When you get down to the basics of ultralight backpacking, it’s hard to beat a tarp’s versatility and ability to provide the most shelter for the weight. But many backpackers are concerned that a skimpy one-person tarp or poncho-tarp doesn’t provide enough shelter, especially in wind-driven rain. Enter the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn. As the name implies, it’s a two-person tarp, but since it weighs only 8 ounces (2.2 ounces more than Gossamer Gear’s SpinnSolo tarp), even solo hikers can enjoy extra space at virtually no weight penalty. How well does that approach work in practice?
- Exceptionally well designed and constructed
- Very light weight
- Catenary ridgeline
- Easy, fast pitching
- Color-coded front and rear pullouts
- Unlimited flexibility for pitching
- Luxury room for one person, adequate room for two
What’s Not So Good
- No bug protection (unless you use a headnet or Gossamer Gear Bug Canopy)
- Little wind protection (unless you stake the rear or a side down)
|2006 Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn|
|Catenary ridgeline spinnaker fabric two-person tarp|
|Tarp, 25 ft of EZC spectra-core guyline, spinnaker cloth storage sack|
|0.9 oz/yd2 (30 g/m2) silicone impregnated spinnaker cloth|
Poles and Stakes
|None included. Use trekking poles or optional tarp poles|
|Front width is 110 in (279 cm), rear width 86 in (218 cm), ridgeline 114 in (290 cm), front overhang 12 in (30 cm), rear overhang 6 in (15 cm)|
|Fully waterproof high thread count spinnaker cloth, 70d coated nylon ripstop tieout reinforcements, grosgrain pullouts, EZC spectra-core line (275-lb. tensile strength), color-coded front and rear pullouts, clothesline loops on the inside|
|About 10 in x 8 in x 5 in (25 x 20 x 13 cm) in provided carry sack|
|Measured weight 8.12 oz (230 g) (tarp only, before seam sealing), manufacturer specification 8 oz (227 g); measured total weight 9 oz (255 g) (includes tarp, guylines, storage sack)|
|Measured weight 10.8 oz (318 g) with seam sealing, guylines, and 8 titanium stakes (excludes storage sack)|
|47 ft2 (4.4 m2), manufacturer specification|
Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|69.6 ft2/lb based on 47 ft2 protected area and weight of 0.675 lb|
|Bug Canopy ($19, 3 oz), basic stake package ($20, 2.2 oz), premium stake package ($22, 2.6 oz), aluminum pole set ($24, 3.3 oz)|
The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn is one of only two two-person spinnaker cloth catenary tarps on the market (the other is the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo that weighs 9.8 ounces and also costs $175). For its 8 ounce weight, it provides a whopping 47 square feet of protected area. The only thing that could beat it would be a cuben fiber tarp costing nearly twice as much.
The SpinnTwinn is constructed of 0.9 ounce/square yard spinnaker cloth. The particular spinnaker cloth used by Gossamer Gear has a high thread count and is silicone coated so it is completely waterproof. It is not quite as strong as silnylon, but does not stretch or sag as silnylon does. All tieout points are reinforced with 70 denier coated nylon ripstop. Spinnaker cloth is very “crinkly” compared to silnylon, so it can be noisy in the wind if it’s not tightly pitched.
Some hikers will have trouble deciding whether to purchase the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn or the one-person SpinnSolo. The following table compares the two (based on manufacturer data).
|Tarp Weight |
The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn (left) weighs just 2.2 ounces more than the SpinnSolo (right), but has 70% more protected area.
Unless a person is strictly a solo hiker and a gram pincher it makes a lot of sense to choose the SpinnTwinn. It provides 70% more shelter for an additional 2.2 ounces, and the extra 14 inches of length is a meaningful improvement for taller hikers.
The front (red) and rear (blue) pullouts are color-coded to assist setup. All guyouts are reinforced with 70 denier coated nylon ripstop.
Although it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s a good idea to seam seal the ridgeline with diluted silicone. It also strengthens and protects the stitching.
Most hikers set the SpinnTwinn up using trekking poles. For hikers who do not use trekking poles, Gossamer Gear offers an aluminum pole set that weighs 3.3 ounces. The recommended front and rear heights are 45 inches and 32 inches respectively. However, the tarp can be set up higher or lower depending on trekking pole length and wind/weather conditions.
The total trail weight for the SpinnTwinn (including seam sealing, guylines, stakes, and carry sack) is 11.2 ounces.
The SpinnTwinn can be pitched very quickly whether you use Gossamer Gear’s tarp poles, adjustable trekking poles, or fixed-length trekking poles. Detailed pitching instructions are provided with the tarp. It requires a minimum of eight stakes for a secure pitch. A tarp is extremely versatile and many different pitching styles are possible. For more detailed information on tarp setup and techniques, read Ryan Jordan’s article on Advanced Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions.
A tarp doesn’t provide any bug protection, so a tarp works best where bugs are scarce. Alternatively, the user can wear a headnet or Gossamer Gear’s Bug Canopy. A standard tarp setup (open both ends) doesn’t provide much wind protection, but it’s easy to pin down the foot end or one side of the SpinnTwinn to block the wind.
The beauty of a tarp is that it provides lots of room and easy entrance and exit with a minimal weight penalty. This is especially true for a solo hiker using a light two-person tarp like the SpinnTwinn, and it is easy to get in and out. Because it is more ventilated than an enclosed shelter, a tarp is less prone to condensation than any other type of shelter. However, under the right conditions, even a tarp can develop condensation.
A 30 °F night resulted in quite a bit of condensation inside the SpinnTwinn on this November backpacking trip in southern Utah. The patches and streaks are from brushing the inside of the tarp.
My friend Don (Photon) Johnston used a SpinnTwinn as a solo shelter on a July backpacking trip we did in the southern Rockies. We had almost continuous rain, and ended up bivouacking at 12,000 feet for two nights. The rain was punctuated with periods of thunder and wind, but Don stayed perfectly dry under the SpinnTwinn. It was very nice to have the extra sheltered space so we could congregate during the rain. (Photo by Jay Ham, Backpacking Light Make Your Own Gear Editor)
The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp is an ultralight backpacker’s dream come true. With a trail weight of just 10.8 ounces the SpinnTwinn provides luxurious space for one person or adequate room for two people. A solo user will still have plenty of room even when the foot end or one side of the tarp is staked to the ground. This versatile tarp can provide shelter for up to two people and it can be used as a kitchen canopy in rainy weather.
Spinnaker fabric costs more. For comparison, a two-person Oware silnylon CatTarp weighs about 2.1 ounces more and costs $63 less, but it’s significally smaller than the SpinnTwinn. The SpinnTwinn is 1.4 ounces lighter than the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp, and costs the same. The dimensions of the two tarps are very similar.
The Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn is one of the only two-person catenary ridgeline spinnaker fabric tarps available at the present time. It is exceptionally well designed and constructed.
Recommendations for Improvement
None (which is rare for a Backpacking Light product review)