If you're looking for the lightest weight shelter possible, a tarp is the way to go—and these days you can find a range of ultralight options that easily weigh under a pound. Here's a quick review of some of the available options.
Before we get there, however, it's worth noting that such radical weight savings require some sacrifices. There's no bug protection beneath a tarp. There's no floor, either. Tarps offer less protection than a tent in rainy and windy conditions (though you can still stay dry with some care). And pitching a tarp quickly and effectively takes some skill and practice.
Tarps come in a range of shapes and sizes, though most basic styles are more or less rectangular. In terms of size, as a general rule an 8 foot by 10 foot tarp can accommodate two people (or provide ample room for one), while a tarp in the 6 foot by 8 foot range provides just enough coverage for the serious solo minimalist. Also be aware that most tarp set-ups require the use of at least one trekking pole, plus multiple guylines and a minimum of six to eight stakes (ultralight titanium stakes weigh as little as 0.2 ounce each).
Most ultralight tarps are made from silnylon, a very lightweight and tear-resistant fabric. Silnylon isn't exactly cheap, but it seems downright reasonable compared to the cost of waterproof cuben fiber, the lightest weight material currently being used.
All that being said, here's a short list of ultralight tarp options:
Integral Designs Silnylon Tarps
Two sizes of ultralight rectangular tarps are available, each of which uses 30-denier silnylon: Siltarp1 (5' X 8'3", 7 ounces, $70) and Siltarp2 (8' X 10', 13 ounces, $120).
Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Tarps
The Grace Tarp Solo (12 ounces, $120) and Duo (16 ounces, $160) both featured tapered designs wider at the head end than the foot end.
Etowah Outfitters Silnylon Tarps
A range of rectangular sizes are available, including 6' X 10' (9 ounces, $69) and 8' X 10' (13 ounces, $84). One of the better deals, plus a helpful how-to video on a basic tarp set-up.
ZPacks Cuben Fiber Tarps
You can custom order cuben fiber tarps in any dimensions. Common sizes include 6' X 9' (4.7 ounces, $190) and 8.5' X 10' (6.7 ounces, $255).
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Tarps
This small Maine-based company offers rectangular cuben fiber tarps in 6' X 8' (6.4 ounces, $300) and 8' X 10' sizes (8.6 ounces, $340, pictured above) and more tapered designs in its Echo II (7.1 ounces, $310).
Plenty of other ultralight tarps are available—please share if you have a preferred style or brand!
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
Labels: Backpacking, Camping, Shelters, Ultralight