Tarp shelters for unicycle touring

I am looking into getting a nice Tarp Shelter for solo self supported unicycle touring. I am thinking it will be nicer than a bivvy bag and give me more freedom to move around in and cook. Does anyone have any recommendations for a nice lightweight tarp shelter?

I have my dividend money from REI and a 20% coupon, so I was thinking about getting this:

To tie the tarp to trees or structures I was going to use this guyline:

Any thoughts??

I am thinking that carrying a tarp will be a lot nicer than carrying a tent for touring. The weight will only be a little over a pound and won’t take up much space in my backpack.

do you need trees to tie that thing to? after my failed atempt at the south downs way carrying a three man tent i’m interested in finding a light weigth solution, but it’s terribly barren and often there’s nothign to pitch to for miles.

I use tarps for backpacking/camping around Colorado exclusively.
I have had a lot of luck with my homemade version. Very light and amazingly easy to set up.

I use a 2 Mil Plastic Painter’s tarp. I use duct tape to secure a parachute cord around the parimeter and then I use a thin Bunji type cord for the stake guys. Due to the elastic cords it sets up in under a minute and holds up to 60 MPH wind gusts (Maybe more, but that is the most I have experienced)

I can cook under this tarp and the clear plastic makes sitting out rain-storms much more pleasurable and cheery. You can read and see to play cards or whatever.

Tarps are okay as long as you’re not somewhere where it will be damp.

If it is damp, you still need a bivvy bag to keep your sleeping bag dry, assuming you’re using a down sleeping bag, which is probably worth doing for the massive weight savings.

Also, insects, depending on where you are and what season it is, you might want insect protection too.

Once you’ve done that you’re heading close to the weight of a lightweight tent.

I have to say, I’ve got a tarp, quite a posh one, that I picked up free once, and I’ve never yet found an occasion to use it, I’ll always bivvy if it’s lightweight, or use the tent otherwise.

If you had all the money in the world, the perfect thing for people who don’t want to bivvy would probably be something like this
or this


I don’t think moisture will be an issue. If it is really damp outside, my bag should be fine b/c most bags(that aren’t down) come with pretty good liners/shells nowadays anyway. I am actually thinking of NOT going the down-fill route even though most people seem to recommend down bags. I have found that down bags don’t handle moisture well at all…even ones that are said to have water resistant shells. The smell of damp down is horrible. I was using a really nice down bag a few times while camping inside a tent, and the moisture in the tent somehow got through the water resistant shell to make the bag damp and smelly. I have never had that problem with my synthetic bag. I don’t mind sacrificing 10 ounces of weight and a few degrees temperature rating to not have to deal with that on a unicycle tour.

I am still looking into bags, but so far I haven’t found a down bag that feels like it has a decent enough shell. I am looking into this bag:

or maybe the 15 degree version.

yeah, down and damp = bad. I’ve got that Macpac Epic SF bag/bivvi combined (you’ve seen it) that is proper waterproof, but it is very expensive. It’s definitely waterproof - airtight even, you have to be careful when you pack it, if you get a bubble it won’t fit into the stuff sack.


ive got a tiny little 2 person tent, tiny because it folds up so small, a couple problems with it tho, my cat clawed the roof so it leaks, and its bright pink lol. a small tarp and a good sleeping bag sounds good enough though, better in good weather though.

I spent a summer once in Roosevelt National Forest living off the land a long time ago. I used a super lightweight hammock that didn’t have wooden supports on the ends and it could be wadded up so tight I carried it in my pocket. To keep the rain off me, I used a poncho for a rain fly that was tied between the two trees that the hammock hung from. It was comfortable, really portable and kept me off the ground which was nice cause the tent worms were really bad that summer. What little stuff I carried I stored on the ground under the hammock/ rain fly.

Bondo you are a genius!

I am working as the director of a summer camp this summer and we use the same plastic you do for building hoochies for the younger kids on their out-trips. I will have to tell someone to do that to a bunch of the tarps to keep them from ripping and we can forget about doing the pine-cone corners.

I have spent many a night under a tarp or sheet of plastic, if there are no bugs it can be as nice as having a tent (and more versatile)

I personally use a lightweight silicon-coated nylon tarp similar to this one but it is a bit small. I think the one you linked to would be a better choice.

