/tarp paired with a bivy then you are set in my opinion. My bivy has a bug net and keeps my bag dry, with the tarp protecting me from any direct rain since my bivy is only water resistant and not water proof. It might not have as much space as a tent but i think that it is worth the weight savings and not to mention the money savings of not having to buy other gear like a pack cover, rain jacket or rain pants, and ground sheet.

Corey Miller
(coreyfmiller) - F

Locale: Eastern Canada
Chair? on 03/15/2011 16:59:47 MDT Print View

On a side note, what kind of chair is in that picture?

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Chair? on 03/15/2011 17:54:40 MDT Print View

That is a Sling-Light. 18 ounces of pure ad photo

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Trying to do better on 03/16/2011 21:22:20 MDT Print View

Our sons have been hiking with us since they were in diapers and are at home on the trail. If we have had a long trail day, it is not unusual for them to throw their bag out on a sleeping pad not bothering with the tent. When I was their age I did the same but now I need something over my head. I have been using a Sublite Tyvek for about 2.5 years and previous to that a Tyvek Contrail for less than a year. No problem with condensation at all. Never have I experienced beading of moisture into droplets.

I have tried to do better than the 18 to 20 ounces by combining various tarps including an MLD Grace Spin Solo Exp with a lightweight breathable bivy but the weight saving is not enough to bother. Still looking for the right solution for hiking elsewhere than the Sierras with the risk of continuous wet weather.


Edited by johnk on 03/17/2011 20:34:19 MDT.

Eric Thompson
(er0ck) - F

Locale: PNW
bivy condensation? on 03/22/2011 14:57:35 MDT Print View

great thread. i've been getting back into backpacking as well and have recently done many rainy nights out here in the cascades with my 2 lb slightly modified seedhouse sl1.
my bag is also about 2lbs and i could lighten that up. and of course i carry rain gear with me (dry ducks at the moment, although their fragility is becoming an issue).

so i've been thinking of going the poncho/tarp route, with possibly some rain chaps, along with a bivy. i'm mostly out in the summer, but fall and spring can get cold in them-thar hills.

i'm worried about condensation inside the bivy corrupting my bag's loft, especially if i'm out for a week or more in the cold/rain.

i'm also thinking of taking along a net-tent for underneath. i haven't yet found the right combo of ground sheet, net-tent, poncho/tarp. but i'll probably hold out due to budget for next season...
just found the SMD serenity net-tent and poncho. if the sides of the bathtub ground sheet come up high enough, one might not even need a bivy in most weather...

Edited by er0ck on 03/22/2011 15:09:17 MDT.

Gregory Topf
(notoriousGRT) - MLife

Locale: PNW / Switzerland
Snake Country tarpin' on 03/23/2011 15:12:37 MDT Print View

Glad to have found a thread I can jump on - I have been tarp camping, sleeping usually just with a quilt for the past two summers. I sleep without fear of molestation by charismatic megafauna, but this year I expect to find myself where there are a LOT of rattlesnakes and some scorpions to boot.

I have heard stories and even konw someone who shook their sleeping bag in the morning and scorpion fell out, but still the question remains:

Should I use an enclosed shelter in snake infested (not just an occasional rattler)lands instead of my preferred minimalist setup?


Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Snake Country tarpin' on 03/23/2011 15:48:00 MDT Print View

Gregory, rattlesnakes are pit vipers. The pit is a heat sensing organ. Rattlesnakes will sense you as too large to be prey. They have no interest in you. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive by nature. Most of the places where I tarp camp are in rattlesnake country. Rattlesnakes should not be a problem if you have a clear area when you lay down at night.

Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Re: Snake Country tarpin' on 03/23/2011 16:09:36 MDT Print View

Gregory where is this snake country? Usually such reports are over blown and you are lucky to see one.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
Bivy necessary? on 03/23/2011 18:04:04 MDT Print View

I haven't tarped at all, but I must admit I'm confused by references to a bivy under a tarp. I'm claustrophobic, so having a bag that zips shut around my face is a bothersome concept. Is a bivy necessary at all times under a tarp? Could a larger tarp eliminate the need for a bivy? Also, what about the condensation issue--condensation happens on the inside of the bivy, too? I guess maybe the weight savings is good enough, but I thought the whole idea of the tarp was to have better ventilation and reduce the whole condensation issue.

