My logic on my tarp vs tent decision.

Discussion in 'Shelter' started by Juany118, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    Okay, was just wondering what people thought of the following logic.

    First I will be getting both. I will list the reason/purpose for each below. Both need to accommodate not only myself but on occassion fiancee and possibly step daughter. Also note, we aren't hammock users.

    1.Tarp either a 4m x 4m or 10'x10.
    -This would be for 2-3 dayers where I want to go light and where I will be in an area with ample tree cover for proper raising etc. Most importantly when the weather forecast is reliable in terms of lack of to light precipitation. Also where we will be isolated.

    Another consideration is whether or not there are a lot of biting insects, snakes etc in the area.

    2. Tent, free standing.
    -This would be for longer trips and/or ones that call for messy weather or places where there is a good chance of other hikers/backpackers passing by.

    The reason for adding the tent is as follows.

    1.While I like the versatility of the tarp the lighter weight gets undercut, with my size requirements, by medium to heavy rain means I have to bring a ground tarp along that I can make into a bathtub. This is not just an issue when I see such weather in a short term forecast, but the last few years Philly area weather people have a hard time getting the 5 day right anymore.

    2. The weight advantage gets further undercut by netting

    3. I think the soon to be wife and step daughter would appreciate additional privacy if in a heavily traveled area.

    I think both have their place. I will likely even get a smaller tarp, most likely canvas however, to use as cover over the cooking area when tenting. If after I retire I buy a couple wooded acres as the Private family camp ground I might even completely convert to tarps for that location because then I have the opportunity to make raised beds, thermal walls and other semi permanent structures, without running a foul of the PA DCNR Rangers in a State Park or Forest ;)
     
  2. caoimhin_s

    caoimhin_s Tracker

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    Makes sense, though I wouldn't discount the tarp for longer trips, nor shy await from it in wet weather.

    I've used my silnylon tarp on extended trips (7+ days) and also on trips that were very wet. Last Fall I used my tarp on a week long trip where it rained and/or snowed almost constantly the entire time. You need a groundsheet (I use Tyvek) to keep off the wet ground, but I find it comfortable.

    Like you, I do use a tent when the wife and/or child come along. They don't like the idea of mice crawling on them in the night!
     
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  3. Zunga

    Zunga Guide

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    10x10 is fine for a small camp imo. But if your setting up for a family. You would likely want a larger dry area for around the tent. My experience with tents in very wet weather. Is getting location and ground tarp right is the trick. Water running over your ground tarp is never a pleasant way to wake up. Just my two cents. ;)
    Cheers Jim
     
  4. Back Off

    Back Off Scout

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    Agree with most of your points as I have a similar setup although my tent is not freestanding and I see that as being a must if on rocky terrain. I do also agree that tarps can be used in very wet/snowy situations. I wish I could afford a Sawtooth tarp From Kifaru with the stove. Anyway I know a lot of mountain hunters that only use tarps. I tend to go with the tent when skeeters are thick. In MN I am not worried about snakes at all but in areas with rattlers or cottonmouths, yeah, I am in a tent or if it is just me, a hammock set up. Thats a 3rd piece of gear I would look into if I were you.
     
  5. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    I would but I am such a side/stomach sleeper. I tried HARD to be a hammock sleeper and it will certainly be a hard time getting an kindergartner who is a sleep contortionist to adapt :(
     
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  6. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    That's why I always go "big" with a ground tarp so I can fold in 6" on all four sides. Then I would fold up 90' on all four sides and secure with duct tape. That is a lot of work though vs just pitching a 3 person free standing tent that takes 2 aluminum poles. Closing in on 50 I be lazy ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
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  7. xrayit

    xrayit Supporter Supporter

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    Tarps, tents and hammocks all have a place in my kit. Solo I use a 10x10 tarp, one person tent like the MSR Hubba NX or my Dream Hammock set up depending upon my mood. Solo + as in me and a few friends that hammock I will use a hammock so that I don’t get any grief because I have gone to ground. When with my son we will go with hammocks, with girlfriend NO WAY she is spending a night in the woods without a tent, nope not gonna happen! For those trips I use the Tarptent Scarp 2 with either the solid or net liner depending upon the season. For my use I don’t think there is a one modality that fits every trip, depends on the company, weather and type of trip thats planed
     
