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Tarp or Tarp Tent
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Brandt Zook
(BassDude) - F - M

Locale: Texas
Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/15/2011 20:37:04 MST Print View

Currently I am in a dilemma of which lightweight shelter to be looking at. I love the idea of a tarp, I like how small it packs and how many different pitches you can set up with it, as well as it's lightweight. For a tarp I was looking at the Oware 8x10 silnylon tarp. It would be mostly for solo use, but could also have the capacity for two if needed and weather permitting. The reason I picked this 8x10 over the 6x8 was for increased weather protection should the weather go south. For this reason, it gets rid of the need for a regular bivy. The only issue I have with it is the lack of bug protection. A bug bivy of sorts or a MYOG netting scheme of some sort seems to be needed, especially in Texas.

My other option is a Tarptent Moment, or something of the like. At only 28.5 oz, it's not a bad weight. It provides bug protection and a more "guaranteed" sense of protection from the elements I suppose you could say. However, it is more expensive and does weigh more than the tarp.(The tarp is 13.5 oz by itself, stuff sack and 50 ft cord add 2 oz) But is this extra weight made up for with the fact that the tarp tent needs no extra work such as netting?

I just want some input from people here before I make the decision and take the plunge. I have listed a number of what I think are the pros and cons for each and I am hoping to get even more of those from experienced tarp campers and tarp tenters alike. Thank you for your help!

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
It's Subjective on 01/15/2011 20:49:15 MST Print View

Hi Brandt,

"a more "guaranteed" sense of protection from the elements"

There is something to be said for that, but in many case you may wish you had the advantages of a tarp as well.

I found it depends on the person. Some want a more open shelter and some want the protection that can be achieved with more enclosed shelters.

And you may change your mind at some point in the future.

You may want to play it safe for now and go with what you feel comfortable with.

I go back and forth from time to time, but lean towards flexibility and light weight.
I tend to want something that will be comfortable in hot muggy summer and cold blowing rain, or something in between for three season use.

But I can deal with being a little wet in extreme conditions.
Some can't.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Tarptents on 01/15/2011 20:56:03 MST Print View

I have a Tarptent Moment and have used it quite a bit over the past year. Mine weighs in at about 32oz seam sealed and with guy lines on the sides for better stability.

Some advantages are very fast setup that takes about a minute, full bug protection, decent stability in moderate winds, handles bad weather fine (even some light snow) and a decent vestibule area.

Some disadvantages are more weight due to arching pole (can't use trekking poles), moderate condensation (depends on conditions), and 20"x4" packing size that I personally find kinda bulky.

There are some options like a inner liner and second pole to make it somewhat freestanding but I have not used them.

I personally don't have any tarp experience but am experimenting with a Gatewood Cape and net tent combo.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/15/2011 21:31:41 MST Print View

You have the idea. Like any UL gear, it comes down to comfort, weight, protection from the elements and cost. There is something so *elemental* about taking a rectangle of cloth and making a shelter with it. And very elemental when it is blowing, pouring sheets of rain, or the bugs are tormenting you :) Some of it speaks of John Muir going abroad with a wool coat and a chunk of bread in his pocket.

You can use a 1/8" sleeping pad or a thick air mattress. You can haul your gear in a stuff-sack-with-shoulder-straps or a heavier, more complex pack with a frame, a Pop-can alcohol stove, or a zillion BTU canister stove with a heat exchanger, and so on. You can write great literature with a pencil and a tablet or the latest PC.

So, you make your choices--- and live with them. I think everyone should be able walk the elemental side and at least try it.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
tarptent sublite sil on 01/15/2011 21:36:30 MST Print View

there have been several threads recently where people expressed a positive experience with tarptent sublite sil, you might consider that, better ventilation and less condensation than the moment

Chad "Stick" Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/15/2011 21:44:27 MST Print View

I am in the same dilema...I am looking to get another shelter for me. I started with a Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent and it is great, but heavy. I then bought an OES 8 x 10 Sil Tarp and it is great too. Light weight, packs small and offers a lot of protection, but I want something else.

I am looking at the MLD SoloMid (in Cuben would be great ~ 9.3 oz, but a little more $$$). This would offer me more "protection" since it is actually a shaped tarp but I would lose the versatility of the tarp too. I also like the idea that I can set it up using my trekking pole from inside and even be able too make some adjustments with the trekking pole as needed (sil will stretch and sag as it gets wet or cold, which calls for readjustments at least once).