Gregory Topf
(notoriousGRT) - MLife

Locale: PNW / Switzerland
Re: Re: Snake Country tarpin' on 03/24/2011 03:29:50 MDT Print View

@flyfast aka Dr. Science:
Thanks for the confirmation that that snakes aren't interested in me even while I dream away. That's generally my point of departure, but when it comes to being on the ground with my yes closed one more raional explanation helps a lot.

I will be in river canyons where Oregon, Washington, and Idaho come together. Very hot and dry. Snakes for sure, but of course I might not even see one just like I might not see a Grizzly in the Bob Marshall, but I still hang my food and carry spray.


Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Bivy Necessary? It Depends... on 03/24/2011 07:42:24 MDT Print View


I'm 6' even and use a Gatewood Cape as my tarp and I do so without a bivy and haven't had any issues. If it looks like we might have heavy rain I'll throw in a tall kitchen bag to put over the foot of my quilt (I've found that's the only part of my body that gets too close to the edge of the Cape when pitched.

Whether or not you need a bivy really does depend on the size and pitch of your tarp. I used an 8'x10' tarp for my first foray into tarp camping. With a tarp that size I doubt a single person would ever need a bivy as long as you pitched it reasonably. On the other hand you might need a bivy if you're using an 5'x8' tarp.

My suggestion: Pitch your tarp in your yard and put paper down to represent where you'd be sleeping. Turn on a sprinkler and see if (and where) the paper gets wet. You want to have it right before you're depending on it in the woods.

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Classic Bivy/Tarp Argument on 03/24/2011 08:00:48 MDT Print View

I think this question and thread pops up every month. I'm pretty convinced that certainly with an 8x10 tarp, but also with a properly pitched smaller tarp, that you can forego the bivy for precipitation-related concerns. BUT, as this thread with snakes indicates, there are other factors to your shelter. I leave my bivy at home when I tarp in spring/fall when cold temperatures and bugs are not issues. In the summer, I use a bivy as bug protection and in the winter, as an important part of staying warm on the snow with my current sleep system. The main reason I bivy and tarp in general nowadays is to provide flexibility like this.

Bigger Tarp Bonus: the ability to quickly pitch in the rain for a quick lunch break or hanging out in the evening/morning and having a small group stay dry is super clutch. You can eat/drink/cook a little . . . and nobody is crammed into an itty-bitty tent or heading off to bed early because there's no place to stay dry.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Bivy necessary? on 03/24/2011 11:33:31 MDT Print View

I, too, thought a bivy would be a claustrophobic experience, But it's really nothing more than like an extra blanket on the bed -- a thin one that's not very warm. It doesn't feel encased and it doesn't cover my face (unless I want it to.)

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Snake River Snake Country on 03/24/2011 12:24:58 MDT Print View

Hi Gregory,
I've hiked some in the Hells Canyon area and grew up hiking and camping in Eastern Washington. As you say, the Washington/Oregon/Idaho river canyons are serious snake country. I'd say, if you're out for more than a day in the right weather and at low elevation, it'd be unusual NOT to see a rattlesnake. Having said that, I don't take any more precautions than watching where I put my feet and hands, and trying to avoid situations like tall grass where I can't see ahead. No snakeproof boots or gaiters (just trail runners), and I don't carry a snakebite kit. Dehydration and poison ivy are much bigger concerns (also easy to avoid).

I know a couple geologists who did decades of fieldwork in Hells Canyon, and it seems like there's plenty of stories about sleeping outside a tent and waking up next to a rattlesnake. But they may not have chosen their site well.

There's plenty of black bears in Hells Canyon too, but not aggressive as far as I know.

Hells Canyon is beautiful country--I'm hoping to do a short early-season trip next month.