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  8. Ryan Alexander

    Ryan Alexander Tracker

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    It's hard to stay warm in a tent unless you have heavy sleeping bags. That's the main disadvantage for me. With a tarp i can set up a fire and reflective wall to keep myself toasty warm. Can't carry a tent, mat and sleeping bag without conveyance or.. spending 4-500$ on a lightweight set up that's probably going to get ripped up in the field. I also don't like roasting alive during the summer when it reaches 90F. I know for some people that's not very hot but when 20F is the norm for most of the year.. 90 is a nightmare.

    #edit
    90 and high humidity is a nightmare, i need a breeze or something.
     
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  9. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    On the last note, don't move to Pennsylvania, SE PA, in particular. You just described the weather from late June to late September. ;) The Mid-Atlantic is a weird beast. Hell it was 30 degrees last night when I was on duty, Saturday it will be well over 70?

    As for the cost, in terms of quality "3 season" bags, tents and pads I think you might be surprised on costs. That surprised me the most tbh.

    @xrayit I think a big part of the problem is my fiance and step daughter are "I can't sleep in a hammock" period. I used to be able to sleep in anywhere and anything, in any position. However my almost 50 year old body, beaten up by one uniform or another, has me being fine sleeping on a decent backpacking air pad but due to age I am now a "stomach" sleeper and have yet to find a hammock that accomdates that "condintion."
     
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  10. Ryan Alexander

    Ryan Alexander Tracker

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    It can get pretty wierd here in NY too. I know last weekend it dropped to 20F, snowed all night and in the morning it warmed up to 60F and melted it all. Rained like hell for half of the day and snowed again. Can't seem to make up it's mind lol
     
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  11. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    Second winter anyone? Lol
     
  12. thereandbackagain

    thereandbackagain Scout

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    The psychology in choosing is a consideration. I went on University field trips with a sleeping bag and tarp ( often never used.) My class mix would see some erecting tents that took up half a Volvo Stationwagon. Many people see that thin layer of material as extension of home capable of repelling rampaging Grizzle Bars, Pagan Biker gangs and temperature drops below 79 FH. It also creates a barricade to fully enjoy Nature in fair weather. There will be times for a tent surely. Education through experience can let it stay home and give more room in that Volvo who's driver slept in it with the doors locked.
     
  13. holygoat

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    I’ve found that a tent or tipi that reaches the ground makes for a much warmer night under a quilt than one that admits a breeze … and a tarp is even more breezy.

    I recently picked up a Seek Outside LBO, which is very flexible: I can use a nest if weather or bugs are bad, strip it right back to be just a shelter half if I really need to reduce weight, and next winter I’ll pick up a titanium stove and use it as a hot tent.
     
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  14. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    I found that sometimes looking at psychology can get us stuck in the weeds, so to speak, and so stick to practical matters. As an example, many years ago when I left the Army in my 20's I would go camping with my woobie, poncho and foam pad, th poncho often staying in my pack. Today I say "I am now close to 50, my comfort is more important to me." (or maybe my body isn't what it used to be because of what I did to it?)

    Is that psychology or is it simply age effecting my body? Was my actions then those of a of a testosterone filled Cav Scout who had to prove "been there done that" to the "civilians" I went camping with? I could go around in circles indefinitely on the potential psychological influences that caused yesterday, today and potentially tomorrow.

    So I stick to the practical matters of my environment, my physical vulnerabilities and those I tramp with first and foremost. If someone "insists", like my 5 year old soon to be step daughter (or her mother, in her step daughter's interest) then I will move from practical. I only add the 5 year old because its funny how being "natural" can come from different directions. Mine was from the Army, my fiancee' was a participant in the Rainbow Gatherings in her day. Both couldn't be more different in attitude, but in terms of exposed to nature, very similar.

    tl;dr: always start with the practical matters of personal physical and environmental issues. Only think "psychology" when the former are addressed otherwise you can get lost in the weeds.
     
