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This is a Lair, it’s made by BearPaw Wilderness Designs in the US but this one now resides in sunny Wales. Now, BearPaw aren’t the only shelter/tent manufactures to use this configuration and with good reason … the internal space it offers for the footprint size is fantastic, the design’s also very stable and gives a lot of protection from the elements.

A central pole is required to pitch the Lair (although it can be suspended from something overhead like a branch, there’s a lineloc on the top to allow for this set up). The length of the pole obviously effects the overall height, pitch height (gap between bottom edge and the ground) and also the height of your ‘door’. BearPaw recommend a minimum pole length of 50″ or 125cm, so that’s what I’ve used.

Lair from the side … 33″ wide X 110″ long

Pitching couldn’t be any easier, quite a few people have a fear of tarps or to be correct, they have a fear of pitching them … if that’s you, this will be a revelation. The quickest method seems to be – peg the 2 corners on the long rear edge, then insert the pole into its reinforced pocket. Now peg out the front guyline, this will hold the pole steady. put the remaining 3 pegs in and give each pegging point a quick tighten on the linelocs and that’s it. You can pitch it in about the same time as it took to read my description of how to pitch it! There are 3 additional guy points on the outside too, just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse but I think things would have to be getting pretty severe before you’d need to utilise them. Once pitched, it’s amazingly stable.

Set at minimum height

The Lair is made from 35 g Silnylon, all seams are double stitched as a minimum. The pegging / guy points are all reinforced as is the peak where the pole sits. Linelocs are attached and the Lair is supplied with some high quality line that just requires cutting to length and fitting to the linelocs. The stuffsack roughly measures 10″ x 4″ but I’d estimate you could compress it down to nearly half that size. On the Bear Bones scales the Lair weighs 330 g, that includes lines and the stuffsack … remember you’ll have to factor in 6 pegs and possibly a pole too.

Much more room than you’d ever imagine

So, what’s it like to sleep under? At first I had wondered whether it would work for the taller people amongst us. I really shouldn’t have, as you can see in the picture above, there’s ample room even for those who are well over 6′. I’ve enough space to store all my gear either at the foot or head end with room to spare. My next thought was, will the pole get in the way? In short, no it won’t. The amount of room inboard of the pole is just right, you’re not in any danger of knocking it, nor of coming into contact with the back wall … in fact you don’t really notice the pole after a minute or two.
Does it keep the wind and rain off? It does and it does both very well, it also doesn’t flap … it must be one of the quietest tarps I’ve ever slept under. I said earlier that this configuration offers lots of protection but I was quite surprised how much. At one point during my initial test I was woken by the noise of the wind roaring up through the valley. I braced myself for that ‘cold slap across the face’ you often get when under a tarp but it didn’t come … I’m sure that setting it up at minimum height must have helped but I was still very impressed.

If you’re looking for even more weather protection then you can choose to have an extended beak which you can open and close, effectively giving you a door. BearPaw can also fit a covered rear vent at the rear … it’s something they recommend if you choose the extended beak option. For those who believe that 330 g is much to heavy a thing to be strapping to their bike, there’s a Cuben Lair available. It shares the same dimensions as the Silnylon version but weighs in at 150 g!

In summary, the main plus points of the Lair for me would be.
1/ Speed and ease of pitching
2/ Low weight for size/coverage
3/ Very stable
4/ Superb protection from the elements
5/ You can sit up in it!
6/ Hand made high quality product
7/ Custom options available

If I were to try and find a downside I’d say, it’s a shame BearPaw aren’t in the UK … saying that, it only took 3 days from me ordering it to it being dispatched ;o)

BPWD … A Year On.

Well what can I tell you? The Lair has pretty much been my ‘go to’ shelter for the past year. I’ve used it in all kinds of conditions over the last 12 months but rain has been a pretty continual companion on every trip.

Lair with Pyra Net 1 inside – a midge free haven!

Besides using the Lair as a standalone tarp, I’ve also teamed it up with a BPWD Pyra net 1 on occasions to keep the midges at bay. The net obviously adds a little weight but the benefits are well worth it. When I haven’t deployed the inner I’ve used a homemade nylon groundsheet to help protect my gear from wet ground … again, well worth any weight penalty. One thing I have added are guylines to the three panel ties on the lair. This was something I did not to aid stability (it’s still amazingly stable in high winds without them), I did it to help keep a nice tight pitch when the heavy rains come … silnylon will stretch when it gets wet which can lead to a little ‘flappyness’ the 3 panel tie outs help keep it in check.

