Nov 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm #1281979
It seems most folks agree that for a flat tarp, 8'x10' provides solid protection for 2, likely without the need for bivy sacks.
Is there a similarly accepted flat tarp size for a soloist? Wouldn't you only reduce the width, not the long dimension? I have read that John at BearPaw recommends 6'x10' for a solo tarp.
And, would you keep those dimensions or reduce them if you had simple beaks on the tarp (like a miniature Ray Way style)?
I'd kinda like to scrap my 8 ounce bivy and put that weight into a cuben solo tarp. Haven't decided on beaks or not.Nov 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm #1801895
Many get by with 5×8, including some triple crown hikers. I find 7×9 better when camping
in exposed places.Nov 15, 2011 at 2:59 am #1801923
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
"Many get by with 5×8, including some triple crown hikers. I find 7×9 better when camping in exposed places."
Yes, I agree 100%. It sort'a depends on your terrain to go much smaller. Generally, a small tarp means you will need some sort of spray bivy. I much prefer to put the additional weight into larger tarp. Roughly speaking, adding a foot to length and width will remove the need for a bivy. So, it is kind'a moot, bugs aside, of course. Bivys help hold heat a bit, so this is another consideration. If you are in an exposed location, a thick hair tie on the corners will act has a shock absorber preventing wind hammer on the tarp and serve to help keep it tensioned in rain, if you have a nylon one.Nov 15, 2011 at 5:04 am #1801935
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
Based on my tarp experience in the rain, it depends on your height and also how high you pitch your tarp. I found that having about 1.5-ft buffer at the head/foot and 1-ft along the sides around my sleeping area kept me dry in all of the rain conditions I've experienced. This is floor space, not tarp size. The floor space for my solo tarp is about 4.5'x8' at the head, a little narrower at the foot, but I'm only 5'2". If I were taller or used a longer sleeping bag, I'd go correspondingly longer in the tarp.
I think beaks help minimize the light spray around the openings but they also make it a pain to get in and out (ridgeline style tarp.) I always sew in a foot-end beak but not always a head-end beak; it's easy to not notice that the foot of your sleeping bag is getting wet until it's too late.
Another thing that has helped is a bathtub-style groundcloth.Nov 15, 2011 at 11:51 am #1802053
"Many get by with 5×8, including some triple crown hikers. I find 7×9 better when camping in exposed places."
David, do you use a bivy in exposed places with the 7×9, or do you find the 7×9's coverage adequate to ditch the bivy?Nov 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm #1802075
I use a bivy if there is expected high wind, lots of bugs, or "exposed" means sleeping on a ledge with no realistic means of quick retreat. Things that any size tarp
won't handle well.Nov 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm #1802080
I am 6'1 and after buying a whole lot of different size tarps I have come to believe that the ideal size for me is 6 feet wide by 11 feet long.
I do not use a bivy so I have to take into account rain spray.
The extra 12-24 inches of a tarp length (over what most use) results in a minimal amount of weight, yet far less weight than the weight of a bivy.
I used a bivy for most of the 2011 season and stopped using it towards the end of this season and instead switched over to a longer tarp. It has proven to be beneficial in many ways.
As people have been saying for many years now, bivys have been put into use beyond their design and I think to many hikers (including myself this past year) have been expecting too much from them.
The weight differences of a cuben fiber tarp between a 6×9 and a 6×11 is less than two ounces. The extra length provides more than enough rain protection for a 6'6 sleeping bag. And, I dare say it is nearly impossible to find a bivy that weighs in at two ounces. So to me, a longer tarp proves to be the winner in the weight and performance categories.Nov 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm #1802139
@maynard76Locale: New England
I won't bother with anything smaller than 9×7. I think smaller tarps are frankly, for good weather when you just want 'something". I also prefer flat rectangular tarps. I like lean too configurations much better than a-frames. A-frames are harder to crawl into an don't seem to have much usable room. They are useful if you really need to pitch the tarp low in windy weather.Nov 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm #1802210
The 7×9 size keeps showing up. Since I'm looking at getting one made in 0.74 cuben, I might as well get a 8×10 and have a tarp that's fully capable for 1 or 2 people for only a 1.5oz weight penalty.
