tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis
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Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis on 03/01/2012 10:58:51 MST Print View

i was watching some TV with my wife last night and had my laptop on my lap and was hitting a bunch of sites looking for a tarp. she sees the camping gear on the screen and asks "now what are you buying? what is that, a tarp? don't you already have a super light tent?"

"yes, i do have a light tent, it's a Copper Spur UL1 and weighs 40 ounces"

her reply kind of left me puzzled and also a bit impressed...

"what would the weight of the tarp be, about a pound? but then you need to protect your sleeping bag, it's down, right? and you don't want to sleep in wet dirt if it's already raining, so you need to have a floor, some plastic or something. so those all add up, what are you actually saving by spending more money?

the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 weighs 40 ounces packed and ready to go with Ti stakes. i went through it during a commercial and removed about 2 ounces of rope with rubber staylocks(that stuff is heavy!) so now it's down to 38 ounces at a cost of $350.00

an 8 x 10 silnylon tarp setup in storm mode would afford me about the same protection. the weight of the silnylon at that size looks to be about 14 ounces. cost $150.00

next i need a ground cloth, a nice sheet of tyvek would do, i could try and find something local, but it might be easier to order it online - 3.5 ounces for $15.00. i could just get a heavy gauge plastic sheet, but that is going to be much heavier and not as durable.

she's right, there is no way i'm taking a down bag out without a bivy, so i would need one of those. REI has one that tips the scales at 15 ounces for $99.00

toss in three 6 foot lengths of rope and three 3 foot lengths (27 feet total), say another ounce and $15.00.

that's 33.5 ounces for a tarp, bivy, ground cloth, and some rope - $279.00

if i don't have poles already, i would need to factor that price into the tarp system or find branches at the camp site (if i'm not in the desert or above the tree line)

the weight savings would be 4.5 ounces at a cost of $62.00 per ounce. that is very expensive. but if i didn't already have the tent, the price per ounce looks like this:

tarp system $7.90/per ounce
tent $9.20/per ounce

but here's the rub, i need to add the 2 ounces for the stakes since i added those to the tent's total weight of 38 ounces. i already own them, so they are "free"... but not weightless. the real weight savings then becomes the difference between bringing a book or leaving it at home.

the tarp system comes out ahead in weight and cost savings if i were starting from zero. the funny thing about that, the experience required to feel comfortable with a tarp system would pretty much rule out one from start at zero unless they are like my kids and learn from dad's experiences.

so, should i order a tarp? :)

Edited by asciibaron on 03/01/2012 11:12:45 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis on 03/01/2012 11:17:14 MST Print View

Steve:

My view is that while it's important to compare weight between two alternatives (in this case tarp vs. tent) -- there are also other considerations that ought to be factored in:

1. preference -- for me, I just like the ease / simplicity of my dome tent -- a palace for one that weighs 2.5lbs. OTOH, what I call fuss, many tarp owners view as creativity. How about you?

2. how are you liking your total pack weight?

To me, what's important is that my total pack weight is at or under what some call the "comfort weight" -- the weight where you can hike all day, day after day, and not really feel your pack. Cutting back much further below that returns mostly psychic benefits.

If your total weight is more than you'd like, then yes, look at all the areas where you can cut -- including your shelter. But if you are happy with your pack weight -- then there's really no reason to spend ever more money -- unless you truly like the idea of tarping -- in addition to the weight saving.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis on 03/01/2012 11:23:13 MST Print View

Here is my setup to give you an example of a much lighter and less expensive solution

Light - If I know weather will be bad.

1] Gossamer Gear Spinn Twinn $175, about 12oz including cord, Line Locs and Ti stakes
2] Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy $150, 7oz
3] No ground cloth needed with Bivy but you could do a Polycryo for 1.6oz and $4.

Total Weight 22oz
Total Cost $330

Ultralight - If chances of bad weather are very low.

1] GoLite Poncho Tarp $69 and 9oz including cord, Line Locs and Ti stakes
2] Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy $150, 7oz
3] No ground cloth needed with Bivy but you could do a Polycryo for 1.6oz and $4.

