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The battle of Tarp vs Tent


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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion The battle of Tarp vs Tent

Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
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  • #3472013
    Joshua Felts
    BPL Member

    @sourpatch2016

    I only have experience with 2 walled free standing tents backpacking, but I also want to shed some weight in my pack. That being said I am stuck between buying a lightweight 1 person tent such as the Fly Creek UL 1 or a Tarptent such as Zpacks Hexamid Solo Plus or cheaper and slightly heavier the Six Moons Designs Deschutes Plus. My biggest concern is condensation and overall weather/wind protection. I would like to know anyones experiences with any of these shelter as well as anyone who may have switched from a tent to a tarp or vice versa.

    #3472027
    Lester Moore
    BPL Member

    @satori

    Locale: Olympic Peninsula, WA

    About two years ago I switched from a full two walled tent (Sierra Designs Light Year) to a tarp tent (Tarptent Notch). After a season¬†becoming comfortable using a Tarptent, the desire¬†to drop even more weight came up. So I bought a Deschutes CF tarp (similar to a Zpacks Hexamid Solo Plus tarp) and that’s been working well under a range of 3 season conditions (WA state and the JMT).

    A shaped tarp like the Hexamid is very light and extremely flexible. It can be combined with an UL bugnet (like the STS Nano Mosquito Pyramid Net) for summer and mild 3 season use. It can be combined with a LW bivi (SMD or Borah Gear come to mind) for shoulder season and wetter/windier conditions.

    If you prefer to give little thought to¬†campsite location and UL skills development, it’s hard to beat a full double wall tent for condensation control. If you are willing to pick better campsites (not in an open, grassy valley bottom by a lake for example) and develop a few simple UL skills, you can do much to control condensation with a tarp.

    If you choose the tarp route, some simple and helpful UL skills would include camp location to minimize condensation and flooding risks while maximizing warmth, how to mitigate different levels of bug pressure for the minimum weight penalty, rain and splash control using clothing or a bivi and UL gear care and maintenance. For me, this was a stepped process, becoming comfortably with a tarp tent first before making the tarp plunge. But looking back, It’s hard to imagine why I haven’t been using a tarp for years.

    #3472055
    Matthew / BPL
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Yes, all of that. Lester’s progression is similar to my own. I went from hammocks to the ground via TT Contrail > ZPacks Duplex (JMT with my kid) > TT Notch > Bivy + 5×9 tarp > Bug Bivy + Deschutes > HMG 8.5×8.5 tarp +¬†Bivy > MLD Duomid + Bivy or Insert.

    Agreed that the skills are easier to acquire in a single wall tent and then at some point a more modular system started to make sense. I have been through a fair amount of gear churn to find something that really makes sense to me. I’m hopeful that my current setup actually sticks. It’s a few ounces heavier than my absolute lightest setup but I’m at the point that I don’t think I care too much about the few extra ounces depending on the trip.

    I started off wanting less weight and realized along the way that I like the simplicity of a bivy because of the minimal setup. Then I realized that when I want weather protection I want real protection. I also realized that on longer trips I’m usually with my kid so I don’t care as much about weight because we can share the load. When I’m solo, it’s usually a shorter trip and I don’t care as much about weight because I’m not carrying a bear can with a week’s worth of food.

    I’m rambling but that’s my thought process and progression so far…

    #3472069
    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member

    @bobmny10562

    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    +1 to everything Lester and Matthew said.

    You’ll find a whole bunch of people here who switched from double-wall tents to tarps or tarp/bivy or tarp-type tents such as the Hexamid ‘plexes. ‘Back in the day,’ only various crackpots, weirdos and other assorted ascetics used single-wall anything! ¬†And even today there is still a considerable amount of resistance to single-wall, due in large part to relentless advertising pressure from the Big Boys who sell double-wall tents. ¬† :^)

    Condensation is not nearly as big an issue as it is reputed to be in many quarters. Once you get out and actually use a single-wall setup and discover what a minor problem it is, you will wonder what all the hubbub was about.

