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  1. #1
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    Default Tarp/Bivy vs Tent

    Currently, I have a hammock system and it works great, but I'd like a cheap, lightweight option I can pitch with my trekking poles for when trees aren't available. At first I found the SMD Skyscape Scout, and although light and large, the $150+ I'd need to pay in order to get the tent and the poles (my poles are old ski poles, fixed-length 48"; the Scout uses 45"). I also found the Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 for $100, which I had all but decided on a few days ago. Just as a test, I decided to look up a bug bivy to see if I could find a cheap one to use with my tarp. I then found Borah Gear. A quick test setup of my current tarp (an asymmetrical diamond tarp) told me that I would probably need a rectangular tarp in order to tarp camp. After poking around Borah Gear's website, I discovered that I could get a setup with a 5.5' x 9' tarp and a bug bivy for ~$115-$120 that would come in at around a pound. Compared to the Flashlight's 2.5 odd pounds, the tarp option is a lot more superior, but also a little more expensive and the bivy could be pretty claustrophobic at first. I'd say right now I'm leaning towards the tarp/bivy combo because of the versatility and weight. Has anyone had good/bad experiences with the Flashlight 1 or this small of a tarp? I'm not so worried about the feeling of being exposed, as I quite like to sleep in the open, but I am slightly concerned about the actual coverage. I would appreciate any and all thoughts on this. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    If you have a working hammock system, that includes a tarp, I assume?
    And, why can't you just go to ground using your hammock tarp that you already have?
    Pitch your hammock tarp between your trekking poles.
    Ditch the bivy. You don't use a bivy in your hammock do you?
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  3. #3

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    When I hike solo, I tarp most of the year. Bugs aren't as bad as people think on the AT, and a bug bivy isn't needed as often as people think. Perhaps if one has a phobia. For many years, I used a flat 8x10 silnylon tarp. Plenty of room and light, just 13 ounces. You will need stakes and guylines, a few extra ounces. Now most hammock tarps would be fine in a pinch, but you could get a new one if that's what you think is necessary. I checked and it seems that maybe the company that was sort of a standard issue at Campmor may not be Making them any more (Equinox). I did see a 6x8 there at Campmor, it was $79, so I would guess the prices of these have gone up some. (Currently a 20% discount on one full price item, check the details though.) I think that's what I paid for my old 8x10. There's a hanging mosquito net that's not too expensive you can rig under a tarp as well. Usually around $30. Not quite as tight as a bivy.

    You want this system to take in lieu of your hammock system? Somewhat rare to need in the first place. You will also need to bring a sleeping pad if you don't have one.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
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    Call for his whisky
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  4. #4
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    I've got a tarp already, but it's an asym diamond tarp, so when going to ground the same way as I put it up for my hammock it doesn't give enough coverage. I could try to set it up as more of a Flying V configuration, with two sides down to the ground. Will have to try that out later.
    I'd mostly be using this on the PCT (planning a thru-hike of at least the WA section summer 2018) for the mountain areas where I can't string my hammock. The bugs can be extremely bad up here, so that's why I'd need a bug bivy. In my hammock I have a net, but it's integrated, so I can't hybrid it. Plus, six ounces to avoid mosquito bites for an entire night is worth it in my opinion.

  5. #5

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    Ok, you need this for the PCT. I'm not familiar enough with that trail to know whether you plan to switch out your hammock or you are going to carry both systems? It sounds like you might need to go to ground occasionally. If that's the case, your best bet weight-wise would be to get another tarp that would function on the ground too. That 5.5 x 9 would work on the ground, people use 6x8's. You'd have an extra foot of length and that would help avoid rain splash on the ends. I used a rectangular cot mosquito in the past, they're cheaper than a bivy and roomier. Could be a little tricky to hang up if there are few attachment points on the tarp edge. You could make one that hangs from one point out of mosquito netting pretty easy.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

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  6. #6

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    The pros and cons of this have been discussed a lot (and recently). Personally, I find a tent a simpler and easier to deal with solution with little to no weight penalty (and sometimes less) then a tarp/bivy combo.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  7. #7
    Registered User Miguelon's Avatar
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    My 2 cents:

    Weight of my 9x9 custom silnylon tarp made out of https://ripstopbytheroll.com/products/membrane-silpoly
    Pull outs backed with https://ripstopbytheroll.com/products/2-2-oz-hex70-xl
    Lots of pull tabs.

    Wonderful video that shows tarp setup options:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0c42cY-tx4

    My rain gear is also a poncho tarp. Thus, I'd be able to have more tarp coverage if needed. I might bring an 8oz -if memory serves-- hammock set up. I'm hoping that the 9x9 tarp stretched end to end along with poncho and rain kilt will offer the possibility of hammock sleeping...


