View Full Version : Tent vs. Tarp
I started this once but stupid IE locked up...
If you are putting together your gear list for hiking or possibly next Spring's thru-hike and you are trying to pick a light weight solo tent, maybe I can save you spending $150 on that sexy solo tent.
The obvious benifit is weight, and maybe this post should go under "Going Light" but it isn't just about saving weight. There are a lot of advantages as well as some disadvantages to a tarp, so IMHO this becomes more of a gear selection question than just a weight comparison. In Roland Mueser's book "Long Distance Hiking: Lessons Learned from the Appalachian Trail" the average hiker spent the majority of time in shelters, hostels and hotels; they only spent about 20% of the time in a tent. Why carry something weighting 3 1/2 pounds if you are only going to use it 20% of the time? Even Earl Shaffer ditched his tent on the Long Cruise for a poncho/tarp.
So what are the benifits? The first and most obvious is weight. While a solo tent like the 2002 SD Light Year has a pack weight of 58 ounces, a simple 6'x8' sil-nylon tarp in the same campor catologe only weighs about 13 ounces when you add 6 stakes and some cord. So weight wise the tarp option is less than 1/4 the weight of the tent.
Pack size. Well a tent will take about 4"x18" of pack space but a tarp will take about 1/4 to 1/3 the space. This means a smaller pack needed and a lighter pack needed.
Price. That SD Light Year costs about $150, while the Equinox sil-nylon tarp is only $50. At 1/3 that cost, maybe trying one out before spending a bank roll on a tent is a good idea. And if it works, that is another $100 for a good sleeping bag or some other piece of gear you want. If you want to go really high end you can get a poncho/tarp for upwards of $100.
Size. A CD Light Year has 20 square feet of space in it. While 6'x8' doesn't sound very big, it translates to 48 square feet - over twice the space of the tent.
So that is it for the actuall numerically comparable reasons, but there is more.
Versatility. A tent is always a tent. Some people even need that extra space of a tarp and spend extra money (and weight) for a vestibule to add to their tent. If you stay in a shelter and you need more protection you may be able to put your tent up inside, but ot always. But with a tarp you have a vestibule, tent, vapor barrier, extra shelter wall, etc.
1. It's 15 degrees and you have a 30 degree bag, You are sleeping in a shelter. Use it inside your sleeping bag (not outside for Pete's sake) as a vapor barrier.
2. You are staying at Blue Mountain shelter and the wind is blowing into the shelter. Use the tarp inside the shelter to make a trapezoid or diamond pitch to protect yourself.
3. You staying in a shelter with a doorway instead of an open face in a bad snowastorm. If the shelter has the right design or you have other people with tarps you can add a wall.
4. You are stealth camping and a bad rainstorm with slanting rain is comming. There are numerous pitches you can use like the trapezoid that gives you the same protection as a tent. Just check the ground first for run off direction. BTW, even with a tent and built in floor you will have to do this.
5. You hiking around lunch time and the rain is one of those steady downpours and there isn't a shelter for miles. In 1-2 minutes you can pitch a dry spot and eat in comfort.
6. Your pitching camp in a normal rain storm - no blowing rain in the deep woods. You just want a vestibule, the whole tarp is you vestibule.
7. If you want to spend a little extra, you can get a poncho/tarp that also serves as a rain top and maybe even a pack cover.
But tents are "better". Tarps have disadvantages right? Lets cover some.
Floors. Tents have floors, tarps don't. Of course, but with a tent, you are supposed to carry a groundcloth slightly smaller than the tent bottom to prevent abrading and keep it clean, So if you have the CD Light Year you need a 9.5' x 3.5' groundcloth. With a tarp you just need a groundcloth big enough for your gear and sleeping pad - with a little extra, or about 7' x 3' So with a tarp you still get over on size and weight.
Bugs. A tent has nets and screens to keep the bugs out but a tarp doesn't. But for the majority of hiking seasons on the AT you don't need a bug net unless Grandaddy Longlegs freaks you out. There are ways to fight this - mainly tie in nets or bug bivies. Both these options weigh about 7 ounces but allow you to leave it behind when you don't need it.
