Mathews Inc.
Conventional vs. Tarp Tent
Equipment
Contributors to this thread:
McCree 02-Apr-19
Franklin 02-Apr-19
MF 02-Apr-19
MF 02-Apr-19
MF 02-Apr-19
Ziek 02-Apr-19
Jaquomo 02-Apr-19
Jaquomo 02-Apr-19
Lost Arra 02-Apr-19
Predeter 02-Apr-19
DonVathome 02-Apr-19
elkstabber 03-Apr-19
Paul@thefort 03-Apr-19
Beendare 03-Apr-19
Jaquomo 03-Apr-19
Z Barebow 03-Apr-19
Franklin 03-Apr-19
Michael 03-Apr-19
wildwilderness 03-Apr-19
Trial153 03-Apr-19
cubdrvr 03-Apr-19
Glunt@work 03-Apr-19
Backpack Hunter 03-Apr-19
Hackbow 04-Apr-19
Ziek 04-Apr-19
Linecutter 04-Apr-19
WoodMoose 12-Apr-19
From: McCree
02-Apr-19
Looking to purchase a new tent and need some input regarding the pros and cons of a tarp tent vs. a conventional tent with a bottom. I'm strongly considering the Kifaru Super Tarp with Annex. How do the tarp tents do in heavy rain/storms? I like the weight and variability with the tarps but struggle with the thought of no bottom.

From: Franklin
02-Apr-19
IMO....tarp camping is an acquired taste. You either are fine with it or you don`t go for it. Personally after a long day of hunting my sleep is the way I recharge the batteries. I have to have quality sleep and products. A few extra pounds is well worth it for me to get that quality sleep. I just can`t get that with a tarp.

As you can tell....I don`t dig tarp tenting.

From: MF
02-Apr-19
I use a siltarp, lots of options for pitching it in different circumstances. I also like to be able to see outside. I'm fine without a floor, just seem to collect debris. Never had any problems with critters, mice.

From: MF
02-Apr-19

MF's embedded Photo
MF's embedded Photo

From: MF
02-Apr-19

MF's embedded Photo
MF's embedded Photo

From: Ziek
02-Apr-19
They each have their place. I'm prepared to camp whatever way is best for the circumstances. I've gone out for a night or two with just a sleeping bag and cold food. Next up would be a bivy sack, then a tarp (actually, I always have a small tarp for emergency use, even for just a day hunt), then, light weight 3-season tent, 4-season dome tent, large Alaska dome tent w/extended vestibule, canvas wall tent with wood stove, pop-up camper, and travel trailer.

They all work just fine, depending on circumstances, weather you expect, how long you expect to be out, and how you're going to get it to your camping spot. There is no "one size-fits-all".

From: Jaquomo
02-Apr-19
I used to "tarp" a lot when I was younger, backpacking and hunting all over. Like Ziek said, theres no one way, and as AndyJ likes to point out, everyone has a different "tolerance for suffering". I had some issues with mice and spiders and once had a cloudburst running through my sleeping bag in the middle of the night, so I decided years ago that another pound and a half was tolerable to have a floor and be a little more weatherproof. When those nasty storms come in where rain, hail, or snow are blowing sideways it sure is nice to come back to a camp I know will be dry and secure.

For truck camping I have a half dozen different tents of varying sizes, a wall tent, plus a camper. Pretty much exactly what Ziek listed.

From: Jaquomo
02-Apr-19

Jaquomo's embedded Photo
Jaquomo's embedded Photo
Tarp camping isn't much fun when it's like this in elk camp at 8,200' in mid-September. The guys camping at 10K had it much worse.

From: Lost Arra
02-Apr-19
Ziek's suggestion of a bivy sack is definitely not for everyone (including myself) even with a tarp and good weather.

From: Predeter
02-Apr-19
I did a tarp for a couple seasons. I loved the floorless but didn't like the way it pitched (I had a Six Moon Designs). It was great when you could be in the trees and use them for pitching off of but it sucked for open areas, especially in any wind. Never had any issue with rain/water although I thought it would be the biggest issue before I used one.

