Condensation: a soggy tale. 

I’ve just got back from a backpacking trip in the Peak District. It’s late autumn now and winter is not far away so it’s chilly. The UK tends to be humid enough that the dampness at this time of year makes it feel colder than it is. So, out came my Henry Shires TarpTent called the Scarp 1. 

The Scarp 1 is an excellent double-skinned shelter with two side entrances and very roomy for one. It handles bad weather very well, the inner is draught-proof and it’s warm too. Thoroughly recommended as a 3-4 season tent. 

However, in conditions that are still, cool and damp condensation is inevitable on the fly sheet. I’ll stress it’s not a problem as regards liveability because the inner is designed so well but both sides of the fly get wet. If the wind gets up then the excellent ventilation options of the Scarp 1 work well at reducing condensation. In low/no wind situations though the Scarp is as bad as any other single-hoop design. The laws of physics cannot be disregarded. 

The Scarp has a detachable inner so it’s not a major issue to take down and pack the inner and fly separately after wiping down the fly but it is a faff. 

For eight months of the year I use either my Gatewood Cape or a tarp/Bivvy combo and using the Scarp reminded me why I prefer them to a “proper” tent. Simply the fact that condensation is never an issue with a semi-open shelter but it’s always something to be mindful of when using a tent.  Then there’s the extra time to deal with the condensation if the inner needs to be removed and reattached. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Scarp is a fine tent, I’d rate it as one of the best that money can buy, but I will be glad to get back to using shelters that don’t give me a condensation battle. And go back to being ultralight/ultralite (the Scarp weighs about 1300g which is about twice my normal shelter weights. Roll on Spring!

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Bye, bye TrailStar!

Just over a year ago I blogged about the advantages and disadvantages of the MLD TrailStar. Since then I used mine just once so I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to sell it. 

I much prefer to backpack with a tarp or a single-walled tarptent as they are lighter and fit my style of backpacking so the TrailStar seemed to be a good fit for me. It’s a great shelter; roomy and can handle really bad weather. Once you have got the hang of pitching it the TrailStar it is straightforward and quick to pitch. All desirable  attributes for a shelter and why I was hesitant about selling it. 

But, in the end, I decided that the inherent draughtiness of the shelter and the dirty knees/hands syndrome due to the entrance just drove me batty. If there is any condensation on the fly I’d end up with a wet back too when I entered/exited the TrailStar. So I decided to sell it. And I’m glad I did…… by and large. 

The TrailStar is a marmite shelter; either you love it or hate it. I think that if you’re not too tall (5ft 8ins or less) then it’s far easier to get in or out of. However, if you are 5ft 10ins or more then it’s a hands and knees job. And, for me at any rate, it’s bloody annoying. 

The draughtiness is something that can either be put up with or you’ll need to carry an inner or Bivvy bag too. These are essential tools in buggy conditions but just extra weight to carry outside of bug-season. 

I’ve found the TrailStar to be excellent in some ways (weight, space, storm worthiness, pitching) but bad in others (draughts, entry/exit, privacy on campsites).  I’m glad I tried one for a couple of years but it wasn’t for me. So bye, bye TrailStar, hello Gossamer Gear SpinnTwin and spinnaker The One!  Let’s see if you can beat the Gatewood Cape😀

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Sorry, I’m a heretic about P basses

The Fender Precision Bass has a long and illustrious history since it was introduced in 1951. They were called the Precision because, for the first time, a bass player could play a note precisely unlike on a fretless double bass. The sound was much harder than that of a double bass, the guitar had a lot of sustain and they were (and still are) easier to transport than a double bass.

Not surprisingly they became very popular and a P bass is probably the most commonly heard bass guitar in the world as countless players use them and a myriad songs have been recorded with them. They work well with just about every genre of music from punk to funk, pop to rock, jazz to blues and and anything between. Over the years there has been some tweaks in terms of different tuners, pickups and maple necks tried but, in essence, a new P bass is pretty much the same as an old P bass because it is masterpiece of design that doesn’t need to be changed. The controls are in the perfect place, the bridge is rock-solid, the intonation is good and they stay in tune well. If the neck breaks you can simply buy anther one and bolt it in place. the rest of the hardware is easily replaced and the guitar is built like a tank.