Total Weight 18oz
Total Cost $225

To further cut cost you could go with a MYOG Tyvek Bivy. Here is a thread about it
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=12370

Edited by randalmartin on 03/01/2012 11:28:00 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
nail on the head on 03/01/2012 11:38:56 MST Print View

i think your wife has hit the nail on the head as to why most people use tents ... or even on BPL, many use tarptents, or other such "full systems" (such as MLD with inner, echo, etc ...)

less hassle, warmer, better protection ...

are the costs and weight savings really much better ... vs the benefits?

nothing wrong with tarping ... it can be as cheap (with a 5$ tarp and nothing else except for a plastic ground sheet) or light ( $$$$ cuben tarp and ground sheet and nothing else) as you want

as long as we dont get into religious fanaticism about tarps and bivies being the only UL way ;)

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: Re: tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis on 03/01/2012 12:17:18 MST Print View

There are much cheaper/lighter tarp setups than what the OP mentions, as Randy points out. But there's also much cheaper/lighter tent options than what the OP is using too. Case in point: TarpTent Contrail, 24.5oz, $200.

But as others have eluded, it comes down to style. I have a tarptent, for simplicity and bug comfort, but look forward to experimenting with other options just to play.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
No bivy on 03/01/2012 12:17:53 MST Print View

I do what Randy does with the SpinnTwinn but use no bivy. Its much lighter that way and much cheaper.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 03/01/2012 14:44:13 MST.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
so... on 03/01/2012 12:40:52 MST Print View

so what you guys are saying is i shouldn't watch TV with my wife :)

Ultra Magnus
(Ultra_Magnus) - F
Re: No bivy on 03/01/2012 12:42:21 MST Print View

One other, not often talked about option- what's easier to make? While costs of buying into a tarp/bivy setup compared to a UL tent are pretty close, if you are on a super tight budget, MYOG'ing yourself into a tarp/bivy is a lot easier for the beginning sewer (sewist? as in one that sews) to get in to than making an UL tent. A 5x9 tarp could be made for about $30, and a simple lytw8 bivy can be made for not much more. So, for about $100 you can have a 1lb shelter system.

Same deal for quilts. I can't see myself an any foreseeable future buying a $400 sleeping bag, and making a bag is a lot harder than makign a quilt- so, can I learn to deal with the increased challenges of quilt camping for the money savings? Even so, I'm still choking on the cost of 5yds of m90 + enough down to stuff it.

BM

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: so... on 03/01/2012 13:16:18 MST Print View

"so what you guys are saying is i shouldn't watch TV with my wife :)"

Watching TV is fine, just don't let her see you on the 'net drooling over more gear.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: so... on 03/01/2012 13:52:19 MST Print View

No no... there's easier solutions :)
http://www.amazon.com/Compucessory-Monitor-Privacy-Screen-Filter/dp/B001H5QKOW

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: so... on 03/01/2012 13:57:04 MST Print View

"so what you guys are saying is i shouldn't watch TV with my wife :)"


Marriage 101:

Crucial Error #1: You weren't watching TV with your wife, you were multi-tasking. Wives don't like that. They want your undivided attention.

Crucial Error #2: If you wife does not backpack, then it is a bad strategy to teach her anything about gear. The goal is for her NOT to know the difference between a poncho or a Scarp 1, or a McHale Pack vs a Flash 18, etc. But she will associate gear with colors, so don't be setting stuff up around the house if she is present.

Crucial Error #3: Never let her know pricing, unless you request an item as a gift. If you have a REI membership, train her to provide your phone number when purchasing gifts, do not reveal the dividend process. She will think it is an Albertson card, where some items are discounted.

Crucial Error #4: You were looking at gear in her presence. You might as well shoot yourself in the foot with a 50 caliber bullet. If you must sneak a peak, get a smart phone and turn the screen. But, Crucial Error #1 trumps. See above.

Crucial Error #5: Sounds like you have not set up a discretionary slush fund for each partner. This is critical in Marriage 101. Encourage her to spend her money and do not look at anything she buys or offer opinions. If she shows you something she bought, act excited and lavish praise on her good taste and shopping abilities, techniques and skills.

