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Mesh topped bivy under a 5X8 tarp in cold weather?
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Andrew Weldon
Mesh topped bivy under a 5X8 tarp in cold weather? on 08/16/2012 20:51:02 MDT Print View

I'm planning on an october thru-hike of the Vermont Long Trail. Tarp is (probably) going to be the Integral Designs 5x8 tarp. I'm on a fairly minimal budget, and I'd like to stay well under $200 for tarp/bivy/groundsheet/accessories. Cheaper and far lighter than a Tarptent Contrail, which is what it's all replacing.

My issue is that I don't know how unwise a completely ventilated bivy would be under a tarp in 15-28f nights. I can't think of any particular issues, but I have very little experience with cold nights. I've been down in the 20's before, but always in a tent and never for ~25 days straight.

It's important to note that I probably will spend a significant amount of my time in shelters, but I'd like to continue this setup for other trips and have a viable 3-season/mild chance of snow setup to rely on heavily if needed.

I'm open to particular bivy suggestions (well under $100 would be preferable). My sleeping pad is a Neoair 72" (it looks like the Titanium Goat bivys are out because of this, unfortunately. Space issues?), not sure on the sleeping bag yet, but it'll be some nice lofty 20 degree bag.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Mesh topped bivy under a 5X8 tarp in cold weather? on 08/16/2012 21:13:14 MDT Print View

Not sure if it will fit a 20 bag and neoair.

Chad "Stick" Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Borah Bivies on 08/16/2012 21:28:38 MDT Print View

Check out the Borah Bivies. He has both bug bivies as well as regular bivies, and can all be had for well under $100.

Greg Fox
(Cabman) - F
Rven Omni on 08/16/2012 21:28:59 MDT Print View

A TI Goat raven Omni would work with your pad. My setup for this weekend is exactly that, but with an Exped UL7.

Andrew Weldon
Borah on 08/17/2012 15:13:42 MDT Print View

I really like the look of the Borah Bivies. I think I'm going to pick up the M50 side zip. Possibly one of their tarps as well instead of the Integral Designs.


Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Borah on 08/17/2012 16:19:09 MDT Print View

If you're used to small tarps then I recommend a poncho/tarp like the 7oz one from golite that will also let you save the weight of rain gear. First time I ever used a poncho/tarp was in the winter with an unexpected 9" of snow. Fell in love with it and used it almost exclusively for a long time (on my solo trips).

Don't see any reason to use a mesh bivy in cold weather. A dwr bivy can cut some wind and add a little warmth, but the mesh wouldn't do a whole lot for that.


Edit: For the record I don't actually recommend poncho/tarps if expecting much snow, other shelter options are much better suited to those conditions... but it was still fun!

Edited by cowexnihilo on 08/17/2012 16:23:29 MDT.

Joe S
Borah on 08/17/2012 16:48:35 MDT Print View

+1 for John's excellent work.

Andrew Weldon
Re: Re: Borah on 08/17/2012 20:09:08 MDT Print View

I'm actually not used to small tarps at all, and this will be my first tarp experience.

I was drawn to the 5x8 (or Borah 5x9) because they're cheap and very light, but I've been second guessing myself for a little while now. I'm tempted to do the sensible thing and pick up an Oware 8x10 flat tarp and just enjoy the space, but the added cost and weight is sort of disappointing.

I have very little experience with this, and when it all comes down to it, it's for use on a NE trail with shelters so it'll probably see very little use initially.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Borah on 08/17/2012 20:56:26 MDT Print View

"I was drawn to the 5x8 (or Borah 5x9) because they're cheap and very light, but I've been second guessing myself for a little while now."

Get an old sheet, cut it to 5x8 or 9, punch small holes in it where guylines would normally go. Set it up in your yard. Crawl under it and lay down.

This will give you a very good idea on whether or not you think a 5x8 or 9 tarp will work for you before you spend any money.

Jeffrey McConnell
Etowah on 08/17/2012 21:56:56 MDT Print View

First, I'll second Borah Gear bivies. I have one and love it. Second, if you decide on an 8x10 flat tarp, check out Etowah Gear here. Cheapest I've found them at $75. I haven't used mine in the field yet but it looks like it's constructed well.

Edited by Catalyst on 08/17/2012 21:58:40 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Mesh topped bivy under a 5X8 tarp in cold weather? on 08/17/2012 22:03:14 MDT Print View

I"m with Douglas...
You can also get for a few dollars a drop sheet (painters sheet) .
Any tape works with that . Just re-enforce the corners with it .

Andrew Weldon
Tried it! on 08/18/2012 17:37:31 MDT Print View

I spent some time under a makeshift 5x9 today and played around with pitches. I can certainly see a decent chance of some rain ingress, but I'll be in a bivy.

I also got a PM from a member here and I have a Borah 5x9 on its way for a great deal, so that's sort of a no-brainer.

I think I'll be pretty satisfied with a 5x9 for now (especially since I'm spending much of my time on AT style trails in shelters), and next season I'm considering picking up or making a cuben 8x10 or 7x9.

This is such a weird thing looking back to not too long ago when I would never EVER even remotely consider tarping. I was a pretty firm tent sort of guy. Skin out weight is sub 10 lbs now, and a month ago I was using an Osprey Aether 70L pack. This has been a fun bit of research and planning.

