Flat tarps tend to feature quite heavily within the bikepacking world. As potential shelters go, they’re reasonably light, fairly compact and usually cheaper than the alternatives. Some people will always be a little sceptical and view them with suspicion. Others might be even more scathing though and to them, sleeping under a simple piece of silicone coated nylon will hold the same appeal as having their testicles nailed to a table by Satan himself … this is for those people!
As far as I’m concerned a ‘shaped tarp’ is something where all the ‘foldy up stuff’ has been taken care of by the designer. It’s still a tarp though, there’s no sewn-in groundsheet, no inner and the clever slugs can still find their way in. So what’s the point then? Well, most shaped tarps produce a very stable pitch that’s easy and quick to set up, so it removes the guesswork from pitching. Good weather protection and maximum space are usually key features too, so the weight / packsize benefits of a flat tarp are still present but some of the perceived drawbacks have been removed. Although I’ve just said “no inner” many of them (and all the ones we’ll look at) have an inner of some type available, which in reality, almost turns them into a fully fledged double skin tent, which can increase their appeal for some.
|Fully closed up.|
With it’s sloping ridge and definite front and back the SilShelter looks much more like a ‘tent’ than most shaped tarps. As an absolute minimum it’s possible to erect the thing with 1 pole and 6 pegs but I wouldn’t advise using a single pole unless you’re really stuck. Adding a second shorter pole at the rear, makes a massive difference to both stability and room. Although the shelter doesn’t come with any lines (and can be set-up without any) it’s worth adding some to the attachment points. A line at the front and rear and one each side, really help pin the shelter down in windy conditions without adding any real weight.
|Plenty of room for 1 … although 2 might be tight.|
|Pole pocket at front apex.|
Although often described as a ‘2 person shelter’ in reality that really is pushing the boundaries. If you pitch the shelter 6″ – 8″ off the ground then I’m sure it would be possible to squeeze a couple of you in there but you’ll be running quite a risk of brushing the sides or finding bits of your kit or yourself getting pushed outside. If you’re using it solo then you really won’t have an issue with space. There’s ample room to sleep, stash your gear and still retain a sheltered cooking area within the front vestibule.
|1 door closed, second door tied back to tarp body.|
If conditions demand it, the SilShelter can be completely closed up. The ‘doors’ simply overlap each other and are pegged down, there’s no zips, velcro or any other type of fastening but they do a good job of keeping the weather at bay. If you do decide that you need to sleep with the ‘doors’ closed, then prepare yourself for a certain amount of condensation by morning … particularly if you’ve set the shelter low with the bottom edges pegged directly to the ground. Luckily the shelter’s long enough to allow you to sleep in the rain and remain dry inside even with the doors open.
One of the main reasons for choosing a shaped tarp over a ‘real’ tent is the reduction in weight and pack size. The SilShelter scores well in this respect … an all in weight of 407g inc’ stuffsack and 4 lines is pretty impressive given the amount of room and protection it offers … but remember, pegs and poles will add anything from 150g – 250g depending on what you choose.
|Not a bad size.|
If you’re willing to invest a little time in getting to know the thing and are happy to ignore Integral Designs recommended set-up, then the Silshelter makes an ideal shelter for the majority of UK conditions. The SilShelter can be bought in the UK from Ultralight Outdoor Gear for less than £100 and is available in grey or green.
Next Week – The ZPacks Hexamid.