I’m a fan of Fender guitars; I own a Stratocaster, a Telecaster and an early-80s acoustic and they are all fine guitars. I learnt to play bass on an early P bass as the guy who taught me the basics was the bass player of choice for the Tamla Motown bands when they came over to tour in the UK in the Sixties. I’ve even owned a P bass myself and I have played a lot of other peoples. I’ve played American ones, Mexican ones and even the Squier variants made in the Orient and they have all been solid, capable basses.

However, I don’t rate the P bass that highly. I judge a bass on two factors; tone and playability. Undeniably the P bass has a great range of tones – several million bass players along with me agree on that. My issue is the playability. Nearly every one I’ve played has dead spots on the neck where some notes just aren’t as clear and have a little less sustain as the rest do. It isn’t bad but, once heard, it constantly appears in the mind and you end up playing those notes a little harder to compensate. I may have been unlucky with the P basses that I’ve played but other people tell me the same. The best one I’ve ever played was a Mexican one that I got for a particular project – no so much as hint of a dead spot with great sustain.

However, the clincher to me is the profile and taper of the neck. It doesn’t suit my hands nicely so I find it harder to play quickly;  something that is exacerbated by me finding the frets harder to locate quickly than on other basses due to the taper. The net result is that I feel like I’m thrashing a P Bass to get a decent sound out of it and it is hard work to play. Finally it doesn’t feel well-balanced to me so my left arm has to put more effort in supporting the guitar. It isn’t fun to play a gig with tired fingers and arms. I know I’m not alone in having to put a lot of effort into playing a P bass compared to other makes like Gibson and Rickenbacker.

To conclude, the P bass is a great bass for many people but I don’t like them that much despite their many advantages. I’d advise anyone thinking of buying one to check that all the notes sound the same to avoid the dead spots and make sure they get on with the neck profile and balance.

 

 

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Fender Rumble V3

About two months ago I purchased a Rumble 25 bass amp for acoustic gigs and I was blown away by it. So much so that I then bought a Rumble 100 watt for electric gigs.

Both have got a great range of tones that are enhanced by presets that can be tweaked by the EQ section. Fender reckon the Rumble has been reenginered to be both louder and lighter than the previous versions. I don’t have any experience of the older versions but the V3s are very light and very loud – no doubt due to the Eminence speaker and the wooden carcass. A case of manufacturer’s blurb matching reality!

So what do they sound like? I’ve played four acoustic gigs and six electric gigs and I think they sound great. Loads of bass, punchy midtones and sparkling highs. They make my Rickenbacker sing – the characteristic snarl of the Rickenbacker is there but with trouser-flapping bass. The same for my other basses. Its quite incredible that such light, small combos produce the sound they do.

There is a myth that bass players need huge speakers and powerful amps to sound good even at small gigs. Well, that is rubbish……absolute rubbish put about by marketing gurus to make bassists buy expensive rigs. And, most likely, give themselves hernias lugging the gear around. These Rumbles can easily cope with drums and two instruments in any normal sized gig with a band or with an acoustic combo with power to spare. No, they will not cope at large venues but you’d DI anyway for those and the  100W Rumble has a DI out so no problem.

I’m not impressed by the overdrive circuits on either Rumble. They are Ok but a bit harsh for my taste. The DI on the 100W is odd because as you alter the gain and EQ it affects the level sent to the desk. Not the best DI in the world but can be worked around easily enough.

In summary, the Rumble V3 in the 25 and 100W versions are nice combos with great tones and plenty of volume. Not equal to an Ampeg rig but a damn sight lighter and more transportable. Thoroughly recommended.

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ZPacks Pocket Tarp – first pitch.

It stopped raining today so I jumped at the chance to practice pitching the tarp in the back garden and I have to say I was impressed. 