Now I run a freestanding tent that I can take the inner tent and floor out of and just run the outer. Pretty light, bomb proof, easy pitching anywhere, and still floorless. Love it.

From: DonVathome
02-Apr-19
3# tent is a small price to pay and saves a little bit of weight on a sleeping bag.

From: elkstabber
03-Apr-19
I've used a conventional 3 season tent for a long time. Recently in the last couple of years I've tried to like a tarp. I'm still trying to like it. I've found that I just don't like it when mice run across my face at night.

From: Paul@thefort
03-Apr-19

Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
hillside tarp camp while solo hunting muledeer, Ok for a few days if the weather is nice. it rained that night and fog in the am
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
hillside tarp camp while solo hunting muledeer, Ok for a few days if the weather is nice. it rained that night and fog in the am
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
yep, I like protection on all side for a longer stay
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
yep, I like protection on all side for a longer stay
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
good weather only tarp camp or one or two days scouting hunting
Paul@thefort's embedded Photo
good weather only tarp camp or one or two days scouting hunting

From: Beendare
03-Apr-19
It used to be there was a big difference in weight between a tarp...and a full tent. My Henry Shires Tarptent weighs 2# 4 oz including floor, vestibule and bug mesh.

There are a lot of light weight options in Tipis and tents.

From: Jaquomo
03-Apr-19
What Beendare said. I tarped because backpack tents were either heavy or tiny. Now that we have 2 man tents with vestibule well under 3#, there's not much reason to tarp unless you're into the minimalist experience. I believe my BA Fly Creek HV UL weighs right at 2 lbs.

But if you're dead set on a tarp, REI has the Kelty Noah on sale right now for less than $50 tyd. I just ordered one for an emergency shelter to replace the Kifaru Paratarp I sold last year.

From: Z Barebow
03-Apr-19
+1 Beendare and Jac. I have a Cabelas North Star Bivy that I will pretty much give away. One man and slightly over 3 lbs. My current tent (BA FLy Creek 2) Is somewhere between 3 and 4 w/footprint. It was worth the $$$$. (BTW. I also have a Marmot Bivy sack that I am will to sell. Only used once. (I bought it with zipper on wrong side. It may not seem like a big deal. But it is when you are over 50 and struggling for a quick exit strategy in the middle of the night!)

From: Franklin
03-Apr-19
Paul`s set up in pic #1 is my exact set up. With a tarp fly you can get away with a lesser tent and have plenty of storage.

From: Michael
03-Apr-19
Great advice so far.

For back pack hunts I have a Kifaru mega tarp. For two guys and gear it is very roomy. One guy takes tarp and one guy takes stakes. Each guy had a little over a lb.

03-Apr-19
As mentioned just get a free standing tent where you have the option to go with just the fly (floor-less), or add the inner tent. You can then try it both ways as dictated by weather and your preferences. I prefer a conventional tent, - have tried just a bivy sack, and floorless, and a bivy under a tarp but that didn't save any weight over a UL tent....

From: Trial153
03-Apr-19
I go floorless, tipi or tarp probably 80% of the time. 3 or 4 season tent the rest.

From: cubdrvr
03-Apr-19

cubdrvr's Link
I made this a couple years ago and use it for hammock camping. Used it in horrendous thunderstorms a couple times and stayed dry. Just bought a bivy and slept in it the first time last night in sub freezing temps. Did ok; definitely understand the moisture issues with them a little better now. Thinking for truck camping the two might work well together. This tarp wouldn’t have much headroom, but it does close up on both ends when needed. Can be used as a lean-to in good weather also.

From: Glunt@work
03-Apr-19
I usually prefer a tent. They don't weigh much these days. Tarp is great in dry weather but I have been caught a couple times and really wished I had a tent. On a chilly night with a high wind, zipping all the way up in a tent is nice. Also, for some strange reason a thin layer of nylon gives a good sense of safety against rabid sasquatches that snap twigs in the middle of the night.