In driving wind and rain the tent is better, right? Maybe. Depending on the tent design, you better make sure the right end is pointing into the wind or it may get destroyed ar collapse. A tarp is the same way, it just takes a little practice just as any other piece of gear does. But from personal experience, I have been through some very bad rainstorms and snowstorms in nothing but an Army poncho/tarp.
A big difference in storms between a tarp and a tent is ventilation. In a rain storm a tent can get wet inside, but it isn't usually from the rain - it's from the perspiration and exhaled breath condinsing on the inside. Often the thought in such a storm is to batten down the hatches and zip up, but ovenight a quart of water condenses and runs into the floor. To illustrate this, imagine someone pouring a liter of water inside your tent while you are asleep - not a fun picture. To solve this there have been lots of double wall designs, ventilation strategies, and plain old unzipping of the stormproof flaps and taking the chance on rain getting in anyway. While tarps don't completely solve this, they do help because there is a lot more ventilation. But while tents try in vain to develope solutions while tacking on weight and price, tarps just give up and give in by doing the best they can with what they have. The secret is to not to touch the tarp wall on the inside while there is condensation on it. And just in case yu have not actually ever hiked in the Appalachians, you will deal with humidity and condensation 99% of the time while out there.
Speaking of condensation and rain. The average tent can add 1/4 of it's own weight after it gets wet from rain and condensation. A Sil-nylon tarp adds almost none - just shake it out and stuff it.
Now that is a lot of stuff to say, and I'm sure I've not hit on all the areas. There are some that have sworn by tents and will never give them up. And there are some that have tried tarps and decided to go back to tents - find one and get their tarp cheap LOL.
Tarp = 1/4 the weight, 1/3 the price, 1/4 the pack size, twice the room, more versatility, and all for good storm protection.
Now let the comments fly.
Rock, as always, a well thought through post.
So, the question is, why does the usual hiker carry a tent rather than a tarp? Maybe us tent users need to be enlightened? Are we conditioned by the outfitters and manufacturers to carry a tent rather than a tarp?
You have got me wondering about my choice.
I can relay my own experience as to why I carried a tent for so long. As to others, I wouldn't dare to speak for them other than conjecture.
First off, it is learned - just like many other things we do. Growing up in a family that included a lot of backpackers, I was used to seeing the older people in tents, so I wanted to be like them. I gained my experiences using a tarp and always longed for my tent because that is what I was supposed to use acording to how I learned to hike. It wasn't until I started looking at going lighter and looking at other opinions about gear that my tarp experience all the sudden made sense. I really had been very comfortable and happy with a tarp.
The next thing I would say influnces us just as I stated above is others. But in this case what I mean is the opinions of other hikers. We look in magazines like Backpacker or go on boards and other hikers tell us how great tent X is and we take their word for it and want it too. Tents don't totally suck, and there are good tents out there. Most hikers these days use tents so in most places you will find people reccomending tents.
Then there is advertising. Slick glossy pictures of rugged hiker types on mountain tops above treeline sometimes with a saying like "When mother nature gets an attitude, you need all the protection you can get". I also think in this vein we Americans love toys, especially with lots of options. Tents with lofts, side pockets, vestibules, venting options, etc. appeal to the gear nut.
An interesting point that for many, many years a tent didn't actually have a floor or screens. Look at tents back in the 50s and maybe early 60s (this is conjecture, I'm only 35) and you see canvas tents with no bottoms. Today that would be considered a tarp like the ID Sil-Shelter. The Army still issues two pieces of canvas that snap together. My first tent was an Army pupt tent, and I spent a LOT of time in it - especially in the Nantahal mountains every summer for about 7 years straight while growing up. While my brother and I used out heavy canvas pup tent, all the grown-ups brought their new nylon tents with all the options. After those week long Appalachian rain storms my brother and I were still dry while nylon tent campers wer generally soaked.
Anyway. I've come full circle. I generally use a Hennessy Hammock for comfort, but to me it is just like my old nylon rope hammock with poncho/tarp. It's a tarp for shelter with a hammock to sleep in. I even had my Moonbow poncho/tarp specially made for my hammock.