    9x9tarp w/stuffsack 326
    Lawson Titanium stakes 9 sheppard 55
    stake sack 5
    guy out lines: 7) 4' lines zpacks 10
    4) 7' lines lawson reflective 30

    I am tempted by https://www.sixmoondesigns.com/collections/shelters-1

    the gatewood and also by the deschutes plus

    Edit to move this to the end---- But, I haven't tested/used any of this on the trail.

    Miguelon

  8. #8
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    When the weather gets bad I'm a shaped tarp guy. The Deschutes is one of my favs.

    thom

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    The pros and cons of this have been discussed a lot (and recently). Personally, I find a tent a simpler and easier to deal with solution with little to no weight penalty (and sometimes less) then a tarp/bivy combo.
    My cuben tarp weighs 8.5 oz. (3 oz ground cloth, haven't sewn a new mosquito net, call it no more than 6 ounces.) It's on the larger side about 10.5'x10.5' square. Super easy to put up pyramid style. Much simpler than a tent and more versatile. Outside the OPs price range though. The 5.5 x9 tarp and a rectangular net is $65 and about 15 oz + 3 oz for a ground cloth + 1 oz for lines. Call the stakes even. Show him a $65 tent that works and weighs less. (A new tent please.)
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

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  10. #10

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    Show me a tarp / bug bivy which isn't DIY for $65. Sounds like your kind of making a tent once netting is sewn in.

    My Gatewood cape and serenity net wasn't cheap and I can barely fit into it. OTOH, the Trekker Skyscape has plenty of room, is only 2 oz heavier and cost about the same. I made a mistake buying the serenity net for $125, I should have just stuck with the $50 OR bug bivy which I already had, but is heavier and a little more bulky then the serenity net.

    Sure there are other solutions, but one has to weigh all the pros and cons. One consideration is cost, another is functionality and the climate in which it will be used.

    I wish I hadn't lost most of the hoop poles to my little cocoon gortex top bivy, that was a sweet deal even though you had to slide in feet first and it was a bit on the heavy side. But at the time it was one of the lower weight solutions.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  11. #11
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    Just tried to put up my hammock tarp. Although it would have been great to have a tarp that works for both, this one has no tie-outs on the back, which means that when pitched in a Flying V, the tarp just goes down and leaves no space for feet. A lean-to might work I guess, but its 30 degrees and raining, so I don't especially want to go back out there. It's an asym tarp anyway, so there's some diagonal offset between the short sides, which could make it not very effective even as a lean-to.
    I think at this point I'm leaning towards the tarp combo, because of the weight savings compared to the tent as an alternate shelter. And who knows? I may end up enjoying tarp camping so much I ditch the hammock.

  12. #12

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    So, what happens if it's 30 degrees and raining and you HAVE to set it up? (plus your tired and half hypothermic) Best to time to figure that out is now.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Show me a tarp / bug bivy which isn't DIY for $65. Sounds like your kind of making a tent once netting is sewn in.

    My Gatewood cape and serenity net wasn't cheap and I can barely fit into it. OTOH, the Trekker Skyscape has plenty of room, is only 2 oz heavier and cost about the same. I made a mistake buying the serenity net for $125, I should have just stuck with the $50 OR bug bivy which I already had, but is heavier and a little more bulky then the serenity net.

    Sure there are other solutions, but one has to weigh all the pros and cons. One consideration is cost, another is functionality and the climate in which it will be used.

    I wish I hadn't lost most of the hoop poles to my little cocoon gortex top bivy, that was a sweet deal even though you had to slide in feet first and it was a bit on the heavy side. But at the time it was one of the lower weight solutions.
    I did show one. The Borah gear 5.5 X 9 tarp http://www.borahgear.com/tarps.html with a rectangular cot mosquito net https://www.campmor.com/c/coghlans-r...--single-86662 $61 total. The tarp has 3 tieouts between the corners. Tie the upper corners of the net to the midpoint tieouts, the midpoint of the netting short side (upper) can be easily tied to the apex tieouts of the tarp. Easy peasy no sewing. You could get fancy with little sliders or cordlocks or just a short dowel tied to the string and fed through the tie out. A one point hanging net would be simpler but they seem to run 25-40 bucks. There's a sea to summit one at 2.9 oz on REI.

    Your gatewood cape vs trekker skyscape was a stretch. A gatewood cape functions as rain gear and pack cover. You would need to add in weights for those two to the skyscape to be fair there.

