The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo Review

Easy to use and affordable, with enough coverage for two people.
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Price:  $165 List
Pros:  Very affordable, simple catenary cut design is easy to set up, available in either Silnylon (cheaper) or DCF fabric (slightly more expensive)
Cons:  Not as adaptable as a flat tarp, doesn’t provide the level of weather protection as an enclosed shelter
Manufacturer:   Mountain Laurel Designs
By Amber King & Andy Wellman  ⋅  Oct 29, 2019
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57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#17 of 19
  • Livability - 30% 4
  • Weight - 25% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 4
  • Adaptability - 10% 6
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo in Pro SilNylon, is a high-value ultralight shelter. It is larger than most two-person, A-frame style tarps, and the pronounced catenary-cut ridge makes a taught A-frame pitch easy to achieve. When pitched close to the ground, the coverage provided is enough for two folks to stay nice and dry in all but the windiest rainstorms. While its design limits the way it can be set up, we love the option of upgrading or adding on to nearly every aspect of this tarp. If you are looking to enter the ultralight realm without breaking the bank, we highly recommend this exceptionally well-built tarp, weighing only 15.1 ounces. We've previously tested the much lighter DCF fabric version of this tarp, which we also highly recommend if you have the extra cash.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $165 List$600 List$700 List$300 List$535 List
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Pros Very affordable, simple catenary cut design is easy to set up, available in either Silnylon (cheaper) or DCF fabric (slightly more expensive)Amazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doorsGreat weather protection, lightweight, adaptableRoomy, easy to setup, fully enclosed, affordableUnder a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included
Cons Not as adaptable as a flat tarp, doesn’t provide the level of weather protection as an enclosed shelterExpensive, doesn’t include necessary stakesExpensiveHeavier, design not quite as wind stable as double vestibule optionsExpensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
Bottom Line Easy to use and affordable, with enough coverage for two people.Ample space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelter.This is the shelter you want when waiting out a storm.An affordable fully enclosed single person shelter that we love.Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures.
Rating Categories Grace Tarp Duo ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade Tarptent StratoSpire Li Gossamer Gear The One Tarptent Aeon Li
Livability (30%)
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4
10
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9
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10
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9
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8
Weight (25%)
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7
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6
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9
Weather Resistance (25%)
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4
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9
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7
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7
Adaptability (10%)
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6
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7
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4
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6
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4
Ease Of Set Up (10%)
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6
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6
Specs Grace Tarp Duo ZPacks Duplex Flex... Tarptent... Gossamer Gear The... Tarptent Aeon Li
Type A-frame tarp Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ removable floor and bug netting Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor
Weight with all components 0.9 lbs 1.8 lbs 1.60 lbs 1.68 lbs 1.09 lbs
Measured Weight of All Included Shelter Parts Total: 15.1 oz., Tarp: 12.4 oz., Guy lines: 2oz., Stuff sack: 0.7oz. (Serenity Bug Net Shelter (sold seperately: 1 lb.) Total: 1 lb. 5 oz Tent: 19.7 oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz. (Flex upgrade: 11oz) Total: 1 lb.10 oz, Floor and bug net: 11.5 oz, Fly: 14.1 oz Total: 1 lb. 6 oz., Tent: 1 lb. 5.1 oz., Extra tie outs: 0.5 oz., Stuff sack: 0.4 oz., Optional aluminum poles: 5.7 oz. Total: 1 lb. 1 oz., Tent with Bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz., Stakes: 1.7 oz.
Stakes Included? No No Yes No Yes
Poles Needed for Set-up? Yes or Tree Yes w/o flex kit
No w/ flex kit
Yes Yes Yes
Capacity 2 person 2 person 2 person 1 person 1 person
Max Floor Dimensions (inches) 108" x 90" 45" x 90" 86" x 45" 88" x 34" 88" x 30"
Peak Height (inches) Depends on configuration 48" 45" 46" 47"
Fabric Pro SilNylon .51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric Dyneema Composite Fabrics 7D high tenacity nylon-blended sil/pu coating Dyneema Composite Fabrics
Packed Size (inches) 15" x 7" 7" x 13" 16" x 4" 6" x 9" 14" x 4"
Floor Area 67.5 sq ft 28.13 sq ft 26.88 sq ft 19.55 sq ft 18.3 sq ft
Doors 2 2 2 1 1
Interior Pockets 0 2 2 1 1
Number of Poles 2 trekking poles 4 2 trekking poles 2 trekking poles 1 trekking pole
Number of Tie Outs 8 8 8 10 7
1-person version? Yes No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

