Alpine Shelter


Original Post
t.farrell · Mar 5, 2017 · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Looking to get a new lightweight solo shelter. Trying to decide between a tarp, three-sided pyramid, and a hex-mid. The purpose would be some sort of lightweight shelter to keep in the bottom of the pack to use only when absolutely needed. I can't do bivy sacks, so they're out.

Flat tarp
7'x9' - 6 oz (usuable area varies)
Would be super versatile in terms of configuration but probably not the most weather proof. Also the lightest option.
Also requires carrying at least 4 stakes and guy lines
Possibly difficult to set up.

Three sided pyramid
8 oz
48" wide at entrance base
48" at highest point
108" length
12" wide at feet (7' from entrance)
12" high at feet

3-Mid

This would be something I'd make myself. I wanted to make something that only needed three stakes and could be made relatively simply. It's designed so you could cut a 3 yard piece diagonally then joined with a single seam. There one be one half door on one side of the entrance and a full one (not pictured) on the other side to overlap and close off the entrance. Gear could be stored in the tiny triangle beyond the end of sleeping pad. I feel like the shape is also very wind/storm proof.

Would require 3 stakes but would benefit from more. Most likely easiest to set up. It's not as versatile as a flat tarp but could still be used as just a (triangular) tarp due to simple construction.

Zpacks hexamid solo plus
12oz
Peak Height: 51 inches (130 cm)
Length: 9 feet (2.75 meters)
Width at center: 62 inches (158 cm)
Width at ends: 42 inches (107 cm)
Entryway Height: 29 inches (74 cm)
Vestibule Depth: About 12 inches (30 cm)

ZPacks Hex

Premade hex - has proven design and wouldn't require assembly. Very weatherproof. It's also quite spacious which is a pro and a con as it requires a large space to set up. Requires 10 stakes (believe you can get away with 6). The big problem for me is that it is not versatile at all, and I feel like there are scenarios where it would be useless because there wouldn't be room to set up. Probably difficult to set up in wind.

So those are the three options in considering. Would love some feedback or input or alternatives.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · Mar 5, 2017 · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0
Why can't you do bivvy sacks? Cause it really looks like you need one of those super cheap and light and nearly disposable mylar silver bivvy sacks.

They don't breathe wonderfully but the inside condensation has never been a problem. I've spent nights in one with a sleeping bag and with no sleeping bag. It's totally functional. Also lighter than any of your options.

t.farrell · Mar 5, 2017 · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Kind of a dumb reason but they're just too claustrophobic for me. Probably not the most valid argument but it's enough to bother me to the point of exploring alternatives.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · Mar 5, 2017 · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0
Mylar bivy + ativan = still super lightweight

Graham Johnson · Mar 5, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 0
What about something like this: brooks-range.com/quick-tent...

jaredj · Mar 5, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0
Integral Designs used to make something like this called the Sil Shelter . I never used one, but seemed to me to be slightly more convenient than a flat tarp. Honestly, the Black Diamond Beta Light seems to be the closest thing on the market, but requires two poles and has a bigger footprint. Your idea looks like a fun DIY project.

Jonathan Haws · Mar 5, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 0
I have a friend who really likes tarp tents from tarptent.com. Sounds a lot like what you describe, though I've never used one myself.

Muscrat · Mar 5, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,040
I really like my BD Beta Light. I carry the fly and a piece of tyvek. Weighs what, 20 OZ. Sleeps 2. Need the poles, but those i have. Sheds precip nice, can adjust venting, well designed.

James T · Mar 5, 2017 · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 20
t.farrell wrote: The big problem for me is that it is not versatile at all, and I feel like there are scenarios where it would be useless because there wouldn't be room to set up. Probably difficult to set up in wind.
6-sided hex tarps can be set up in a rectangular shape with 4 corners:

6 - 2 = 4

Not my photo but I do the same thing with mine. This improves the versatility and uses less space.

IMO if it's an emergency you don't want to skimp on tie-out points (doesn't mean you need to carry more stakes). Of course a hex is heavier than a flat tarp, but if it was me I'd go with a bivy or a hex.

MLD makes some pretty light solo 4 sided pyramids (the solomid)

Allen Sanderson · Mar 5, 2017 · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,115
I am a bivy sac person mostly because I have used mine in more than one place that setting up anything sans floor would really mean wrapping it around ourselves with less than satisfactory results. A tent can become a large bivy sac - I know a few folks who have done that.

That said I think Graham's suggestion of the Brooks Range is the best so far: brooks-range.com/quick-tent...