With a silnylon tarp is it better to fold it up or to just stuff it into a stuff sack or just stuff it into the top of the backpack?
Stuff it. But I reccomend doing it in a mesh pocket outside your pack for easy access and so it can dry while you walk. Sil-nylon is a great fabric.
tent hands down!
i personally spent 80% of my nights in my tent.
tent is much warmer and quieter than shelters. sometimes shelters are full
mosquitos in NJ, NY and Maine were horrible in 2000, so were biting flies in NC.
saw girl washed out from under her tarp in rainstorm near sarvers cabin, while cozy in my tent. she quit the trail!
my trusty 3 1/2lb clip flashlight has never leaked, is sturdy in a storm and has plenty of room for me and my pack.
i consider it false economy, both in weight and money, to just carry a tarp. just my opinion
Chief proves my point. Some people are totally happy in a tent.
I don't know what happened to the girl that got washed out in her tarp, but based on my experience she picked a bad spot. The only time I ever got "washed out" was in an old orange nylon pup-tent in the Joyce Kilmer forest. I picked the classic bad spot and learned a lesson. The clasic bad spot is hard packed earth, usually flat low ground where water drains through or sits. I went to sleep in a light rain and woke up in about 4" of water. this was before I got a stand alone tent - should have seen me trying to move a tent in a thunderstorm with a down bag soaked all the way through. That was also the last time I ever let a down bag got wet - but I still use down too.
And I didn't let it drive me off the trail :D
everywhere was a bad spot in that hole. after the steep descent from the trail, no one had the energy to climb out. it was getting dark anyway. of course we didn't expect the gully washer.
i had water running under and around my tent. without the floor and tub construction of the clip, i would have been washed out too.
I hiked the AT in 2000, the same year as Chief. I started out with a light weight tarp but switched to a Sierra Designs (SD) Light Year tent in MA when I got off the trail for a week and visited my brother in Boston. (I would have switched sooner if I knew then what I know know.) Although I don't recall meeting Chief on the trail that year, we probably ran into some of the same 'skitters.
This is my take on the shelter issue.
First the weights:
SD Light Year 1-person tent w/6stakes: 54 oz.
-I don't use a ground sheet. If I get a hole in it, I will patch it.
(Note: I have since bought a very expensive Stephenson's 2-person tent to use for winter backpacking trips with my girl friend that also weighs 54 oz and I have had to patch the bottom once...not a big deal to me.)
Tarp set up: 35 oz.
-8x10 silcone impregnated nylon (Campmor) with cords: 16 oz.
-10 tent pegs (9 in., straight w/pull string): 5.5 oz.
-tyvek ground sheet: 7.5 oz.
-single point mosquito net: 6 oz.
(This is the size tarp that "I feel" comfortable in. It can accommodate two very friendly people but this is the size I want for just me. The mosquito netting may not quite fit two people but you can probably find something that will that doesn't change the overall weight by very much. The tyvek ground sheet is large enough to kinda fit two people but not their gear.)
Now, my opinions:
Since my thru-hike, I have purchased a SilShelter, a Stephenson's 2R w/windows and a Hennessy A-sym hammock. I also still own the SD Light Year. There is no perfect shelter for all conditions. There is not one shelter that is "the best choice" for everyone. What one person loves, another person might not be able to tolerate.
Tarps generally require more skill and imagination to use. Since Sgt. Rock uses a smaller tarp than I, he likely is more skillful than I am in using a tarp (not trying to be sarcastic, I think that is a true statement and a compliment to Sgt. Rock). In the right conditions, a tarp is wonderful. However, when you are forced to camp in mosquito infested areas night after night like some of us felt we where on AT thru-hikes...a tent can seem like paradise. In light rains, it ain't even close, a tarp wins. In windy conditions, especially when the wind direction changes, you are going to want a tent or a larger tarp that is well staked out...they can 'catch' a lot of wind...the Campmor tarp I have is amazingly strong. Heavy condensation is much easier to deal with in a tarp. The only time my bag has gotten wet enough to require drying out was one time in my SD Light Year tent and was due to extreme condensation that collected on the inner tent walls and netting and drained into the 'bath tub' floor.