  15. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    I think your logic is sound.

    I have a variety of shelters- the time of year, weather, terrain, what kind of trip all factor in what gets taken. I'll often go very spartan on fast and light trips, BUT if my wife goes- it's first class all the way- large double walled, free standing tent, thick mattresses (and now even lightweight cots and chairs!). She made it very clear the couple of times I tried to introduce her into more spartan ways- if momma ain't happy, no one is happy :4:
     
  16. Black5

    Black5 Supporter Supporter

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    Simple logic from an ex Cav scout:

    Me=tarp or light tent
    Wife= 30 ft fifth wheel

    My body doesn't adapt as well to poncho and woobie anymore either.:confused:
     
  17. Dave L.

    Dave L. Scout

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    I have multiple tarps, tents, bivvy sacks, + one hammock, I decide what to bring based on type of trip, weather, location, and who's coming with me. I don't believe in the "one perfect shelter".
     
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  18. hidden_lion

    hidden_lion Scout

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    Don't forget you don't need trees to setup a tarp as shelter, though it gives you more options. All you need is hiking poles. Asmmin everything, options are good to have. I use both tentrs and tarps and have a few different kinds of each. What I like about the tarp is the feeling of still sleeping under the stars like I did in my youth, but still have protection from the rain. I am kind of surprised no one makes a tent with a clear roof/rain fly so campers can fall asleep looking i to the night sky
     
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  19. arleigh

    arleigh Guide

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    Build your own tent .
    For motorcycle travel and personal camping I built a double walled single man tent using rip stop nylon and shock corded polls .
    If I can do it, you can.
     
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  20. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe Tracker

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    I would love to see any pictures of the tent if you have any.
    It's always nice to have someone else's perspective before I steal, I mean get inspired by the design. :20:
     
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  21. Evilwhitey

    Evilwhitey Tracker

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    I never plan on having a fire. In my mind, a fire is a luxury so I plan accordingly. I have three sleeping bag and pad combos, which range from 2.2lbs to 5.3lbs and comfortable in 20F down to at least -10F.

    1) Extreme winter: 5F Marmot 850fp Down Bag, 20F Enlightened Equipment Apex Quilt, Thermarest Xtherm and a Thermarest Ridgerest. That's good to colder than I've ever needed and most of the time in an appropriate shelter I never use the quilt.

    2) Winter: 5F Marmot 850fp Down Bag, Thermarest Xtherm

    3) 3-Season: 19oz 900fp down bag, Thermarest Xtherm


    Since purchasing quality (yes it's expensive) gear and learning to plan better, I've never been cold regardless of the weather I encounter. Lightweight sleeping bags are good for 500+ nights before any degradation of the down impacts it's rating. Sleeping pads can spring leaks but I always have a cut down z-lite with me as a backup if patches don't work. Silnylon shelters are surprisingly durable, especially when used with a groundsheet.


    In regards to OP's question. I'd just plan on picking up a tent or tents. There's ZERO chance I could get my wife and probably daughters to camp without a tent. I use a single man double walled shelter (tarptent notch) that's ~ 27oz. I have a SMD Lunar Duo that I'll probably use for family stuff if we backpack together and if the entire family wants to go I'll just use multiple shelters. The only shelter we have that can fit us all is our big six man Cabelas Alaskan Guide that we use for car camping and even that's getting small for us.

    Regarding age, it's absolutely a factor. As I get older I feel more aches and pains when camping and opt for more and more comforts. It's also why I spent good money on lightweight backpacking gear and developed streamlined gear lists, less weight on my back simply makes for a much more enjoyable trip.
     
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  22. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    On the first point, totally agree with you regarding sleep systems. If you don't mind a little extra weight and you want a bullet proof sleep system you can just get an MSS. Heck with that, if youyou really hard core, you dont even need aatent if you are solo since you have the goretex bivy. A friend of mine got the complete system, in great shape, for under $100.00 are a gun show in Feb.