    Cutting to the chase, I would recommend that you get the Solplex‚ÄĒor the Altaplex if you’re tall‚ÄĒand don’t look back. Go out and use it and learn to deal with whatever condensation you might encounter by ventilating or occasionally wiping down with a cotton bandanna.

     

     

    #3472096
    nunatak
    BPL Member

    @roamer

    Condensation is a comfort issue, with only marginal safety concerns. It’s most prevalent on a clear night followed by a sunny morning to dry out in. Big deal.

    Adequate rain/wind/cold protection can play a much bigger role than that. This is where I would invest my thoughts regarding what shelter works best.

    #3472138
    Dean F.
    BPL Member

    @acrosome

    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    I haven’t used those shelters, but I have certainly made the tent-to-tarp jump.¬† I first went UL, what, a decade ago?¬† I used a TarpTent Moment for a while and really liked it- it pitches wicked fast.¬† But eventually I moved into pyramid tarps and have never looked back.¬† I’m a bit of a ‘mid fanboi, so take this all with a grain of salt.¬†¬†But,¬†20oz to use a palatial silnylon 2P ‘mid for solo camping?¬† Score!¬† Though, really, you should include the 5.5oz of my bug bivy in the weight I guess.¬† And the cuben DuoMidXL is even lighter- 16oz.¬† ‘Mids are bomber (by UL standards) especially if fully staked out with a dozen stakes.¬†¬†And they are simple as hell to pitch- you stake the four corners square then put the center pole in.¬† I and many others have said that if you can only have one shelter, make it a ‘mid.¬† It covers 95% of the 3-season conditions you’ll find yourself in.

    That said, I don’t think there is any point to using a full-sized inner mesh with a ‘mid.¬† You lose the weight savings over a traditional double-walled tent, so what’s the point?¬† That’s why I use a bivy, which protects from bugs and acts as a groundsheet.

    #3472151
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    When I was young and a poor beginning high school teacher I was forced to use a tarp for all seasons. It worked but I wanted a tent.

    Since my penniless days of the 70s I’ve used fully enclosed double walled and single wall tents. Currently I have a Moment DW solo tent and a Scarp 2 that can accommodate two people with ease and three “consenting adults” head-to-toe.

    I’ve endured heavy rain and snow storms in both types of shelters and BOTH get condensation. My current Tarptent tents are among the very best properly (high and low) ventilated tents.

    In winter the extra warmth of a double walled tent make it nicer option than a well rigged tarp.

    So here is the weight conundrum:

    TARPS

    1. Tarps need a floor (groundcloth)
    2. Netting enclosure required for a tarp in buggy weather. (It only takes one mosquito buzzing in your ear to keep you awake.) Often these nets include a floor.

    TENTS

    1. Floor included

    2. bug netting or ripstop W/netting vents at top included

    So, using the same materials and the same floor space tents and “enhanced” tarps end up weighing about the same. Sometimes a well designed tent that uses hiking poles for supports is actually lighter.

    3. Most tents are faster to set up than tarps.

    I rest my case for tents.

    #3472155
    James Marco
    BPL Member

    @jamesdmarco

    Locale: Finger Lakes

    I agree with Eric. But, there is no reason you cannot tailor a tarp to exactly what you need and no more. Black fly season (now) can be painful. But, at night, they are not active. Actually, they are not real active anytime the temps dip below 60F. 50f, and they are not out at all. Nights in the ADK’s only get up to >60F in the middle of summer: July, August. And, usually, not all nights get that cold. No need for a full bug tent 10 months out of a year. I agree with a ground cloth. But, even these only weigh about 2oz, and last about 14-21 nights, if you use thin painters drop cloth plastic. Typically, my tarp weighs 17oz, including stakes and guy lines. Soo, for less than 20oz, I am set. The few times I need a bug tent, I have a smaller tarp for it, again something I made up, and both go about 24oz total: Screen tent:16oz and tarp, 8oz.

    #3472165
    Joshua Felts
    BPL Member

    @sourpatch2016

    What bivy do you recommend pairing with the MLD Domid ?

    #3472201
    Matthew / BPL
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Any bivy should work fine. MLD Supermid or Borah should work nicely.

