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Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

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Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby evan » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:48 pm

Hey Everyone-

Im seeking anyone's knowledge, opinions, experiences, insight,
thoughts etc re: Bivys and Tarp Shelters. Not a specific brand
but, so far, Im researching the GoLite, Mountain Laurel Designs,
and any bivys or tarp shelters at Rei.com Thanks in Advance
for any and all imput.

-Evan



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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:04 am

My son and I use a tarptent double rainbow. Overall it's a good tent (roomy, egress on both sides, lightweight) but to me, it's a bit difficult to set up at times. It has a small diameter "ridge rod" that's sometimes difficult to insert in a timely fashion (like right before a T-storm).
We've used a Stephenson, which is also good, but I prefer the Rainbow more. The Stephenson is prone to condensation, no matter how you adjust the vents. It's also very expensive, unless you get one used, as we did.
The LightHeart gets pretty good reviews. I know a guy who has one and likes it.
http://www.lightheartgear.com/LightHeart_Gear/Home.html
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:41 am

I'm guessing you don't mean tarptents since you mention bivies and tarps?

There are two kinds of bivy. There are the ones made of Goretex and other expensive materials with hoops and zippers and so forth, made to withstand the weather all by themselves, and typically weigh as much as a small tent. These are for mountaineers who want to spend the night in some small ledge where you cannot pitch a shelter. They're expensive and not really what a typical backpacker needs (though I have met a few who use them anyway, for some reason, despite the fact that you can have a tent to sit up in and store gear in for the same weight...).

Then there are the ones like the Titanium Goat bivy, or the Montbell sleeping bag cover, or the DIY bivy you can find the instructions for over at Six Moon. These you use with a tarp. I know someone who uses an REI minimalist bivy with his poncho tarp - he'll sometimes get a little condensation, but he had good results in a steady rain, with attention to site selection.

I have a couple of DIY attempts at a cover that I threw together with yard goods from OWFINC - they sell Goretex without the trademark, in various weights for various purposes - that cost less than anything manufactured that I could find. I made them to control rain spatter and condensation when I am tarping, on light and fast trips (AKA search and rescue).

For tarps, you need a bit of practice pitching, and to give thought to site selection - one with plenty of tie outs to give you lots of options in pitch style would be good. I have a DIY tarp and a MacCat (Outdoor Equipment Suppliers, a cottage gear maker) and have had good results with ground pitches. Rectangular tarps give you more options than the cat cut versions, which hammockers tend to get.

Tarps you get at REI (or ones made by big names like Kelty or GoLite) will have to meet a particular standard (especially if you are in California) of fire retardancy and tend to be heavier than they have to be; you'll note in specs that they will have an additional polyurethane coating. Ordering from cottage industry sources will give you lighter options; they can use straight silicone impregnated nylon or spinnaker to their heart's content. The Gossamer Gear Spinn Twin is huge, but lighter than many smaller silnylon tarps - have seen it in action, great coverage. Any of the cottage gear makers have good options - JacksRBetter has decently priced tarps, OES, Six Moon, MLD.
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:50 am

For a complete treatment of the subject:
http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/shelter.html

And also - I had been fascinated by the SMD Wild Oasis as an option, and got to see one in use - it's a really neat little shelter. Seems easy to pitch and the guy told me he's withstood some weather in it with better success than buddies with tents (I suspect that the tents were not pitched properly, something about a tent seems to invite poor pitching habits... but I digress) and it was not nearly so small as I envisioned it to be. Quite light but probably only an option if you carry a hiking staff or trekking poles, or if you're always in trees where you can throw a line over a branch to set it up.
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby oldranger » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:11 am

Evan

I look for shelter from two elements: skeeters and precipitation. Tarps require some extra mosquito netting in some form or another to work for the first element. Generally but not always skeeters are not an issue beginning the last week of august. I used to use a tarp but the last 30 years have settled on a tent. The nice thing about a tarp is that if it is clear you just throw out the groundcloth and don't worry about shelter. I now prefer double wall with base tent being mostly mosquito netting. If the weather is clear I don't bother to put on the fly. When hiking solo I use a Contrail singlewall tent made by henry shires,his brand is Tarptent. It is an art to set it up as I do not set it up the way it is designed to be set up. It is susceptible to condensation but I have had condensation with double wall tents as well. Another problem is that if it is sunny and the mosquitoes are bad you cannot get in the tent for shelter because it is too hot. The best feature of this tent is that it weighs 1 1/2 lbs. All of Henry's tents are well made. The lightest 1 person double wall I have seen is a big Agnes Flycreek UL1 at 2 1/4 lbs. I looks really sweet and can be used as a mid day escape. I use a double wall Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3 when I hike with my wife or one of my adult kids. This is a really roomy tent for two, though nominally a 3 person tent. My wife and I need the large tent because we use 26" wide exped downmat air mattresses. This tent weighs 4 1/2 lbs. or so and the quality of the mosquito netting is not as good as that used by Henry. I think the double Rainbow, also made by Henry, is a great design and with mosquito netting on both sides should have enough ventilation that it can serve as an escape from skeeters. Problem for my wife and me is that we need a few inches more width than the Double Rainbow provides. I keep trying to get Henry to build a Super Rainbow that is 58 to 60" wide. Such a tent would probably weigh 3 to 31/2 lbs. 20 years ago the double rainbow would have been great but as we get older we need a little more comfort than we used to.

I see that you did not ask about tents but the ultralight tents provide an added measure of comfort over bivys a little additional weight and with considerably more flexibility. I've used bivys as well and really didn't like them--especially for extended periods of rainfall.