Still can't decide on beaks, though I must say if Jardine found them useful enough to put on all his tarps, that is meaningful.Nov 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm #1802214
Beaks = more bonding or sewn seams with seam sealing weight and less flexibility when pitching. If you want more coverage, just get a slightly larger tarp.
Bryce <- Virgaoutdoors .51 CF 9×7 flat tarp user w/ no bivy. (4.8oz)Nov 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm #1802296
I think beaks are a great way to extend the performance of tarps. It is not so much the heavy driving rain that has caused me problems but rather "mizzle" which drifts deep into a shelter on the lightest of breezes. It just dampens things a bit – more annoying than anything else. I am waiting for some 0.51oz CF from Zpacks to make a removable beak for my MDL Grace Duo tarp.Nov 16, 2011 at 7:20 am #1802337
@yipperLocale: deep south
"The 7×9 size keeps showing up…"
As early as 1916 Horace Kephart (Camping and Woodcraft) recommended a 7' x 9' flat tarp for lightweight "trips afoot". He suggested a lean-to arrangement 4' high in front, pegged to the ground at back, and with the 9' side running lengthwise.
geoffNov 16, 2011 at 7:44 am #1802346
I did some testing based on the stormy weather forecasted for our area.
Last night I made a quickie MYOG tarp from a 6×9 piece of 2mil polyethylene and pitched it over a taught ridgeline on the raised ground between 2 trees in the backyard. I had the ridgeline at about 34" above the ground, and the tarp edges staked to within 3" of the ground. This is not a super low slung pitch by any means.
On previous MYOGs with this material I used double sheet bends on the corners, which were quite secure, but that made the tarp bag out and dish. This time I made the guy attachment points with a very small tied loop of 550 cord attached with a long piece of 3M fiber-reinforced packing tape. It has held up quite well, though I am concerned that freezing weather will inactivate the adhesive. In the past I've had top quality 3M duct tape refuse to stick to polyethylene at around 30 degF. Maybe (hopefully) the difference is in attaching the tape in a warm environment first. We'll see.
Anyway, I awoke early this morning to the sound of thunder and driving rain. What a great opportunity! I went out to the tarp and the ground was dry underneath. The pitch was still tight. I threw in a CCF pad and got under the tarp, then took time to see how the mists and splash zones worked out.
– I can definitely see how the 9 foot length is pretty much the minimum I'd want for harsh rain, at least if I had no bivy. I can also see how a 7 foot width would be nice for the soloist. Unfortunately the wind was just about nil, so I couldn't test how much rain a hard wind would drive under the tarp.
– Even without the wind, I could sense the tiny mist/splash droplets creeping in at the ends, though it was very minimal. I'm sure it would be much more significant with any wind.
– It occurred to me that an unprotected down bag/quilt could be a little tricky to keep dry even with the lack of wind-driven rain, especially with condensation under a low slung tarp. It would be even harder if the hiker was already wet. This is making me lean towards a synthetic quilt.
– Not being able to sit up under a tarp simply sucks. I know, we have heroes here who camp under tiny tarps when it's 35 degF and raining buckets, all while using down gear. But I hate to think of the contortionism required for a wet hiker to get under the tarp, get situated in a down bag, keep things dry, and all while unable to sit up. It seems like it would be even more of a clusterfark for a team of 2.
So as of now I'm pretty sold on the 8×10 size, since in cuben the weight bump is very minimal and would allow 2 to use the tarp. I am still undecided on beaks. Going from a 9' long tarp to a 10' adds 6" on each end, and that adds up to a lot of buffer zone for a 6' tall person like me.
Like Bryce said, the plain rectangle offers lots of pitch options. But I must admit, again, that if a guy as analytical as Jardine sticks with beaks, there's gotta be something to that. Maybe he has decided to always go with the standard A-frame, and has chosen to give up the other pitch options.Nov 16, 2011 at 8:10 am #1802356
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
What is it about Adamses – that they like to experiment with tents using polyethelene? Oh well…
If you put several staples in the duct tape or strapping tape then it will stay attached better.
I've gone down the same path:
Open ends let rain in, so I lower one end, put a beak on the other, make the peak height maybe 44 inches so I can sit up, you have to make all the edges within a few inches of the ground to minimize rain splash and flapping in the wind. There is a recent MYOG thread with a good example.
But I don't like a vertical pole at the peak – gets in the way – so I put two poles in "A" configuration.
But now, there's so much weight in fabric and poles.