Something I’ve come to prize is the Lairs small footprint … it doesn’t require much floor space to pitch. On occasion I’ve been able to pitch in dense forest without any issues. Given the interior space available it would be easy to believe that the Lair needs a good open area around it, in reality if you can lie down then you can pitch it.

I can’t recall how many nights I’ve spend in it/under it but it’s quite a few and I haven’t got wet once. As long as you’re sensible and think about where you pitch, then even wind driven sideways rain doesn’t cause a problem … obviously if you pitched it with the door opening facing the wind it may be a different story. 

I suppose the question is, would I change anything about it after living with it a year ? No I wouldn’t, it still performs superbly. I can’t think of any instance when I’ve wished for something else. I’ve actually been lucky enough to have a play with a couple of other Lairs this year. The first a cuben version with extended beak and the second was another silnylon version which also had the extended beak and vent plus full perimeter/door bug netting. Both were very nice but my own thoughts are that they somehow weren’t as versatile as the more basic version. The cuben is harder to pitch well and seems much more fussy about pole length and peg angle and the midge netting limits the amount of ‘outdoor’ space you’ve got under the beak for cooking, storing wet gear, etc. Don’t misunderstand me, they were both very good but I still believe that this version, especially if teamed up with the groundsheet/inner net options gives the greatest flexibility.

Would I buy another? – yes.

Do I still think it’s suited to UK conditions? – No doubt, even given the summer we’ve had.

Why did you get a brown one? – Because it’s not green!

Anything else? – Yes, don’t skimp on pegs. You only need 6, make sure they’re good ones. Saving 40g isn’t much use if the thing won’t stay up!


  1. james says:

    Hi Great to see a review an this, I am thinking about getting one. What sort of pole are you using with it?

  2. Hi James, I've just started using an MSR adjustable pole, it's exactly the right length at it's shortest. Prior I used a pole from ultralightoutdoorgear, it worked fine although it was just under optimal length ;o)

  3. Thanks for the great review. I am also thinking of getting one now:-) Couple of questions though, now you have used it a bit do you think it is dry enough to use without a bivi bag or is the extended beak is worth considering for the extra protection? Also are the seams taped and if not have you had to do it to keep it dry?


  4. Malc, I'd say if it's pitched well (45 degrees to the wind and low) then you'd get away with out a bivvy bag. The only time I've got wet is when I stupidly pitched on a slight incline and my feet poked out ;o)

    The seams aren't sealed (tape won't work on silnylon) All I've done is seam seal the 3 mid guy points and the stitching around the pole reinforcement at the top. No leaks!

    I'm yet to play with one with the extended beak but should get the chance in a couple of weeks … I'll post some pics when I do.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Unknown says:

    Can you please give us an update on your BPWD Lair?

    Did you request tie outs on the mid panels?

    Did you request black ones, do you have a choice?

    What color is it, coyote or gray?

    I would really love if you did an update!

  6. Hi Bubonicplay … I'll try and get round to it shortly, it's had plenty of use.

    The mid point tie-outs are a standard feature. I find that they're handy in heavy winds but most of the time aren't really required.

    This one is Coyote brown.

  7. Unknown says:

    Please do an update! Looking forward to it… Im ordering one soon

  8. Update as requested/promised. If there's any specficic questions just give me a shout.

  9. Unknown says:

    Thanks for the update, the only thing I would love to see is more pictures if possible, thanks though, nice blog!

  10. Unknown says:

    How long is your center pole?

    can you please measure it?

  11. I find 130cm to be ideal. 120cm works okay for a low pitch in bad weather. If it's fine then obviously go as high as you like.

  12. Unknown says: is the build quality I've heared mixed reports about bear pawed,I'm thinking about the cuben version.
    Did yours sneak through without custom charges?

  13. The build quality of this is great and the majority of BP products I've seen (inc' cuben) have been fine … however, I did see one that was a little rough. I think this was due to the complexity, it had vent, extended beak and inner netting, so there was an awful lot going on around the apex which must have made sewing very awkward.

  14. Unknown says:

    Any further thoughts after a couple more year's use?

  15. Not really James, it's still a very good shelter and I still can't fault it. However, if I were to buy another, I'd probably also buy the additional 'clip on' beak that's available (it didn't exist when I bought this). The addition of the beak would produce a massive amount of space for very little additional weight … and not much additional cost.

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