Gear Watch: Transparent Ultralight Shelter from GOLD Gear

March 28, 2013

Sometimes a picture says it all:

The Solo Super-Ultralight Camping & Survival Tarp/Tent is the creation of David Gardner, owner of Gardner Outdoor Lightweight Designs, aka GOLD Gear.
Why am I writing about it? Isn’t it obvious, er, transparent? I love the idea that you can be safe and secure from wind and rain, yet still able to enjoy an unfettered view of your surroundings. 
The product is essentially an ultralight (5.4 ounces) 7′ x 9′ tarp that features 10 tie-out points created with racing yacht sail repair tape. It can be rigged in traditional tarp fashion (pictured on the right), or you can order custom end flaps to pitch it for full weather protection, as the above picture illustrates. The complete 12.3-ounce set-up, including guylines, titanium stakes, and two small carbon poles for set-up runs $100, or $60 for just the tarp.

And, yes, it’s completely transparent. So what’s the material that makes this possible? Per the web site, the shelter is made from “cross-linked polyolefin (also known as “polycryo” and “polycro”), an incredibly tough, light plastic.”

So what is this stuff? And how durable can it really be? Polycro is an uncommon material used in outdoor equipment—its primary use seems to be for shrink-wrap insulation on electrical equipment—so it’s a bit hard to say, especially since I have no direct experience with this stuff.

A handful of ultralight gear makers do offer ground cloths made from polycro, including Gossamer Gear, which has a couple of glowing testimonials about its durability, so it does seems to be pretty puncture resistant at the very least. Given the ultralight weight and low cost of the system, gram-counting ultralighters may want to add it to their list of possibilities.

“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.