[pct-l] Tents vrs Tarps - Numbers do not make sense

'Sourdough' Foster athruhiker2006 at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 3 21:16:13 CST 2011

Hmmm, The most important thing to remember here it that successfully walking to 
Canada is 85% mental and only 5% gear. Now, what was the question again?? :-) 


From: John Abela <pacificcresttrail2011 at gmail.com>
To: PCT L <pct-l at backcountry.net>
Sent: Thu, February 3, 2011 10:08:07 PM
Subject: [pct-l] Tents vrs Tarps - Numbers do not make sense

Hello Everybody,

So over the last day or two since I posted my message (re) asking for folks
to look at my gear-list I have gotten a half-dozen or so posts (almost all
off-list) telling me that the best way to go from my 8-pound setup to a
5-pound setup is to ditch my tent and go with a tarp setup.

I very much understand that is the route a lot of folks are taking.

What I do not understand (could be because my numbers are wrong, or my logic
is screwed up, or both - giggle) is how exactly this is a significant weight
savings technique.

I know there is some logic here I am just not getting in what some of you
guys are suggestion...

So, here is why I have been having issues with this... somebody please knock
some sense into me as to what I am thinking incorrectly.

We got two options before us:

(1) Use a lower rated sleeping bag (say, 20-degree) with a tarp and a ground

(2) Use a higher rated sleeping bag (say, 32-degree) with an enclosed tent.

Now is seems that most everybody agrees that an enclosed tent gives most
people an additional 8-12 degrees of warmth, so that allows for a lighter
bag. I have found this to be true, if but for only one reason: if there is a
cold wind you are going to have an extra bit of protection inside of the
enclosed tent that you would not get under a tarp. Now I suspect that this
is where the big argument (not saying there will be one, just needed to use
that word as it explains the situation) in all of this plays out. In fact, I
am pretty sure that is where most will say my logic is wrong - which if that
is the case, awesome, because than I would now where my brain is screwed up
with all of this.

So let me throw out the gear I would use in this example. (could be a lot
different, I'm just picking some big name products in this UL/SUL world)

Option #1 -- I would use the "Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth" [at 1.6
ounces] and the "Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Fiber Mini Solo Tarp" [at 3.8
ounces] for a total of [5.4 ounces] Lots of sleeping bags to choose from but
lets just pick the Nunatak Arc Alpinist (I would *have* to go with the Epic
material because it might get wet from side-spray because it is a tarp-only
setup) so that would be [25 ounces].

Option #2 -- I could use the HMG Echo1 at [24 ounces]. I could of course go
with the GG One at [18.3 ounces] but the modularity of the Echo1 presents
better options. I could of course also go with the new super-light ZPacks
HexaNet Bug Shelter at [11.5 ounces] but again, the Echo1 presents better
weather defense. And, I know what you are thinking with what I just said,
just bear with me for a moment. So like before, lots of sleeping bags I
could pick from, but lets just go with the Nunatak Arc Ghost (I can now go
with the much lighter Quantum material because I would be inside of an fully
enclosed tent, so that allows me to save a few ounces in material weight,
and I do not need a lower-rated sleeping bag either, because I am shielded
from the weather) so the sleeping bag would weight in at [16 ounces] (rather
than the 25-oz for option #1)

So gear list explained...

Option #1 means you are carrying a lighter tarp/groundcloth, however, you
are taking a bag that is around 10-oz heavier to make up for the lack of
protection from a tent.

Option #2 means you are carrying a heavier tent, however, you are able to
take a bag that is around 10-oz lighter - because you have the protection of
a tent which means lighter bag material and you can go with a higher rated
bag because you are out of the direct wind.

So if I were to throw numbers at both of these two options (by the way, I am
6'2 in height so everything has to be 'large' sized):

(Option #1) Bag + tarp  = 30.4 ounces.

(Option #2) Bag + tent = 40 ounces (if I went with the HMG). 34.3 if I went
the GG1, and 27.5 ounces if I went with the ZPacks.

Going with the bomb-proof HMG shelter, the difference between a tarp setup
and a tent setup is [9.6 ounces] in favor of the *tarp* system

Going with the much more popular GG1, the differences would be [3.9 ounces]
in favor of the *tarp* system

Going with the ZPacks HexaNet Bug Shelter, the difference would be [2.9
ounces] in favor of the *tent* system

Everybody is always saying that the tarp system is the way to go, but if you
follow the logic (at least what is probably my flawed logic) the numbers
just do not make that huge of a difference.

9-ounces (if you figure I use the heaviest of the tents) is very very little
difference in the large scope of things... and in no way takes you from that
8 or 9 pound pack to a 5 pound pack. So, what gives?

I know there has to be some logical flaw in all of this... but I am failing
to see where my numbers are wrong..

Maybe I am overthinking the whole bag-usage-logic or something.

Could somebody out there with some real experience of making the switch from
tent to tarp please look them over for me and beat me straight.... because
surely an enclosed tent cannot be lighter overall than a tarp setup. Right?

Totally lost in numbers...
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