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Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing?
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John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 14:21:34 MDT Print View

In an effort to lighten my pack, I've been exploring a shelter switch from a tarptent moment (which I currently own) to a tarp + bivy setup. Also considering tarp + MLD serenity net tent.

When I compare actual weights, I'm not blown away by the savings, especially when considering the functionality I'd be giving up. This is especially true when you factor in the weight of a full stake set, as described in Ryan Jordan's "tarping for inclement weather" article.

Here's the numbers I've come up with based on actual measured weights. In short, under the most optimistic scenario (no stakes, no guylines), I'm saving 13 oz with a tarp/bivy combo. Factor in stakes and that drops to 8 oz, and swap the serenity shelter instead of bivy (as I might do when there's heavy bug pressure), and it's even less. My weights don't include guylines for the tarp, so add another couple ounces or whatever...

I also included a cost/oz calculation, which is not super inspiring either...

So, what am I missing here? Is the lesson "don't bring stakes?" And if so, at what cost in terms of functionality and hassle? Or, do I just need to accept the incremental nature of weight savings?

Sorry the formatting is funny, I tried to fix it to no avail.

Weight (oz) Cost
Bivy 7.125 $85.00
Tarp 13 $95.00
Serenity 8.75 $145.00
Stakes 4.7 $38.00
(MLD ultimate kit)

Moment 33


Without stakes With stakes
Combined Wt Savings vs moment Combined Wt Savings vs moment
Tarp + Serenity 21.75 11.25 26.45 6.55
Tarp + Bivy 20.125 12.875 24.825 8.175

Cost w/ stakes Cost/oz
Tarp + Serenity $278 $42.44
Tarp + Bivy $218 $26.67

Edited by johnbrown2005 on 08/12/2013 14:22:59 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 08/12/2013 14:41:14 MDT Print View

My stakes are 6 6.5" ti skewrs, I also have litetrail 1mm guyline. All this with a cuben bag weigh 1.9 ounces.

I also have a serenity, it weighs 7.9 on the stuff sack. No mods. I will sometimes pair it with a cuben Hexamid 4oz.

With a 3 ounce pole I'm right around 17-18 oz.

Edited by M.L on 08/12/2013 15:12:50 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 14:50:22 MDT Print View

For me, much of the weight savings in a tarp goes to the fact that I really never bring my bivy with me. I never want one. If its warm enough for bugs, I don't want to be in a bivy. I will typically bring a head net when bugs are in season. I, too, bought a bivy, but I never need it.

You can go a bit lighter on a tarp, too, if you want to buy cuben. My spinnaker tarp also is also just 9 oz and its a double. A larger tarp does make going bivy-free a much better option too, with its larger rain protection area.

And 13 oz. is quite a bit.

I don't really find the cost/oz ratio very helpful, since we prefer that both of them be low. Using that ratio, a system that costs $200 and weighs 200 oz has the same rating as something that costs $100 and weighs 100 oz. We would clearly prefer something cheaper and lighter, but the ratio is the same as something that costs and weighs more.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
opportunity costs on 08/12/2013 15:01:29 MDT Print View

ask yourself

1. what else CAN you spend that 200$ on ... gas money for a trip? park fees? flight to somewhere remote? perishables? take an extra day off work? ... almost anything else will allow you to get out and go do it more than shiny new gear

2. what CANT you do if you dont save those 6-13 oz on shiny new gear ... probably not a single thing

you already have a fairly light shelter ... do you NEED another one thats marginally lighter?

thats really all there is to it IMO


Edited by bearbreeder on 08/12/2013 15:02:50 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 15:07:01 MDT Print View

I don't think you missed anything weight and cost wise. The only advantage I can see to a bivy and tarp combo is that you can use them separately as weather and bugs allow.

What is the size of the tarp in your comparison? A bivy generally allows the use of a smaller tarp or better yet, a poncho. With a poncho the weight drops to more like 7oz for silnylon, the cost is more like $60, and you get the multiple use weight savings. It is the only combination that I see that delivers good cost, weight and functionality for a tarp and bivy kit.

A Cuben tarp would lower the weight but the cost/ounce might get uglier yet. You have an excellent UL tent, so it's pretty hard to make a case for other shelters. I'm sure you would be yearning for your Moment while trying to survive a stormy night or surrounded by hordes of blood sucking bugs while cowering under a tiny tarp and a sweaty bivy. Once you get to a low weight, you need more expensive and exotic fabrics and will camp in more Spartan conditions. Decide how low you want to go and how tough you want to be :)

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 15:13:29 MDT Print View

similar discussions here and here .

