November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Dumb luck? (I carry poncho tarp & down bag, no bivy)
Display Avatars Sort By:
Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Dumb luck? (I carry poncho tarp & down bag, no bivy) on 04/28/2011 19:08:18 MDT Print View

Hello Everyone,

I currently have a GoLite Poncho Tarp (Silnylon, 8 ft 8 in x 4 ft 10 in, 10.44oz on my scales), window insulation film as a ground sheet (1.10oz) and a Marmot Helium (16F, 31.82oz) or Atom (43F 21.52oz). I'm 5 feet 9 inches tall.

I do not use a bivy with my down bags and I haven't gotten wet.

My question is.... am I asking for trouble? Most other gear lists w/ poncho/tarps have lightweight or partial bivys included. I have slept through a decent rain storm or two, staying dry in A-frame pitch. But it's also relatively cramped under my little poncho/tarp, and I'm worried I'll get bit eventually. (I tried pitching in a half-pyramid for more protection in backyard, but was even more cramped length-wise and had trouble keeping it taught)

I am contemplating going lighter with Cuben Fiber products (solo tarp, poncho/tarp, bivy, pack) to lighten up.

If a bivy is recommended with an 8 ft 8 in x 4 ft 10 in poncho/tarp, I'll probably start weighing the pros/weights of a larger CF tarp vs. smaller tarp and bivy....or if there is a larger CF poncho/tarp than my current one.

Thanks for the advice. Currently sitting at ~8lbs base weight.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Dumb luck? (I carry poncho tarp & down bag, no bivy) on 04/28/2011 19:25:57 MDT Print View

If you've used this setup in several storms w/o getting wet, you're obviously using good technique. A little luck mixed in, too, but you're definitely doing something right.

A time will probably come when you get wet due to no "ideal" sites available. Other than that you'll probably continue to stay dry. I'm not good enough to stay dry in that setup, though. Being 6'1" doesn't help, either.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Prob more luck... on 04/28/2011 19:31:24 MDT Print View

The rain I experienced was coming straight down for the night so as long as I stayed under the tarp I was ok. I worry about side rain, even if I pitch relatively low.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Not sure you going to get lighter on 04/28/2011 19:58:13 MDT Print View

I am your same height and have the GoLite Poncho Tarp and Marmot Atom as well. That's a pretty light setup already. I think you are very fortunate to not have been caught in windy/rainy conditions that would be difficult to stay dry without a bivy. I just picked up the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy at < 7oz to pair up with my Poncho Tarp.

After experimenting with the Tarp configuration there is just not much room for error if it's windy with the Poncho Tarp.

Seems to me your decision is to either get a bivy or get a larger tarp (maybe not heavier though).

Edited by randalmartin on 04/28/2011 19:59:18 MDT.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
My dilemma... on 04/28/2011 20:10:45 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback Randy.

I'd lean towards a larger tarp in Cuben Fiber, as it'd give me more flexibility to stay dry while doing other things with the tarp, not just sleep with the bivy.

It'd definitely be lighter, but then I'd have to add weight back for a dedicated rain jacket (currently carry 4oz DWR-coated wind jacket to supplement poncho).

See my dilemma? :p I guess I'd love a Cuben Fiber Poncho/Tarp that is just larger than my current silnylon poncho/tarp. I'd get all the coverage benefits a larger tarp, but still keep the weight benefits combining my rain jacket with tarp. Are there any out there?

If I can't find one, I suppose I'd have to opt for the bivy and Cuben Fiber poncho/tarp to (hopefully) realize some weight benefits over my current Silnylon poncho/tarp and windshell w/ DWR.

Clint Wayman

Locale: East Tennessee, US
Re: My dilemma... on 04/28/2011 23:37:40 MDT Print View

Mountain Laurel Designs makes their SilNylon Pro Poncho. It comes in at 10 oz. and is slightly larger than the Golite-- they also make it available in cuben, but $300 is a bit steep for me.

For an extra ounce and probably a bit more livable space, Six Moon Designs makes their Gatewood Cape.