OTOH, I am looking really hard at the Tarptent Sublite Sil. Basically it is the MLD SoloMid with a floor and a mesh enclosure. This weighs in at 24 oz, so a little heavier but more "protection" and still not too heavy. Plus, this uses both of my trekking poles so no need for a tent pole here either. Also, I noticed Franco said in another thread that these may be out of production for a little while once the current stock depletes so that really puts me in a spot...I would like to get whichever one soon...

Edited by Stick on 01/15/2011 21:47:00 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/15/2011 22:18:59 MST Print View

IF there are bugs, I will go with a tarptent. For me, bug = warm weather. In warm weather I typically want to be able to sit down, relax, and cool off at the end of the day. This often means removing my shirt, and being exposed to breezes. Using clothing or a bivy for bug protection doesn't provide enough room to do this... so a tarptent is typically the lightest option for me. A side benefit is typically tarptents set up more quickly and easily which is nice if you are really tired. IF I didn't had to deal with bugs, I would go with a tarp that have enough coverage that I didn't need to worry about a bivy to protect my bag/quilt.


Edited by verber on 01/15/2011 22:19:54 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/16/2011 03:57:01 MST Print View

No easy answer. And what people use is very subjective and personal. You might look at a Six Moons Wild Oasis. It only weighs 13oz and has a bug net around the bottom perimeter.

I prefer a tarp most of the time, but bugs generally do not bother me. I didn't notice that there were that many mosquitoes in the Sierras in June & July until I heard everyone here complain about them.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Hiking in Texas on 01/16/2011 06:20:13 MST Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/18/2015 03:33:42 MDT.

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
Lightheart Cuben on 01/16/2011 06:37:47 MST Print View

I'm hopeful to return to backpacking. Bad back and hauling around weight kept me doing day hikes, for the most part, in recent years. I'm looking hard at the Lightheart Cuben because, at 14 oz., it really minimizes weight. It also solves the answer to the rainy environment that I hike in.

Justifying the cost is my hurdle.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/16/2011 08:08:00 MST Print View

You might look at the Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter and Alpinlite Bug Tent 1.25 or the combo's from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. When used with the bug tent it is just like a tent and can be completely enclosed for protection from the elements as well as offer complete bug protection. You can also use it without the bug tent and can open up the front and rear doors to get the openness of a tarp.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Tarping & tenting on 01/16/2011 23:07:59 MST Print View

In the '70s I was a tarper due to budget constraints but managed OK in all 4 seasons including winter hunting trips. I became skilled in pitching it in different configurations but still it was "fiddly" and took time.

But now with my Tarptent Moment I have a more efficient shelter.

TarpTents and their competition have:

1. built in "groundcloth" (floor)
2. bugproof netting
3. good ventilation
4. decent wind stability (esp. the Moment)
5. FAST pitching (again, esp. the Moment)
6. great rain protection

So, after adding the weight of a tarp, groundcloth, and netting inner tent I feel the TarpTent type silnylon solo single wall tents are the way to go. At the end of a hard day on the trail a fast pitching tent is nice - and even nicer if it's raining at the time. Gives one time for a "pre-dinner nap". :)

Edited by Danepacker on 01/16/2011 23:08:38 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Tarp or Tarp Tent on 01/17/2011 04:20:28 MST Print View

A lot of good thoughts.

I would suggest a tarp. This will be the least expensive of the two. A piece of netting hung from it (a couple loops stitched in to the tarp), keeps you pretty bug free. That said, here in NY I would recommend a bug nest liner in black fly season.
They can be pretty bad and comfort is really only possible in a shelter or while moving.

You actually might want both.
The tarp for most camping because of its vesatility, along with a piece of mesh.

A tarptent for bug season(s)for its sanity protection. Sometimes it is worth carrying a few extra ounces and loosing some versatility.

Edited by jamesdmarco on 01/17/2011 04:22:05 MST.

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
mesh on quilt? on 01/17/2011 15:11:14 MST Print View

In Trail Life Ray Jardine describes sewing bug netting directly to the end of his quilt to throw up over his head. What has been folks' experience using this method as compared to a dedicated net tent?

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 02/01/2012 09:33:49 MST Print View

The Tarptent Sublite Sil - well it was a puzzling initially to me. Currently only the Tyvek non-waterproof Sublite which has no porch is on sale. The Sil version with a small porch isn't currently available.