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Trade offs on 08/12/2013 15:28:03 MDT Print View

I went from a tarptent to tarp/bivy and now I am back to a mid style shelter with either a bug inner or my bivy. The tarp bivy is a huge advantage is places like the west (where I used to do most of my hiking ) because you can get away with not setting up the tarp 90%+ of the time yet still have decent bug/wind and thermal protection. My current setup has the same modular setup yet is much easier to setup than my tarp and the bug inner is far superior to a bivy in warm buggy weather. (Much better setup in the east). In the winter I will take my bivy and mid giving me a far superior setup then the tarp bivy because it is even better wind protection. In either setup the total weight is about 18oz vs. 16 oz for tarp bivy including all stakes and guideline. While some in the UL world may view adding 2oz as heresy, those are likely the best two ounces that I have added back to gear. My flexibility is greater and setup in bad weather is much faster.

So what shelter is best for you? Look at the trade offs. This is certainly not an area where one solution is optimal for all conditions.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
modular on 08/12/2013 15:39:01 MDT Print View

Sell your Tarptent Moment to fund a new...Tarptent Moment DW (as in double-walled). Thirty four ounces total, but when bugs are not an issue, just use the outer "tarp" for a cool twenty ounce rock solid shelter.

Or, like Eric suggests above, forget the whole idea and use that money burning a whole in your pocket to fund a kick arse trip.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
World's lightest tent? on 08/12/2013 15:42:08 MDT Print View

From John Abela’s gear lists: “ZPacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp 8.606 oz With bug net and stuffsack” [I think he may have special ordered a mesh sewn onto the “emergency” tarp called a “Pocket Tarp” turning it into the world’s lightest tent?]

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 16:46:37 MDT Print View

Weight is not the main advantage.
Flexibility is better with a tarp/bivy.

As stated you don't have to use both, but there are other more important reasons.

If it is cold out, or the weather is nasty, the tarp can be pitched tight to the ground with only enough of a gap for ventilation.

On hot summer nights the tarp can be pitched high to protect against sprinkles and/or dew, but have advantages of cowboy camping with good ventilation and views.

You can just use the bivy for bug protection and have the tarp nearby or half pitched in case of rain.

All in one shelters often suffer from too much ventilation on cold windy nights and/or not enough on hot still nights.

Tarps have more pitching options, you can customize to fit in tight or odd shaped spots.

Many more options...

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Tarp + Bivy weight savings, what am I missing? on 08/12/2013 16:49:09 MDT Print View

On the east coast, where trees are plentiful, you can just string a line between two trees and quickly pitch a tarp that way - about as quick as you can pitch most shelters.

tarping on 08/12/2013 17:19:15 MDT Print View

1. You can get much lighter tarp/bivy combos.

2) Its about flexibility, and being connected to the outdoor environment too.

3) It can also be about getting into a smaller, lighter pack as well, so the weight savings can cascade.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Tarp/Bivy weight savings on 08/12/2013 18:34:25 MDT Print View

All, thanks for thoughtful and clarifying responses responses!

Eric, Alex and Dale, I think you kind of got to the heart of the matter.

Link, thanks for the links!

The tarp I have in mind is a 9x9. Sat out a (mercifully) quick thunderstorm under a 5x8 poncho tarp once, realized how screwed I would have been had it lasted longer.

Good points about lighter stakes, cuben, flexibility.

Leaning toward just sticking with the moment, for the moment.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Tarp + Bivy weight savings, on 08/12/2013 19:49:45 MDT Print View

The tarp/bivy weight savings use to be much greater then it is now as there are alot of <2 lbs shelters out there that didn't use to exist even a few years ago.

That said, my current shelter setup is: A 2008 MLD Grace Solo CF tarp before Ron introduced the linelocs + 8x titanium stakes + cord cut to size for the way I pitch + a medium Zpacks CF stuff sack (slightly lighter then the MLD one the tarp came with) weighs 8oz. My 2009 MLD Superlite Bivy with the half moon netting weighs 6.5oz with stuff sack it came in. For a total of 14.5oz. Not bad for gear that is over 4 years old. And its still going strong.

If I was buying the superlite bivy today, I'd get the CF floor for 5.5oz, reducing my total to 13.5oz. The Zpacks Hexamid tarp shelter could beat it, but I'd loose the bivy sack. Since I cowboy camp 90% of the time unless its raining (I hate setting up a tent or tarp), the bivy sack makes more sense to have for the way I camp. I stuff my sleeping bag and pad inside and throw it down and my camp is made. I'm lazy like that. I'll hike 20miles but can't take a few minutes to setup or take down my camp. Though I could combined the Hexamid tarp without the netting or beak and keep my bivy sack and save another 1.7 ounces over the totals above. Something I've been thinking about.

Edited by Miner on 08/12/2013 19:51:07 MDT.