Maybe the MLD Trailstar is a better configuration? Add a zipper so you can get in and out.Nov 16, 2011 at 8:16 am #1802360
Just saw the National Weather Service forecast for later today: widespread showers, numerous thunderstorms, wind 15mph, gusts to 30mph.
The tarp's still up, might have to go by the house for a late lunch…!Nov 16, 2011 at 8:30 am #1802365
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yeah, those are pretty much the conclusions I came up with. Smaller can be done under the right conditions, like if you are really making miles. Larger for camp comfort. 8'x10' sonds good. Especially if you are going with UL cuben.
For really poor weather, 4 days and nights of rain, I have managed with two people and a 9'x12' tarp. Even with down gear and 25F nights things worked to keep us fairly dry at night, once we got some sort of fire going, a chore in itself and another subject. Sleeping dry and having a hot meal at the end of the trail at night counted for a LOT.Nov 16, 2011 at 8:36 am #1802370
Couple of points/ideas to keep the weight down (no beaks, and only 9×7):
– When you pitch your tarp, you may have a very good idea of the direction of wind. If it is significant and there is precip coming, pitch that end of the tarp to the ground.
– Instead of going for 10 foot long tarp, I went with 9 foot long and I use my pack liner (Trash compactor bag or Nylofune Bag) and stick my feet/lower end of the quilt in there. That keeps off the minimal spray
– Jardine knows a ton more than me for sure… but he's also still selling silnylon tarp kits (I know, I built one) instead of CF. Times change. :p
– 7 foot width was ideal for me. 6 foot Width weighed less, but made the pitch of the A frame too steep and more susceptible to side winds. I used this isosceles triangle calculator to play around with the angles and lengths to find something I was comfortably with. The 7 foot width also affords you the real estate to pitch three sides of the tarp to the ground in windy or gusting rain conditions and leave the heavy, condensation prone bivy at home.
It's a great way to visualize that yes, you can get the height you need to crawl under your tarp @ 6 foot width, but then your tarp is pitched so steeply, it cannot shed side winds well.Nov 16, 2011 at 8:54 am #1802377
@bryce..Its interesting to see your transformation of shelter preferences. I know you've tried to Bear Paw and other options as well. Sounds like you use something similar to my set up now. Is that your usual set up now?(large tarp, no bivy) I ask because I think you have loads of experience in lightweight shelters that interest me. I have been toying with the purchase of a Zpacks hexatwin, but am reconsidering seeing as how you have now a set up similar to mine. I use no bivy in a SpinnTwinn I have have for quite awhile. Its a bit larger but I am pretty long myself. Love to hear why you went to a flat tarp from your very cool-looking Bear Paw.Nov 16, 2011 at 9:11 am #1802386
"- Jardine knows a ton more than me for sure… but he's also still selling silnylon tarp kits (I know, I built one) instead of CF. Times change."
It would be interesting to get his opinion on CF, but even if he becomes a convert it would probably be difficult for him to market a CF tarp kit, because of the learning curve involved in working with Cuben. Silnylon is quite a bit more forgiving, so it makes a lot more sense than Cuben for a DIY kit.
On top of that, in smaller tarps especially, the weight difference is fairly small unless you use .60 oz/square yard Cuben, which is even less forgiving than the .75 oz/sq yd stuff, so I find the idea of making a practical DIY kit like one of Ray Jardine's tarp kits out of .60 oz/sq yd Cuben to be unlikely — not that it's a bad idea, just that it wouldn't fit the target market for the DIY kits, which is people who don't do a lot of DIY kit building.Nov 16, 2011 at 9:16 am #1802388
I really appreciate everyone's info, it is so helpful.
Bryce, good move on using the compactor bag at one end. It's like getting a bat wing for free.Nov 16, 2011 at 9:40 am #1802395
As you know, when you are going light you sometimes just have to make do. A head net instead of a tent, dried instead of fresh foods etc.
To help stay dry with a tiny tarp, here are some more techniques.
Things to pull over the foot section of the bag (generally in acute weather conditions,
not three weeks of monsoon).
1. Large volume pack
2. Raincoat zippered and pulled on like mini bivy
3. VBL used on the outside (jacket or sleeping liner)
4. A ground sheet with a short section of fabric sewn to form a foot bivy or elephants foot
Find or assemble natural shelter to augment what you brung.
