The first choice for long-distance runners and bike packers, the Ultimate Direction FK Tarp is all about balancing the most important conveniences while saving on the ounces. Designed as a shaped tarp with only one specific set-up, it can be erected with either two poles or the handlebar of a bicycle. The thoughtful design provides three-wall protection with ample space to sit up, cook, and live with one other person. There is enough room inside to fit two people and gear without feeling cramped, given its super-long profile.While we love this tarp, it doesn't win any awards because of its specific design that isn't very adaptable to all types of terrain. It's smaller than the length of a Nalgene, and it'll pack easily into your backpack or saddlebags without taking up much room. Given that one side is always open, this isn't the first choice for those who find themselves in super rainy or stormy weather. It's much better for fair days or the random overnight storm.
Ultimate Direction FK Tarp Review
Cons: Material stretches with water exposure, lacks full enclosure, steep learning curve for set-up
Manufacturer: Ultimate Direction
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The shaped Ultimate Direction FK Tarp offers superior liveability and better weather protection than other Nylon tarps on the market. Its super packable design and thoughtful architecture make it easy to stash into a backpack and live in its confines with ease. It offers more headroom and lateral space with better protection when set-up in the correct direction. Unfortunately, it does not feature protection from bugs, nor does it have a floor. Set it up easily with a set of poles, or use your bike!
Offering a little more room than a traditional tarp, it can fit two people and packs easily given its longer profile and elevated profile around the foot of the tent. It offers a good amount of headroom to sit up in, play a game, or to have a great chat at night. Like all tarps, there is no bug protection, nor are there modular add-ons to make this tarp a little more liveable. Underneath it is wide enough to cook a meal and do everything else you'd need to do when hanging in good or poor weather.
You won't find yourself pressed up against the material; the only downside is you need two-poles to erect the tent. So when sleeping and living, you need to work around these. If you're setting it up with a bike (yes, you can!!!), you only that the body of the bike in the way, which separates the two sleepers. For one, space is enormous! It doesn't have a floor or a bug net, so you'll have to bring those if you're sleeping over sand or soggy forest beds.
This tarp is exceptionally packable and lightweight; you won't even notice it in your backpack. Just a little larger than the size of a Nalgene bottle, it's perfect to load up into a running pack or fast-pack set-up. We weighed all the components out to about 0.80 pounds, which is just the tarp, guy lines, and stuff sack. It also requires about eight stakes. Depending on the type you decide to go with, you may be looking at an additional 2-5 ounces of weight. Exceptional!
We set this tarp up while camping in Red Rocks, Nevada, which is known for its wind environments that uproot pegged tents and send them rolling across the desert. During a particularly windy day, we were surprised that this tarp held its own. To ensure good weather protection, you must set up in a secluded area with the butt of the tarp (that touches the ground) to the wind or other weather. Its streamlined shape sheds the wind well; however, if you set it up the wrong way, it will billow and effectively turn into a parachute.
Like all tarp set-ups, this one has one exposed area. We appreciate that the tarp is shaped, so it comes right down to the ground at the wings and along the back, leaving a minimal opening. If it's incredibly windy, you could probably even reinforce it by putting rocks along the edge. We also like that the opening has its own little awning that helps to break the wind on that side and shed water better than traditional tarp set-ups.
Made of 20D Nylon micro-ripstop, the material is incredibly durable to abrasions and quite impervious to water. That said, the material, like all nylon, stretches, requiring you to adjust the guy lines to achieve a taut pitch. Aside from that, it offers good water protection. Space is large enough that you won't be smooshed against the material during a rainstorm, even with two people inside.
Built for bike packers, backpackers, and runners, this tent offers some cool adaptations that are pretty 'niche', but overall, adaptability is minimal. For example, you can't set it up in any other way than it has been designed for; unlike a flat tarp, where set-up options are endless, you are stuck with just one. You'll need to be able to get stakes into the ground or find some heavy rocks to make it work. There are no modular add-ons, but you can bring a bug net to wear over your head if you find yourself in the thick of forest country. As a result, it is reserved for the seasons where bugs aren't bad, and you don't need a floor.
Boy, oh, boy. Two of our testers tried to set this tarp up for the first time in crazy high winds (different places), and both proclaimed it to almost being a tear-inducing experience! We couldn't get the tarp to stay in place, the poles were hard to get into their sleeves, and when one side was done, another came undone. It took a few tries before we finally figured it out. The lesson? Practice at home. While this tarp is easier, the more you try it, the learning curve can be steep.
To start, choose a relatively protected space (if you can). If you can't, identify the direction of the wind then peg down the three guylines at the foot of the tent first. Tension these down into place. Walk around and guy out the lateral wings loosely. Then loosely peg out the front to where you think the guy lines should end. Leave slack to put up the poles. Get underneath the tarp and place each pole (of the same height) into the pole sleeves on the interior of the tarp. Once that's done, tension the guy lines attached to the poles first, then adjust the rest of them. This process does take practice, and over time, it'll come.
In comparison to other ultralight shelters, this price is relatively cheap but still expensive for a tarp. Those that will find the most value in it are those seeking advantages it has over other shelters. While it's not protective, it's ridiculously lightweight and takes up very little packable room. It's perfect for fast-packers, runners, and bikers seeking this kind of bare-bones set-up. Though if you prefer protection, you may not see that value in this shelter.
The Ultimate Direction FK Tarp provides a specific cut that makes it more protective than most tarps out there. As one of the lightest shelters in this review, it packs smaller than a Nalgene and can either be set-up with a set of poles or even a bike! While set-up (especially in stormy weather) takes practice, you'll feel happy with the amount of liveable space and headroom it offers, making it superior to other Nylon-based tarps in this review.
— Amber King