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? :)