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#184186 - 03/30/14 08:29 PM Would like some input on gear selection
Alexk3954 Offline

Registered: 03/30/14
Posts: 3
Hi everyone! First, just a little introduction. I am 25 and have been backpacking almost annually in the eastern Sierras since I was about 12 or so. Recently I have become even more interested in backpacking and hope to be out there every other week this season. I have always gone with my dad, but plan on doing several solo trips this summer as well. The vast majority of my backpacking is three season, in the eastern Sierras, so advice should be given with that in mind.

I am going to be placing a few orders for some new gear in the next week and just want to get some opinions/advice before I do. I mainly need a light sleep and shelter system. I have always used a tent in the past, but plan on transitioning to a cuben fiber tarp system this season.

My sleeping bag will be a 10 degree Zpacks bag. This may seem overkill, but I am about 6'3", 150 lb. so I have very little natural insulation and am very susceptible to cold.

For a shelter, I am looking at the MLD super tarp made of CF. I cannot decide on what size to get; 8.5x8.5 or 8.5x10? I will mostly be using this shelter solo, but it would be nice if two would fit on rare occasions (a tight fit would be OK). I am leaning towards a flat tarp rather than a catenary just for versatility. How are square and rectangle tarps comparable in terms of versatility of pitching positions? I have tried to research, but am comping up a bit short.

I am also planning on getting a super light bivy from MLD with the full mesh face. I am getting it to protect against mosquitoes early in the season and to further protect my sleeping bag in the event of a bad storm. With a silnylon bottom, is there need for a ground cloth of any sort? I would gladly carry one to protect my gear, but would like to minimize my pack weight.

I think this would be a pretty stellar solo sleep system for three season backpacking in the Sierras. I would love to hear your opinions. I will be doing all sorts of trips this summer, i.e. setting up a base camp and day hiking, longer loop trips, maybe even a JMT through hike if I can get enough time off work.

Also, I would love to read some articles just about tarp backpacking in general, but am not finding too much. Any recommendations on good, general reading would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Alexk3954 (03/31/14 10:15 PM)

#184187 - 03/30/14 08:45 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: Alexk3954]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6489
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Welcome to the forum!

It sounds as though you know what you want, and the selection sounds pretty good to me. I personally prefer a lightweight single wall tent to a tarp and bivy, but that's just me (also, I'm looking for another dog, and for solo backpacker plus dog a tent seems to work better--hard to squeeze a dog into a bivy when he's getting attacked by bugs!). I have also made the switch to cuben fiber thanks to ZPacks. Of course they had to go and develop their Duplex after I already bought a Hexamid Twin!

With the larger tarp, you wouldn't need a bivy, but then you'd need a ground sheet (which I'd get anyway just to keep my gear out of the mud) and a bug net. The bug net, if not too skimpy, could be used for two. The combination, from the research I've done, wouldn't be lighter than a ZPacks tent--I don't know about price, though.

You may find a few useful ideas in the articles on the home page of this site, especially the left hand column.

Edited by OregonMouse (03/31/14 04:25 PM)
Edit Reason: Change "heavier" to "lighter"
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#184191 - 03/30/14 11:34 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: OregonMouse]
rockchucker22 Offline

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
I would check and make sure you like a bivy. Some are just fine in one while others hate them. I got a Kabatic bristlecone wide bivy and it's great, plenty of room.
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

#184196 - 03/31/14 08:19 AM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: Alexk3954]
Pika Offline

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1754
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
For several years, in the 50's, when I was younger, my eastern Sierra three-season setup was an Army surplus poncho shelter, a third of a poncho for a ground cloth, a mosquito head net and a surplus inner bag from an Army arctic sleeping bag. I slept on top of whatever clothes I wasn't wearing. Pitched low, the poncho was good at keeping me dry and the net kept the bugs off. The bag wasn't really all that warm. Altogether this kit and my pack (my "big three") weighed about eight pounds of a total base weight of around 12.5 pounds.

Your idea should work pretty well. A bivy will keep any potential condensation off your bag and the bugs away from your face. You might, however, have to deal with being too warm on occasion. I've never used a bivy so am not sure how one deals best with too warm in one. My thinking would be to get the larger, and flat, tarp. You get more coverage and more versatility with only a minor weight penalty.

Edited by Pika (03/31/14 08:20 AM)
Edit Reason: Grammar
May I walk in beauty.

#184199 - 03/31/14 12:38 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: Alexk3954]
Rick_D Offline

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Sounds like a solid foundation to your sleep system--light and versatile. Still need to select a ground cloth and pad/mattress and you don't want to scrimp there, either.

As to the tarp, I'd tend to go with the longer option, as in bad weather you'll be pitching it closer to the ground and the extra sheltered space will be valuable, especially with wind-driven rain.

Don't have any particular tarp pitch guides in mind but know they are out there. Will suggest a lot of practice pitching in different settings and circumstances at home before heading out--you don't want to be puzzling over an odd pitch when it's raining and the sun is going down. (Not that that ever happened to me, nope, no way....) The biggest delineator is probably below vs. above treeline. If you don't hike with trekking poles you need to improvise support.

Happy experimenting.

#184214 - 03/31/14 10:22 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: Rick_D]
Alexk3954 Offline

Registered: 03/30/14
Posts: 3
Thanks everyone for the responses. I am still torn on what size tarp to get, I keep going back and forth. The 8.5' square tarp would be lighter and should be adequate especially combined with a bivy. On the other hand the 8x10 would be more roomy as I am rather tall, and might provide more protection in a bad storm. Guess I will keep thinking on it for a few days. I just need to put an order in soon to try to get my near the start of the season.

Would the larger tarp be more difficult to pitch tightly on account of its increased size?

#184215 - 03/31/14 10:30 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: Alexk3954]
rockchucker22 Offline

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
I just went through this same question and ended up with the 8'6"x8'6" square, I figured I can do the a frame, reverse pyramid, and half mid easily. After mocking it up I ordered the square tarp.
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

#184280 - 04/04/14 01:11 PM Re: Would like some input on gear selection [Re: rockchucker22]
Alexk3954 Offline

Registered: 03/30/14
Posts: 3
Well I just pulled the trigger and got the 10* Zpacks sleeping bag, a MLD 8.5x8.5 CF super tarp, and a MLD super light bivy with all mesh head. Looking forward to using this setup this coming summer and I will let you know how it all works out. Thanks again for all of your input everyone!


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