Mike
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby gary c. » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:37 am

Like oldranger I much prefer the idea of a tent. For a solo shelter I love my Eureka Spitfire. Wieghing in at 3lbs it's well worth a little extra wieght for the space and protection it provids. Pretty hard to beat the price even when compared to a bivy. Here is a link with reviews (including my review) and even a video comparing it to a Gortex bivy.


http://www.trailspace.com/gear/eureka/spitfire-1/
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:45 pm

I have used tarps, tarp-tents and bivys. In the old days (late 1960's) at NOLS we used tarps. In 1969 I spent 100 days under a tarp, 30 of those days straight in snow with snow falling every day. The tarps were large rectangular 2-person tarps that you could set up with sides all the way to the ground if needed. You need this feature if you set up tarps in snow. The tarps also had several ties on the edge and in the middle that allowed many different set-up configurations. After many days in a tarp you get pretty good at creatively setting them up. Above timber we set up tarps very low using ice-axes as "poles". Properly used, tarps are weather-proof. I found that a large size is important. The added weight of a few feet more of material is not significant and the extra size is needed in some situations. In general tarps have little condensation problems if set up high enough off the ground. THey are roomy. But you need to be able to sleep a bit away from the edge to stay dry as some rain and snow inevitably seep in. Of the three options tarps are the most difficult to set up.

I recently bought a tarp-tent (Moment). I used it this summer on Roper's High Route. Weather was good - only a few brief storms. My main problem was condensation and frost on the inside. I also used the tarp-tent at Point Reyes - very humid. The condensation was heavy. The Moment is large enough for me that I do not hit the walls but I have to be very careful getting in and out or I will get clothing soaked from the condensation on the inside roof. I usually put on a rainjacket to enter and exit. I love the 2 pound weight and the room. I am still not pleased with the condensation issues.

I have used a bivy on several 10-16 day trips in the Sierra. I have a basic bivy - goretex with mosquito netting but no poles. I tie a string to the front and use my trekking poles to raise up the head part so I can sleep with bug net closed and not have the bivy hit my face. The bivy weighs 1 pound 5 oz. I really like the bivy in the Sierra. I have spent a few all-day rains hunkered inside reading a book. If you have to get in or out in a rain, you will be wet. One of my favoirte things about the bivy is its samll size (footprint). I have camped on some spectacular ledges or up on top of flat rocks. And I feel much more into the wilderness experience being able to see stars at night. I however do not sleep as well in the bivy as a tarp- tent . I do not use the bivy for long trips in the Rockies because of the weather. It is not good if you anticipate daily afternoon storms. A few times I have used a small tarp with the bivy. It adds to the ability to get in and out and stay dry but is hardly needed in the Sierra except if rain is forecast. When I used the bivy at Henry Coe I did get ticks inside.
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby evan » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:11 pm

Thanks for everyone's input thus far! To give a better idea of
what Im currently working with I have the Mountain Hardwear Twin
Arch 2; average minimum weight 4lbs 8oz & average packed weight
5lbs 8oz. This is the first quality tent Ive owned & I truly do like it.
Relizing of course that its a 2 man tent, this is where the weight must
come into play. So, Im looking for a soloist tent between the upper 2lb
to low 3lb range. Im actually thinking about the same thing re: my pack-
its a Dueter 65+10 Act Lite. Although I think Im willing to deal with
this weight due to the fact that I know I can pack everything but the
kitchen sink into it without blowing out the seams - its a killer pack!
Ive digressed - suppose I should have included this tidbit in my inital
posting to give everyone a better idea of what Im already working with.
Again - Thanks for the Knowledge!
-Evan
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:05 pm

Hi Evan,

I'm new here, but I thought I could chime in with an opinion. I have a 10-year-old Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy (http://www.outdoorresearch.com/site/advanced_bivy.html) and love it. As a poster above mentioned, I too like the small footprint and the ability to set up anywhere I can lie down. No stakes or tie downs—it's a breeze to set up; just two small poles that keep it off your face when sleeping. The clam shell design is great for nights when I want to stargaze for a while. I can fall asleep with it open and then quickly close it if some rain rolls in. I've talked a few buddies into buying OR Bivys as well and the new model is improved with vents at the end. I've been in rain and snow storms in this thing without issue.

I'm by no means an expert, just a casual backpacker who is willing to carry a little extra weight for comfort. Hope this helps!
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby The Other Tom » Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:03 pm

Welcome to HST, Carne_delMuerto. Interesting screen name you have there :)
Question: What do you do with your pack, etc when it rains ? I assume you have a pack cover of some sort....does it work well ?
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:15 pm

The Other Tom wrote:Welcome to HST, Carne_delMuerto. Interesting screen name you have there :)
Question: What do you do with your pack, etc when it rains ? I assume you have a pack cover of some sort....does it work well ?


I use a very low tech item: a garbage bag. I like the Smart & Final blue bags because they are a bit thicker than the normal store brand and the blue is more visible than black if there's an emergency. I just find a tree or rock with decent cover, lean my pack against it and drape the bag over with the end tucked under. It's never failed me.

Thanks for the welcome. I know the screen name is odd...it's the same name I use over on gaming boards which I used to visit regularly.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: Seeking Info RE: Bivys & Tarp Shelters

Postby oldranger » Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:40 pm

the other tom

Even with a tent with a vestibule I have never brought my pack near my tent. As Carne ... I use the low tech solution-a large garbage bag to cover my pack. It could also serve as an extra layer in a survival situation or as emergency rain gear if I encounter a person who has the delusion that it doesn't rain in the Sierra.

Mike
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