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Trying to push myself to make the tarp plunge
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Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Trying to push myself to make the tarp plunge on 07/16/2013 16:40:59 MDT Print View

I asked because 130cm is too high for many pole supported shelters, otherwise the Notch could have been a good contender.
(I have set a couple of shelters using the new version with the adjustable bit. They work)
I am not a fan of having poles set sideways to change the hight, but you could get substitute poles for a couple of ounces each.
You would fit inside a Rainbow/Double Rainbow.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
backyard testing on 07/16/2013 16:43:05 MDT Print View

Backyard testing is no good. Do quick overnights 5-7 miles from the car. Far enough that commitment will give you the full experience, close enough you can bail if it really does suck.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
TT Contrail? on 07/16/2013 16:45:23 MDT Print View

Back in the day I used to use tarps a good bit, cheap woven poly tarps and G.I. nylon ponchos!
This was because I was cheap and didn't want to carry a heavy tent when going solo.
I still play around with home made polycryo tarps.

But these days I've gotten soft and simply prefer a tarptent. I have a 2 pound Squall 2 for my solo tent and a 2-1/2 pound Rainshadow 2 for my wife and I that is simply a palace.
I figure that instead of a tarp, ground cloth, mosquito head net, and possibly a bivy bag a feller could simply take something like a TT Contrail at about 25 ounces, or go whole hog with a Squall 2 like I do at about 34 ounces and have lots of room.

The difference in weight isn't to bad and the dry, easy to set up bug free space can really save yer sanity!

So ya might find a TT to be a good in between step between a double wall freestanding tent and just an open tarp. I did!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: TT Contrail? on 07/16/2013 16:51:55 MDT Print View

Ah, heck! All those shelters are 2.5 or more times expensive than a tarp. Tarps are good for learning. He's probably not going to die from sleeping under a tarp. I don't use a flat tarp much any more, but it would be good to go back and review Dave's first post about the learning to be gained from using a tarp.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: Tahoe
Re: Re: TT Contrail? on 07/16/2013 16:59:24 MDT Print View

"He's probably not going to die from sleeping under a tarp."

Agreed. I'd say there's at least a 70% chance he'll come out of it alive.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Hammock Forums on 07/16/2013 17:14:10 MDT Print View

I will also chime in & agree that hammocks are a great alternative. The only real negative(if u have trees) is that you will give some of the weight savings back. On average they are a bit heavier than a ground set up.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Trying to push myself to make the tarp plunge on 07/16/2013 17:56:03 MDT Print View

"Backyard testing is no good"
I see a lot of stuff that I call "backyard use only" but it is a start in the sense that if it does not pass the backyard test you know it will not work in the bush.
No offence but,for example, if you cannot comfortably sleep in a hammock at home it isn't going to change on the trail.
Same if you don't fit under a shelter at home it will not get better on the trail.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
More protective tarp? on 07/17/2013 11:29:44 MDT Print View

I understand the anxiety -- I'm sure we all do. I still experience it myself even afters *years* of using a tarp, because I only manage to get out into real weather about 1-2 times a year (mostly Texas nights are pretty mild, except for the odd big storm here and there).

That being said, I'll suggest a couple of things, which have already halfway been mentioned by others:

1) Using a tarp will hone your site selection skills very quickly, and by necessity.
I just completed a trip in Indian Peaks, outside Boulder, where I was the only one with a tarp (a Trailstar) in our party full of 2-man double-wall tents. I chose sites that showed signs of good drainage, e.g. didn't have patterns of dirt scouring or bare patches of ground in which water could pool. I chose areas of faint local maxima, in terms of elevation, aka sites from which water would run away from, rather than pool into. If that isn't available (and it often isn't), then areas with short hardy-looking grass are my favoritem because excess water will tend to soak in there, or at least run down near the roots of the grass. In these areas, you and your gear are in some sense suspended ever so slightly above ground level by the many blades of grass or leafy ferns -- and that small difference makes for a campsite that stays much drier, cleaner, and more comfortable.

