View Full Version : To tent? Or not to tent?

03-17-2003, 22:55
Hey I have a question for all those seasoned thru-hikers out there. I'm in the market for a single man tent and would like some advice. My requirements for a tent would be lightweight, enough headroom for my 6'2 frame and for that matter long enough to streatch out and not hit the ends. Also not weigh over 3lbs, and price under $300. I would be using this tent for thru-hiking the AT.

03-17-2003, 23:44
Try a Go-lite. I have a Den 2. It holds all my stuff, me and my 85 lb. black lab,who likes to streach out at night.
The thing is huge. It is a least 7' long. I paid $148 for it. I am sure they have what you need.
I sometimes use an Etawah tarp that is 10' by 10' and it weighs about a lb. It costs around a hundred bucks.

03-18-2003, 09:14
Dancing Light Gear Arapaho Solo.


2lb 0.25oz with stuffsack and 9 Snow Peak Ti Stakes.

03-18-2003, 11:27
I vote for tarping. My husband and I thru-hiked and many, many nights slept under our simple sil nylon tarp we bought through Campmor (made by Equinox). We actually prefer tarps now even when we car camp! A friend of ours made the Ray Jardine tarp from the pattern in the book, the same tarp is sold by GoLite as the "Cave." and that is a nice setup as well.

If you can have someone show you how to set them up and get a chance to practice using it, that would be ideal. Many people buy tarps to save weight but then get caught in the rain not knowing how to set them up. We used a piece of Tyvek as ground cloth and stayed dry through many storms. In fact, once when it was raining we had 5 people and a dog sitting in our tarp, drinking beer and cooking bratwurst we had just picked up at a convenience store. Let me see a tent do that! (It was the 10' X 12' size sil tarp, weighing about 18 oz, plus tiedowns, stakes, and Tyvek).

steve hiker
03-18-2003, 11:28
Check out the Europa II


03-18-2003, 13:18
Don's forget Jungle hammocks, well under 3lbs 300 dollars. I'm a half inch under 6 ft., I'll be under the 200 lb weight limit for the Hennessy ultra light A-sym by Damascus Va.:D Hennesy makes a hammock for heavier, taller hikers. Check out the Hammock camping section on Sgt. Rocks Hiking HQ, there's a link around here somewhere.

03-22-2003, 15:47
Go lite Den 2 huh I will check it out asap. Thaanks for the advice! WrongBridge


Raging Hampster,
The Arapaho Solo sounds like the tent system for me but I have never hiked with treking poles and don't know the first them about them! Could you or anyone else help me out on this issue? WrongBridge.


THanks for your vote on tarping. LIke above though I need help on the pole issue? WrongBridge

__________________________________________________ _

Steve Hiker,
The Europa 2, I looked it up and it looks like a good choice but the Arapaho Solo that Raging Hampster sugested is lighter. Thanks for the Advice!

Sorry man I'm a tosser and lying on my back is not an option! I tried to sleep in a hammock on a backpack trip once and ended up on the ground for the rest of the week with the hammock for a rain shelter. (sucked big time!!!)

03-23-2003, 17:07
Last week I tried tarp camping for the first time. After all the reading I've done on tarps, it certainly sounds like there are some great advantages, but I've NEVER known anyone (personally) that's ever used a tarp for shelter. It's kind of a leap of faith for me.

In addition, my friend who I was camping with is very claustrophobic, so it has the additional advantage of being more "open".

In any case, I set up first the tent--always nice to have an emergency shelter in case my first attempt with a tarp collaspes in the middle of the night! =) Then I proceeded to set up the tarp.

What a hoot. I have to admit, I really had a lot of fun setting up the tarp. Granted, it took me about an hour, but the learning curve! Sheeze! I had to teach myself three different types of knots. I had to cut rope to the appropriate size and burn the ends. But those are things I only need to do the first time around. The next time I set up a tarp, it should go MUCH quicker!

