Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Tents, Tarps and Tarp Tents

I can't seem to get away from the fact that my tent is heavy compared to some of the tents currently available, even fairly conservative brands now have Lightweight models, manufacturers generally considered as tent manufacturers have tarps in the range and it seems that there's a whole raft of new models competing for our hard earned cash. The question is do they really offer anything that wasn't available last year or the year before.

My personal weight limit for a replacement would be 1.3kg but to be honest at that weight it would need to be perfect in every other respect, I'd prefer to be closer to 1.0kg than 1.5kg. With that in mind and having been following the the reviews of the latest tents I decided to put a little comparison chart together to help me compare the various models, it's not really helpful to have to jump from one website to another trying to compare weights and sizes.

As I've been considering a tarp or tarp tent I've included a few that interested me but I haven't included basic tarps. It's difficult to define when a tarp becomes a tarp tent or a tarp tent becomes a single skin tent but for the purposes of the chart I consider anything that has an inner and fly as a tent, a shaped tarp without integrated mesh as a tarp tent and a shaped tarp with no integrated mesh as simply a tarp. I appreciate that this isn't strictly speaking accurate, after all an MLD Duomid with a mesh bug nest isn't so different from a Big Agnes Seedhouse with a mesh inner but I couldn't come up with anything more suitable.

When it comes to tents Terra Nova are the masters when weight is the primary criteria but what surprised me was where Vango fit in, the Helium Superlite models are surprisingly competitive given that Vango are fairly conservative. The Laser standard however is looking something of a poor relation now given the specification of the Scarp 1 which appears to better it in every way, the Laser Comp is almost certainly under threat from the Vaude Power Lizard UL which offers much more space at an additional 200g. Of course all the Laser variations are tried and tested and proven to handle weather that would destroy many other tents.

There's always Big Agnes, the Fly Creek UL1 and Seedhouse SL1 are both light and fairly spacious for one and seem well liked by those who use them although they tend to be overlooked when it comes to a forum discussion. The Copperspur is on the limit as far as I'd be concerned but apart from a few strange design issues (IMO) it looks like a nice spacious tent.

You may be asking what tent/tarp tent or tarp I've decided on now that I've studied the chart (you're probably not but humour me) the truth is that I'm still no closer to deciding than I was prior to compiling the information but theres always a chance that someone will find it useful (then again maybe not)

Note, where it says porch Max Width/Length I'm referring to the distance from the inner tent door to the flysheet door so on a tunnel type it's max length and on a transverse design it's max width.

There are some dimensions I couldn't find and some were in inches so I converted them and rounded them up so they may be 10mm out here and there.

One other thing to bear in mind when looking at the weights is the wide variety of pegs that are supplied, you may be able to use some lighter pegs than those supplied or you may end up having to use some heavier pegs. The pegs issue could add or reduce the weight by up to 100g

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  1. Interesting...I was thinking about a Contrail for this summer, but your list has given me some other options to consider. I'll be watching with interest to see what you decide upon...

  2. Having a Scarp 1 and a MSR HUBBA HP, I need to say I like them both, good tents but on the heavier side. I am fascinated by the Tarptent Moment, and if I would considering a tent then that would likely be the candidate - because I now how excellent the Scarp 1 is, the design is splendid and the Moment can be set up in a Minute or two with two stakes.

    I'm somehow not convinced by the MLD Mids. Something about them which I don't like, while I know that I should like them - great weight, wind and snow shedding capabilities, good craftsmanship.

    This year I will be only tarping, with a tent used every now and then when I feel like it. Ptarmigan bivy + Tarp and pegs are about 550 to 600 g, and without bivy that goes down to 300 g. Of course I can get away with that, because I rarely go on top of mountains =)

  3. The search for the perfect shelter! :)
    I don't think it's possible to have one 'do it all' shelter in our climate Richard. Not if you want the lightest anyway.
    I now use a 'fast and light' set-up for single nights in good weather, a multi-day backpacking set-up that can handle most weather, and a winter/mountain set-up.
    I've kind of settled on my 3, but am still always looking for ways to improve it.!
    Mike fae Dundee.

  4. Hendrik, I think the MSR Hubba HP would suit me quite well but I really need to try a tarp, even just a basic MYOG one.

    Mike, do you still use the Duomid? what tarp and tent do you use then?

  5. The Duomid is my 'regular' solo and backpacking shelter. I've found it perfect for my use. I got to love 'mids after using the Hex 3 for a while. The Hex 3 is now my 2 person tent.

    In winter, or if i'm expecting serious weather, i use a Stephensons 2R.

    For quick summit overnights in decent weather, i use an Integral Designs 5' X 8' tarp and ID all eVent bivvy. I don't always pitch the tarp, but it's there if needed.

    Mike fae Dundee

  6. I remember you mentioning the Stephenson 2R on Outdoors Magic, must have slipped my mind.

    You obviously find the 8x5 tarp big enough, what way do you normally set it?

  7. I'm a fair weather bivvyer Richard, so i try to pick nights when the tarp won't be needed. If it is, then i set it up to suit the terrain and conditions. I rarely use an A frame pitch, but something giving more wind/rain protection to the head and torso. Often i'll peg the 4 corners to the ground, and lift the centre on one long side.
    Mike fae Dundee.

  8. I was thinking along the lines of an open sided pyramid. I looked at the AGG tarp which is 10' x 5' (roughly 3m x 1.5m), silnylon comes off the roll at 140cm so 3m would only need hemmed along the edges and it would be approximately the same size. Add some tie outs and it might be workable. Alternatively the DD Hammocks tarp at £29,


    is 3m x 3m, weighs 650g and could be cut in half (if split between to people) to make 2 3m x 1.5m fair weather?? tarps. Might be a cheap way to try the concept.