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Rectangular vs Shaped Cuben Tarps
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Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Rectangular vs Shaped Cuben Tarps on 08/18/2013 15:48:50 MDT Print View

Hey everyone,

I've been wanting to get into tarp camping for some time now. I've gone back and forth between something like a Yama Mountain Gear Cirriform SW and other cuben and bug net tents and really think a tarp by itself will work best for me. Let me provide a little info as to what I am doing with it and about myself:

-I'm 6'4" and want something that's going to cover me and give me some space on either end for some added protection.

-I live in Arizona, do a lot of trips in Grand Canyon, and venture further up north (Colorado, UT, MT) a few times a year. So I really don't have to deal a lot with rain down here and often times just sleep out.

-In the event that I'm on a trip with my girlfriend we would use my 2 person tent but I love the added luxury of a tarp to cook and hang out under if it is raining.

-I also guide in the Grand Canyon and we are required to have some sort of shelter. I think a cuben tarp would give me that at hardly any weight and could be used to pitch and cook under if it's raining with my clients.

I guess my biggest question is.....if I by a rectangular tarp vs a shaped one (really looking at the Yama Mountain Gear Tarps) would I regret it? I'll probably sleep under this tarp quite a bit but will also use it for some of the above tasks.

If a flat tarp is the way to go would you recommend something like a 10'x8.5' for someone my height?

And finally! Any recommendations on an actual flat or shaped tarp? (Yama, HMG, Zpacks?)

As always thanks in advance for the feedback and let me know if you need more information.


Jeff Sims
(jeffreytsims) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
YMG VS Zpacks on 08/18/2013 16:19:48 MDT Print View

I am 6 ft 5 and i have gone back and forth with Zpacks Hexamid Long and Yama Mountain Gear Cirraform SW. I finally sold the SW, as my Hexamid is the enclosed tent version and the two were just too similar. I ended up buying a new Cirraform Cuben tarp only and had John at Borah Gear custom make a Cuben/M90 X-Long and wide bivy. M90 because I spend a lot of time in the Sierra Nevada and I was overly concerned with condensation.

When I was faced with the choice as to what to bring on my JMT thru hike this year i grabbed the Yama/Borah system and did not give the Hexamid a thought. I like the flexibility of the tarp, tarp bivy or bivy (cowboy camp). I have the standard Cirraform and had no issues with rain, even in a major down pour on night 3, however I know that Gen can make them a little linger with a custom order.

If you choose to go with a shaped tarp/system you really can not go wrong with either the ZPacks or the YMG they are both top notch

If you have specific questions on the two, please shoot me a PM, i am happy to offer some insight



James DeGraaf
(jdegraaf) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Re: YMG VS Zpacks on 08/18/2013 16:34:55 MDT Print View

+1 for what Jeff said. There is a reason the tarp bivy combo is so popular and he nailed the reason for it.

As far as shaped v. Flat: you could, in a pinch, fit more people under a flat tarp than a shaped tarp as they can usually cover more area. That might be more up your alley for guiding.

I personally like shaped tarps better because I can get a tighter, more storm worthy pitch with less effort. Plus I don't guide.

My $0.02 FWIW


Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Good Points on 08/18/2013 16:41:41 MDT Print View

Thanks guys,

These are both helpful comments. From what I've read and seen I would agree James that the shaped tarps are tighter looking pitches. Could it be that I just need to buy both? :). I could always just suck it up and carry my 1 pound nylon tarp for guiding. That would put me at like 76lbs instead of 75 haha.

Has anyone pitched these shaped tarps with rocks only? May come across areas in Grand Canyon where the group is a little too hard for all the stakes needed on these.

Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Borah Bivy on 08/18/2013 16:42:40 MDT Print View

Thanks for the comments on this one as well. I've been looking at the Borah bivies for a while and the extra long and wide may be something that could work well for me. Thanks!

James DeGraaf
(jdegraaf) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Good Points on 08/18/2013 16:50:51 MDT Print View

An oldie but a goodie about tarp camping and different anchoring techniques.


michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 08/18/2013 17:57:08 MDT Print View

Don't quote me on this but I think shaped tarps offer more rain protection compared to flat tarps for the weight. Square inches compared...

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Shaped vs. Rectangular on 08/18/2013 19:48:58 MDT Print View

If I could just have one, it would be a shaped tarp (ie. a mid) because they're so simple and quick to pitch. At the end of a long hard day I often don't feel like fiddling with a tarp that needs 6-10 stakes in the right configuration.

With that said, I'd love to have both. In a lot of situations a properly pitched and sufficiently large flat tarp is the ultimate shelter.

Jeff Sims
(jeffreytsims) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal
Re: Good Points on 08/18/2013 20:58:46 MDT Print View

Has anyone pitched these shaped tarps with rocks only?

I have not pitched the either the Hex or the Cirraform with only rocks, however, I have pitched the Cirraform with the ti shepherd hooks about halfway in the dirt/rock and used rocks to secure them All was well



Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Shaped Tarp on 08/18/2013 21:32:55 MDT Print View

Hey guys,

Thanks for all the great feedback. I think for my first tarp I'm leaning more towards the shaped tarp now, probably from Yama Mountain Gear. I could always purchase a flat tarp later on down the road but the ease of set up and better weather protection seem to be huge benefits to the shaped tarp. Hopefully after a few trips this September I'll have enough saved up to snag one! Just in time for the weather to get good in Grand Canyon.

Thanks again for all the great feed back everyone. Awesome to have this much input within just a few hours!

