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Tent vs. Tarp
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Philip Mack Furlow
(PhilipMack) - F

Locale: North Texas
Tent vs. Tarp on 01/27/2007 10:06:25 MST Print View

Can y'all recommend articles regarding tent vs. tarp. I have a pretty good bivy and have camped in a BD BetaMid and a Sierra Designs Oragami UL. I have been debating between lighter traditional square and rectangular tarps from Oware, BMW and Gossamer Gear, at the same time I have been intrigued by the tent designs from Tarp Tent and Six Moon Designs(challenges the weight of the bivy/tarp set up). Also any practical advice from folks who have camped with both would be great.

The Sierra Design Oragami UL weathered sleet, hail and high winds for me and a buddy at 12000 feet in Colorado - but I would like to go lighter. Most of my camping is in the high country of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

I like the flexibility of the bivy and the airiness of a tarp.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Tent vs. Tarp on 01/27/2007 19:35:28 MST Print View

Well, you've pretty much figured out the question. The answer, like so many things in backpacking, is: 'it depends.' I have a Henry Shires Tarptent - the original Rainshadow. I love it. It is light, airy, has great views, protects exceptionally well in bad weather, and will actually sleep 3 full size people and some of their gear inside. For two people, it's a palace. And it weighs all of 38 ounces total, with a floor. For hiking with my spouse and our daughter, it's fantastic.

I also have several flat tarps and bivy sacks, and love those too -- just for different reasons. For solo use, a flat tarp and a breathable bivy is a versatile combination -- use the bivy to cowboy camp or in a trail shelter, and pitch the tarp if the weather turns bad. I use this combination year-round in the Southeast.

The tarptent is somewhat less versatile, in that you either use it, or you don't. But, it's often quicker to set up than a flat tarp, and it can provide better weather protection. It's also just plain easier, especially for beginners, and it provides a large, bug-free area to change clothes, hang out, read, do camp chores, etc.

The tipi-style shelters that you mention are probably better in snow and heavy wind than either a flat tarp or a tarp tent.

You could make your own tarp-tent style shelter -- there are good plans on the Six Moon Designs web site, and sells a kit for the original Shires design.

I know this doesn't really help. I like both systems, and simply choose the best for whatever trip I am on.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Tent vs. Tarp on 01/27/2007 20:02:43 MST Print View

Being a beginner at the gear side of all this, and pushing for low weight, I am trying out tarps.

But, there is no question in my mind that push come to shove I would go straight to a Henry Shires Tarptent/Gossamer Gear Squall Classic for my partner and I (1.5 lbs.). Ken B. mentioned someplace here that he has a Rainshadow II (38 oz.) for his family and I also got one of those because we, my partner and I, needed the space in moderate or quiet snow conditions, IMO.

So what Ken B wrote is totally true, IME.

It all depends on where you are going, what you are looking for, and as all the gurus here I listen to seem to endlessly repeat in one way or another -- the level of experience and interest.

But, if you are going for the lightest shelter, besides laying naked in the woods ... and if a bivy doesn't do it by itself then my advice is try them both out -- the tent and the tarp. IMO if you are single you are going to end up with a tarp, a bivy, a tarp and bivy, or naked -- I never even thought of hammocks but now they are becoming interesting too, if I am going solo -- when will the learning and testing ever end.

That is my opinion and what I have been doing personally under the BPL sages influence.

NOTE: I am still waiting to really try the poncho tarp -- but I sure look forward to it when the spring rains come. (By the way, if you can afford it, I love the NANO tarp I got at the Gear Shop here for practicing and learning. It is fragile compared to a bombproof unit ... but what a learning experience, pure pleasure and only 4.2 listed oz.) Bill F. and others have posted pictures and I think Six Moons Designs and others have patterns to try out making or testing your own tarp -- wish I had the time to make gear myself, or more time than what I can do.

I would love to hear back what you do and decide. bd

Edited by bdavis on 01/27/2007 20:23:24 MST.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
tarps on 01/27/2007 21:13:27 MST Print View

Main advantage of Shires tarp/tent is the mosquito netting. Disadvantage = if your using it in the non-mosquito season, the netting is not detachable, so you have to carry the extra weight.
Tarps vs. tent The significant weight savings in a tarp means you will have a hard time packing a 4 pound tent again. An 8x10 tarp has room for two, plus gear. Plus tarps take up a lot less room in your pack than a tent.
Hammock advantages: Only needs two trees. You do not need level ground, ground without rocks or roots, or dry ground. Netting is often removeable, can be left at home. Most hammocks need tarps for rain cover, so now you have the option of just sleeping under a tarp, if you do not want to use the hammock one night.
Want a cheap tarp to try out. Go to a hardware store and buy a painter's drop cloth, look for a thick ml. Wrap the corners around a wine cork to make something for your tie-outs to attach to. Tie a parachute cord between two trees as a center line.
In short, try a tarp and/or hammock, and you will soon be leaving your tent at home.

Philip Mack Furlow
(PhilipMack) - F

Locale: North Texas
Thanks folks on 01/28/2007 09:25:36 MST Print View

Thanks for the advice. I am contemplating the SMD Gateway Poncho/Tarp for a Solo set up and the Rainshadow II for outings with the boys.

All advice is much appreciated. In my younger days when I ran 50 miles a week, a Heavy Pack was no problemo - these days I have a strong desire to stay really, really light.

Thanks again.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Tent vs. Tarp on 01/29/2007 07:02:29 MST Print View


I use a hammock most of the time, however I do carry other shelters in the desert, above timberline and for privacy.

The Gatewood Cape is a very robust and roomy shelter. No bivy is needed. It is great in high exposed areas. Really only one pitch option.

A poncho and bivy is great for desert hiking. I often set the poncho but sleep "cowboy". Many pitch options.

For trips when I might want some privacy then the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo works well. A 24 oz. car camping tent.