Gregory Topf
(notoriousGRT) - MLife

Locale: PNW / Switzerland
Re: Snake River Snake Country on 03/24/2011 15:39:57 MDT Print View

Hi David - I am most likely going to be in the W-T Wilderness - not quite as spectacular as Hells Canyon but well worth the trip and certainly snaky in the river canyons (but without so much poison ivy or oak!). May swing down into Eagle Cap as well up and down the Minam. Depends on river flows, fishing, weather etc....Thanks for the info!

David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Viola! No Snakes on 03/24/2011 21:35:37 MDT Print View

Plan a meal budget heavily dependent on being able to catch a big pile of the rattlesnakes you are sure to see. Always works for trout anyway.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Bivy necessary? on 04/05/2011 11:15:26 MDT Print View

> Is a bivy necessary at all times under a tarp?

I'm definitely not a tarp camping expert, but I would say no, definitely not at all times.

In the Cascades in summer, bug-proofing is usually a major issue unless you get some stormy weather or a cold snap. The mosquitoes around here can be quite terrible, especially on the western slopes when the tarns are full and the days warm.

My solo bug shelter is an MLD Serenity, my two-person bug shelter is an HMG Echo II insert. If you camp with a tarp, it's pretty easy to string up a bug shelter under it, and with modern fabrics the bug shelters are pretty light. I prefer to have space to move around and if necessary reload my film holders within my shelter, so I like the 2-person cat-cut tarps, since even when buttoned down for storms, they're still pretty spacious. It's too bad the Cuben ones are still so expensive, though.

I've been out on a few nights when I would have skipped the insert had it not been for the bugs, and a couple of nights where the insert's walls, even though they're low, cut the breeze enough on a chilly night to enable a comfortable night's rest... which was continually interrupted by a LOUD snorer :-/

clay stewart
(Reluctantwaterhauler) - F
I tried on 04/05/2011 13:32:34 MDT Print View

I bought a bivy, when they first started coming out, (early eighties?) I woke up the fist morning, feeling sort of clammy from the condensation and having to pee like a race horse, only to discover that the zipper was jammed and I was trapped. I hate waking up like that.

Anyway, I swore them off for fifteen years or so, before I decided to try one of those OR double bug bivies, while camping in the desert. This seemed like a good idea, I could see the stars and even fit my pack in there, but the netting trapped in the heat and made it too warm to sleep and then the wind picked up and started blowing sand. I woke up after an uncomfortable night with sand in every exposed orifice. I just pulled that bivy out the other day, to have a look, as I hadn't used it since and there was still a bunch of sand stuck in the mesh. I really do like the idea of a lighter pack, but I still don't like bivies. I like having a wind break too, as there seems nothing worse than no reprieve from the wind, be it hot or cold.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: I tried on 04/05/2011 13:38:23 MDT Print View

"I woke up the first morning, feeling sort of clammy ... only to discover that ... I was trapped. I hate waking up like that."

Sounds a lot like my first marriage......

Daniel Fosse
(magillagorilla) - F

Locale: Southwest Ohio
tarps on 04/05/2011 13:48:07 MDT Print View

I love the tarp. I have an 8x10 silnylon. At first I tried a bivy, I had a nice Ti Goat one. The bivy was well made and very light but felt like a body bag. I didn't like it at all. I also realized, over time that, under an 8x10 I was never getting wet anyway. I have had occasions were big storms rolled through, I just pitched the tarp to the ground.

Bugs were my biggest reason for a bivy. I got an MLD bug bivy for the bug issue. It has a big rectangular bathtub floor and plenty of headroom (weighs 7.4oz).

This spring I got a poncho tarp to shave another 4oz off my shelter. I'm going to try it out with just the bug bivy. I figure if it rains, I'll just pitch it to the ground like I do the 8x10 and it will be fine. If it weren't for ticks, flies and skeeters in my area I'd ditch the bug net.

I recomend a tarp and a bug bivy. This combo keeps you dry from above and bug free with out all the inside condensation concerns.