    #3472274
    Dean F.
    BPL Member

    @acrosome

    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    I have an MLD Superlite but, yes, any lightweight bivy works fine for bug protection.¬† The Katabatic Bristlecone comes to mind.¬† I got the Superlite because MLD has a very large mesh window over your face as an option.¬† There are some- called “bug bivies”- that are a silnylon floor with all mesh on the upper.

    #3472287
    Ben C
    BPL Member

    @alexdrewreed

    Locale: Kentucky

    My preference has moved to a fairly large shaped tarp. ¬†My trailstar is 12 ounces and is a palace for 2. ¬†You can fit 3 if needed. ¬†It’s storm worthy and keeps rain off a large area. ¬†With even ok site selection, the ground under me typically stays dry.

    I also very rarely need any bug protection at night.  In my experience, mosquitos typically go with the sunset.  I carry a head net for rare cases when they buzz at night.  I very rarely carry a bivy since I have few bug problems and the trailstar is big enough that splash is not a concern.

    #3472290
    Link .
    BPL Member

    @annapurna

    #3472463
    Dean F.
    BPL Member

    @acrosome

    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    FWIW I have never had significant condensation problems in my bivy.¬† Maybe I rarely encounter the right conditions or something, but personally¬†I think it has something to do with the VERY large mesh window on my bivy as well as that it’s a simple highly-breathable silnylon rather than one of those stormproof bivies.¬† A bug bivy- which is mesh on the¬†entire upper- would be even better.¬† And, heck, more often that not if I’m under no significant bug pressure I just leave the bivy unzipped, anyway.

    As a solo hiker under a 2P¬†pyramid you patently do NOT need a bivy to protect you from rainspray¬†the way that¬†you do under a handkerchief-sized fanatically minimalist tarp.¬† You have a lot of room- so you’re not going to catch rainspray and unless you are a true sasquatch you’re not going to roll against the condensation on the tarp walls in your sleep.¬† The only thing you need (ostensibly)¬†is bug protection, so the mesh bug bivies that don’t have any condensation problems whatsoever work just fine, and are also handy for cowboy-camping when the weather is nice.¬† They also obviate the need for a separate groundsheet.¬† (Frankly, I think groundsheets and footprints are a scam, anyway.)¬† FYI- my 5.5oz bivy is a size large MLD Superlite with a cuben floor and the extra-large mesh window.¬† It’s actually lighter than the weight MLD quotes.

    But as I said, I’m a real fanboi of the pyramid/bivy shelter system, so take this all with that warning.¬† I acknowledge that floorless shelters are Not For Everyone.¬† But a cuben DuoMid and MLD Bug bivy would be about 20oz, not including poles/stakes/guys of course.¬† (I assume the use of trekking poles.)¬† That’s a pretty damned capable and lightweight shelter system.¬† The DuomidXL would be a bit heavier, 22oz.

    #3472477
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Occasionally it will be very windy.  If I have raised edges, stuff blows underneath and dirt/sand/needles gets all over by stuff.  Better to have no raised edges.

    Normally, I sleep with door totally open so there’s a lot of ventilation to minimize condensation. ¬†Lack of raised edges doesn’t cause a ventilation problem.

    If there’s no chance of rain I don’t use tent at all. ¬†Having a bivy is good in that situation.

    #3472544
    Matt Swider
    Spectator

    @sbslider

    Locale: Santa Barbara

    . Dew, Frost, Condensation, and Radiation .

    This was a very good read, thanks for posting!

    #3472566
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Ants. Spiders. Mice. Mosquitoes. Flies. Assorted other insects. Wet, muddy ground. No thanks. Hexamid with floor and net. Simple. No bivy claustrophobia. Is this heavier than a tarp with net/bivy etc.? Maybe by a few ounces.

    an integrated floor that keeps my bag and other stuff clean is really nice.

    #3472572
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    that is interesting when at night, a mouse runs over me or sniffs my hand

    #3472577
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    When there’s a warning about mice infected with hantavirus at the trailhead it’s doubly interesting. And they’re running over my face at night…That was the end of tarps for me.

    I read at night in my tent (tarp) and a headlamp really attracts bugs. I guess if you went to bed without a headlamp this would be less of an issue.