We have tested the Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo many times, and no matter who uses it or in what conditions, it is still a tarp that we come back to with fondness. As a catenary cut tarp, it can only be set up in one way, A-frame mode, which is one of the simplest and most common methods of pitching a tarp anyway. This mode leaves two ends open, although it is common to have the feet end of the tarp significantly closer to the ground, offering more shelter than the head end. Regardless, these limitations cause it to rank lower than most in this review for weather protection and adaptability, two critical metrics for assessing the performance of an ultralight shelter, and thus its cumulative score was in the lower third of the review.

Like many of the products in this review, the Grace Tarp Duo is not available from major retailers - only directly from the small manufacturer in Virginia. We only had to wait more than a few weeks for the silnylon version that we tested, which MLD reports is typical for SilNylon. However, if you're looking for DCF, you'll probably have to wait a few weeks longer.

Performance Comparison


If you're seeking an ultralight shelter for backpacking that won't break the bank  this top quality SilNylon A-frame cost about a third of what the most expensive models do.
If you're seeking an ultralight shelter for backpacking that won't break the bank, this top quality SilNylon A-frame cost about a third of what the most expensive models do.

Livability


The Grace Tarp Duo is a LARGE A-frame tarp. The added coverage is important for comfort in high winds and downpours because it provides lots of space for two people and their gear, even when the tarp is pitched tight against the ground. Depending on the steepness of pitch, we had about four inches overhead at the peak for our 5'11'' testers when we pitched it low to the ground for maximum weather protection. That's a lot more headroom than most tarps would afford.

Pitching this shelter between trees takes a little longer than using trekking poles  but frees up more livable space at the front entrance. We love the large size  even with the sides staked right down to the ground  there's plenty of headroom for 5'11" Brandon to sit inside the front entrance.
Pitching this shelter between trees takes a little longer than using trekking poles, but frees up more livable space at the front entrance. We love the large size, even with the sides staked right down to the ground, there's plenty of headroom for 5'11" Brandon to sit inside the front entrance.

This tarp also has three plastic clips on the underside of the ceiling. An inner mesh tent with a bathtub floor can hang from these, or they can be used to rig up a clothesline, or for other gear storage. Without adding a modular inner tent, like the Serenity Bug Net Shelter, there is no bug protection or floor. And regardless, there will not be much privacy with it.

There are three little plastic rings sewn into the eave of the Grace Tarp that can serve as clips for hanging a modular net tent  or for setting up a close line if you need to dry out your socks.
There are three little plastic rings sewn into the eave of the Grace Tarp that can serve as clips for hanging a modular net tent, or for setting up a close line if you need to dry out your socks.

Weight


At a measly 15.1 ounces for the SilNylon version, this one of the lightest shelter in this review. If you want the lightest version of this tarp, then upgrading to the DCF. The SilNylon tarp itself weighs in at only 12.4oz, and the 40' of included 2.7mm guy line weighs only 2oz. It also comes in a silnylon stuff sack that is unfortunately far too large for the Duo, meaning that it fits easily, but could fit in a far smaller stuff sack that would be more efficient for packing. To complete the setup, you need to add two adjustable trekking poles (or buy the carbon fiber poles available from MLD) and eight stakes.

The Grace Tarp comes with line locks sewn in place  and an uncut piece of cord for you to slice up to your own desires. Unfortunately  the SilNylon sack  shown  is far larger than it needs to be  and this tarp could easily be stuffed into a small sack half the size -- one you will have to buy on your own! You will need to add two adjustable trekking poles and a minimum of six stakes to this setup.
The Grace Tarp comes with line locks sewn in place, and an uncut piece of cord for you to slice up to your own desires. Unfortunately, the SilNylon sack, shown, is far larger than it needs to be, and this tarp could easily be stuffed into a small sack half the size -- one you will have to buy on your own! You will need to add two adjustable trekking poles and a minimum of six stakes to this setup.

Weather Resistance


When it's storming, this tarp provides good enough weather protection in most backpacking environments. The two open ends can be a drawback though if you select an exposed campsite. We find that almost all established campsites are in well to moderately well-protected areas where an A-frame works great. Eight perimeter Line-Locks allow you to stake out and tension this A-frame securely. There are no field guy outs on this tarp; it would be nice to have mid-field guy outs on the sides. SilNylon stretches when wet, but having the adjustability of the Line-Locks within reach from the inside allows you to tighten things up without going out in the rain.

