First Look: Zpacks Custom Flat Tarp (My Birthday Presents!)
My birthday was in April and I usually do a birthday post since I almost always get backpacking gear, but this year it’s a little late with a good reason. On my birthday my wonderful husband came to me and said I could put in the order for my custom cuben fiber tarp that I’ve been planning and thinking about for over a year now. So the order was placed with Joe of Zpacks and I waited, but our missions trip to Kenya happened a day before the post office could get the order to me. I spend the entire month and a half knowing I had this big and wonderful Zpacks order just sitting at home, waiting for me. It was killing me! Finally several months after putting in the order, I had my brand new tarp in my hand and now (after weeks of playing with it) I’m sharing it with you!
It is a single panel of cuben fiber fabric and it is 51″ x 96″ (4.25′ x 8′) and I had Joe put 8 tie outs on it so I could do fun pitches like this pyramid pitch. The weight for the tarp came to 3.2 ounces, making this not just a great 3 season tarp, but also a really sweet SUL/XUL shelter! I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am with how this tarp turned out. I have been worrying over the size for over a year now because it was a real gamble. For my 5′ 3″ size it works really well though and I’m happy I went with the 8′ instead of 9′. I went with 8′ based on the fact that most people out there using 9′ or 10′ long tarps are typically 6′ or taller and since I’m barely 5′, I figured I could cut a foot off without too much change in function. I was right. This is not a great picture because I was trying to take it by myself with the camera’s timer (it’s hard to get the camera set up and get into a shelter in the 10 seconds that my camera’s timer allows), but you can see that if I had scooted up a bit more it would be a perfect fit. As it is, my shoes are touching the side, not my feet at all. This combined with my natural sleeping style which has me on my side and slightly curled up, it’s a rather roomy fit for me. Unfortunately, while we were in Africa, our yard was taken over by a few plants that are releasing their seeds right now and the seed pods (as with most things in Arizona) are more like stickers that are very sharp and can punch through even the thickest materials. So this is one of only two pitches I’ve gotten to try in an effort to preserve my beautiful new tarp. I’m hoping to take it out on an overnight shakedown run somewhere north of here where the environment will be much more like what I’m going to experience on the JMT and the other areas I tend to hike in.
To this, I added 10 6.5″ Titanium stakes and a stake bag (I spent my birthday money from my mom for these). I have MSR Groundhog stakes that I love, but they do not work in the hard, packed soil that we have here. The long and skinny shaft of the Zpacks stakes work much better! I am still debating as to whether I’m going to take all 10 or leave two at home for the JMT trip. I’m thinking my standard trips will have me bringing just the base 8 but on a longer trip like the JMT, I don’t want my whole trip derailed because I lost one stake. I am also pairing this with a Mountain Laurel Designs UL Ground Cloth that I cut down for my ground sheet. I’m hoping to exchange this out for a Zpacks Groundsheet Poncho in the future for summer/SUL/XUL trips.
My weights for a typical trip:
- Tarp – 3.2 oz
- Zpacks Zline Guylines – .7 oz
- 8 6.5″ Titanium Stakes – 2.16 oz
- Stuff Sacks – .2 oz
- Cut Down MLD Ground Sheet – 1.6 oz
Total Shelter Weight – 7.86 oz