A Hennessy hammock has become my shelter of choice since early spring. I have not been in it in temperatures below 40 degrees. It is very comfortable and has a detachable tarp which can be used for other things. Mine is an A-sym Ultralight and weighs 35 oz with 4 light duty stakes that have their own pouch. This shelter seems to pretty much solve the 'pressure point problems' associated with sleeping on hard surfaces and has some unique features (again, I think there are tradeoffs) that allow you to avoid sleeping in the familiar banana shape of other hammocks that sometimes lead to discomfort after laying in one position for several hours. The tradeoff is that when you use a pad underneath you (which in the mountains is probably all the time), it interfers with the exit/entrance and makes getting in and out more challenging. For me, I use a pee bottle so that I don't have to fuss with getting in/out in the middle of the night...but gee, I kinda miss getting out and seeing the beautiful night sky!
What's a camper to do? First, try to understand what the tradeoffs are and figure out how you can make it work in such a way that you are comfortable with it...or at least feel you can 'live with it' and make it through the situations when its weak points come into play. Maybe, you will pick one shelter and live happily ever after with it...or maybe, you will be like some of us 'other children' and just have to 'try them all'.
I used to carry a tent simply for the comfort of knowing that if a storm blew in, I would be nice and safe and toasty in my tent. If I am expecting extremely bad weather, I will bring a tent. However, if I am travelling for a long time in reasonable climes, the tent gets put away now and replaced with a tarp. So far, so good. I have a bivy sack coming that I will use in conjunction with the tarp during winter trips. For extended trips along the AT, I just stay in the shelters.
For trips into nastier weather or into bug hell,
I'll still bring a tent.
One reason I took so long to go to a tarp is that I don't like to use trekking poles. To pitch a tarp, I would have to set up via an A-frame or hunt for large enough dead wood. Easy in the east, harder in the west. I have, however, purchased a carbon fiber tent pole. It hasn't arrived yet, though.
to get the best of both worlds check out henry shires tarp/tent.i got one this year and love it.silnylon with bugscreen allaround.i have the first model but now henry has improved it even more. while i havent had it in a driving rain yet i can say its bug proof.comes with poles or use trekking poles. total wt. with poles,guylines and gutternail stakes 25 oz. they say 18 oz but i come up at 25. check it out at tarptent.com i had moonbow sew mine and if you have'nt checked out moonbow gear do yourself a favor they are a awesome company.
Tent. I'll never use a tarp, or leki poles or a water filter or an alcohol stove or titanium or...
Tarp. But, I don't use hiking poles, which at times presents a problem.
The Nomad-Lite Tent from Wanerlustgear.:D
I never sleep in shelters or cabins. Every experience has been horrible. I do like conversation, so I'll set-up near the shelter/cabin. Currently I use a pain-in-the-ass TNF Rock. It's 5.5lbs, dual wall, and the bane of my backpacking trips. The only thing nice about it is it's dependability during storms. It also has a mesh roof for when it's nice out. I experience zero condensation with it, which is also good. Nonetheless I hate it.
So I began looking for a new shelter. But I have needs you see...
- Must be 4-Season, but need only have space enough for me & my bag.
- Must be weatherproof out of the bag.
- Must be under 3 pounds (including stakes etc).
- Must be bug/critter proof (sealed floor & netting).
- Must offer an open feeling in good weather.
- Must not be claustraphobic in bad weather.
- Must be able to setup above & below tree-line.
- Must be able to set up on dirt, rock, or snow.
- Must not become a spa/sauna during wet or hot weather.
Looking everywhere, the closest tent i could find to match these criteria was Bibler's Awahnee2.
But It weighs just as much as the tent I have now, and doesn't take advantage of my trekking poles to shed weight from itself (another idea I like). Tarps do not meet all the above criteria, so they were out as well. And classic thru-hiker tents usually have a pole right in the middle of the tent, or do not meet the criteria above. So I began designing my own tent. here is what I have so-far...