03-Apr-19
I much prefer a floorless shelter, especially in the weather Jaquomo pictured. A floorless shelter allows me to walk in standing up, no worries regarding boots in the tent, and I can run a stove to keep me warm and dry my gear out.

From: Hackbow
04-Apr-19
I've used both and prefer the versatility of a tarp.

HOWEVER, finding a good spot to stake it out is key. I've remained completely dry in some torrential downpours, but have also had a few wet episodes. My elk hunting partner and I have been using an older, catenary model Kelty Noah's Tarp the last few years with a small additional tarp to give us a vestibule. We've got our system down, but it is still never truly comfortable. He has a floorless tipi we will probably be using from now on.

We've fortunately never run into mice issues, but spiders are almost always a factor. They haven't really bothered us, but can sometimes get annoying. In 2015 I did have a salamander keep trying to crawl in the sleeping bag with me. It didn't take no for an answer and I eventually had to give it an aerial rejection.

As others alluded to above, know your tolerance for discomfort and suffering if you think about going floorless with a tarp. We'll be adding a couple pounds with the tipi (and probably a small titanium stove), but being able to walk into the shelter with our boots on, have reasonable head room, ability to take the chill off and room for us to stretch out a bit will be worth it.

In my experience, the only wrong choice would be a small, single wall tent. Just too much condensation and lack of airflow.

From: Ziek
04-Apr-19

Ziek's embedded Photo
Ziek's embedded Photo
Ziek's embedded Photo
Ziek's embedded Photo
Ziek's embedded Photo
Ziek's embedded Photo
Many seem to only camp one way. My point is, use what's best at the time. Tents, tarps, just a sleeping bag, or in combination.

Nothing is more effective than hunting ALL day (no hiking from and to camp in the dark) and no elaborate set up. Hunt 'til it gets dark, unpack a sleeping bag, get in, have a cold dinner, wake up after a full night sleep, have a quick cold breakfast, pack up quietly (if the elk aren't standing right there), and start hunting. Use a fly only if the weather dictates. The first photo is such a camp with my wife.

But a comfortable camp for longer periods of time can also be beneficial. They can include almost anything depending on location and access. We used to set a large horse camp in a wilderness. A wall tent for cooking, getting warm, lounging etc., and backpacking tents for each party to sleep in. These can take time to set up - sometimes well before the season starts, if possible. One year only my wife and I could make it, and it wasn't worth the effort to bring in and set up the big tent. So we used some of the wall tent poles (stored near camp) to set a large fly for cooking out of the weather. (second photo). We also use this basic method in AK. Setting up a large dome tent for sleeping and storing gear, and rigging a fly for cooking. (Last photo). Of course, you can always spike out for a night or two from such a camp without all the comforts of home.

From: Linecutter
04-Apr-19
You need to be a little pickier where you place a tarp tent. You always have to look for the highest spot where you set up, even it is only a couple if inches difference in case of thunderstorms so the water goes around you and you should use a ground covering of some kind for your sleeping gear. You also need to pay more attention more which way the weather is coming in from so you know which way NOT to set openings. Ya don't need bad weather blowing directly through your set up. A square tarp with a sewn in center line, with multiple loops sewn into that, helps give you more versatility in the type of tarp set up you may want to use. Those center line loops also allow you to pull out one or more sides, for more inside room, and helps prevent ponding on the tarp if it rains. If there are lots of skeeters, tarp tent is not the way to go unless you have a skeeter net. If you are doing that then you might as well have a tent. DANNY

From: WoodMoose
12-Apr-19
I'm in the mouse/face/don't like camp,,,,tarp camped a LOT when I was a kid and in the service,,,,never an issue with mice,,, went into the Frank Church Wilderness with a tarp,,,,dang deer mouse wanted to scamper across my bivy all night long,,,

something to be said for a tent sometimes!!

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