Crucial Error #6: Sounds like you did not buy her an inexpensive but thoughtful present without any occasion, prior to the gear hunting expedition. Tsk, tsk.

:)

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Re: so... on 03/01/2012 14:01:12 MST Print View

Sounds like Nick needs a new wife.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: so... on 03/01/2012 14:03:39 MST Print View

Hilarious Nick! Some golden nuggets of wisdom in that post. I can vouch having been married 20+ years. I would add another piece of advice. Occasionally you need to actually sell some gear (albeit at a loss) so there is actually some appearance that you are simply swapping one piece of gear for another.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: so... on 03/01/2012 14:07:27 MST Print View

"Sounds like Nick needs a new wife"

My wife is perfect. She actually bought my McHale Bump. When it arrived, she said it was pretty, she liked the color. Then she asked if it was okay for her to go out with her friends this Saturday. Absolutely! Meant I didn't have to get a kitchen pass to go backpacking, "Since you will be out this weekend, I'll just take your wonderful present backpacking,"

:)

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: tarp, bivy, ground cloth vs. UL tent weight/cost analysis on 03/01/2012 14:13:00 MST Print View

"should i order a tarp?"

No, you should make yourself a tarp. Seriously. Let me reiterate: if you possess even the most modest of mechanical skills, you can learn how to sew (semi) rectangles like tarps, packs & quilts. (Clothing is an entirely different issue best left to professionals.)

1.3 sil 1sts costs around $12/yrd - you would need 6 yrds to build a 9'x12' tarp. 108' sq ft would weigh under 16oz. Of course, you probably don't need a tarp that large for yourself, so you could cut it down, but still keep it slightly oversized to eliminate a bivy.

I typically just use Henry Shires' original plan, but push it out an additional 6" all around ie 8'6" long X 7'6" wide (front) x 5" wide (rear). With 12-18" guys on one side, I have a 38" tall (at the front) tarp that is very roomy, very long, with plenty of wind/rain protection and no danger from touching/rubbing the (wet) fabric.

Without bug netting, but with guy lines, it weighs 9.15oz. The Ti stakes weigh 1.25oz and my 84"x40" window shrink wrap weighs 1.4oz. Total shelter weight: 11.8oz.

Philip Delvoie
(PhilipD) - MLife

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Crucial Error on 03/01/2012 14:40:57 MST Print View

Great post Nick. Definitely think Randy's comment is #7 on that list. 8-)

Ultra Magnus
(Ultra_Magnus) - F
Re: Re: so... on 03/01/2012 14:44:55 MST Print View

"Crucial Error #5: Sounds like you have not set up a discretionary slush fund for each partner. This is critical in Marriage 101. Encourage her to spend her money and do not look at anything she buys or offer opinions. If she shows you something she bought, act excited and lavish praise on her good taste and shopping abilities, techniques and skills."

The irony of that is when the wife has her feelings hurt because you don't "choose" to spend your discretionary slush funds to purchase her secret gifts...

BM

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: so... on 03/01/2012 14:52:39 MST Print View

"The irony of that is when the wife has her feelings hurt because you don't "choose" to spend your discretionary slush funds to purchase her secret gifts..."

Refer to Dave's post... (e.g., need a new wife)

:)

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
the sentence on 03/01/2012 14:58:09 MST Print View

been married 13 years as of a few days ago. she looked at me when i said it's been 13 years and said "that's all, dang"

i think imma try my hand at stitching one of these up. silnylon and thread and a template, and some time and some...

i better not do this while watching TV with my wife :)

Keith F
(hamerica) - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Alternatives on 03/01/2012 15:13:59 MST Print View

If you want to tarp you could also look at something like a zpacks hexamid with the beak which is only 4.2 ounces and costs $245. It has enough coverage that you really don't need a bivy. As for the groundsheet, just get some window insulation film from the hardware store for a few bucks.

Edited by hamerica on 03/01/2012 15:14:59 MST.