I loved the MoonBow Net Tent setup, but wanted weather proofing integrated into the setup.
The physical mechanics of setup will be identical, but the triangular end walls will be 1.3oz Ripstop Sil-Nylon Material instead of no-see-um mesh. The main rectangular faces will still be no-see-um mesh, but will each have a flap of 1.3oz Ripstop Sil-Nylon material that is secured at the top, and then rolls down. Each flap wil be 1" wider on each end than the width of the face, so it can be folded over onto the triangular side, and either tied or snapped in place by a button to prevent seepage. The flap on the exit side will have a waterproof zipper (which I'm still searching for in the length I need) for easy entry and exit. During nice weather, the flaps can be rolled up and tied at the top of the tent, offering open, spacious, bug-free sleeping, similar to Bibler's Awahnee2 (but rolling up rather than down). The tent will be stored with flaps rolled down to provide weather-proof "out-of-the-bag" setup. Six 7" titanium "V" stakes with snow holes drilled in them weigh in at a mere 3oz. My Leki Poles will obviously hold the tent up eliminating dedicated tent poles. When sleeping above tree-line on rock, I can bring squares of plastic that attatch to the guy lines, and set rocks on them (but wouldn't normally bring them unless I plan to sleep above treeline ie. out west). The floor space will be 4ft x 7ft. There will be enough headroom for me to situp in the tent.
Currently I'm working on the ventilation. I may place a two foot horizontal vent on the non-exit flap, held open by classic 1/8oz velcro tabs seen on other single wall shelters. I'm studying the design of other single wall tents to determine the best spots for vents. Eventually thats where they'll go.
All together, It should weigh just under 3 pounds (I'm predicting 2lb 12oz) and meet all my criteria above.
To be honest, I don't think you will be able to buy or make a tent which satisfies all of your criteria. However, I think that by relaxing some of the conditions, you can. I know that some people advocate Stephenson tents, but I don't know anyone who uses such tents when a 4 season tent is truly required. I think the closest commercial tent is the Bibler I-Tent, although it is over your weight limit by a bit, needs to be sealed, will not be ideal in hot weather, and is costly. If you want to drop some more coin, you can spring for a set of carbon fiber poles to drop a few more ounces. Here are some thoughts.
1) By 4-season use, I assume you mean suitable for all 4-seasons on the AT. This is much different than true 4-season tent. The tent I'd take in the Smokys in January would be much different, in general, than the tent I'd take up Rainier in January. Think of big, nasty wind and lots of snowloading. For the lower AT, a Stephenson might work. I would not be completely confident taking one into the Whites or northern Maine in the winter time, though. A tent made from silnylon will not qualify (I don't think) as a 4-season tent. Silnylon isn't all that strong and in a big blow would probably rip.
2) I wouldn't worry too much about seam sealing. You'll want to set the tent up before going into the field. Spend the 8 minutes it takes to seal it when you set it up.
3) The lightest true 4 season tent that I know of is the Bibler I-Tent, but it is over 3 lbs. Stephenson has some impressive stats and might be worth a look. A 4 season tent needs strong poles (and several of them) and strong fabric. This means weight.
4) Most tents that I know of are bug proof. A hammock won't qualify as 4-season, but might be enough on the AT during the regular hiking season.
A tarp or tarp-tent isn't a 4 season shelter, even with a floor.
5) A small tent won't give an open feeling and the weight condition prevents a larger tent. A tarp is great for this, but isn't 4 season.
6) If the thought of spending a considerable amount of time in a small tent isn't appealing, I'd consider shelters or drop the weight requirement or the 4-season requirement.
7) To set up above treeline means you can't really take a hammock. It also makes a tarp a little less than optimal. Your only choice here is a free standing tent, which means the I-Tent.
8) Same as above.
9) The I-tent, or any single wall tent, will produce more condensation in hot weather than you'll like. Think about how well GoreTex works when it is hot out.