I'm sure if that Sublite Sil is what fits your needs then there will a used one on sale, for example from someone finding it too small.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
my thoughts on 02/01/2012 09:56:10 MST Print View

i hammock, so this is really just conjecture regarding parts of it. however i rely totally on a tarp for protection from wind and precip.

#1. most nights, i don't even need or want to use my tarp. i love the openness of it all. i love being able to see everything around me. i feel more connected w/ nature. i'd say at least 80% of all nights i sleep out my tarp stays in its stuff sack in my pack.

#2. #1 leads me to think that if i were sleeping on the ground i would want a separate bug shelter from my tarp, for those exact same reasons.

#3. as the weather heats up, typically the bugs get worse, so using my quilt as part of my bug defense is out for this guy.

#4. cuben has made it possible for me to have a huge tarp and not really pay much weight penalty b/t a minimum coverage tarp. really 2 ounces for a MUCH MUCH larger tarp. sometimes though i still carry a little tiny tarp.

#5. i only get out in the dead of winter (read mid jan/early feb) a few times, so the majority of my backpacking is 3 season. if the majority of mine was in the winter, i'd probably want my shelter and bug net integrated (yes, the bug net provides warmth - it can actually deaden the breeze quite a bit. which is why i chose tulle over noseeum for the mesh on my hammock bug net).

i hope maybe some of these points may help guide you into a best decision for you. i feel everyone sort of makes their own best decisions regarding this.

if i was ground sleeping i'd go with a tarp + some sort of bug bivy w/ bathtub floor. candidates for the tarp would be a 4 season tarp from zpacks, hammockgear, or a mid from MLD. even the hammock tarps from zpacks or hammockgear make fine ground tarps. my buddy had his hammock break on a trip this summer and his zpacks tarp to set up over himself on the ground. the flexibility to seal off the ends or 1 end or neither end is nice.

as far as the bug bivy goes i'd likely try to see if someone would DIY one for me. a guy like papa smurf or even just throwing up a post on here. there are many skilled and talented people here. i'd like to get a bathtub floor (larger than most 1 person bug bivies, so there's room for my pack and shoes and enough space that i'm not hitting the net) sewn in to a tulle netting with some sort of loop that attaches at the top. then i'd simply ask my tarp maker to sew a loop on the bottom of my cuben tarp (which i have done btw) so i could simply attach my bugnet via cord.

wow, that was a lot...

Edited by StainlessSteel on 02/01/2012 09:57:21 MST.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Bug Net. on 02/01/2012 09:57:09 MST Print View

@Greg "sewing bug netting directly to the end of his quilt"

I would want to suspend the bug net with a light bungee or something. Bugs can bite you through the mesh if it drapes across your skin.

Also, you may want to sleep without your quilt on top of you on hot buggy nights.
Some people say scorpions can be a problem in the South West and a full coverage net is preferred. I never used bug protection when I cowboy camped in UT/AZ and never had an issue.

I now use a tarp when I solo. I personally like the various bug bivys because they offer 100% bug protection and include the ground cloth.

There are various options. I have liked the SMD Meteor and BearPaw minimalist 1.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
example on 02/01/2012 10:50:44 MST Print View

here's an example of a guy who would definitely be able to make the bivy. i'd send him a pm, and ask for a similar one to that, but wider and with a hook on the netting in case i wanted to leave the pole at home and attach it to the tarp. but that pole would give you the flexibility to have bug protection without needing the tarp up.
steven burgess:

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Tarp or Tarp Tent on 02/01/2012 10:54:31 MST Print View

I was in the same predicament. I use a DIY silnylon tarp when there are no bugs and really like it. So, I made a net inner for it but, to be honest, I just found the combined setup to be a pain. I decided that what I really wanted was an integrated unit, like one of the Tarptents. I was planning on making one but a used Tarptent Contrail became available and that's what I ended up with. To me, the Contrail's pretty darn close the tarp + net skirt + floor that I would have made.

Btw, when comparing weights, remember that the Tarptents also have a floor, so you need to take into account a groundsheet in addition to the tarp weight. Contrail's spec'ed at 24.5 oz; mine is 26oz seam sealed.

One advantage with the Contrail that I really like is that it only requires one trekking pole and the door closes with velcro, not a zipper. I'm making an optional awning for it that will attach with velcro and use my second trekking pole to set. It'll be nice for cooking in rain.