Modular Accessories for Floorless Tents

All three components of the Echo II shelter system together  tarp  insert  and beak (with the beak and insert doors tied back). While modular in theory  we find all components necessary to provide great weather protection.
Article By:
Chris McNamara and Max Neale

Last Updated:
Thursday
December 11, 2014

Share:
Though a tent or shelter found in our Ultralight Tent Review is the centerpiece of a floorless shelter system, modular components can significantly increase function and versatility. We recommend starting with our full ultralight review, but once you've finished up there, this article summarizes the types of available components and recommends several options for various applications.

Ground Cloths


Ground cloths are useful for protecting an inflatable sleeping pad from sharp objects that might puncture it. Polycro is our favorite material because it is lightweight (4 oz. for a two-person size) and cheap. Gossamer Gear sells it for $10. However, we rarely use ground cloths because they can be substituted by smart campsite selection, backpacks, packrafts, dry bag style pack liners, or are unnecessary if you sleep on a closed cell foam pad.

Square flat tarp with two Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pads. The Alpacka Explorer 42 raft and dry bag style pack liners are used as a ground cloth.
Square flat tarp with two Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pads. The Alpacka Explorer 42 raft and dry bag style pack liners are used as a ground cloth.

Bug Inserts


Inserts have a waterproof floor and bug netting canopy. They provide the most comfort in very buggy places and are the best value option for protecting two people from insects. They are also the most comfortable option for hot nights or for curling up with someone else or with a book. Many different companies make model specific inserts. We recommend purchasing a two-person version and suspect that the Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid and SuperMid Inserts could be the best for pyramid tarps. For A-frame and flat tarps the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II Insert is the best we know of.

We tested the Haven Tarp with the net tent insert. This not only protects against bugs  but also helps prevent splashback and block wind.
We tested the Haven Tarp with the net tent insert. This not only protects against bugs, but also helps prevent splashback and block wind.

Bug Bivys


Bug bivis have a waterproof floor and bug netting that covers your sleeping bag. These are good for solo use in hot, buggy climates, but we find that inserts are more comfortable because they have more space and are a better value because two people can use them. An example is the Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy.

A bug bivy  such as this one from Mountain Laurel Designs  can offer good protection from insects on hot buggy nights  but is a poor value compared to a water resistant bivy sack  which is more protective and versatile.
A bug bivy, such as this one from Mountain Laurel Designs, can offer good protection from insects on hot buggy nights, but is a poor value compared to a water resistant bivy sack, which is more protective and versatile.

Water Resistant Bivy Sacks


For solo use we prefer water resistant bivy sacks to bug bivys because they are a better value and much more versatile. We also prefer water resistant bivys to inserts for winter use because they block spindrift and are warmer. Unlike climber style bivy sacks, which are made entirely with waterproof fabrics, water resistant bivys have a waterproof floor and sides, water resistant top, and bug netting in the head area. They serve as a ground cloth, completely seal out flying and crawling insects, block wind, stop spindrift, and add between 5 to 10 degrees of warmth. All for only 7 oz.!!

Check out our bivy sack review for more information on the top performing products.

The Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy is the best water resistant bivy sack we've tested. It works well under a tarp shelter anytime of the year or for "cowboy camping"  as shown here at 13 200 ft. on the Evolution Traverse  CA.
The Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy is the best water resistant bivy sack we've tested. It works well under a tarp shelter anytime of the year or for "cowboy camping", as shown here at 13,200 ft. on the Evolution Traverse, CA.

What To Get?


Now that you have a better idea of the modular components you can purchase to complete your shelter system, check out our complete ultralight tent review. This review provides in depth advice and information about which ultralight tent or shelter will best meet your needs.

Chris McNamara at Big Sur  2008
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Chris is the founder of OutdoorGearLab and serves as Editor-in-Chief. Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara's life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris' sanity. He's climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, "Why?" Outside Magazine has called Chris one of "the world's finest aid climbers." He's the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 14,000 dangerous anchor bolts. Chris is also the founder and lead author of the rock climbing guidebooks publisher, SuperTopo. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or ChrisMcNamara.com. He also has two Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals here and here.

  • Share this article:

 

Follow Us


Unbiased.