    Also I think people under estimate the insulation factor of a good 4 season tent. On top of that, if you want to a fire can still warm the tent even if at a safe distance from the tent (3 meters). I have simply used the silver side of a small tarp from Home Depot as a reflector.

    Also, when crunching the numbers, when you add in the weight of the support systems for a hammock, I really don't see a huge weight savings over a a tent set up.
     
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  23. Young Blacksmith

    Young Blacksmith Supporter Supporter

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    When I use a tent, it's one of the modern screen topped ones. I put the rain fly up, then put it down behind the tent. That way we can all fall asleep with the stars, get good ventilation, etc, and if it sprinkles or starts to rain the protection is easy to put up. I have a one person bivy tent with the same design, very easy to unroll the rain fly or keep it stowed. When I tarp camp I have been using a bug net to keep mosquitoes away, and it gives me a sense of protection against snakes and such. No hammock yet, I'd rather save my pennies for a BCO tarp first.
     
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  24. Evilwhitey

    Evilwhitey Tracker

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    My 4-season hilleberg is extremely warm with all the vents and doors closed up. We were in a blizzard at 10k in February a few winters ago and my buddy and I were so warm we ended up sleeping with our 15F bags unzipped and only covering our knees and below. It was my first time out with the tent and I was seriously impressed. We had 50+ mph winds and the tent was unfazed.

    That said, it's a heavy 8lb tent so I only use it in the winter.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
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  25. ra2bach

    ra2bach Guide

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    how do you suppose people sleep out for 5 months while they walk 2200 miles on the Appalachian Trail? they don't use a conveyance and their stuff usually survives the entire trip. seems pretty lightweight and durable to me...

    I don't know because I use a hammock (less than 4 lbs for hammock, tarp, quilts, and suspension) but a lot of people use Henry Shire's Tarptent or similar -- https://www.tarptent.com/
     
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  26. Ryan Alexander

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    Because they usually do it during summer? Sorry i guess my mind is still firmly wrapped around winter and the cold.
     
  27. Evilwhitey

    Evilwhitey Tracker

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    Winter isn't much different than my 3-season kit weight wise. Needing snowshoes or skis is where the primary weight difference comes from but if my 3-season setup is 11-13lbs base weight depending upon luxuries, my winter setup sans snowshoes or skis is probably 18-22lbs and that's good to colder weather than I'll ever see in the lower 48.
     
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  28. ra2bach

    ra2bach Guide

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    I've slept outdoors in subzero weather in a Boy Scout pup tent and in a hammock under a tarp. a tent doesn't keep you warm in winter unless you're hot tenting. any tent that blocks wind and can sustain a snow load can be a 4-season tent...

    but that's a different discussion. what's the purpose of your thread - are you really trying to decide whether to use a tarp or winter tent?..
     
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  29. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    Note, none of what folloes is to say that Tarp and hammocking isn't a viable option. I think both have pros and cons. I just think that, based on my military experience, that when it comes to weather neither holds a clear advantage. It's all about selecting the right equipment.

    Thru Hikers do it to on both the AT and PCT. 5-6 months on the trail, often ending in the winter months at elevation to boot. Some even section hike purposefully to be in winter for a new challenge.

    They go light weight and rely on the sleep system; high R factor pads, cold weather bags or quilts etc., in light weight tents by people like Tarptent, Zpack etc. You have to remember on a thru hike they will hit towns regularly where they can resupply (usually every 5 days or so). Some even have things arranged so that if they start with a 40 degree bag they have a cold weather bag waiting for them at a certain town and they swap out. It's a different mind set than Bushcraft or survival, it's just about efficiently, safely and comfortably getting from point A to point B.

    The thermal properties of cold weather sleep systems are rather impressive. As an example while not light weight the MSS has been used extensively in Arctic conditions. You take the 3 season bag, zip it into the artic bag then put it into the Goretex bivy and you are now rated to -30 F. There are even lighter weight, but more expensive, civilian versions of this set up now as well. Hence why you can find MSS systems for under $100.00 now if you look hard enough (usually in person at gun and knife shows, "Army surplus" stores can rip you off because they bank on the "...surplus" making you think it's a deal.)

