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Tarp/Bivy advice needed.
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(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy on 01/21/2007 03:18:28 MST Print View

>>Does everyone else really always hike alone?

For me, yes (at least most of the time).

My system is: poncho tarp (Golite or, Gatewood Cape), Vapr bivy, and Arc Ghost (colder conditions Arc Alpinist). Since my tarp is also my rain gear, I don't consider it to be extra weight. Most of the time rain gear is a must have in Oregon. The only extra weight is the bivy (7 oz). Very close to your 5.33 oz per person weight, Erin.

I have to agree with Doug, this is the most versitile system that I have ever used. No matter if it's hot, wet, dry, cold, or any were in between, this system just can't be beat. You can adjust on the fly: tarp only, bivy only, sleeping bag only, bivy and bag, tarp and bag, tarp and bivy, all three, or none at all. That's alot of options for very little weight.

>>Like James, I also have taken only the Vapr bivy. This is only when the chance of rain is miniscule. If conditions change, I know I can flip the bivy upside down or find some natural shelter.

Doug, great tip on turning the bivy upside down I never thought of that. Not to mention that your one brave man to go with only the Vapr bivy as your sole sleep protection from the elements.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy on 01/21/2007 09:31:01 MST Print View

Hi Duane-

Important to note that when I've taken the Vapr bivy only, it's been one night and zero chance of rain. Not a common occurance at all.

Do you find you need the bivy with the Gatewood cape? How do you like the cape? That shelter has always intrigued me...


(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Re: Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy on 01/22/2007 03:01:24 MST Print View

Doug, the Gatewood was just purchased, and I have not had the chance to use it yet (or seam seal it for that matter). I have set it up and played around with it. So far I love it. My intent is to use it for winter weather (sunny, dry, and very little wind). During three season outings I will use it when the forecast calls for heavy sustained rain (much better protection vs. a poncho tarp).

>>Do you find you need the bivy with the Gatewood cape?

Winter weather- Boosts sleeping bag temp rating and blocks snow drift and wind.
Three season with rain- Keeps me dry from wet ground and running water on top of the ground.
Bug protection in summer- From my experience, mosquintoes tend to collect in the peak of enclosed shelters.

For more normal weather conditions, I'll stick to my poncho tarp (light rain, showers, or dry conditions). Just in case anyone is wondering why I would carry a tarp in dry conditions, it gives me shade. Nice to have when it's 90 degrees out.

>>Important to note that when I've taken the Vapr bivy only, it's been one night and zero chance of rain. Not a common occurance at all.

Sounds like typical PNW weather to me.

PS, The Gatewood Cape might be a good choice of shelters for sustained winds.

Edited by dealtoyo on 01/22/2007 03:42:39 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy on 01/22/2007 03:38:55 MST Print View

Just in case this proves useful to anyone, skeeters, like most insects, have two (for our purposes) ingrained behaviors that make it sometimes relatively easy to get them out of a shelter (or out of your ear if one crawls in).

Skeeters are negatively geotactic (they move away from the source of gravity, viz. the earth) and positively phototactic (they move towards light).

Hence, if possible, open a high vent, and from the outside shine a light through the opening. Give a little shake of the tent fabric and they generally fly UP and out towards the LIGHT.

This approach, from firsthand experience, with myself, wife, children, friends, also works well when a lil' bugger crawls into your ear. Just bend & turn your head with the inhabited ear skward and shine a light in it. This is often sufficient to coax the lil' bugger, who is contemplating taking up residence, out.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/22/2007 09:54:58 MST Print View


I'll step in get for a moment to share a few thoughts.

I realize that many will continue to use a bivy with the Cape, though I tried to design it eliminate the need. Personally I think a sleeping bag or quilt with a good water resistant shell makes a better solution. Fortunately with Epic, Pertex and numerous micro-weaves with DWR shells available today, that’s not too difficult. That should be more than sufficient to deal with whatever minimal spray or condensation collects on the shell.

Bivies can provide some enhanced bug protection. However, I find that when I’m in need of bug protection is so warm that a confining bivy only compounds the problem. When it’s warm or hot as in late spring early summer, I need better venting to help regulate nighttime temperatures. This is something I’ve found difficult to accomplish with enclosed bivy sacks.

Another thing I’ve discovered over the years, is that I seldom need both bug and rain protection simultaneously. Generally speaking, when I’m having bug problems it’s not raining and when it’s raining bugs have gone elsewhere. Granted that’s not true everywhere. I generally pack to deal with each problem independently instead of looking for a unified solution.


mark henley
(flash582) - F
I use the Gatewood and a Bivy on 01/22/2007 14:02:02 MST Print View


I love my Gatewood cape ... the enhanced rain protection is great .... You can call it a lot of things .. but to me it's a simple floorless tent with plenty of room for me and my gear.