The catenary cut of the Grace Tarp means that it really only works in A-frame mode  leaving two openings for wind and rain to enter. This setup has the rear pole adjusted shorter than the front  and the left side staked closer to the ground to protect against the wind.
The catenary cut of the Grace Tarp means that it really only works in A-frame mode, leaving two openings for wind and rain to enter. This setup has the rear pole adjusted shorter than the front, and the left side staked closer to the ground to protect against the wind.

The catenary cut makes it easy to pitch this tarp very tight to resist the wind. The ability to set it up low against the ground, while still having headroom to sit, is a significant advantage in foul weather compared to smaller tents that don't allow as much headroom. In exposed sites, it can be essential to pitch one end of the tarp near a rock or bush that blocks the wind. Alternately, you can block the opening with your backpacks and partially cover the head end with a rain jacket. If you are sure you are going to face bad weather, or for the highest protection and safety for long journeys, pairing this with a lightweight, water-resistant bivy sack is a good idea.

Adaptability


A-frame tarps offer an advantage over traditional tents and pyramid shelters in that the pitch can adjust in both height and width. If a campsite is narrow, you can bring the walls in and pitch it tight against the ground. Raise it and spread it out for more headroom and coverage if you don't anticipate any wind. However, flat tarps are much more versatile because their pitching configurations are limited only by your imagination. It is a great tarp for most backpacking environments.

Here is the tarp component of the Echo II Shelter made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear  tensioned over the top of the this model. As you can see  the true Duo size of the Grace provides significantly more coverage.
Here is the tarp component of the Echo II Shelter made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, tensioned over the top of the this model. As you can see, the true Duo size of the Grace provides significantly more coverage.

Ease of Set-up


The Grace Tarp Duo, due to its generous catenary cut at the ridgeline, is the easiest to set up A-frame tarp that we have tested. Our first pitch in the backyard took about four minutes with adjustable trekking poles. Four minutes is a good set-up time for one person, and two can do it faster. Forty feet of cord for staking and guying outcomes with the tent, but it must be cut and added to the Line-Locks, preferably before you are out in the field. We found set-up using trekking poles quicker than pitches where the ridgelines secure to trees.

Sewn in grommets at each end of the eave make it very quick and easy to insert your pole tip  and then tension out the tarp. This setup is much faster and easier than needing to tie off your poles individually  making this a quick setup for the practiced rigger.
Sewn in grommets at each end of the eave make it very quick and easy to insert your pole tip, and then tension out the tarp. This setup is much faster and easier than needing to tie off your poles individually, making this a quick setup for the practiced rigger.

One feature that adds to the simplicity of set up are grommets sewn into the tabs at each end of the ridge crest, which easily takes the tip of our adjustable trekking poles (they are also designed to accept the end of carbon fiber poles). This detail made for a faster and simpler method of rigging poles than needing to tie clove hitches.

On a relatively calm evening where no rain is expected  we set up the Grace Tarp high above the ground in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado before an epic peak bagging session the next day.
On a relatively calm evening where no rain is expected, we set up the Grace Tarp high above the ground in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado before an epic peak bagging session the next day.

Value


At a low cost for the Duo size, this is a super affordable tarp shelter. We think the quality of materials used and the construction is excellent, so of course, we think this shelter presents a great value.

Conclusion


The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp is a huge, catenary cut shaped tarp that comes in either SilNylon (cheaper) or DCF (more expensive) versions. While it doesn't provide the same level of weather resistance as a pyramid or dedicated pole tents, it still offers generous coverage for a tarp, and set up in sheltered places will easily protect the user in all but the windiest rainstorms. It is the most affordable shelter in this review, presenting a great value, and is also quite easy to set up for a tarp. If lightweight and affordability are primary concerns, we encourage you to check out this high-quality option.

This SilNylon A-frame tarp is larger than most 2-person tarps; MLD calls it 'true duo' size. The generous dimensions create more headroom when pitched close to the ground for wind-driven rain protection. Vedauwoo  WY.
This SilNylon A-frame tarp is larger than most 2-person tarps; MLD calls it 'true duo' size. The generous dimensions create more headroom when pitched close to the ground for wind-driven rain protection. Vedauwoo, WY.


Amber King & Andy Wellman