On that trip, the other tent users with their waterproof floors and footprints just tended to choose the flattest, cleanest areas on the ground, which usually were highly scoured areas with no grass, aka where other tent users had planted down 1000 times before. When we got a lot of rain on the last night, we were lucky to at least not have any leaks into the tents, but they DID get a lot of mud splashing up inside their outer walls, onto the mesh, and onto any gear that was stored in the vestibules.

My site, on the other hand, was pristine. When I struck the Trailstar down in the morning, about 96% of the area underneath was totally dry -- the only space in our campsite that was so, after the previous night of storms.

Point is, as others have said -- if you learn just a few tricks for site selection, you can end up having a MUCH better night under a tarp than under a tent. That being said, the Trailstar was not my first tarp, and my earlier experiences were a bit less pleasant. That brings us to point #2 ...

2) I agree with others that you may want to start with a larger tarp. More than that, a SHAPED tarp will make you feel warm and safe and protected, while still being way lighter and way closer-to-the-wilderness than a double-wall tent, aka a portable cottage. Just kidding, I haven't reached that level of snobbery yet. But I'm close.

There are a few good entry level options there that are not absurdly expensive. Off the top of my head, the first is a GoLite SL2, which is nice and cheap direct from GoLite, and should be plenty protective and comfortable for one person (from what I understand). Other options on which you may be able to score a discount or a used Gear Swap deal -- a pyramid from Black Diamond, MLD, or Oware. They pop up fairly frequently on the web or in these parts.

The fun with a shaped tarp is that you've got real protection in case you're trying to really prepare for several days of serious rain, and can't get that out of your head. In the parts where I hike most, I almost never encounter that kind of climate, so I can't empathize or advise you 100% there. All I'm saying is, as noted in my story above, a good roomy 2+ silnylon tarp, weighing about 1-1.5#, can be *way* more comfortable and enjoyable than a 3.5# double-wall UL tent that has likely less floor space. I dunno if 3.5# is the current industry standard for those, because I don't buy them, but you get the idea.

3) As a bonus or piece of insurance, you could easily consider a cheap and light bivy to go around you and be your waterproof floor. I use a Titanium Goat bivy with a water-resistant / breathable top and a silnylon bottom, and it weighs about 6oz. When I've regretted pitching my Trailstar a little too high and breezy, and the weather comes in harder than I expected, I'll just zip up my bivy against the spray and light splashes that might (rarely) come inside the tarp, and otherwise sleep the night away happily.

So, these are my recommendations. In summary, I think that if you can combine 1) good site selection, 2) a roomy shaped or pyramidal 2-person+ tarp, and 3) optionally a lightweight bivy; that ultimately you'll find the transition not incredibly taxing. And you almost certainly won't look back.

That is .. unless your climatic conditions are way different from what I've experienced in my (very limited) time.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
simple and not really expensive... on 07/17/2013 12:10:24 MDT Print View

"Ah, heck! All those shelters are 2.5 or more times expensive than a tarp"

Well, when I use a tarp it is woven poly or polycryo, so a 200 dollar Contrail is actually more like 20 times as expensive...!

But 200 bucks is about twice the price of a big silnylon tarp and the shaped tarps like the Golite SL2 start at 150 bucks, and run quite a bit more for the fancy pyramids than the 200 dollar contrail, and if you wind up going with the optional bug tents that go inside them you’ll have invested more than twice the coin and have a more complicated setup!

When I do use a tarp all I want is a big square or maybe rectangle.
I don’t like shaped tarps. I had a Gossamer gear spin twin but found it to picky to set up and it certainly did not offer proper cover for two in wet weather and was sometimes not sufficient for one when the wind started blowing the rain in. To stay dry I had to pitch it so low I had to crawl in. I hate “shelters” I can’t sit up inside.
To ma a tarp is all about versatility, and I do like ‘em oversized.
When I tarp I don’t mind carrying an oversized ground sheet to wrap my sleeping bag with if really needed but if I need a tarp and a ground sheet and a bivy to stay dry and mosquito netting and chemical soaked clothing to stay sane then why bother? It means my primary shelter ( the tarp ) simply isn’t up to the task at hand.