Here in Texas, Our bugs are so big that they block out the rain when they fly over, and a good storm doesn't seem to phase um much. The cape just gives em a dry place to hang out and catch a quick bite (me) while they wait. In fact ... most of the bugs have their own tail numbers ...

Seriously, you've got a great point, however, we do have problems here with rain and bugs, bugs without rain, and rain without bugs.

I use a lightweight bivy just for the flexibilty it gives me. There have been a number of occasions that I've left the bag in the stuff sack and just slept in the bivy, times I've just used the bivy as a ground cloth both under the gatewood and under the stars, and times where I needed a little extra warmth from the bivy inside the gatewood.

Polycrow doesn't last long in the Hill Country of Texas, so I'd usually end up carrying a 6 mil plastic sheet or a big piece of tyvek and some type of bug netting anyway, the bivy gives me a bit more flexibility for the same weight.

I would also add that if you've never had the pleasure of having a troupe of fire ants decide they like your groundcloth better than you do you just haven't lived. Not to mention the Texas Chiggers who've been known to carry campers away whole in the night! (alright ... you can take the waders off now ... the BS part of the post is over) :)

A few tricks to manage sweating, with or without a Bivy, is to use your platy as a pillow, without a cover. Lay a Platy under your side or back on TOP of your pad, filled with cool water. Find a nice area with plenty of duff and sleep right on the bottom of your bivy without a pad.

Lastly ... the Gatewood cape is a fantastic product, and I give it my highest recomendation ... any thoughts about a spinnaker or cuben version some time in the future?

(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/22/2007 14:46:48 MST Print View

Ron is absolutely right, you do not need a bivy with the Gatewood Cape. A sleeping bag with a water resistant shell will work. My original setup was a Golite poncho tarp, BMW Vapr bivy, and Nunatak Arc Ghost with .85 shell. I purchased the Gatewood to deal with the worst weather (because of the great coverage). Since I don't have a sleeping bag with a DWR shell I use the Vapr bivy (it saves me $400+ to have a new bag made with Pertex or Epic). My technique is to pack for the conditions I expect to face, with the Gatewood, I have one more option in shelters.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/22/2007 15:05:08 MST Print View

Thanks Ron and others for the additional info about the Gatewood. The fact that it has a ground pitch definitely eliminates some of the need for a bivy- I can see that.

Thanks for always coming out with thoughful, well-executed designs Ron. The Wild Oasis is yet another example. So is the Lunar Duo. I can't wait to hear more about these great new designs.

Doug's dream world- a Cuben Wild Oasis and Gatewood cape. Ahh, nirvana.

Very cool stuff!

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/22/2007 19:59:07 MST Print View

A little off topic, but have you considered replacing the front two panels (on either side of the main zipper) with something like epic on the Gatewood? This would seem to put breathable fabric where needed as raingear, but maintain full-waterproofness over the sleeping area as a shelter.
Would something like this work?

Just my two cents.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/23/2007 09:42:03 MST Print View


We're always looking at different options with our gear. While I've been a real Epic fan for over 6 years, I'm not sure it's added weight and cost warrents it's use in shelters. Epic doesn't eliminate condensation nearly as effectively as proper shelter placement.

As to other UL fabrics, we're currently working on some prototypes using both Cubin Fiber and Spinnaker Cloth. No details as to if or when the products will be released.


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/23/2007 09:45:46 MST Print View

Ron-Will you please summarize your Gatewood Cape shelter placement recommendations?

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/23/2007 09:55:53 MST Print View

I second Richard's request and also ask about your estimation of the effect that a full shelter ground cloth would have on the amount of condensation vs. just using a bivy (not that it's necessary in many cases) or a partial gnd. cloth (i.e., just enough to keep the sleeping bag/quilt from contact with the ground).

Just looking to glean any little tidbit that i might not have thought of. I'm sure Richard is also quite familiar, as am i, with the more mainstream methods for minimizing condensation - hence my specific requests concerning gnd. cloths.

I've read the SMD webpage you authored. Very good advice was contained in it.

Edited by pj on 01/23/2007 13:38:38 MST.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape - Shelter Placement on 01/23/2007 10:27:12 MST Print View

Trying to summarize the elements proper shelter placement would be a bit difficult in this forum. However, I do address the general issues on my webpage Maximize the Benefits of Your Ultralight Tent href=” Sorry couldn't get the direct link to work.

I’ve wanted to go back and add some additional information to the page, but alas time is limited. Maybe some day.


Edited by rmoak on 01/23/2007 10:31:01 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Re: Tarp/Bivy - Gatewood Cape on 01/23/2007 11:11:13 MST Print View

1. Don't set it up in mud puddles.

ryan g
(ryan_g) - F

Locale: around
tarp/bivy in prolonged rain? on 01/23/2007 12:11:24 MST Print View

What kind of tarp/bivy combo is good for prolonged rain and no sun, such as you might find in the Cascades?