In fact, I even left all the rope tied to the gammet thingys on the trap so I don't even have to tie the rope to the tarp. (Of course, I'll still need to tie the tarp down to the ground, but at least the sorting of rope and tieing them to the tarp doesn't have to be repeated every time!)

All-in-all, it worked out really well. By morning, the tarp was drooping just a bit--nothing serious and took all of about five seconds to 'fix'. (I just love those adjustable knots!) My friend loved the tarp since there was NO claustrophia issues. Heck, the space under the tarp was freaking HUGE compared to my two-man tent!

I have yet to really test the tarp in adverse weather conditions--no rain. Not even any particularly strong wind gusts. But after setting up the tarp and trying it out for a night, I have infinitely more faith in using one than I did before!

The only downside I can think of is that it won't keep the bugs out. Depending on the time of year and where one is, that could be a bothersome issue. As a result, I think I'll take some mosquito netting for my face as an extra layer of protection against those beasts. I figure the rest of my body will be burried deep in a sleeping back where it'll be relatively bug free. If it turns out that bugs aren't a problem, I might send the netting home. At least until they DO become a problem.

Oh, and get this--I paid about $35 for my tarp! It's not made from the lightest material out there, but it still weighs only about one pound which beats the heck out of my two-man tent and costs a fraction of the price. I'm definitely becoming a big fan of using tarps! =)

-- Ryan, hitting the trail April 16th

03-23-2003, 18:42
Green Turtle,

Thanks for the input on tarping! I will check it out and may you have a great trip! WrongBridge :)

03-23-2003, 22:35
I really liked using trekking poles while hiking, and they made good tarp supports. But I heard of hikers who found really lightweight poles of some sort and brought that since they didn't use trekking poles.

There are many ways to set up a tarp, and the different ways work better in different situations. Since ours was for 2 people, we had a setup that used 2 trekking poles in the rear and then the front tied off to a tree. So it was kind of triangular. If anyone wants to see a picture I could email one, or try to describe it better. But most solo hikers used a sort of a-frame setup with a trekking pole at either end. Again, I'm not explaining well but I'm sure pictures abound on the internet. We got some great but expensive Kelty reflective p-cord that was nice as the reflectiveness prevented tripping. We just popped the partly colapsed poles in place under the tarp fabric, wound the p-cord around the fabric and pole handle and knotted it. for the front tie-out to the tree, we had an acorn in the fabric with p-cord tied around it, then wrapped the cord a couple times around the tree. How high you rigged the sides off the ground had to do with the weather and the amount of privacy you need. On windy days, your tarp could go all the way to the ground, but on calm days, you would leave a space between the ground and the tarp (at least on one side) or you would get moisture condensation. We did this by just leaving the stakes or twigs popped out high.

The bug issue: this only happened to us for about 2 weeks but it was miserable. All through the early months we were bug free, but when you hit the line of glacial lakes (New Jersey) you get mosquittos - especially if you camp in wet areas with no wind. And a couple nights they drove us absolutely mad!!! Then we got a bug net - not a fancy/heavy one with poles, but just a hunk of cheap netting fabric, and we rigged it up by attaching it to the poles which were supporting the tarp. Worked great. CT was the worst for bugs, and we actually ditched the netting in NH and got it back in time for the 100 mile wilderness by bouncing it ahead.

I doubt you would need bug protection before NJ but some people are really weirded out by any and all bugs and critters. We did have a couple of newts visit us in our tarp, as well as a friendly dog once. And moths and junebugs fly at your headlamp sometimes, and then there's these weird slugs that dye you orange if you touch them. But the only bugs that I could't tolerate were mosquittos. There were so many positives though, like the times we would wake to find deer grazing a few feet from us in the moonlight, or the sunsets and sunrises watched from inside a sleeping bag. Or the fact that you can walk right in with your dirty shoes, and not worry about leaving tracks on a tent floor.