So again, I prefer a simple tarptent. Not really a tarp, not really a tent, but sorta a hybrid.
Instead of a ground cloth, mosquito netting, bug repellent, bivy sack and tarp to carry and mess with, I just pitch tarptent and have done with it.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
cost.. on 07/17/2013 12:22:41 MDT Print View

Case in point - I am not picking on you Ian and I am very glad you have a shelter setup that you enjoy and works well for you, but I am going to use your example.

When it comes to cost, the Tarptents win, and they ain't bad in the weight department either.

Ians example was a "titanium goat" bivy, which is about 100 bucks and 5 ounces.
The Trailstar from MLD is 210 bucks and about 18 ounces ( and I think that is without stakes!).
That's 310 clams at about 23 ounces ( plus stakes? ).
By contrast the TT contrail is about 24.5 ounces ( with stakes ) and 199.00

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: cost.. on 07/17/2013 12:46:33 MDT Print View

You make a good set of points and I don't disagree. I think the Contrail probably does all jobs adequately and with the least total weight, price, and complexity (certainly price at very least).

However, in my consideration I'm sort of prioritizing the matter of weather protection, since (iirc) the OP was concerned about survivability / protection in inclement weather. I am not at all experienced with tarptents so this comes with a grain of salt, but what I've learned via hearsay is that they are not the best arrow in the quiver for stormworthiness. Probably better than a typical dome tent, but not necessarily better than a pyramid, Trailstar, or SL2. I can speak to the matter of weather protection just a little, though I have little / no experience dealing with bugs since I mainly don't encounter a great many of them in my hikes.

So, to that point -- I contend that something like a Mid and a bivy inside would be all that anyone could reasonably want for a few hours of good rain per night, provided that they've chosen a site that can stay dry from underneath. Certainly again my limited experience comes into play here -- perhaps there are times of year or certain topological situations where a site-that-will-stay-dry-from-underneath simply cannot be found. So I concede that my experience limits the scope of my counsel here -- as it is does for us all :-)

Anyway, I also concede freely that a Mid and a bivy will be more expensive than any flat tarp or even any high quality catenary-cut A-frame like your old SpinTwinn. I had one of those as well and found it to be really excellent only when the weather was mild and the pitch geometry was flawless -- which was pretty rare. But pitching my Trailstar, man, that is a different story. Once it's set up, it is like a palace for one man in a storm. And the Mid/Trailstar + bivy combo will almost certainly be cheaper than the ultralight double wall tent that the OP is coming from. Or at least that's what I suppose -- I can't remember because I don't buy those.

Anyway, final note -- I'm not arguing the absolute superiority of my ideas here, I'm just saying this is one possible route that (in my experience) has worked out happily.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: cost.. on 07/17/2013 13:51:46 MDT Print View

Yeah, cost for most shaped tarps is quite high. I have seen a couple tarp-tents in the ADK's...I only see them out on one trip. We get a fair amount of rain.

You need to find a dry place to sleep. This is a bit higher ground, next to a tree root, or, other way to keep water-from-below away from the sleeper.

In some of the thunder storms, raindrops are about the size of a dime. I have heard that tarp-tents will "mist" a bit under those conditions. I usually apply a thin layer of mineral spirits/silicone calk on my tarps to prevent that. The 14oz weight I mentioned includes that. (Diluted about 30 parts spirits, one part caulk.)

Mud spatter can travel as far as 6" straight up. Mostly, the commercial floors all fail in a heavy rainstorm if you have more than a 2" gap around the outside perimiter. Storm mode, is more like normal in the ADK's, when coupled with a 30-40mph wind.

There is next to no condensation under a tarp.

Cost is not bad, when you consider an Equinox 8x10 is only ~92USD. This can be trimmed to what you need with the corners added as front "beak". I do not use a ground cloth, but a piece of netting saves you from being chewed...provided you do not lean against the netting. I do not use a bivy. The additional weight of a larger tarp offsets the need for a bivy. In winter, you would want one. About $120 total including ti stakes, line, and a carbon pole (4oz hiking staff...not included in the weight.)

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
tarp tent on 07/17/2013 13:59:30 MDT Print View

I second the lightweight single walled tents. Right now I have a silnylon Hexamid with a full floor and net door. Bearpaw made it and its called a Lair.