It’s very easy to get a good, taut pitch straight away if the supplied instructions are followed. My first attempt took about three minutes but after a couple of further goes I managed to get the tarp pitched in just under two minutes. There was very little wind which I believe made life easier but, even so, I’m in no doubt that I could get a decent pitch out in the wild equally quickly. Once erected the tarp felt very stable and much stronger than you’d believe looking at the material. There’s plenty of room for me at 5′ 10″ to lie down and be completely under cover. A pack and shoes/boots could also be kept out of the rain. Headroom in the centre is good at roughly 48 inches. The beak at the front provides more shelter from any rain coming from the back so it’s easily possible to sit up, cook and eat while being sheltered.

The tarp does sit with the sides off the ground by about 6 inches when pitched normally so it might be a bit draughty but I can’t see rain being a problem because of the angles of the sides and back. If it was getting windy I’d drop the height of the hiking pole and get the sides to the ground.
One thing that I did notice is that after about ten minutes of being pitched the tarp seems to relax and wasn’t as taught. Not enough to flap but noticeably looser. Puzzling as I thought Cuben fibre didn’t stretch. It could be because the ground was soft so the hiking pole sank in a bit, the stakes moved a little, the knots on the guy lines tightened or any combination of the three. Easy to sort out though by raising the hiking pole a tiny bit.  Pleasing that the adjustment can be done under shelter rather than outside.   Another thing that struck me was how see-through the tarp is. Here is a picture of the tarp pitched.


Next I tried to attach the ZPacks Poncho to the tarp to make a bathtub groundsheet. Try as I might I failed to get a bathtub shape so I’ve emailed Zpacks for some advice. I’m clearly doing something wrong but I’ve no idea what.  On the plus side, the poncho makes a good groundsheet and I did manage to get a small wall at the front. 

One thing that I did learn was the poncho is large enough to seal the front up if the wind, or rain, changes direction. Simply slide the ground sheet towards the front of the tarp – there’s still loads of room to lie down and keep your stuff off the wet ground and on the ground sheet. There’s a handy mitten hook on elasticated cord where the pole sits at the top and there are some loops on the poncho which just reach. Clip the loops to the mitten hook and your protected from rain and wind. The elasticated mitten hook is at full stretch so I’ve added a couple of spectra guyline loops to take the tension off. So that’s good- there is nothing more depressing than repitching a tarp in the dark when the rain is falling.

Next stop is to try the setup for real in the wild.

Here’s some pictures of the tarp plus groundsheet. Note how transparent the tarp is.

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Zpacks and ultralight backpacking

My Zpacks Pocket Tarp has arrived and guess what! It’s raining hard so I can’t go and practice pitching it! Grrrrrrrr. A proper review will follow in due course. But for now a few observations on both it and the Zpacks Poncho/groundsheet I was lucky enough to get at a bargain price recently. 

The Pocket Tarp is stupid light at 118g including the guylines, the stuffsac and some cuben fibre repair tape. The reason it is so light is because the cuben fibre is a low-weave one. On the Zpacks website Joe does put the rider that it’s for emergency use rather than for a long through hike but I do know of people who use them as their standard three-season shelter. Despite being thin it does appear to be pretty strong and I reckon with good site selection out of high winds it would be ok in three season use for UK Backpackers like myself. Time will tell!

The Pocket Tarp also takes up very little volume in a pack, literally a pocket’s worth. A very rough pitch of it in my house has shown me that it’s plenty spacious for one. So, all good so far.

The Zpacks Poncho is designed to be worn as raingear. I’ve already tried it and it works very well. Good length and a well designed hood keep wind and rain out very effectively while ventilation is also good. The neat thing about the poncho is once the tarp is up you can take off the Poncho, zip it up and use it as a bathtub groundsheet. There are various mitten hooks that fasten the groundsheet to the tarp. The poncho is made from heavier grade Cuben fibre so should take a lot of wear. The downside is that a) it’s heavier at 173g and b) it’s pack size is quite large but I’m sure it will compress nicely once in my Gossamer Gear Murmur.