03-24-2003, 09:32
Doesn't site selection become a real problem when pitching a tarp? You have to be much more concerned about rain run-off than with a tent that has a waterproof bottom.

Site selection has always been very difficult for me. Maybe I just don't have the patience to find the right spot. I just end up picking the first spot is that is almost flat and end up with a bad sleeping area.

It is this reason alone why I think hammocks are the way to go. Even if you don't have trees around, you only need a small area of flat space compared to what a tent/tarp requires.

SGT Rock
03-24-2003, 10:06
SIte selection is about the same with a tarp and a tent because you will use some sort of ground cloth under the tarp. I have a tyvec cloth with a foot pocket for tarping that way it stays in place, and I can stick my extra gear in the foot pocket. Of course my hammock is better.

03-29-2003, 11:01
Tarps are good in the winter but on the trail in the summer the bugs can eat you alive

03-29-2003, 17:54
Bugs don't bug you if you use mosquito netting with your tarp. I just made a version of Henry Shires tarptent. It's HUGE and has netting sewn around the periphery and mesh "doors". The whole thing only weighs 18oz and my husband and I have tons of space to sit up, change clothes etc.

If you don't want to sew in netting, then use an OR bug bivy. I use it on all my trips (til now). You can use it in the shelter for mouse and bug prevention, or just under your tarp. It's quite a sweet setup. Just think, you can sleep in your underwear when it's hot whilst your unprotected shelter mates get eaten alive or swelter in their sleeping bags.

Buy/make a tarp!!


03-30-2003, 13:39
I used one of Henry's tarp tents made by Moonbow last year and my dog, Tucker, the 85 lb. black Lab kept rolling into the side and the netting. This caused the rain run into my bag. A tarp tent and a piece of tyvek ground cloth would be the way I would go if Tucker didn't carry some of our gear. Stove and tent. LOL

03-31-2003, 10:17
If you don't use trekking poles (I don't), you can use still use a pole supported tarp. You can get Easton aluminum poles are a few locales (no place would call me back) or carbon fiber poles (www.fibrplex.com). I got a 48" carbon fiber pole that has worked out relatively well. It has only gone through one large wind storm, but the pole seems to be in good shape. Cost was about $22 and weighs under 2 oz.

03-31-2003, 12:26
For those of you that don't carry trekking poles, why would you go out of your way to pay $20+ to carry around psuedo-trekking poles for tarps when, I'd imagine more often than not, it can't be that much of an effort to find a good tree or even stout sticks to support your tarp for free? AND it requires nothing to be carried on your back all day long. It's not like you're in the middle of the Mojave Desert where trees and sticks are in short supply.

-- Green Turtle

03-31-2003, 14:04
You are certainly correct GT. On the AT, you can find sticks at, or near by, your proposed site for the night to use as supports. With a little looking around, one can usually find something the right length and of the right diameter and strong enough to use. I've done this in the Smoky mountains before and it only adds a few minutes to tarp set up. Of course, if you want to camp up on a bald, then you'll need to carry something up from somewhere. I'll be carrying a tarp pole because I will be camping in the Mojave this summer. In fact, I will be camping in lots of places where sticks of the right size will be in short supply. The $22 and 1.8 oz give me a little piece of mind. One less thing to think about at the end of a long day, when I may be setting camp after the sun has set.

04-06-2003, 22:44
I used a Hennessy Hammock for the second half of my thru-hike and loved it. It takes a little getting used to but with some practice, it's easier and faster than setting up a tent and it weighs only 1.5 lbs! Just run a search for Hennessy Hammock and you'll be able to find the website. The ideal thing about the hammock is that you no longer have to worry about finding flat ground. Just throw it up wherever you like. It did very well in numerous thunderstorms from NJ - ME.

04-07-2003, 06:43
Wrong bridge - I toss a lot too - the Hennessy is impossible to fall out of between the design and moskito netting.....Side and stomach sleeping are possible in the henny but I do have to admit the more I use it the more I sleep on my back