    First to your last point. I think the issue got a bit derailed. I was talking about all seasons, with my cold-weather experience in mind.

    That said, There are indeed tents that are 4 season. One of the main considerations is it having 2 things.

    1. More structural support to deal with high winds and snow fall.
    2. Less, or more controlled, ventilation than a 3 season tent. Trying to strike the balance between providing more insulation while still allowing the moisture you exhale to not condense inside the tent to much.

    They are not cheap (it you want light weight) but they have been designed for military, mountaineering, back country skiing and arctic expedition applications.

    Just mentioned the 4 season tent to point out that they do indeed exist but are largely specialized pieces of equipment. I think my backcountry skiing buddy's light weight Mountain Hardware tent cost between $6-700 bucks? And it's a one man tent?!?!? Too expensive for my tastes.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  30. Juany118

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    @ra2bach back to the point of the OP. (Also sorry for the wall of text above, working atm with 4 hours of sleep in the last 24) It wasn't about winter temps because in my experience the right tent and/or sleep system makes tents, even in arctic temps, more than workable. The MSS is actually designed to go to -30 F + with NO tent thanks to the bivy (sure as hell beats the crappy canvas shelter half I packed back in the day.) The main point was to explain the more basic advantages/disadvantages as I see them in terms of the different shelter systems.

    I think the one you bring is largely based more on the more personal (read subjective) things as you can make any of them work in most of the practical (objective) circumstances.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  31. Evilwhitey

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    One note on the MSS... I'm not a fan of mine for anything but the price. I use it car camping but it's a poor fit for me and I don't find it that warm. I stay warm in it down to ~ 20F. Contrast that with my 20F 19oz down bag that I stay warm in down to at least 20F. Fit makes a difference and note, the MSS was never meant to keep you warm at -30F, just barely alive.

    I agree Juany118, my experience with 4-season tents is that they are built much better to handle the elements. While other quality tents were collapsing in the snow and wind in that trip I mentioned above, my tent was rock solid and very warm. The crazy thing was that even buttoned up, condensation wasn't an issue. I don't know what kind of voodoo hilleberg uses but it works.

    I want to get into hammocks because of the flexibility with sidehills. It would really open up the areas where I could camp. The only place I frequent I'd struggle to find a place to camp is the Wind Rivers since much of it is above the tree line.

    Every shelter has it's drawbacks. The bugs keep me a big fan of tents and hammocks with bug netting.
     
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  32. Juany118

    Juany118 Tracker

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    On the MSS of course. Not only on fit but also the temp rating. Not every civilian manufacturer does it but the "good" ones put what amounts to a "comfort" temp rating on their bag and a "keep you alive" rating. The Army obviously doesn't see the relevance of the former when it comes to general issue equipment.

    Just curious though, were you using all three components?

    Also the one clear advantage I see to hammocks is dealing with steeper grades and generally crap terrain. I have a couple dedicated AT hikig acquaintances. One likes tenting. She is a people person and doesn't mind that the "good" sites might be a bit crowded some times of the year. The other does it to get away from things. He hammocks because it helps him to get away, and stay away, from other people when on the trail.
     
  33. Evilwhitey

    Evilwhitey Tracker

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    Yeah, I was using all three. Don't get me wrong, for $80 it's a great piece of gear and my goto for car camping. It's just huge, heavy, and like I said, I don't stay very warm in it.

    I hate camping around other people, which is the big draw for me to move towards hammocks. The ability for me to go off trail, up the side of a mountain and camp in 10x the places I can with a tent is really really appealing. It's just $$$, research, and time that's kept me from taking the plunge.
     
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  34. Juany118

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    On the first answer, understood. The weight is crazy indeed, between 9 and 10 lbs afaik. I think the Snugpak SF system is like 6 lbs and is rated to "comfy" at -6 but is also expensive.

    I wish I could get into hammocks but I am such a side/stomach sleeper I fear I would spend many a restless night.
     
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