The WRT has moved. If you're looking for info, entries or anything else bikepacking related try Bear Bones Bikepacking, the Bear Bones blog or the Bear Bones forum - ta.

Yea, yea, yea, but what is it?

The WRT is a 3 day and perhaps more importantly 2 night ride through and around mid Wales. You'll be expected to be self sufficient, carrying everything you need and sleeping out in or under whatever you think best. It's not elitist, entry is open to anyone who wants to try it. All the money raised by the WRT goes to the Wales Air Ambulance charity ... an organisation I hope you'll never need.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tarps, tents, shelters and stuff ... part 1

I've been outside a lot today and it hasn't been nice. Low cloud and rain backed up by 60mph winds have made things pretty hard work ... including smiling. It did however get me thinking about what I'd choose to supply some shelter if I were out all night. Most of the time, if I'm looking to keep a bit of weather off I'd reach for a tarp. The size would depend upon whether I was on my own or not, whether there'd be any additional natural shelter (trees, etc) and what I was expecting weather wise. The smallest, lightest tarp I have is around 2m x 1m, weighs 200g and fits in the palm of your hand. On a summer evening, even with a little light rain expected this can be rigged to keep most of the elements at bay. It's only ever going to supply a simple roof, either as a lean to or set up with a ridge, so on a night like tonight it might be best left at home.

The next step up would obviously involve a bigger tarp. The picture below shows Taylors tarp (with Si under it). It's a 3m x 3.5m and set up as a ridge between the trees, pitched low to the ground and in a position to make the most of any natural shelter, would offer a surprising amount of protection ... it's also pretty spacious in there too, so great if you're not alone (or think you'll get lucky in the woods). On a trip just before Christmas a 3m x 4.5m tarp, rigged as a very simple roof covered 5 1/3 men (sorry Steve). The weight of that tarp was 800g, so while not light in the great scheme of things, it's actually very light for the space/protection it offers.

Returning back to tonight's weather, I might be looking for a little more protection though ... remember the wind driven rain. Well, a tarp can offer as much or as little protection as you want, just as long as you're willing to invest some time playing about. Once you do start thinking about folding rather than just tying, then you can knock up lots of interesting shapes and forms. The top picture is a 3m x 3m tarp, it hasn't been sewn into that shape only folded and pegged. It's enclosed on 3 sides, has a 'sewn in' groundsheet and a beak/porch for cooking and storage. If the weather really took a turn, the beak can be dropped almost to the ground, giving the happy camper inside almost total coverage. Total weight including, pegs, guys and pole is around 800g.

Tarps are always going to be something of an acquired taste. Some people will point out you can get an ultralight tent that weighs the same and that's true, but ... you can't get one that packs as small, is as quick to pitch and strike and then there's the problem of the ultralight tent costing you around 4 times as much ... origami, it's the future!


  1. Yeah, but with my UL tent I don't require a bivvy bag and with the right down bag I'm under 1.5kg for the setup. Plus it takes on the weather like no tarp ever could.

  2. "Some people will point out you can get an ultralight tent that weighs the same"

    And as if by magic ;o)

  3. yeah yeah yeah ;o)

    But when the wind is howling and that lovely welsh weather is in force, tarps are miserable! Used a MSR Twin Peaks (tarp tent) in Wales, it spent a week as our shelter climbing in the Alps, the Welsh rain was a step too far though!!

    Then the argument on pack volume and weight fall over, my preferred setup comes in at 1.6kg (tent, xl sleeping bag (4°C) and sleep mat) compared to raiding Alpkit for Tarp and Bivvy which come in at 1kg, then add poles, pegs, etc. volume is creeping up for your origami and so is weight and then price.

    "... remember the wind driven rain. Well, a tarp can offer as much or as little protection as you want, just as long as you're willing to invest some time playing about." After a long bike, with loaded bike, etc. in the wind driven rain, you are presented with a nylon sheet, and how to fold a shelter, with the now wet nylon slapping you in the face! Don't worry, if you're nearby I'll make you a cuppa whilst I relax in my tent ;o)

    Decathlon do a lightweight backpacking tent £80. ;o)

  4. I'll be getting round to the virtues of tents and why, at times they're so much better than anything else ... I'll always take you up on the offer of a brew though, no matter where I'm sleeping!

  5. hahaha no worries on the brew! Although no begging to share the tent when your tarp blows away! :o)