No privacy
Not as warm
A floor can be handy to keep stuff from getting lost (change, keys, etc).

Seems to me in cold weather, you’d want a more enclosed tent, in warm weather you have bug problems.
If it’s not wet, you don’t need anything over you. If it rains much, that tarp probably won’t keep you dry.
You can get some 1 and 2 man tents that are very compact. If you’re out in warmer weather, you can get some cheap very compact sleeping bags that will be adequate.
You can also just roll up in a tarp and stay fairly warm and dry, although that’s not the ideal camping method either.


you should be able to get a very good tarp for less than that, gossamergear also has an amazing tarptent that is also very light, but will work better in more extreme weather and has a removable floor. will you be using a sleeping pad? a closed cell pad only weighs a pound or less, and provides a good barrier to insulate you from cold/ wet/ rocky ground.
personally, my setup is an ultralight hammock that i find much more comfortable. hammock and tarp weigh 2 pounds w/ silnylon tarp. even in pouring rain, i have been warm and dry. another plus is that you can set it up anywhere you have trees- no need to find a perfectly flat campsite! if i am forced to the ground for lack of trees, i am already carrying a ultralight tarp that can be used independantly of my hammock. gtg for now, (back to work) but if you shoot me a message, and tell me what youre looking for, i can help you find great gear for less money to suit your needs! :slight_smile:

(My other hobby is ultralight hiking, and I’ve recently been helping a cousin put together a gear list for a SoCal to Maine bike ride he’s doing this summer)

One thing I have done, years ago, is make a tunnel using a roll mat and a tarp, basically the sleeping mat goes out, the tarp makes a triangle tent shape, which is taped to the sides of the sleeping mat (just a little bit of gaffa tape). Might be a bit warmer than your average tarp because you’re pretty sheltered from the wind. When I did it, I think it was frosty, and it was okay.


I enjoy hiking with a tarp for shelter. Light and fun to configure (if you aren’t too tired at the end of the day!). I’ve used it in light rain, and strong winds. A tent is always going to give better protection and comfort, but the tarp (for me) provides adequet protection and comfort.

David MacPherson’s introduction to tarp shelters is really nice (download the PDF file at the top of the page). I’ve only tried a handful of setups. My favourite is the “bivvy bag” on page 28. The tarp itself is used as a groundsheet (saves weight, sacrifices comfort).

I can’t recommend a good tarp - I havn’t found any “commercial” tarps locally. I just bought a groundsheet that had holes for pegs. It does the job, but is pretty heavy for a “lightweight” shelter.

I checked out the site. The “bivvy bag” set up and the C-fly designs seem to be the easiest. To support the midline fold do you just use some light weight rope/guy lines? Using one tarp for the groundsheet and shelter by folding it properly is definitely the best idea it seems.

Looks like I just need a few stakes and rope to secure a tarp in these two designs:

It looks like the roofs can just be held up by the rope.

For the “bivvy”, I have used a short guy through the eyelet, and also a longer piece of climbing accessory cord (4mm, I think) running like a “spine” from ground to tree. The longer rope makes for a more stable set up if it is windy.

I forgot to mention, thes designs require trees, or trekking poles if there aren’t trees. This my be problematic for unicycle touring.

Bondo, where do you buy a painters tarp? I’ve only seen precut pieces of black plastic, but they don’t have eyelets for pegs or guylines. Also, is there any reason you use “parachute” cord over some other type?

Yeah I will be using a ground pad for sure. I have a nice mummy shaped self inflating one now, but that probably weighs more than I would want, so I may just get a light cheap foam one.

I’ll shoot ya a message for sure if I have any questions.

Any thin Mil plastic would work. I get a 9 X 12’ clear “drop cloth” available at the hardware or paint store. They come in 2, 3 or more Mil thicknesses.
Parachute cord, as it’s called, is cheap and light, but any cord would work. The magic is in the elastic cords. which work great for ANY tent or tarp, just stretch to fit and holds up in the wind better because there is some give.

There are no grommets or eyelets, I just leave little extra loops of para-cord to attach the guy-lines.

Maybe it’s been mentioned but y’all should read Ray Jardin books for lightweight trekking tips!!

[I hope I’m not threadjacking!!]

Bondo: It looks like you’ve threaded the paracord through a hem on the edge of the tarp. Did you add that yourself, or is it part of the tarp?