I think the most obvious thing to drop, or weaken, is the 4-season requirement. That opens up the realm of tarps or tarp-tents quite well, particularly if you also remove the requirement for working above tree line or on rock. You might take a look at Stephenson Warmlite tents as well. They do have a reputation and you might find something acceptable there. A single wall tent will be closest to what you want, which really means Bibler or Integral Designs, although I think Marmot has some decent looking single walls out there. Of course, single walls are not very good in the heat and can be expensive and they will not make your weight requirement.
Right now the George Tarp by Integral Designs. An awesome 7 ft. -yes I said 7 ft. height at the center. 64 sq. ft. interior space. I bike as well as backpack and can get my bike inside the Tarp easily and still have plenty of room to sleep. I have it in mind to sew noseeum netting around the perimeter of the bottom and then sew a floor to this. This should weigh about 2.5 lbs total when completed. When biking, I take an 11 oz, foldable 7 ft. aluminum pole to use as the center pole. Kelty makes this pole. I bought the Silshelter first, before the George Tarp. I never used the Silshelter again after buying the George Tarp. I have a Henry Shires Tarptent on order. I think this will be by solo backpacking tent.
I'm currently talking with MoonBow about a custom version of their net tent. It would include the modifications listed above. They said they can make it, and are gathering some more info to send me.
I wouldnt be to quick to dismiss the hammock option. I got tired of sleeping on roots and rocks and my hennessy has been a godsend. The only two real problems are above treeline and winter. since Im an east coast type above treeline is rare and I would just rig the tarp If i needed to. Winter wise the hammock needs carefull preparations to ensure a warm sleep but no more then a tarp or bivy in my opinion.
50% of my hiking is in the winter. I usally hike in the later months of summer, the fall, and all winter (I hate spring time). I'm 6'1 230lb, so I'm a little nervous about a hammock. I'd probably uproot the trees (lol). I'm going to be traveling out west in a year or so for an extended period of time, and would like something I can setup above treeline, or where there simply are no trees at all.
Apparently MSR sells a tent almost exactly like the Moonbow Net Tent. It's called the MSR Trekker. Built a little more durable, and the exact dimensions that I wanted for my custom Moonbow.
The only thing is, I still need some type of fly, but I hate 2 wall tents. However, i could have someone I know sew the 1.1oz Sil-Nylon Tarp panels on, and keep them fastened while storing. Then it will be weather-proof out of the bag. When it's not raining, I can roll up and secure the main flaps, providing me with the 360* open air bugless shelter. I'm still trying to figure out how to apply waterproof flaps that move out of the way to the triangular sides. I'm cooking my brain on this. A two foot wide vent will go on the sil-nylon panel opposite the door to reduce condensation.
I'm also paranoid about snakes and scorpions for when I hike in the southwest. A total sealed shelter is a must.
1lb 11oz for the MSR Trekker, 3oz for the titanium stakes, Poles will be my hiking poles, and probably a pound for the sil-nylon panels. It's going to be about 3 pounds (or just an ounce or two under) for this setup. That would be acceptable. I'm still waiting to here from Moonbow with their pitch. This is going to be my house for about a year while I travel (I'll be sleeping in motels sometimes too, but while I'm on the trails...), so I told them cost is not a factor. Maybe they'll come up with something better...
I have the MSR Trekker Tarp and Bug Insert. So if you have questions about the design, let me know. The bug insert does not easily pitch alone, since the pole attachments are on the fly and the insert clips onto the fly. I have pitched it in shelters, however, for bug protection. It's alot bigger than you'd want for 1 person. I like being able to pitch the tarp alone for cooking and sitting under on rainy days, then just clip in the insert later for sleeping if it's buggy. You might check out Brawny's site. She has something similar to what you're looking for in silnylon.
Hey DebW, I'm just going to purchase the Trekker Bug Insert. Then I'm going to attatch 1.1oz Sil-Nylon Flaps sewn along the top that roll down. I'm going to do something similar with the triangular sides, but haven't decided what yet. I like lots of room, so the floor space of the Trekker Insert will be fine. Ill have my pack inside with me too so I'll need a little extra room. Who is Brawny, and what is her website's URL?