I spent a week of uncomfortable days this September in central Washington with a Spinnshelter and a WM Ultralite (no bivy). By the third day of rain/fog/snow, everything was wet, no matter how cautious I tried to be. Wet is something a Washington backpacker should probably be resigned to, but I'd be interested to hear opinions on how best to minimize the effects of prolonged moisture while in a tarp or tarp/bivy.

As for the JMT - I got hit by t-storm in June west of Kearsarge Pass with the above set-up (I pitched the spinnshelter as an A-frame, flaps up), and stayed mostly dry. And had anything got wet, I'd have been able to dry it out after the storm passed the next day. The problem in the Cascades was that the weather never blew over, so I could never dry my gear out.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: tarp/bivy in prolonged rain? on 01/23/2007 13:43:15 MST Print View

Sometimes in the Spring in New England we can get days of continuous or near continuous rain and no sun. In these conditions, i opt for a synth. sleeping bag. Also, where permitted a fire may help some, but if the rain is too heavy this is not always an option. Even if you can get a fire going, there's often nowhere not exposed to more rain in which to hang or place gear to have the fire help dry it out. If the rain stops during the day, even with cloud cover, that's the time to try to dry wet gear.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: tarp/bivy in prolonged rain? on 01/23/2007 15:43:40 MST Print View

When I did lots of OB courses in the Washington and Oregon
Cascades, trips that lasts 2 or 3 weeks where it could rain
and snow the whole time, I opted for the belt and suspenders approach.
Since I was tied to a group, and couldn't just hike at my
own speed and camp where I wished, and the tarps were often
set up by the inexperienced, I brought a Goretex bivy.
I didn't notice any more condensation in my bivy than I would get inside the sleeping bag shell without it and it gave a lot of shelter in wet sloppy conditions. A solid Goretex bivy helps reduce condensation on the bottom as does using the foam pad inside the bivy. Breath outside the bivy if possible.

Not ultralight, but the one I used I made from 2 layer Gore
and it weighed 15 oz.

The other thing I do is to bring extra fuel. A liter of boiling water, kept in a sock to prevent burns, drys out
stuff in your bag as well as your bag, and will give you
a good 6 hours of warm sleep on the frostiest of nights.

Keep all your extra soft gear in the bivy with you,
tie your boot laces together and tuck them under your knees
outside your sleeping bag with the soles facing to the sides. This will keep them from freezing and dry them a bit,
and help keep you from rolling off your pad.

Eat lots and keep moving when not in your bag.

A big fire can work to dry stuff, even sleeping bags,
if all else fails. Expect some spark damage.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tarp/Bivy advice needed. on 01/24/2007 20:19:05 MST Print View

Going with just a 5x8 tarp would be a gamble... but the odds are decent that you won't get night time rain on the JMT in August. Of course, it can happen. There is a nice article about using a 5x8 poncho as the solo shelter

I have attempted to use a small tarp without a bivy. I had some unpleasant and sleepless nights as I try to stay dry when facing heavy rains, but I *mostly* succeeded. There were only a handful of really soggy morning. I eventually decided I liked a bit more protection when it was blowing and raining.

Like a number of people on this thread, I tried using a bivy. In my case BMW VAPR Bivy. This seems like a great addition to my system since I use a quilt. In practice, I didn't find the bivy was right for me. The biggest issue was that I found it inconvenient to get in and out of the bivy and felt constrained while I moved around at night. Furthermore, The rest of camp life was constrained by my small tarp. The bivy did provide better protection from weather blowing rain, but I still didn't sleep really well those nights because I wasn't 100% confident I was going to stay dry. On at least two nights, I managed to get wet even using the bivy. One of those nights it was stupid user error: I didn't secure the bivy and my whole body had shifted down so my feet had slid out from under the tarp. I am not sure what went wrong the second night. I suppose the bivy did add some warmth and wind resistance, but I haven't noticed a significant advantages compared to a large tarp in a locked down configuration until the weather was more or less at freezing temps. The one situation I really did like using the bivy was when snow camping to keep spindrift out. It seems that spindrift is harder to keep at bay than wind driven rain because hitting the ground doesn't mean that it's stopping.

A couple of years ago I switched a slightly larger shaped tarp (GG spinnshelter) and dropped the bivy. I find that I stay as dry (or drier) than when I was using the poncho + bivy, and find camp life easier to manage. The overall weight of a larger tarp will be less than a smaller tarp + bivy provided they are made from the same materials. A minor downside for most people is that a larger tarp requires a slightly larger footprint. I haven't found the larger footprint to be a significant issue. If anything, I find myself longing for a larger tarp on the trips where I expect serious weather. I remember back to how easy it was to manage when I was using the original squall as a solo shelter. The problem is that I don't want to carry the extra weight... Though with some of the new materials it would be possible... Argh! Stop that. I not suppose to spend more money. I have everything I need. Goodness, maybe I need to go 100% cold turkey.

Edited by verber on 01/24/2007 20:29:09 MST.