So why go Cuben fibre? Because, despite its horrendous cost, the weight is so much lighter. Add in you’ve got a set of waterproofs too and the weight come down further. This means I have to carry less. I’ve compiled a spreadsheet that illustrates this. NB: The sheet does not include food, water or fuel as is common practice and is what I’d use in the warmest third of the year. Neverless, sub 5lbs is pretty good!

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A week in the Lake District

A fortnight ago, a friend and I went to the Lake District for our annual “Lad’s Holiday”. Usually we backpack around an area but this time we decided to “basecamp” at Keswick for half the week followed by the remainder of the time  at Bowness. The train and bus connections meant I was not worried about packing ultralight as I’d only carry my backpack for a few hundred yards at a time. I used my new-to-me Osprey Exos 46 litre pack to carry my gear in on the journeys and used my Gossamer Gear Murmur as a day pack. The Murmur also did duty as a stuffsac during the transport stages. The Murmur did both jobs exceedingly well.

I’d already used the Osprey Exos a couple of times on proper backpacking trips and I knew it was a capable load lugger and surprisingly capacious so I had no qualms in bunging in my Luxe Hex V4 tent along with an Enlighted Equipment Prodigy Quilt, NeoAir, camera, clothes, etc. I paid £25 for the Exos and it was an absolute steal as I love this pack. It has hipbelt pockets, a top lid that is floating to accommodate bulky items, a large main bag, another useful sized pocket on the front, a stretchy mesh pocket over that large enough to fit waterproofs, windproof jacket, tent pegs and a myriad other bits and bobs, good sized waterbottle/tentpole pockets, loops to secure walking poles and ice axe, lashing points at the top and bottom of the pack plus a very effective compression system. There even a very useful organiser pocket inside the top lid of the pack. Two features that I rate highly are that there is a frame to lift the pack away from my back (hurrah…no more sweaty backs!) and Osprey’s “Stow on the Go” system for walking poles. I always use hiking poles but there are often times when I want to not use them for a few moments and the Osprey system is sheer genius. When my Exos dies I will buy another.

I’d decided to use the Hex V4 as I wanted a roomy tent as we were basecamping. At 1.3kg it’s far heavier than my normal backpacking shelters but weight wasn’t an issue on this week. It’s a great tent and very cheap for what you get. It’s a pyramid tent and has a very large inner taking up half the space, enough room for somebody else to sleep outside the inner and then room for packs, boots, cooking. It is also very stable in wind and completely waterproof. New, they are about £160 (I paid £100 for mine) and they are well worth considering if anybody is thinking of buying a tent. Most people I know who have them use them as their regular backpacking shelter but I prefer lighter options. That’s my preference and not a black mark against the tent itself. Backpackinglight.co.uk is the retailer in Britain. Below is a picture of the Hex V4 along with all the contents of my Exos strewn around as I was setting up when the photo was taken. I’m not normally that untidy!


Keswick campsite is a delight. It’s possible to pitch at the lakeside so you get great views and the feeling of wild camping even though you’re on a site with showers, toilets, a Backpackers room to dry stuff in and you’re near to all the amenities of the town itself. We arrived on the Saturday afternoon in beautiful weather. Sunday was also a lovely day and we caught a bus out to the opposite end of the lake and walked back along the shore. It was too hot to contemplate doing any of the high fells that are reachable from Keswick and, of course, we had the rest of the week.

The best laid plans of mice and men! Monday dawned dull and cloudy. Soon the heavens opened and it threw it down all day. Torrential, constant rain with low clouds so, even if we’d been mad enough to ascend the fells, there would have been no views to enjoy. So we explored the delights of the Pencil Museum and the Illusion exhibition. I have to say that that the Illusion Exhibition was superb and well worth every penny of the the modest entrance fee. Here’s a couple of pictures taken from the same place on Sunday and Monday mornings.