Thanks guys!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Mesh topped bivy under a 5X8 tarp in cold weather? on 08/18/2012 18:42:27 MDT Print View

I would want a bigger tarp. A workaround might be to use a very thin cloth layer draped over the bivy, maybe using an internal ridge line. If you had enough ventilation to be safe, you could rig a space blanket that way. With cloth, it would barely need to be self supporting with the outer tarp taking the weight and wind force. Kind of a windshirt for your bivy :)

In using a Hennessy hammock, I have been surprised how much the no-see-um mesh slows down air flow. It is definitely warmer with the net zipped closed. There are hammock designs that offer top covers and there is little difference between the top side of a hammock and a net bivy, except for the ridge line. Of course, the concerns are with ventilation and condensation.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Spend a few nights first on 08/18/2012 21:28:31 MDT Print View

The idea of sleeping under a Tarp in weather where the temperature is going to at or near the rating of your sleeping bag doesn't seem smart to me. A 5 by 9 tarp will provide minimal heat retention, the Bivy will provide some.

Have you slept in a 20 degree bag outside of a tent in 20 degree weather before? That seems like a something I would want to have had experience with before committing to a 25 day trip. If you are legitimately expecting 15-25 degree lows I would think a zero degree bag would be more like it.

Andrew Weldon
Re: Spend a few nights first on 08/19/2012 00:27:18 MDT Print View

I do plan on a couple nights out in the coldest weather I can manage (Ohio is unfortunately not as cold as vermont quite as early). I don't have any experience at all outside of a tent, so I'm in completely new territory here.

The bag is going to be a Zpacks 20 degree (which seem to be quite true to rating), although the 10 degree version (warmest they make) isn't very much more at all and is probably quite a good idea.
I'll also have a good midweight baselayer top and bottom and a primaloft top to help along.

The Long Trail in October supposedly has an overall average low of 31, but I've been told several times to fully expect a couple of 15-20 degree nights. Even then, like I said, the tarp system is mostly for a contingency plan on case a shelter is full or I overstretch/understretch my mileage. Most people seem to finish the trail having only set up their shelter once or twice.

I can't imagine an AT style shelter is much better in terms of trapping heat, though.

Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
Some info on the Long Trail on 08/19/2012 06:50:03 MDT Print View

I just hiked the LT southbound in July, so here's my experience:

1. For the entire length of the LT, I never used my tent, except the night after I finished in MA. Shelters are plentiful, with the farthest distance being about 8 miles apart. In one place, there are 3 shelters within 6 miles. In October, they will also not be crowded by groups, which was the reason I carried a tent with me (and almost needed it twice).
My point is, you actually don't need a shelter at all--although you might want to carry one for security and flexibility (I liked having the option of camping anywhere, although I didn't ever do so).

2. Bugs will almost certainly not be an issue. They never bothered me in July, so why would they be around in October?

3. Unless you're very careful about where you camp, there'll be some cold nights. I'm talking not only 15 degrees, but also windchill because there are a ton of shelters at high (for VT) elevations. The shelters on Mansfield (Taft and Butler) are 4 walled, but the ridgeline to the North (Sterling Pond and Whiteface) is very exposed and the shelters are 3 walled. The secret here is that the 4 walled ski hut is unlocked, and very warm. I slept in the hut and was much warmer than those who slept in the Sterling Pond shelter, who set up their tents inside the shelter to endure sub-40 degree temperatures chilled further by high winds (this was in the midst of the hottest July on record).

4. Having grown up on the VT/NH border, I will also tell you that we have often had snow days (school closed) before Halloween. Never more than 2-3 inches, but it's something to be prepared for.

I would seriously recommend a lower rated sleeping bag or a liner. When you're out there for that length of time, the warmth is well worth the weight.

If you have any more questions about the trail or general October VT weather, I'm a resource.

Andrew Weldon
Re: Some info on the Long Trail on 08/19/2012 21:29:12 MDT Print View

Thanks! It's fantastic to get some more insight into the LT. I'd certainly make a lot more mistakes if I didn't get good advice like this.

The more I think about it, a 20 degree bag certainly sounds like it's pushing it inside shelters, but does a true 10 degree bag (in a bivy if necessary to block some wind) sound like a fairly safe bet? I'm not opposed to a silk liner, either.

My main attraction to the zpacks bags is the impressive weight and I like headless bags quite a bit, but their warmest is the 10 degree bag. Price isn't bad at all, too.

I like the bivy+tarp option for a carried backup shelter because it's simply the lightest thing I can find for under $200.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Some info on the Long Trail on 08/19/2012 22:04:18 MDT Print View

I just went NOBO in August and agree with Nick.

The way to tell what shelters are what is to look at the LT map. the larger icon usually means 4 walls and usually called Lodges or Camps. Except Bear Hollow shelter is also 4 walls. Also the Stark's Nest on Mad River Glen and the ski lodge on top of Bromley will be open.

being able to use the bivy in the shelters to add warmth will help. also you can put the tarp up across the front if you have to stay at 3 sided (more common down south)

have fun.. the foliage should be popping by then.