Brawny runs the trailquest website and sells ultralight gear she designs herself
The net tent I was thinking of is not on the DanclingLights products page
but you can see a picture at
She may be willing to make you what you want.
Regarding the trekker insert, it weights 2 pounds 2 oz with stuff sack and 4 stakes. You'd need to make some simple modifications in order to pitch it alone. Your idea of sewing on flaps should work out fine, but I'd prefer to have the doorway on one of the triangular ends rather than the middle of a long side to make entry in the rain dryer.
Hmmmm... that shelter sacrifices a little too much for my taste. As far as entry/exit from the sides go, I wouldn't want to chance knocking down a pole. The MSR Trekker Insert also has the repairable zippered door on the main face anyways. I do like the idea of having vents on the triangular faces though.
I'll be using my own stakes, titanium 7" V stakes with snow holes drilled in them. It will allow pitching in both dirt and snow. 6 of them weigh only 3oz. The MSR trekker insert weighs only 1lb 11oz not including stakes or stuff sack. With my stakes and the the stuff sack it should weigh about 1lb 15oz. I definetly want to have the flaps that roll down and tie/snap for the main faces. I've yet to decide on the triangular faces. I'm predicting another 12-16oz on top of this once the sil-nylon panels are on, bringing in a total weight of about 2lb 13oz. Thats light enough for me.
Hmmmmm I've been racking my brain on a tent design, and I think I have an even better idea than my original proposal.
I will have to sacrifice the 360* View, but I think this design will provide much better "out of the bag" setup, reduce overall weight (around 2.5 pounds, rather than 3lb), and still meet my needs.
I may go for a modified version of this...
I want a panel on each mesh end sewn at the bottoms to make it a "Bathtub" design for wet weather. I also want the mesh sewn all the way around, not just the sides. I'm not taking my chances with Vermont's tank-like black flies. "How the hell do you get in" you say? Well I haven't figured that out either. Any ideas? I'm thinking some type of zippered/velcro entrance on one mesh end.
I carry a 6x8 tarp and I use one those fleece sleeping bags that you can buy at target for $20..it has a zipper where you can open just the foot too..my feet get hot even in cold weather...with my fleece hat and fleece pants...vest...and pair of fleece socks ( i call it fleece cocoon)I stayed in this bag and out fit during Feb 2001 when I did the Trail south from winding stair gap (franklin nc)to springer...temps all the way down to low teens on this trip...being winter and mainy deserted on the trail I used shelters...blue mtn in north ga used the trap inside as a low slung cover along the back wall as the wind was blowing in freezing mist esp. at tray mtn shelter...this was a tough trip but I made it .. after spending a cold night at HAWK MTN shelter walked to springer the next day... ice falling outa the sky all day (it was sleet ,not snow) and it was a coming a howling blow on top of springer so decided to drop down to black gap shelter for the night... even though the shelter on springer is plenty tight..
found a guy at black gap shelter in the 2nd part of hypothermia...but that's another story..
I just emailed them, and I'm waiting for an answer. Goddamit! The anticipation!
Have always been a tent person. Did the whole thing with pup tents, lean-toos and snapped together shelter halfs as a kid and then again in the Army. Then about 3 years ago I scored a Mtn Hdwr Batray shelter at a D & D sale. Thought I did a good job of pitching it but on the first night out it rained and I got a lot of water inside from the wind. Was not a happy camper :( Then 2 year ago I made the plunge and ordered a Hennessey Hammock. Absolutely satisfied with the set-up and comfort but then the winter came. Tried every trick I could think of (and had been documented on various website) and still froze may derned ass off. Ended up going back to a tent for winter and colder months and then pulling out the hammock for the rest. For this years thru I am starting off with a Wanderlust Nomad Lite and then around Pearisburg I'm cutting over to the hammock. Will probably stay a "tree dweller" until Hanover or Glencliff and then it's back to a tent for me. Just something about having walls, mesh and a floor that speaks to my sense of peace and comfort.
