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Tarp / Trailstar and bug net advice please

Discussion in 'Shelter & Sleeping' started by Hootch, Mar 8, 2016.

  1. Hootch

    Hootch Member

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    Hi - I'm new to the world of tarps, being more of a lightweight backpacker and camper. In the spirit of carrying less and getting a bit closer to nature and the elements, I'd like to make the transition to a tarp. Saying that, I'll probably stick to the comfort of a double-skinned shelter for winter, as I don't really enjoy being freezing or wet or both. So, how do i avoid the latter while still getting the most out of a more minimal shelter?
    Googling around it seems the Trailstar enjoys a quite a following here in the UK. It has the reputation of standing up to serious weather, perhaps more than a flat tarp. Any views on this and on how different types of tarp deal with wind and rain storms? I'm based on the West coast of Scotland, so these things matter! In what conditions does a tarp work best, and when would you leave it at home and take the tent. For some reason I have a rather glum image in mind of tarp camping in Scotland - very different to the dry, sunny woodland tarp set ups in the US.
    So to make a tarp workable in the UK, what needs to go with it? I've read that some swear by a bivvy bag, others hate them. Some have full inner nets under their Trailstars, others have a combination of a bivvy bag and a bugnet, like the Borah Gear bivi.
    Basically I'm looking for advice on what type of tarp works best (I'm particularly interested in the Trailstar but also in ultralight medium-large flat tarps), and how to put a system together that is both lightweight and versatile. Any advice at all really! Also if there's any areas on this site I should look at or any other resources, please let me know. Thanks!
     
  2. Harvestman

    Harvestman Bushcrafter through and through

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    I've used a tarp in the depths of winter, and in high winds. Their main function is to keep the wind and rain off. Beyond that you need a warm sleep system. I use a bivvy bag and sleeping bag with inflateable mat. Sleeping bag liner for winter. I generally don't bother with a bug net.
     
  3. Nohoval_Turrets

    Nohoval_Turrets Full Member

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    I've never used a Trailstar, but I've used other tarps plenty.

    For the UK you will need a bivvy bag in my opinion. True, they don't work for some, but that's usually for people who sweat a lot. You'll definitely get wet from the outside in the form of dew, so If you can make a bivvy work for you, I think it's much the best solution.

    Using a tarp in exposed mountain-side conditions is very different to using one in a forest-type situation. First off you'll need poles - which is extra weight if you don't use walking poles already. You'll also likely choose a more ground-hugging configuration to keep the wind off.

    For most purposes I use a 200x300 tarp - actually quite a cheap one - this one: http://www.heinnie.com/fox-lightweight-basha-tarp

    I find it's lightweight and easy to set up in the configurations I use. I sometimes use a DD 3x3 which is definitely more flexible, but I find the extra size makes it a bit unwieldy. Fortunately, these are cheap enough that you aren't risking much by trying them out.

    Depending on where you camp, you might want a groundsheet of some sort to protect from mud or sand. I have a piece of an old tent groundsheet that I've added corner pegout loops to. Other than that, just whatever sleeping mat suits you, and a good bag - a bit warmer than one you'd use for a tent.
     
  4. Hootch

    Hootch Member

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    Thanks for the advice. I can't see how I could get away without a bug net, living in Scotland. Even up high the ticks can be a real nuisance. Lower down of course the midges can really spoil your day. But the bivis that have a face mesh seem pretty restrictive if you want to spend time in camp, so I'd probably want to go for a very light net - any suggestions? It's a good idea to try a cheaper tarp to try out. How is the DD ultralight? And the Superlight? Alpkit Rig 7? A Trailstar weighs just over 500g, so I'm looking for that kind of weight or less.
    Anyone who can offer an experience-based comparison between a Trailstar and a flat tarp?
    I've heard that with larger tarps (eg 3mx3m) you don't necessarily need a bivi bag, as the rain can't really reach you. Any thoughts on that? Thanks again for any advice.
     
  5. Nohoval_Turrets

    Nohoval_Turrets Full Member

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    Yes, Scotland is another level when it comes to the midge. In Ireland avoiding midges is a question of site selection, in Scotland, they're just a fact of life. I've never used a tarp there, but I think my choice would be to suspend some sort of midge net from the tarp, like the DD one: http://www.ddhammocks.com/product/dd-bushmasters-hammock-mosquito-net That way, you avoid the clautrophobia of a midge net in your face. On the other hand, you've gone some way to recreating the tent effect, so it's a tradeoff.

    As for rain and larger tarps, again Scotland puts limits on that. Some of the shaped tarps really can keep rain out from all angles, but you have to allow for the sideways rain and the driving Scottish damp that finds its way into everything. And wind can change direction and come at you from an unexpected angle...

    Also, the bivvy does more than keep the rain and damp off. It creates a mico-climate around the bag, and makes up for some of the lost efficiency the airier conditions under a tarp inevitably entail. Plus, it gives you some insurance against the inevitable mistakes on the tarp learning curve. The Alpkit bivvies are very good, quite light and quite cheap. If you eventually you decide you don't need one, you haven't lost out much, and you can always sell it on here to recoup some of your outlay.
     
  6. Hootch

    Hootch Member

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    That's really helpful advice thank you. Yes, I've read good things about the Alpkit tarps, they look like a good place to start - I'd most likely go for the Rig 7, just for a bit more weather protection. Unless of a Trailstar comes up for sale at a reasonable cost that is. I'm also wondering about the PHD Drishell sleeping bag cover as a possible lightweight alternative to a bivi bag. Not designed as a standalone waterproof bag, it's more of a protective layer against damp and heat-loss when used with a tarp. The attraction is that it's so light. It may be enough protection under a Trailstar or tarp, and I could combine it with an ultralight suspended midge net. Any thoughts?
     
  7. IC_Rafe

    IC_Rafe Forager

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    There's a DD ultralight? I only know about the superlight (3x3, 460ish grams), and that one is a very good one for the price and weight imo. It does start to sag a bit like any nylon tarp after a while though, so might need some readjustments or bungees.
     

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