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Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo
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Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 15:38:35 MDT Print View

I am looking for a the most idiot proof tarp system that employs HIKING poles (note: correction). And a bivvy bag. I would love to find a short bivy bag to fit a short sleeping bag (sleeper is 5'5" and 112 lbs)...this may be a reason to get into DIY!

And...I want it now!

Any ideas?

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/16/2013 22:25:29 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 08/15/2013 17:04:47 MDT Print View

Borah bivy, they will do custom work afaik.

Tarp, how light do you want to go? Cuben $200 for a Hexamid or Borah sells some flat silnylon tarps.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 18:43:09 MDT Print View

I would suggest a silnylon tarp over cuben.

Cuben is much harder to get a tight pitch vs. silnylon, which has some give in the material.

You just have to remember to give your guy lines a tug before you go to bed because silnylon sags in the presence of moisture.

What was tight like a drum when you first rolled into camp will sag as the temps drop and the fabric sags.

That said, once that has happened, re-tighening the guylines will take care of you through the rest of the night.

I am partial to Ron's work at Mountain Laurel Designs products.

Medium sized tarp that you can pitch as a simple A Frame should cover you.

Also check out Ron's bivy bags....a good size tarp matched with the superlight bivy will do you fine.

If you are a side sleeper or use a thick sleeping pad like a Neo Air, you might want to go for the Large option to give you more room to move around and for the thickness of your sleeping pad.

Ask for pole tip grommets to be installed on your tarp.

They make pitching the tarp really easy with poles.

I think that Ron offers light weight poles for setting up a tarp if you don't use trekking poles.

Hope this helps.

P.S. I am 5'6" and have a regular size bivy. The extra space is nice to have so you have room to store your gear in the head section of the bivy, above your head while sleeping. Always nice to be able to grab extra clothing and stuff in the middle of the night while inside your bivy.


Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 19:20:50 MDT Print View

Beginner > Just get a silnylon 8x10 tarp and a decent bivy and make a tub shape ground cloth out of tyvek.

Have seen a lot of bivys FS here in the last few days at around $100.
Just pick one of those up and cut it down if you dont like the length.

I would skip the tent poles and use Hiking poles.

Edited by tammons on 08/15/2013 19:21:41 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 19:49:02 MDT Print View

Duomid plus Borah bivy made to size. It doesn't use tent poles. For an easy up tent pole "tarp", think about the Tarptent Moment DW and leave the inner at home.

Edited by jshann on 08/15/2013 19:56:24 MDT.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Simple on 08/15/2013 19:58:33 MDT Print View

+1 Troy

Troy is on the right track. Simple, fairly inexpensive and easy resale if you don't like the set up.

Borah Bivy and Bearpaw Wilderness tarp.

$200 or less and fairly quick.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 20:00:39 MDT Print View

I started off with a 18oz 8'x10' silnylon tarp in 2007. I latter added added a Titanium Goat bivy. It wasn't even a year before I wanted to replace the tarp with something lighter and smaller and ended up buying an expensive MLD cuben fiber solo tarp in 2008. After I lost my bivy sack in 2009 (fell off when I slide down a slope in snow), I replaced it with a more breathable one from MLD. I'm still using that MLD tarp and bivy sack even though its been several years used them. I used them on a PCT thru-hike and the 600 northern miles of the AT. MLD makes some nice quality stuff.

If you just want to learn tarping, find a silnylon one in a price range you like. If you like tarping, you can always get a more expensive lighter one later. Titanium Goat makes a nice bivy for the price and weight. It's not as breathable as MLD's (means more condensation issues but cuts cold wind better), but its cheaper.

Edited by Miner on 08/15/2013 20:02:00 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/15/2013 20:02:43 MDT Print View

As far as idiot proof, a light tent can be lighter than a tarp and bivy combo and more comfortable.

Here's my thinking: tarps need more care in site selection and positioning, as in which way will the wind and rain come from. Something to consider :)

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 08/15/2013 20:07:19 MDT Print View

Our get a 8oz net tent and pair it with a 4 ounce tarp. Double walled shelter for 12oz.

Lou Z
(lugee) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Borah on 08/15/2013 20:51:02 MDT Print View

My vote is on the Borah Bivys. We have two in our gear closet now. We tried the MSRs and REI branded ones and never liked them as much as the Borahs.

- -
(hflege) - F
- on 08/15/2013 23:55:13 MDT Print View


Edited by hflege on 05/12/2014 01:26:47 MDT.

Joe S
Borah on 08/16/2013 07:24:30 MDT Print View

John West can do any option you want, and is fast and priced very reasonable. Would recommend M90 over M50 for better breathability, if that's a word.

Craig Hensley
(jchens) - F

Locale: North GA
+1 for Borah and Bearpaw on 08/16/2013 07:33:30 MDT Print View

Like everyone is saying, Borah and Bearpaw are great places to turn for a tarp and bivy. They make good stuff and you will be able to stay on the less expensive side of the spectrum. Stay simple with a square or rectangular tarp. You can move on to something else from there, but lots of folks never do.

