If you’re looking for the lightest weight shelter possible, a tarp is the way to go—and these days you can find a range of ultralight options that easily weigh under a pound. Here’s a quick review of some of the available options.
Before we get there, however, it’s worth noting that such radical weight savings require some sacrifices. There’s no bug protection beneath a tarp. There’s no floor, either. Tarps offer less protection than a tent in rainy and windy conditions (though you can still stay dry with some care). And pitching a tarp quickly and effectively takes some skill and practice.
Tarps come in a range of shapes and sizes, though most basic styles are more or less rectangular. In terms of size, as a general rule an 8 foot by 10 foot tarp can accommodate two people (or provide ample room for one), while a tarp in the 6 foot by 8 foot range provides just enough coverage for the serious solo minimalist. Also be aware that most tarp set-ups require the use of at least one trekking pole, plus multiple guylines and a minimum of six to eight stakes (ultralight titanium stakes weigh as little as 0.2 ounce each).
Most ultralight tarps are made from silnylon, a very lightweight and tear-resistant fabric. Silnylon isn’t exactly cheap, but it seems downright reasonable compared to the cost of waterproof cuben fiber, the lightest weight material currently being used.
|Integral Designs Siltarp 2|
All that being said, here’s a short list of ultralight tarp options:
Integral Designs Silnylon Tarps
Two sizes of ultralight rectangular tarps are available, each of which uses 30-denier silnylon: Siltarp1 (5′ X 8’3″, 7 ounces, $70) and Siltarp2 (8′ X 10′, 13 ounces, $120).
Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Tarps
The Grace Tarp Solo (12 ounces, $120) and Duo (16 ounces, $160) both featured tapered designs wider at the head end than the foot end.
Etowah Outfitters Silnylon Tarps
A range of rectangular sizes are available, including 6′ X 10′ (9 ounces, $69) and 8′ X 10′ (13 ounces, $84). One of the better deals, plus a helpful how-to video on a basic tarp set-up.
|ZPacks cuben fiber tarp in action|
ZPacks Cuben Fiber Tarps
You can custom order cuben fiber tarps in any dimensions. Common sizes include 6′ X 9′ (4.7 ounces, $190) and 8.5′ X 10′ (6.7 ounces, $255).
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Tarps
This small Maine-based company offers rectangular cuben fiber tarps in 6′ X 8′ (6.4 ounces, $300) and 8′ X 10′ sizes (8.6 ounces, $340, pictured above) and more tapered designs in its Echo II (7.1 ounces, $310).
Plenty of other ultralight tarps are available—please share if you have a preferred style or brand!