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Shaped Tarp on 08/18/2013 22:32:14 MDT Print View

My only dislike of shaped tarps is the smaller amount of room under them when it rains. I have the SpinnTwinn with the YMG Bug Shelter 1.0. The large duo sized tarp (MLD Grace Duo is another example) gives me more room for my gear to be spread out, cook and not be quite so confining. I learned the hard way to appreciate space under my tarp when I spent a night under a small tarp (Poncho Bivy) while raining during an earlier iteration of my Tarp/Bivy setup. I couldn't do much of anything except lay down in bad weather.

YMG Bug Shelter with SpinnTwinn

whalen e
(whalen) - M

Locale: PNW
Yama's Cirriform tarp on 08/19/2013 08:50:41 MDT Print View

I have just completed a 100 mile section of the PCT in Washington using Yama's Cirriform tarp and love it! At 6'4" I had Gen add 4" to the length (and to the 1.25 shelter as well; bought both same time).

My first tarp was an Oware sil flat tarp. Even though there are multiple configurations with a flat tarp, I discovered that I only used an A frame. I enjoy the sharp look of a catenary tarp and knew cuben would handle the rainy PNW better (doesn't absorb water like silnylon), so my next tarp was a MLD Grace Duo. Fantastic tarp, lots of space, but I found that on rainy windy nights, I wished for a little more protection in the front and back.

So, briefly, I considered MLD's Patrol Shelter. But on those dry clear nights I knew I'd miss having a wide open view that the Grace Duo provided.

Then I came across Gen's Cirriform, offering the protection of dual beaks AND AND AND with the front zipper, the possibility of opening it up and enjoying a full view. As far as shaped tarps, it seemed perfect.

Then I contacted Jeff Sims and he confirmed that the Cirriform was top notch. He loved it. So I put in my order, had Gen add 4 inches in length, received it a WEEK later (amazing), and after a 100 miles, I can indeed tell you that I love this tarp too.

For Section I of the PCT, I brought my MLD bivy and the Yama 1.25 bug shelter. I wanted to try both and see which I liked better. In a few days I'm headed back out to complete Sections J & K and have decided to carry the bug shelter. I'll use the bivy this fall and winter.

And therein lies the beauty of this set up: versatility. Together with either a bivy or bug shelter, it makes a perfect combo.

Now, as far as space, it wasn't as wide as my grace duo. That's probably the only thing I miss. But it did rain 3 nights on my trip and I can say I'm glad I gave up that side space for beak protection. Plus I've learned to be a bit more tidy with my gear and that helped me get on the trail quicker in the morning. Some of the camping spots were fairly narrow and I appreciated the Cirriform's leaner footprint.

As all will tell you, there are compromises to every shelter. Their features are not as important as understanding your own personal criteria. It took me awhile to discover that bit of truth.

Hope my two cents helped. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Edited by whalen on 08/19/2013 08:51:11 MDT.

Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
tarps and rocks on 08/20/2013 18:01:02 MDT Print View

If there are appropriate tieout loops on the tarp edge, the ends of a flat tarp can be folded in, on the windy end. Hammock hangers do that often in the winter.

My tarp lines have loops in the ends that I can flip back onto the line in order to make a cinch for using a rock as an anchor, instead of a stake. That reduces the need of having a stake for every tieout.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: tarps and rocks on 08/20/2013 18:54:39 MDT Print View

"Has anyone pitched these shaped tarps with rocks only?"

A few times with my hexamid twin. I purchased the MSR groundhogs with the hopes that they would work just about anywhere but unfortunately (despite my best efforts) I can't pound them through basalt. I just purchased some ti shepherd hooks from Zpacks with the hopes that I can work them into rocky ground better.

I put the stake through the loop at the end of my fixed lines and lay it horizontally on the ground. I then put a few grapefruit sized rocks on top of that and that has done the trick. I’ve slept through some heavy rain with this setup with no problems but there was no heavy wind to speak of.

At 6’3” I like my Hexamid Twin solo but (as expected) real-estate is at a premium with I share it with my kid. I’m half tempted to order the Hexamid Long as the extra height seems pretty desirable and sell whichever one I decide is second best.

I used a poncho/bivy combo for the better part of a decade and will eventually buy a lightweight version of the same thing. If I was going to make the purchase today, I’d opt for the 8x10 zpacks tarp with a borah gear bug bivy. I’d like to have one made that is M50 from the feet to the knees and no see um from the knees to the head. The M90 seems to have a better reputation than the M50 condensation wise but I figure it would be a non-issue with this configuration.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Flat tarps on 08/20/2013 19:08:01 MDT Print View

I use a flat tarp. It really isn't that hard to get a wrinkle free pitch. Peg the middle perpendicular to the ridge line, and make sure the corner guy lines are at a 45 degree angle (ie: bisect the corner fabric).

The 10x10 size is great for guiding, since it allows you to pitch it high and still have good coverage (low edges) in blowing rain.

When pitched high, even a 10x12' allows a tiny bit of rain to blow into ends as far as the sleeping area though - so orienting the long side into the wind is important.

In swirling wind, hang your rain skirt or rain gear as a curtain in the end where the rain is coming from. Using this trick, I find the 10x10 more convenient than the 10x12 size.

For sleeping: I pitch the tarp in A frame mode 90% of the time and as a half pyramid 10% of the time (only when i expect big thunderstorms with wind that might swirl more than 90 degrees or blow flatter than 45 degrees).

For group meals or cooking, its handy to have a second tarp to pitch as a flat/lean-to roof.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
See the "Bombproof" tarp setup... on 08/20/2013 20:37:57 MDT Print View

See the "Bombproof" tarp setup in the UL backpacking book "Lighten Up" by Don Ladigin, illustrated by BPL's Mike Clelland.

That is one of the very best tarp configurations I have ever used. Rectangular tarp W/ appropriate tie-outs required.