Tuesday morning started the same as Monday had but the rain stopped about noon so we caught a bus out to Bassenthwaite and enjoyed a good afternoon, albeit soggy, of walking. Then the rain started again. When we got back we found my mate’s bathtub floor had flooded. Luckily, he’d put his gear into plastic bags so nothing was wet apart despite there being half an inch of water in the floor. It took a few moments to realise what had happened; a tent peg had been pulled out the ground due to the wind and a small piece of the fly had blown in and lodged in the bathtub floor wall. It had then acted like a funnel for all the water on the fly

Wednesday dawned with clear, blue skies and hot sunshine. Of course, this was the day we were moving onto Bowness! At least we could pack our kit up easily as the tents had dried out. We broke the journey at Ambleside to sample the delights of the Golden Rule which is a rather fine little pub. We sat outside while we enjoyed our pint and the sun was so strong we both got a mild touch of sunburn. We got the next bus to Bowness, found the site and pitched up.  The site has all the usual facilities but the tent area isn’t as good as at Keswick. The ground has many jumps and hollows along with a slight slope. Nevertheless we made ourselves comfortable.

The Lake District has,as the name suggests, a lot of water. This is because it rains a lot there! Thursday I awoke to the sound of rain hammering down on the tent fly, absolutely chucking it down. There was simply no point in going outside so I waited until there was a lull and emerged to see pools of standing water everywhere around me. Worse, there was a large pool right at the corner of my tent and going under my inner tent. Clearly, something had to be done so I bailed out the pool only to realise that the overall slope meant water ran back into the hole! Then the rain restarted with a vengeance so moving the tent wasn’t an option. I went into town and bought some garden rubbish bags – big, strong plastic bags- which I placed under my inner and in the vestibule to keep the inevitable flood away from my gear. This strategy worked a treat but, by now, it was far to late to do a serious walk anywhere.

The rain stopped about 6pm and the hole could be bailed out again. Friday was another beautiful day so we made the most of it. A bus to Ambleside then a hike out to Sweden Bridge and thus to Scandale Pass. Glorious! We planned to descend to Kirkstone Pass and the catch the bus back. The descent was via Red Screes which I had ascended many years ago and remembered as being steep but easy. Memory is a strange thing! The descent is about a 1000 feet in a very short horizontal distance and there is a fair bit of scrambling to do. Hard work and exciting but we got down without mishap.

Saturday I was awoken by rain yet again. Torrential rain! So we packed up in the rain and I was amazed  to find a mini-river flowing under my inner tent. The garden rubbish bags had done their duty! Once packed, we left to catch the train back to our homes.

Here’s some pics take from the top of Scadale Pass – a wonderful place to be!

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A backpacking trip for charity

The walk was to be based around the Nine Edges challenge (designed by the Edale Mountain Rescue organisation) with extra miles at the start and end of the hike. The total mileage covered was planned to be slightly over 60 miles. While I am an experienced backpacker it would be my co-raiser David’s first time being a self-sufficient and self-propelled hiker.
The Nine Edges walk covers the magnificent limestone escarpments in the Dark Peak, starting from Derwent Edge in the North and ending at Birchen Edge in the South. It is a 23 miles long traverse over high, exposed moorland with no shelter. The extensions were from Hope, via the lower slopes of the Kinder area to LadyBower and hence to Derwent Edge to start the Nine Edges and from Birchen Edge to Matlock via the Chatsworth Estate and Derwent Valley Way afterwards.

Thursday
:

We travelled from Loughborough to Hope by train thus forestalling any retreat to a car! After walking to the site for the evening’s camp and pitching the shelters, we went for a short walk to loosen the muscles before commencing the hike in the morning and to see how David’s Achilles Tendon injury was bearing up. The weather had been sunny and warm but, by 6pm had turned to heavy rain that persisted all night. Not a good omen.


My shelter: Gatewood Cape and MLD Superlight Bivvy 

Friday

The rain cleared by about 8pm and we packed up our wet shelters and set out for the first target of the day- Lady Bower Reservoir.


The picture shows the North side of the reservoir. 

The ground was wet and muddy which made ascents and descents quite slippy and “interesting”. From the reservoir the terrain became even more challenging as we eventually ascended the first of the day’s Edges. The weather was a mixture of light rain, dry periods and quite windy. We planned to camp at the North Lees site but finding the descent from Stanage Edge posed navigational problems. We eventually found our way off and continued our descent to the site. All that lovely height lost would have to be regained in the morning! As compensation the sun came out as we pitched which allowed our shelters to dry out.