Edit: No affiliation with either company. Both simply seem to meet your criteria =)

Edited by cwayman1 on 04/28/2011 23:39:20 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Dumb luck? (I carry poncho tarp & down bag, no bivy) on 04/29/2011 00:41:07 MDT Print View


I think you really hit that poncho/tarp/bivy conundrum. I think you have had some luck too. Here's what was my main set-up:

MLD Poncho/Tarp with stakes/lines = 10 oz (had a GoLite before that at same weight)
MLD Soul Side Zip bivy = 7.9 oz
Nunatek Arc Specialist quilt = 15 oz

Total = 32.9 oz

New Set-up

BPL Nano Tarp w/stakes/lines = 7 oz
Ephinay cuben quilt = 12 oz
Marmot Essence jacket = 6.7 oz

Total = 25.7 oz

Savings = 7.2 oz

Cost per oz of saving = $106 -- Big consideration. For most people I would say this is not cost effective.

With the larger tarp and a cuben quilt (water proof but not the sewing), I don't worry about getting my quilt wet at night at all. Actually rain has never touched it. Also, I do not get the kind of rain that other parts of the country see. It is so more comfortable to do stuff when stuck under the tarp versus a poncho/tarp.

Had I kept the Nunatek, my weight savings would have been 4.2 oz, at a cost of $83 per oz. Plus keep in mind that I got the Nano tarp and Essence at discounted prices $349 for both.

The Essence does not have as much rain coverage as a poncho... but in a bad situation I can wrap my tarp around me (I have done that twice in downpours).

Also pitching a poncho/tarp in a downpour has its challenges!! I have the take-down dialed in really well though.

There is no perfect set-up. A SpinnTwinn tarp (great product) is almost the same weight as a poncho/tarp... so a light rain jacket would be a wash versus a bivy.

Poncho versus a rain jacket? Sometimes one is better than the other. Overall, I guess I like a poncho a little better. Not as hot, and since I have used one so much over the years, it doesn't get in my way, even when windy. But I move quicker in a rain jacket.

Cost-wise, you may just want to get a light bivy. MLD has some really nice ones. But if you want to invest the money, overall I really like a full tarp much, much better.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Rain Chaps on 04/29/2011 07:16:01 MDT Print View

I'll have to research a bit more based off the posts here. When I sold myself on the poncho, I purchased these rain chaps:

So I guess the cost/weight of rain protection for my lower half should be considered as well. Hrmmmmm....

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Some Ideas on 04/29/2011 10:46:49 MDT Print View

In addition to the Gatewood Cape, Alpinlite Gear has a pretty cool looking poncho: Microburst

I have not used it, but it seems like it would eliminate the need for chaps and provide full weather protection without a bivy. You could also just get a lighter poncho tarp (the new GoLite one weighs 7.5 oz) and then a super-light bivy like this one from Suluk46: 2.9 oz bivy

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: No bivy on 04/29/2011 10:57:33 MDT Print View

You could also just cut a new ground cloth that was twice your current size for an additional 1.1 oz. In the rare event of really bad wind-driven rain, fold the ground cloth over your sleeping bag to block any rain spray. I've slept under a two-layer groundcloth burrito'd this way with no tarp at all in the rain and while it wasn't fun I was only slightly damp at my feet & head in the morning. It's closer to $1.06 per ounce than $106 per ounce too.


Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Not a bad idea... on 04/29/2011 12:58:08 MDT Print View

Andrew, that's a pretty badass idea.... polycro is cheap! (otherwise known as window shrink film who want to pay pennies as opposed to dollars from retailers :p)

I'd have to make it more than twice as large as the current sheet in order to allot for wrapping around my body as opposed to laying flat on the ground and then a little bit longer still in order to have some material leftover to put rock/sticks down to secure it.


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: No bivy on 04/29/2011 13:18:38 MDT Print View

Sounds about right. The groundcloth I used is actually a piece of Tyvek taped into a tube. It is about 5' x 8' and both my wife and I got inside the tube when it started raining. I'd probably double your current width then add 10" and that should work OK. I just made a bivy with a total girth of 74" at the shoulders and it is quite roomy.

We folded the bottom end over and put rocks on it and were able to scrunch down to keep our heads inside. The tube is nice because you can use it as a normal size ground cloth most of the time. You can even use lighter than normal polycro because you'll have 2 layers. When you get inside, you don't have to worry about keeping it on top of you because of the tube shape.


Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Tyvek...Polycro on 04/29/2011 14:36:51 MDT Print View

I know tyvek is breathable, polycro is not. Cause for concern?

Also, how would you propose making a bivy out of polycro (I want poly because it is lighter)? How would you seal it up? (I know with tyvek you can sew it and/or it's a little thicker to glue together.)

Or perhaps I just have to see if wrapping myself up like a burrito and calling it a day is the best way.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: No bivy on 04/29/2011 14:46:39 MDT Print View

Sorry for the confusion, I made my bivy out of clothing-grade Tyvek, not polycro. I wouldn't recommend a polycro bivy due to poor breathability. I did make one as a test run before I made the Tyvek bivy though and it was about 4.5 oz. I taped all the seams together with masking tape. I started a thread in the MYOG section with fabric patterns & instructions if you are curious.

In comparison to a bivy, a tube will have open ends and should be pretty breezy. If you are worried about poor breathability just fold it over yourself instead of making an actual tube. Then one side will be open as well. You could tie the corners together after folding to keep it in place and still have lots of ventilation. You'd only use this in the worst storms anyway so you will have high humidity in your sleeping bag no matter what you do.


Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Tarp AND poncho? on 04/29/2011 18:12:02 MDT Print View

I have found myself using a 7x9 tarp overhead and a poncho as a groundsheet. This has worked out pretty well because you can wear the poncho while setting up the tarp or doing errands. You can also tighten the poncho around you as a makeshift bivy to block the wind by lacing a guyline through its grommets. The only downside I think is the poncho might wear out prematurely this way.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Tyvek...Polycro on 04/29/2011 18:16:56 MDT Print View

Clear packing tape holds very well, and is light.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
bivy poncho/tarp on 04/29/2011 19:59:26 MDT Print View

I still think there is a good case to made for the poncho/tarp, even w/ the need for a bivy (it's my experience that w/ a small tarp a bivy is necessary). there are several sub 7 oz bivies that would work (I use the MLD superlight)- eliminates the need for a ground cloth (a couple of ounces), increases the performance of your sleep system (that should be worth something) and provides for bug protection as well. Sticking w/ the tarp/poncho eliminates the need for additional rain gear.

Going to a larger tarp can certainly lessen (or eliminate) the need for a bivy, but weigh back in rain gear, ground cloth and bug protection and you can see that a poncho-tarp/bivy is pretty efficient system

Clint Wayman

Locale: East Tennessee, US
Re: Not a bad idea... on 05/01/2011 14:23:27 MDT Print View

Instead of having it wrap COMPLETELY around you, why not just add maybe 5-10" on either side, put a small tie-out (made of clear tape) on each corner and then just connect the two at your feet and connect the two at your head when you need protection on the sides. This way you have "wall's" on your ground cloth and still maintain an uncovered gap on top.

--picture more of the open top of a taco as compared to a fully enclosed burrito.

Edited by cwayman1 on 05/01/2011 14:24:04 MDT.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
quilt, bivy, cuben poncho on 05/02/2011 06:08:12 MDT Print View

Clint, another good idea, but my current poncho is silnylon.... does packing tape stick to that? (I know duct tape does not)

Also, if I move to a cuben fiber poncho/tarp, I know duct tape sticks to it, but putting the tape on & off over time, would that fray the cuben?

I am all but resolved to go for cuben bivy (with breathable top), quilt, and cuben poncho/tarp. This would give me lighter overall weight (gotta calc it) and better rain protection, plus added warmth and draft protection as I am a side sleeper that moves around a lot.

I've never slept in a bivy before though. but this would also allow me to drop my bug net. I just need to see if I can fit my neo air short in there. I'd also need to see about condensation in a bivy and if it's too hot with just the bivy on a warm night where I'm just in top of my quilt inside the bivy.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
getting closer on 05/02/2011 12:59:33 MDT Print View

I called MLD on an idea to give better rain protection but still save weight over a Bivy, but they are neck-deep in orders right now as is everyone else. haha.

So mostly I'll go with the cuben tarp & bivy and call it a day.....would be nice to spend a night in a bivy first though to see if it's for me or not.

Edited by bster13 on 05/02/2011 14:36:52 MDT.