This the first part of my Lightweight Thoughts series, where I’ll be examining my hiking gear and considering way to improve its weight and improvement.

Current Shelter System

My current shelter arrangement is composed of the Mountain Science Research (MSR) Missing Link tent and a tyvek ground cloth I cut from a sheet of industrial tyvek. The MSR Missing Link is meant to be a two-person tent, but I run on the tall side and I also like the extra space for mobility and keeping my gear near me and out of the elements. The Missing Link has no poles, but instead uses two trekking poles (10oz each) as its main supports. This feature keeps the weight down to 3lbs (48oz) which is remarkable for a three-season, two-person tent. On the downside, it is not free-standing and needs to be staked out; an affair that can take a bit of time and a site that is accommodating to this sort of hiking. Also, the walls are single-layer which can lead to some condensation issues, but this is the case with nearly all of the lightweight tents. The tyvek ground cloth might be overkill in some terrains, but I’d much rather replace a $15 sheet of it than the flooring of an expensive tent.


Total Cost: $265.00 (not adjusted for the time I’ve owned it)
Total Weight: 52oz
(excluding 2 trekking poles, includes ground cloth)

Shelter System #1

Tarp Tent systems offers two models that I’ll be looking at here. Their name is a bit misleading, since several of their products are far more than a “tarp”. The first is the Contrail. This 1+ ultralight tent weighs in at 24.5oz and features flooring (something often missing from ultralight configurations). Like the MSR Missing Link, the Contrail using no dedicated poles, but a single trekking pole (10oz) to set up, which is nice because I generally only carry a second trekking pole for setting up the Missing Link. Also like the Missing Link, the Contrail is not free-standing (needs to be staked out) and is single-walled. I would be inclined to use a ground cloth for the same reasons I mentioned under the Missing Link.

contrail_front.jpg contrail_side.jpg

Total Cost: $214.00
Total Weight: 28oz
(excluding 1 trekking pole, including ground cloth)

Shelter System #2

Another product I looked at also comes from Tarp Tent and is called the Rainbow. This snug 2 person (or spacious 1 person) tent weighs in at 32oz and uses two trekking poles (10oz each) like my existing MSR Missing Link and the Contrail above. Its advantages over both the Contrail and Missing Link is that it can be set up free standing very quickly; only need staking out under windy conditions. Like all the shelter systems I’ve mentioned so far, it has full flooring and bug netting. In all these regards, the Rainbow is a feels to me like a compromise between the Missing Link and the Contrail.


Total Cost: $230.00
Total Weight: 35.5oz
(excluding 2 trekking pole, including ground cloth)

Shelter System #3

My final shelter system consideration is actually a composite of several solutions and a big departure from the three systems above. It was inspired by some of the rigs Implementor and legions of ultralight hikers have employed. I’ve kept mine a bit more robust than those minimalist arrangements in keeping with my Mission Statement, but I think I have still come up with a surprisingly good option. This solution involves a true tarp, ground cloth, bivy bag and bug netting. While not as all inclusive as the three systems above, this system is very light, allows for customizing (modular) in the field and still competitively priced as well. On the downside, its more exposed (in principle) and may require more finesse to deploy. The components are: an A16 Bug Bivy (6oz), ground cloth (3.5oz), Montbell Breeze Dry-Tec U.L. Bivy Sack (6.5oz) and Integral Designs 5’x8′ “Sil Tarp” (7oz). An optional configuration I’ve considered replaces the Integral Designs “Sil Tarp” with a same size Integral Designs “Sil Poncho” (10oz) which can do double duty as a trail poncho as well as shelter. While several hikers go without the bug bivy and the bag bivy altogether, I prefer the additional protection from pests and rain spray. Optimally this design uses one trekking pole (10oz).


Total Cost: $230.00 ($235.00 for poncho version)
Total Weight: 23oz (26oz for poncho version)
(excluding 1 trekking pole, including ground cloth)