Saturday

The day dawned clear and bright so our gear was packed away in the dry. A definite bonus! However, the ascent back to the Edges still remained and it was hard work. As we climbed the weather deteriorated and by the time it we had regained our height it was squally and got worse during the day. Torrential rain interspersed with drizzle and the odd bout of hail coupled with high winds was to be our lot for the day. The amount of water that fell had made the ground boggy and slippy so causing many mini-diversions that made for slow, and very tiring, progress. It was two extremely tired and “fragrant” hikers that eventually pitched their shelters!


Looking North to Stanage Edge i.e. Over the ground we’d covered


Looking South from Curbar Edge

Sunday

The farmer’s wife allowed us to lay in until about 7:30 am before she woke us to get the camping fees. I nearly escaped without paying as she thought my shelter was a storage tent! The morning was truly beautiful with magnificent views of Birchen Edge to one side while the other side showed a magnificent valley and yet another Edge (Chatsworth Edge)  leading to the Chatsworth Estate that couldn’t be seen but was some four miles away.

We made our way towards the unexpected Edge, climbed it and after another navigational challenge in thick woods we approached Chatsworth house. We did divert to the house had had a welcome cuppa in the cafe before setting out for Matlock some eight miles away via the Derwent Valley Way. After arriving in Matlock it was a simple matter to find the railway station and travel home to Loughborough.

We had completed the challenge we had set ourselves, been saturated, windblown and dry, cold and hot, yomped across miles of open moorland, made countless ascents and descents, been beyond tired, seen hares, grouse and deer and had been throughly awed by the wild beauty of the moors and their vistas. In addition, we also raised in excess of £500 (plus Gift Aid) for charity.

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Backpackers Club UK AGM

I’m a member of the club and attended the AGM last weekend. Within the club AGM has two meanings; Annual General Meeting and Annual Gathering of Members. So, not only is a chance to make decisons affecting the club as a whole but also an opportunity to socialise, talk gear, get advice, buy either new gear at the trade stands or secondhand gear from members.

I’ll not bore my readers with an account of Club business (and it wouldn’t be appropriate either) but I did get a Gossamer Gear AirFrame to fit a GG pack I own at at a very fair price courtesy of Backpacking Light who were at the AGM, a very good discount on dehydrated meals and a secondhand, but good condition, Osprey Exos 46 backpack from a member for £25. A very reasonable price for a quality pack to replace my aging Golite Jam. There was also a fascinating talk about Antarctica from a member who had been there, a communal supper on the Saturday night and a lot of catching up with old friends and making new ones.

The venue this year was Parwich village in the White Peak area of Derbyshire. The weather was glorious sunshine all weekend although the nights were chilly. Temperature inside my tent ranged from nearly 30C in the daytime to 2C at night. The tent I used was a Luxe Hex V4 and it is an excellent shelter that is deservedly popular. I counted 6 of them being used by members during the weekend.

Parwich is a close-knit but welcoming community and there was an unexpected treat on the Sunday morning. It was St George’s Day and there was a parade around the village complete with brass band, some military personnel and villagers. A nice thing about the parade was all elderly or housebound veterans of the armed forces were given a hot full English breakfast as the parade progressed around the village. The parade was a joint effort between the British Legion and the OddFellows (a friendly society) and I think they deserve great praise for their efforts.

Here’s some pics of the weekend.

The OddFellows Banner

The start of the parade

A few tents belong to members

My Hex V4 closed up

Hex V4 opened up showing the huge interior space.

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Tarps versus tents

Not that many years ago abackpacker who aspired to be ultralight (or even lightweight) had to use a tarp as tents were much heavier. Silnylon has made the choice a littler harder as tents have become much lighter and a decent tent weighing just over a kilo (2.2lbs) can be purchased for not much over £100. Pay more and it’s quite possible to get 700-800g tent which is hardly backbreaking.  Cuben fibre is lighter still but excruciatingly expensive. I will stick to comparing Silnylon shelters here but the argument is the same for Cuben shelters although the numbers will be different.

