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Scout backpacking tarp shelter ideas
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Brian Olson

Locale: Orange County
Scout backpacking tarp shelter ideas on 05/20/2014 14:28:30 MDT Print View

My wife and I have been making 10.5' x 10.5' square silnylon tarps for our scout troop to use while backpacking. We often get positive comments from other troops and even requests that we make some for them too.

She is now exploring the idea of producing and selling lightweight shelters specifically for Boy Scouts, family backpackers, and lightweight group style campers. Her goal would be to offer tarps and tarp-like shelters at a much more affordable price than what is currently available to most scouters.

So far we're thinking of 3 levels of basic tarp shelters offered in 5.5x10, 8x10, 10.5x10.5, and 10x12 sizes:

1) Basic flat tarps (costing roughly $80 for a 10.5' x 10.5')
homemade 10 x 10 tarp

2) Tarps with long bug netting sewn on the edges to be used as a troop/patrol dining fly or with shorter cut netting just to sleep under. It also would be nice for hammocks. (Similar to Nemo Bugout, but lighter weight and less expensive)
Bugout Tarp

3) Tarps with bug netting and floors sewn in. These can either keep the basic square tarp design allowing for any pitching option or they can be shaped tarp-like tents limited to either an A-frame or half-pyramid pitch. As far as I'm aware, no one offers a trekking pole supported 4 man tent. I see this useful for scouts utilizing the patrol method and backpacking families.

What ideas do you all have for silnylon products that would be good for scouts? We really would like to know what would be useful to troops, but is either not available or not affordable. Again, our goal is not really to earn a large profit. We are more concerned with introducing boy scouts to lightweight shelters at an affordable price.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Scout backpacking tarp shelter ideas on 05/20/2014 14:32:43 MDT Print View

REI has Kelty Noah tarp. 12' x 12' including guylines and stakes for $70

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Re: Re: Scout backpacking tarp shelter ideas on 05/20/2014 18:05:43 MDT Print View

And you get a dividend on the purchase as well....(about $7)

Brian Olson

Locale: Orange County
Re: Re: Re: Scout backpacking tarp shelter ideas on 05/21/2014 09:47:42 MDT Print View

So most troops would rather purchase a heavy 36 oz tarp is what people are saying? Our 10.5 x 10.5 silnylon tarps weigh about 17-20 oz depending on different construction variations we've tried. It would cost slightly more though ($75-$80) and is a slightly smaller tarp. The Noah does look very durable and especially scout proof, but I've found silnylon is also quite durable and have yet to have one of our scouts break a silnylon tarp.

Any thoughts on 3-4 man tarp tent structures? Do you think those would be useful to backpacking troops? We're going to be making these for our own troop regardless. We are just trying to decide if we should make them available for others or forget the whole idea of selling them and just enjoy them in our own troop and family.

tarp tent structure on 05/22/2014 20:23:41 MDT Print View

Like Appy trails?

Jay Lash
(jjlash) - F

Locale: Eastern Iowa
Tarp weight vs cost on 05/23/2014 05:15:16 MDT Print View

My Troop is not really your target audience because we dont do much backpacking (the one thing I dont like about living in Iowa). But, as committee chair, yes I would buy the slightly heavier tarp because it is $25-ish less than what you are proposing. Why? Because the 1 pound savings is not worth the extra cost. Even if we did a ton of backpacking, I could not justify the extra cost from the Troop budget. Naturally, if the guys wanted the lighter tarp they could fundraise and get it.

We use the Campmor 10x10 at 2lbs 6oz for $55

A 3-4 man single wall light shelter would be interesting if the cost were right. I keep looking at the "bilgy" tarp tent - it could probably be scaled up to 3-4 man. Or a Ray Way -like tarp tent. On those occasions when we do backpack we usually end up taking our Timberline 4 (9 lbs) and splitting it by 3 people.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
I'd buy one. on 05/23/2014 13:39:21 MDT Print View

A well made 10.5 x 10.5 silnylon tarp for 80 bucks?
Heck, I'd buy one for myself!

Not sure if you'd sell 'em for Non-Scout applications though.
I have been involved in Scouting in the past but not anymore.
I do drag my numerous nephews out into the woods though, and almost always use poly tarp shelters when I do. I'd love something lighter and would also use a tarp like that for other trips as well.

As far as other tarp shelter types, the Ray Way type tarp with "beaks" might work well. I'd not bother with a sewn in floor. It would take much abuse ( especially in a large shelter where Scouts will enter with shoes on ) and be difficult to clean.

I prefer separate ground cloths, and in a big shelter several ground cloths could be used to cover the floor, giving every Scout something to carry to contribute to the shelter ( and every Scout would have at least something in their pack that could be used as shelter in a pinch ).

In the past I've made the Mini Bull Designs Hasty Hooch out of a poly tarp and two of my nephews used it on a week long trip. The glued seams started to come apart, but it did work well and the design certainly is sound.

hasty hooch

It could easily be scaled up quite large, and might be a good idea for a patrol shelter. You could sew in a "sod cloth" around the perimeter, mesh door flaps to keep out insects, and use separate ground cloths.

My favorite ground cloth has always been the "Sportsman's Blanket" or military "casualty blanket" or "Coghlan's thermal blanket". It goes by many names and is a bit heavy at 12 ounces but I sure don't mind a Scout or nephew having one in their pack, especially if they have nothing else for shelter or rain gear packed.

Edited by Bawana on 05/23/2014 13:40:05 MDT.

Brian Olson

Locale: Orange County
Re: I'd buy one. on 05/26/2014 11:49:35 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the replies. Yes Bob, she would be selling to everyone, not just scouts. I just wanted to get ideas from other scouters as to what would be ideal for troop backpacking. My troop has struggled to find the ideal shelter and I was curious if others saw a similar void in the market too.

It seems that silnylon tarps, while affordable for individuals and families, can't normally be justified in scout troops because less expensive options do exist. Jay's comment pretty much summed up how most troops feel. Our current plan is to create a few prototype 4 man tents which will be similar to the bilgy, Ray-Way, and other popular DIY designs. That seems to be more what troop are looking for. We'll be designing and field testing them throughout this summer. Hopefully we can offer them for sale in the fall.

I normally check these forums about once a week, so I'll always be welcoming new ideas. As we get deeper into things, I may start a new thread in the MYOG forums.