Other hikers- combine shelters for more space.
And sometimes you just have to pack up your sleeping stuff and sit out a big storm.Nov 16, 2011 at 9:49 am #1802400
Couple of random thoughts of how I ended up where I have…. (I reserve the right to change my mind! :p)
-I started with a GoLite Poncho Tarp and no bivy. I tended to only go backpacking when the weather was good and when it did rain is was light. I ~still~ sh_t myself worrying about my down bag those night as I was sleeping under a postage stamp and I got VERY lucky that my bag did not get wet. As I got more serious I realized my shelter protection was severely lacking and hiking in the NE with rock scrambles, roots, and places where I had to see my feet on the trail, the Poncho wasn't cutting it either.
-I've never liked bivies. I found them expensive, heavy (unless you go with .33 SULUK bivy, then I would cry the day I put a hole in it w/ no groundsheet), read about condensation problems (though I admit, never tried one). They do however prevent drafts so your sleeping bag is warmer, but I'd rather just pitch the tarp three sides to the ground to stop the wind.
-I bought the BearPaw Cub Den 1.5 because it was inexpensive as compared to the Hexamid, it had bonded seams, was larger (I really thought the Hexamid would not cover me for gusty rain in the NE w/out the extended beak…then u give back most of the weight advantage) and could be delivered quicker. I also liked that it had permiter netting as opposed to netting underneath that I feared would wear out over time. The Cub Den 1.5 gives great coverage but at a price…it takes up a lot of real estate to pitch with all those guy lines going everywhere. I also didn't like the fact that I have to carry the permiter netting even in the Fall when I don't need bug protection. And while the Cub Den 1.5 is holding up fine, the bonding is certainly more complicated on/near stress points.
-I started to evaluate CF shelters/Tarps that I did not have to carry bug protection 24/7. I settled on a 9×7 tarp for a few reasons:
1) smallest tarp (least weight) while not needing bivy
2) Flexible pitches to use natural wind breaks
3) Need less real estate to pitch that Cub Den 1.5
4) Can pitch bug shelter alone in AT Shelter if I want
5) Total system weighs less
6) Can pee out the side in the middle of the night. :p
7) Costs less
8) Less complex construction (more durable?)
9) Can more fully utilize Bag liner (trash compactor/nylofume bag) as lower leg bivy while dropping weight elsewhere (the tarp itself :p)
My comparison spreadsheet:
Here I am in my Cub Den 1.5, you can see the trash compactor bag on my legs to prevent spray that was coming in on the side/opening through the mesh (It was calm when we went to bed, if I knew the heavens would open up, I would of pitched lower). I now use the same technique w/ my tarp. My legs are at the OPEN end of my a-frame when I pitch three sides to the ground. The nylofume/trash compacor bag takes care of spray from the open end.
(BPL member, Roleigh Martin's Hexamid Twin is the "green thing" :p)Nov 16, 2011 at 9:51 am #1802402
"It would be interesting to get his opinion on CF, but even if he becomes a convert it would probably be difficult for him to market a CF tarp kit, because of the learning curve involved in working with Cuben. Silnylon is quite a bit more forgiving, so it makes a lot more sense than Cuben for a DIY kit."
Very true… I was half just poking fun at Ray. His Kit was a great bonding experience with my (quilting) mother. We made the two person (silly me thought a girl would join me under it some day haha) and his quilt kit. I now keep the quilt in my car for emergencies.Nov 16, 2011 at 10:49 am #1802419
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
The couple times I put the foot end of my sleeping bag in a non-breathable bag, I found the condensation inside the trash bag to be worse than any splash I might have experienced otherwise. It was enough to dissuade me from ever trying again. Has this been an issue for you? How many times have you tried it?
IkeNov 16, 2011 at 11:13 am #1802425
I guess it's a balance. There definitely is the potential for condensation in there, but I guess you have to pick the lesser of two evils. In my experience, the rain that was blowing in was worse. Of course with a good DWR on your bag, the blown in rain/mist may be less of a problem vs. condensation depending on the situation.
That said, I think a way to mitigate/eliminate the condensation would be VBLs on your feet. This is something I am going to try (for warmth alone) in the colder months.
I have tried the nylofume bag on my feet ~5 times now with no problems, but of course my feet may perspire differently than others. 2 of those times were in bad rain during the hot summer.
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