So, does a tarp still make sense for UL backpackers? As my other blog posts reveal I’m a great fan of the Gatewood Cape which is an enclosed tarp that offers great protection and doubles as rain gear too. It weighs about 700g with the bugproof inner. It’s my shelter of choice for three season backpacking but there is a hidden weight penalty. Once pitched, you can’t use the Cape as raingear so it is necessary to carry some sort of water-repellent jacket for pottering about camp, etc. Another shelter I’m very fond of is the TarpTent Contrail by Henry Shires. Weighing in at a tad under 800g, it is more spacious than the Gatewood and very spacious as far as one man tents go. But sometimes it’s nice to have a lot more room; waiting out a storm in an one-man tent isn’t the most rewarding of pastimes!

Turning to tarps that offer generous living spaces, I have two favourites: the Golite Cave 1 and the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn. Although neither are no longer made the Cave is closely modelled on the Ray Jardine “Ray Way” tarp which is still available and Gossamer Gear have relaunched the SpinnTwinn with different material but is essentially the same and weighs about the same too.

The Golite Cave 1 has two “beaks” which help signicantly in keeping rain away, a plethora of tie outs and weighs 402g including the stuffsack. It offers a huge amount of space (easily enough for two hikers) and when fully pegged out offers great storm worthiness. The SpinnTwinn is a more simple, caternary-cut tarp and is cavernous while only weighing 288g including the stuffsack but it doesn’t have beaks. Both tarps will need a groundsheet and a polycro sheet of sufficient size will weigh about 50g. The Cave1 requires a maximum of 12 stakes to achieve a bomber pitch while the SpinnTwinn requires 10 stakes. I’ve not include the weight of stakes in my figures because each backpacker will use the pegs that they prefer. Provided either tarp is pitched properly on sheltered, raised ground they offer great protection for three season use.

However, no tarp is bugproof so it is necessary to carry a bugnet of some sort during the season’s when insect bites are a problem. I have a Gossamer Gear bugnet designed for the SpinnTwinn that weighs 88g and I will use that when I’m confident the weather will be reasonably fine. But tarps are inherently draughty and it’s possible to get backsplash from rain so bad weather requires some further protection. I have an Oookworks inner nest weighing 386g and a MLD Superlight Bivi weighing 224g. The Oookworks inner offers considerably more living space and is less claustrophobic than the bivi but both do the job of keeping bugs and backsplash away very well. The various combinations weigh as follows:

  • SpinnTwinn, bugnet and groundsheet = 455g
  • SpinnTwinn, MLD Bivy and Groundsheet = 564g
  • SpinnTwinn and Oookworks inner = 674g
  • Golite Cave, bugnet and groundsheet = 567g
  • Golite Cave, MLD bivvy and groundsheet = 669g
  • Golite Cave and Oookworks inner = 788g

All of these weights are pretty good but at least three combinations come within touching distance of the latest tents. It’s worth noting that, as a general rule, site selection is more critical factor for tarps than for tents. Clearly weight isn’t the factor it once was when choosing between a tarp or a tent for shelter. Yes, there may be some grams/ounces saved by using a tarp but it’s no longer a huge difference. So why do many backpackers still use tarps?

I’d like to offer the following reasons why. Firstly, the weight to liveable space ratio is far superior which makes for a more comfortable camp. Secondly, a tent is enclosed while a tarp offers the chance of great views. Thirdly, a tarp provides a camping experience more in tune with the natural surroundings. Fourthly, it is enjoyable to practice the skills of site selection, knot-tying and configuring a tarp to give optimum shelter in different conditions and sites. Fifth, and finally, it’s fun.

Here’s some pics of the Cave and SpinnTwinn taken in my back garden to show the size of the Cave and SpinnTwinn.


Golite Cave with MLD Bivvy


Underneath the Golite Cave showing the MLD Bivvy and its bathtub floor.


Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn pitched in good weather mode. The rear can be lowered in foul weather.

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