    I readily cop to being squeamish. and itchy.

    #3472578
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I’ve never contracted hantavirus

    I don’t think I’ll worry about it

    The first time the mouse runs over my face I yell at it,then it leaves me alone : )

    #3472621
    Randy Martin
    BPL Member

    @randalmartin

    Locale: Colorado

    My progression was initially from Tent straight to Poncho Tarp where I quickly realized the poor choice of something that small.  I then moved to a larger two person tarp GG Spinntwinn with a small net tent under it.  That has been my primary shelter for 4 years.  This year I am moving to the Duomid with optional MLD Bug Bivy under it.  I have personally experienced heavy weather events (hail, snow, sleet, rain) combination in each of the last three years while camped high in Colorado (above 10kft).  While my Tarp survived and kept me dry, I was concerned with the significant sagging that occurred.  It ultimately brought me to the conclusion that I wanted something more sturdy for the conditions I find myself in.  A 2p mid is palatial.  With a slightly offset single pole I have ample room to sleep in the back half.  Bug Bivy (really a net tent) is optional but addresses any bug/rodent concerns if you have them.

    #3472876
    Dean F.
    BPL Member

    @acrosome

    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    Heh, heh. ¬†Yeah. ¬†I tried a Gatewood cape and decided that it was one step too small for me, too. ¬†Really, all 1P shelters are just too small. ¬†That’s why I use a 2P pyramid.

    #3473126
    Sam C
    BPL Member

    @crucial-geek

    Locale: Mid-Atlantic

    For what it is worth, no matter what shelter, style, and/or brand, there will be trade-offs.  And I am not talking about weights, although with this crowd that is usually the first consideration.  My advice is to do some research and select what you feel is the best shelter for you and barring any initial disqualifications (such as, not enough floor space or too low of a ceiling), stick with it.  Many around here, and this seems to plague the ultralight scene, cycle through product after product after product; always in search of the lightest and/or the best.  Of course, they refer to themselves as gear-heads, yet, in reality they are only searching for that one piece of gear (in this case, a shelter) that has the magic winning formula.  Because of those trade-offs, they will never find it.  Good thing for the cottage, these people will keep them in business indefinitely.

    What-ever you decide to go with, you should learn how to use it inside and out; it’s limitations and where it excels. ¬†I grew up tarp-camping with one of those square, blue, utility tarps and some rope. ¬†Mostly pitched A-frames and lean-tos, but also had plenty of nights using it as a ground sheet only. ¬†From that I had moved on to a 2-person “backpacking” tent. ¬†I loved the weather protection but missed that free-flowing air that you get with a tarp. ¬†I did like that I could only partially cover the tent with the fly, though–something that is missing from all of these net-tent/tarp combos. ¬†I then moved on to an SMD Skyscape Scout for the sole reason of it having the ability to roll up both sides of the “head” allowing me to view the stars at night as I am zoning out to slumber.

    In more recent times, I did a quick MYOG flat-tarp and had begun working on an inner net for it, which has yet to be finished.

    Outdoor Gear Lab rates the ZPacks well over the SMD Deschutes in terms of overall weather-protection but that does not mean that SMD will not work for you. ¬†To be frank, I’d suggest getting that Deschutes Plus. ¬†It’s more than half the price less of the ZPacks you are looking at, and is roomier than the Fly Creek. ¬† The trade-offs here are that the Deschutes Plus has more floor space but has an “open” floor and when you open the door, there is no netting across that now-open space. ¬†The Zpacks has less space but has a dedicated always-there net floor. ¬†Both may require a ground sheet. ¬† The silnylon of the Deschutes will also likely outlive the CF of the Zpacks but CF offers full water-proof protection. ¬†Then again, as far as I know CF is also a true vapor barrier, meaning it does not breathe. ¬†I know that breathable CF was once a thing, but not sure if it is used by anyone. ¬†Zpacks certainly does not mention it.

    The Hexamid Solo will also shed wind better and has a few more guy-line tie-out points than the Deschutes.

     

    Or, you could also MYOG your own shelter ;)

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