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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About ReidIvinsMedia

After working for many years in Higher Education I've decided to drop out and join the real world. Here I blog about my interests which include education, politics, backpacking, poker, photography and real ale.
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