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Re: Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/16/2013 11:24:08 MDT Print View

Wanted to correct/update one reply - nothing is 12 weeks out. Tarps are shipping in a couple of weeks if not sooner and in general most all items are all shipping a bit faster than the current posted times on the MLD Homepage. Thanks!

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Pm on 08/16/2013 15:01:14 MDT Print View

Hartley, PM'd you about a borah set up

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/16/2013 16:39:24 MDT Print View

I'll echo that MLD stuff is worth the wait (weight!); only you can decide how long you are willing or able to wait for a new shelter. Also, because you dislike non-adjustable poles and use 110cm poles, you should pay attention to recommended pole-height for any shelter you're looking at. I think (could be wrong) that many have a slightly higher recommended height starting around 120cm+, especially for the main pole in the center or front of a shelter. An exception would be "standard" A-frame cat or flat tarps where the rear pole is often set lower. Any shelter set very low and without a zippered entrance is going to be harder to get in and out of.

For ease, look at a MLD SoloMid or DuoMid, the MLD Patrol Shelter or Yama Mtn Cirriform Tarp. Any of these would pair well with a bivy and all have net-tents you could add later.

Good luck!

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
PM from John, Stick Length, Thanks to ALL on 08/16/2013 22:26:36 MDT Print View

John, got it. Responded to email contained in message! THANK YOU!

Thanks Steven for the heads up on pole length. I gave the Hilleberg Rajd (HEAVY) a try. Yeah, it's not a tarp! I ordered a pair of BD Women's Distance FL Z-poles...they adjust from 105 to 120, if I remember correctly, to accommodate it. These poles have a good locking mechanism. This set up seemed to be the worst of both the tent and tarp world, especially since I only need a solo shelter. It all went back. (Like I said, I am a beginner!)

Over the years, i have used telescoping LEKI poles (usually the more expensive ones) -- they shorten on me too often and I have to take my gloves off to tighten the fiddly mechanisms. I'm sure, it's not just me. When I do get them tight enough to hold, I have a hard time loosening them to store or shorten. I started using the BD Z pole last summer and I love it! (As others have mentioned, I would avoid the Distance UL for anything other than trail running when it is nice to be able to trot along holding poles horizontally in the middle. I quickly broke one with little force...snapped at a joint.)

Dale, I agree, the idiot proof option is a tent! And that's where I am at the moment.

I would like the versatility of sleeping in the bivy bag alone or using it with a tarp. Bivy bag can be useful in damp or not well sealed shelters. Tarp can be quickly erected during day for protection for elements. Or just wrapped around the body. Easier to just stuff it all in the pack and be off. Even for a given weight, I think there are situations where I would rather have a tarp and bivy than a tent...provided I can figure out what to do with them!

I think I need a tarp with the lines and tensioners attached. Idiot proof costs extra, I'm afraid. I am not necessarily interested in buying something cheap to test the concept. I am convinced of the concept! I would prefer to read about the ins and outs, look at photos, watch videos, check out shelters on the trail, etc. Then buy it and make it work...or send it back (where this is an option)! There will be a learning curve for sure. I would prefer to spend less than more, of course, all else being equal!

Reading more great things about MLD. The line looks impressive. Thanks Ron for the update...glad business is going so well!

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/16/2013 23:16:31 MDT.

James DeGraaf
(jdegraaf) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Tarp/Bivy on 08/17/2013 00:20:01 MDT Print View

I'm currently waiting for my MLD Silnylon Pro Poncho and Superlight Bivy. That said my philosophy is slightly different than yours in that: 1. I don't mind a little complexity i.e. no line-locks, for improved versatility in pitching options. 2. I used fixed length trekking poles and a clove hitch around the handle seems to work just fine, and if there is a tree or two I can effectively utilize, even better 3. If your willing to put the tarp on in inclement weather, why not a poncho tarp?

MLD Pro Poncho tarp and bivy are less than $400 easily (not the cheapest) depending on selected options. (I'm a big boy so my stuff is heavier and costs more, always). It seemed like the best way to go for me. Especially after reading so many thru-hikers using this combo effectively. I was convinced, plus who can resist MLD?

Good luck on your quest, and let us know what you decide to go with.


Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Best Beginner Tarp/Bivy Combo on 08/17/2013 05:43:29 MDT Print View

"...this may be a reason to get into DIY!"

Hartley, If you can sew then making a tarp and bivy are extremely easy. Here is a link that shows examples of my projects. If you scroll down to the "bivy" you will find a link to instructions I put together. A good number of people have used it to make bivy's so it is a repeatable design.\my_gear

Also I provide instructions for making a cuben tarp. For a first tarp I would suggest using silnylon to save money and practice. Making a square tarp 5" x 8" is about as simple a sewing project there is.

If you decide to go down this road and want any help or suggestions on where to buy materials just PM me.


Edited by jshortt on 08/17/2013 06:03:30 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Pole Lenth on 08/17/2013 09:45:18 MDT Print View

If your poles don't adjust here is a trick that works for tarps (not tents). Wrap some Gorilla tape around the pole at the length you want to pitch the tarp at. Just wrap the guyline around the pole above that Gorilla tape and stake it out. It worked for me when one of my adjustable poles was sticking.