    Now I do want to be clear here for the OP. I have not used the tarp mentionwd by him originally. But I have heard multiple people come on the board and state they have used 6x8s. I've hiked in absolute monsoon downpours and stayed dry in my 8x10. With 9 feet, on that A frame pitch, one might need to lower the foot end some if you are tall and pitch it low but it's serviceable IMO.

    I tried a couple hammocks but stuck to the ground. Hammockers seem more committed then I was though.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
    Robert Hunter & Ron McKernan

    Whiteblaze.net User Agreement.

  14. #14

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    if you're a hammock sleeper, theoretically you could just use your tarp over your hammock with bug net as an adhoc tent.

    the problem, which has nothing to do with this or a bivy, is you need ground pad/insulation...

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alligator View Post
    I did show one. The Borah gear 5.5 X 9 tarp http://www.borahgear.com/tarps.html with a rectangular cot mosquito net https://www.campmor.com/c/coghlans-r...--single-86662 $61 total.
    That's way too short unless your a little kid. Might be okay in a light drizzle with no wind, but in a real rain storm your gonna get soaked. You'd just be wasting money with that set up.

    Now I do want to be clear here for the OP. I have not used the tarp mentionwd by him originally. But I have heard multiple people come on the board and state they have used 6x8s. I've hiked in absolute monsoon downpours and stayed dry in my 8x10. With 9 feet, on that A frame pitch, one might need to lower the foot end some if you are tall and pitch it low but it's serviceable IMO.
    6x8 would still be to small for serious thunderstorm driven rain, which is what you get a lot on the AT. 8x10 is really the only way to go.

    [QOUTE]Your gatewood cape vs trekker skyscape was a stretch. A gatewood cape functions as rain gear and pack cover. You would need to add in weights for those two to the skyscape to be fair there. [/QUOTE]

    I used the cape/serenity net through PA last spring. When I got to the DWG, I had my tent and rain jacket sent to me. I was a much happier camper after that. Using the cape as rain gear was not very effective and a real PITA. Nothing but trouble. I can never get the thing set over my back properly without the aid of a second person. It seemed like a good idea, but in practice it really doesn't work.

    Thankfully, I only had to use the cape as a shelter a couple of times and those were on dry days. The days I needed it as rain gear, I cursed at it a lot.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post


    6x8 would still be to small for serious thunderstorm driven rain, which is what you get a lot on the AT. 8x10 is really the only way to go.
    I used an essentially 6x8 tarp (4.8' wide at foot end and 6.5' at head end but was 8' long) from 2008-2016. Paired with a lightweight bivy, no issues as long as you select your campsite carefully. Went through a lot of bad weather under that tarp that included some very strong winds. That said, when I replaced my tarp this past fall, I did decide to go with a longer 9' length as there were a handful of times I did wish my tarp was longer. Being that I'm normally too lazy to get up and repitch my tent for a better angle on the wind during the night, there were a few nights I had my rain jacket laid over my upper body.

  17. #17
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    If your hammock tarp doesn't go to ground well I see two good options.
    1) Fix your hammock tarp so that it does go to ground well . . . i.e. sew on a few tie-outs so it does what you want. If you don't sew, figure out what you want and pay someone a few dollars that does sew.
    2) Buy a new tarp that will work well for your hammock and also goes to ground well. I use an 8x10 rectangular flat tarp with my hammock because I have it and it works fine. It is also my goto tarp for camping on the ground. Your preference may be either larger or smaller or a different shape. You can play with pretty cheap tarps (like cheap blue poly tarps), or make cheap tarps by cutting up an taping cheap blue poly tarps or sheets of plastic, until you find the size and pitch you like best, then invest.

    Good luck. Have fun.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  18. #18

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    A pyramid or cone shaped tarp like Gatewood Cape has the advantage of not having any open ends and the bottom edges come close to the ground, reducing the amount of splash you get under it. And having only one center pole for support, it's easier to pitch, along with being less picky about where.

    The only issue I have with the cape is that it's a little too small for me and my feet/head rub against the walls if I'm not real careful. I believe there are other tarps, possibly larger, made in the pyramid shape and that's the way I'd go.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  19. #19
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    I have a Z Packs 6'x9' cuben fiber tarp for sale. Barely used, in great shape. $175
    Also a pair of Mountain Laurel Design tarp poles for $50
    ( http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com...products_id=57 )
    message me if you are interested, would sell them together for $200.

  20. #20

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    My Etowah Gear 8x10, with stakes and plenty of line weight 17.8 Oz. I use it with hammock and on the ground and have plenty of room (on the ground there is room for two) and excellent rain protection. For ground sleeping, please make sure you have something you can sleep well on. I think I could work in my integrated hammock/bug net on the ground, too.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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