Anyway ...just my .02
...been a tarp man for 20 years. Started in scouts, my troop backpacked 10 months a year and carried reinforce plastic troop made "backpacking tents. In good weather they could be pitched 1 side up. Then to save weight someone started carrying a tarp with no poles. Like lemmings we all followed suit.
I am a big guy. I can't comfortably get in those darn little tents. Last time I stayed in a tent on the AT was about 12 years ago. My best friend "insisted" he bring his brand new 2 man tent for our trip. I went along being nice...well we are both big guys...it was a tent made for 2 "normal" men, if the weather hadn't been terrible I would have slept under the stars! Last year when we went, he said "you are bringing your tarp, aren't you?" :)
If the weather is good I can rig, my tarp so that I can kneel and change clothes (impossible in a tent). If the weather is bad, I can batten down the hatches.
I don't like tents eithier....esp with two...last time was with my son who is a big guy.. a sierra deisgns flash max ..2.5 pounds as small tent ..deep gap north carolina just south at the 'foot' of Standing Indian...cold snowed...Traps are much more versatile...give you more options ..by not being loaded down with a wet tent i can move on after a "bad" night..eithier to the next shelter where i can seek refuge or on into or back to the next road crossing or town...more than just gear you have to think about what you would do if "something " happened...if the weather gets to roughto the point of danger or even being a little uncomfortable you can always get into town if if you go backwards..sometines it's better to "wait it out" ...extreme weather is usually short lived...
carrying a tarp is IMO safer than a tent.. esp. if you solo hike.....lighter so that you can move on easier and can be set up in rougher locations than a tent ...even with a partner both of you having a tarp is probably safer..that way if you get separated both people have a shelter...
say one partner gets sick and hurt and can't go on..(doesn't happen very often but it DOES happen)..if there is just one tent between the two of you then you have to leave all your shelter with them while you go for help....bad storm the tent rips...a limb gets it ..if two tarps would be unlikely that it would happen to both,,and think two tarps ...bad weather rain ...one for cooking and hanging out and gear ..the other just for sleeping ..or getting away from your partner..ever been in a tent with somebody(even somebody you really like and not be able to get out without being miserable ...you can both have little space ...get up fix breakfast...with out having to put up everything up out of the way before you make your hot tea in the morning...two tarps!!!
The Virga from tarptent with optional floor seems to have exactly what you are looking for.
With a 5x8 tarp set up like an "A" I found I stayed dry in very exposed stormy weather out west, but the tarp had to be just higher than by sleepingbag. With the Virga's beaks at both ends I now have height inside so I can move around. It's fully enclosed with netting and optional floor but still basically a simple tarp giving the smallest amount of condensation possible. Unlike the other tarptent-like ideas I have seen it's simple to set up.
For use on the AT the Wanderlustgear Nomad-lite is probably better at similar weight but for something to also use in the more exposed west I can not think of any way to improve on the design of the Virga.
I choose my shelter based on the hike/month of year, but as a section hiker I have that luxury.
Late spring, early fall tarping it the was the way to go.
Winter-tent for sure especially when it is below 10 degrees out.
Then Sgt. Rock and HammockHanger brought the HH into my life, so now who knows what I will be in next winter...next week though from Unicoi Gap to Neals it will be a Hilleberg Akto I have down to 2.5pounds...if it dumps 2 feet of snow the Akto will laugh, if it gets to 10 degrees it will be 20 inside, the vestibule makes any Stephenson jealous, but while I am slumbering somewhere south of the shelter on the ground I will wonder what the HH would be like.
I am currently using a GoLite Hex 2, without the floor and netting insert. I have used both tents and tarps in the past and my only regret is that I didn't get rid of the tent a lot sooner. Between the condensation, weight and feelings of claustrophobia, the tarp concept wins hands down.
The hex is not as flexible as a tarp and a little heavier, but the room and comfort are unsurpassed. It can be pitched tight to the ground to eliminate drafts or off the ground to allow more ventilation. It is structurally sound and will take a beating from the weather. In the winter it can be used as a roof over a snow excavation.
I have a very lihgt bug net that I dangle from the tent if I am travelling in buggy weather.