Its basically a tarp with netting on the sides and a bathtub floor. It weight 18.1 ounces and is easy to setup because its one unit.

Everything including a 3oz carbon pole, stakes, guylines comes out to 23 ounces.

I am considering a cuben tarp ~4oz with some myog netting for bugs and polycro for floor ~6oz, for a shelter weight of ~11-12oz. But the protection of a tarptent with full bug protected living space is just so nice. Its nice to lay gear out, pack up, do repairs etc. completley enclosed out of the weather and bugs.


Edited by M.L on 07/17/2013 14:00:43 MDT.

Shawn Peterson
(afterdarkphoto) - MLife

Locale: Nor Cal
Lunar Solo on 07/17/2013 14:02:15 MDT Print View

Its interesting to see where these threads end up after a page or two. There is so much information here its incredible. I thank you all who have put time into responding and trying to educate me.

I don't think I'm quite ready to go sil tarp (lean to style) just yet.

For weight savings and transitioning to a sil tarp.....I'd be willing to go with a tarp tent. I'd be considering the Lunar Solo or Duo because they are available right now and in stock....I'm leaving mid August for 14 days.

Would someone 6'3" have any trouble in a Lunar Solo with a wide (25") sleeping pad that is 2.5" in height?

I spoke with Ron Moak about the Trekker and he mentioned this setup in the Trekker might pose an issue (based upon personal preference) with the slope of the the Lunar Solo similar in this vein?

My current set up with ground sheet, poles, fly, stakes, tent is 59 ounces.

The Duo is 41-45 ish with stakes and seam sealing.

The solo is 23-27 ish with stakes and seam sealing.

The discounted solo's are 30-35 ish with stakes and sealing.


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Trying to push myself to make the tarp plunge on 07/17/2013 15:30:25 MDT Print View

A note on bug protection.

My wife insisted on full bug protection at night, so I had to make a fully enclosed net tent that hangs under the tarp. The silnylon ground cloth is built in so the only extra weight was the bug netting. There's fair amount of netting and even though it doesn't weigh that much per yard it does add up to many oz for a two-person tarp. We only bring it in bug season, and if we find there are no bugs we just lay on top of it. We also once set it up by itself in a leanto when the bugs were swarming.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
simple and easy on 07/17/2013 15:38:56 MDT Print View

1. DONT spend $$$$$$ on a tarp ... especially if you dont know if youll like a tarp

2. DO spend 5$ or so on a cheap poly tarp ... now it wont be as light as gram weenies want but it will allow you to LEARN the needed skills ... and find out whether you like it or not

3. now take that el cheapo tarp for a short trip in adverse conditions ... learn the techniques ... bring a backup tent if you want (some people here will no doubt mutter about weight, its a LEARNING experience), or stay close to the car ...

4. now buy a shiny new $$$$ gram weenie tarp if you so desire

example of an el cheapo "learning" tarp from MEC .... you can find these anywhere

and once youve finished you can use it around the house, for car camping, etc ...

its that simple


Sean Passanisi
(passanis) - MLife
TT SS2 on 07/17/2013 16:25:26 MDT Print View


I switched from the Copper Spur UL2 to a Tarptent SS2. Took me awhile to get the pitch down, but I couldn't be happier. Much more livable for two people (I'm 160 lbs and found the Copper Spur to be too tight to share comfortably) and less weight (assuming that you use your poles for the structure). It wouldn't surprise me if the SS1 is nearly the size of the Copper Spur UL2, at even lower weight than the SS2.

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Lunar Solo on 07/17/2013 16:26:59 MDT Print View

"Would someone 6'3" have any trouble in a Lunar Solo with a wide (25") sleeping pad that is 2.5" in height?"
No, just use the two additional tie-outs. You will need two more stakes and two sticks to do this. I'm 6'2" and have used a NeoAir (2.5" high) pad in my Lunar Solo. It did take up a lot of the floor space, but it fit and so did I, without hitting either end. Very easy to set up, superb ventilation and absolutely water-proof when seam-sealed.