Simple and requires only a few tie downs. Which for an emergency shelter is going to be an important consideration.

t.farrell · Mar 6, 2017 · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
Right now I'm leaning toward a tarp because I can set it up as a hex or regular pyramid and numerous other configurations. Anyone have experience with just a tarp and a ski pole? Any advantages/disadvantages I'm missing?

James T · Mar 6, 2017 · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 20
It's hard (but not impossible) to pitch a flat tarp without any open ends. If you want full enclosure, then a shaped tarp is definitely the way to go (ie the BR quick tent). I've used my "bottom of the pack" flat tarp for protection from sun and mild rain, but I wouldn't be happy with it for anything more extreme than that (unless I wrapped myself up in it like Allen said)

Muscrat · Mar 6, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,040
I think circumstance dictates. If you are in a situation where getting wet = death (Altitude or season) then a shelter you can close up is tantamount. If, on the other hand, you can count on periods of sun (the ability to dry out) it is much easier to 'risk' exposure and go ultralight. Sleeping bag is also a factor. There are times i have forgone any shelter, fast and light w/synthetic bag.
And yes, i have spent some miserable nights. Hence i now take the aforementioned BD beta light fly.

t.farrell · Mar 6, 2017 · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0
I actually think it's pretty easy to pitch a flat tarp with no openings. The biggest problem is adjusting everything to get it taut, which is where a shaped shelter wins, but I can get a hex or 4-sides mid up in under 5 minutes. That's in the backyard though. It also still takes up a decent amount of space.

Are you saying ease of preshaped shelter outweighs the versatility of a flat tarp? Or that you can't set up a tarp in a way that's fully enclosed (I don't mean that to sound insulting if that's how it sounds)?

jaredj · Mar 6, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0
t.farrell wrote:I actually think it's pretty easy to pitch a flat tarp with no openings. The biggest problem is adjusting everything to get it taut, which is where a shaped shelter wins, but I can get a hex or 4-sides mid up in under 5 minutes. That's in the backyard though. It also still takes up a decent amount of space. Are you saying ease of preshaped shelter outweighs the versatility of a flat tarp? Or that you can't set up a tarp in a way that's fully enclosed (I don't mean that to sound insulting if that's how it sounds)?
Where do you live? Where do you climb? I think the answers to so many of these questions are "it depends". It depends on your style. Do you plan your trips aggressively and arrive at the end of the day hungry, tired, dehydrated, and cold? Futzing with your flat tarp might really piss you off. Are you mostly going out in nice summer conditions and bivying in relatively sheltered places? Go for it.

The tarp isn't an end-all be-all solution. It's an element in your shelter quiver. If you've got a lightweight "bivy tent" like a BD Firstlight, then the tarp may be less of a diversifier for you. If your choices are "tarp and 4-season bombshelter" because all you own is a bombshelter, then yeah you'll use it a ton.

Again, where it fits into your quiver informs your tolerance for futzing around.

It's hard to answer these questions in a vacuum.

Personally, I've gotten a ton of use out of a flat tarp in the Cascades. I've had good luck pitching it in a modified pyramid style with a partial opening as well as more garden variety pitches. I recommend the Oware USA silnylon version with lots of tie-outs on the body for versatility. My next lightest shelter is a BD Lighthouse which I generally favor if I know it's gonna be an exposed camp or bivy on snow.

If I were to do over again, I'd probably go with a shaped tarp like the BD Beta Light or the Brooks Range version shown above, mostly because I believe they're marginally easier to pitch than a flat tarp when you're tired and they offer marginally more weather protection. The versatility of the flat tarp is something that I think appeals to the academically minded, or long-trail thru-hikers with too much time on their hands at the end of the day.

James T · Mar 6, 2017 · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 20
t.farrell wrote:I actually think it's pretty easy to pitch a flat tarp with no openings. The biggest problem is adjusting everything to get it taut, which is where a shaped shelter wins, but I can get a hex or 4-sides mid up in under 5 minutes. That's in the backyard though. It also still takes up a decent amount of space. Are you saying ease of preshaped shelter outweighs the versatility of a flat tarp? Or that you can't set up a tarp in a way that's fully enclosed (I don't mean that to sound insulting if that's how it sounds)?
Not saying that it can't be done, I'm just agreeing with Jared ^^ in that I'd rather not deal with it. Again it is very situation dependent, but yes I think the ease of pitch and weatherproofness outweighs the versatility of a flat tarp for this scenario.

I'm a believer in the gear quiver as well - the right tool for the job makes all the difference! At the same time, having more tools does not equal success. It sucks huddling under a 6oz tarp in a rain/wind storm and it also sucks carrying a 24oz hex tarp at the bottom of my pack if it never gets used.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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