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Owners Report Tacoma Tarp

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  • Carol Crooker
    Owner Review of Tacoma Tarp Personal Information Name: Carol Crooker Age: 43 Gender: Female Height: 5 10 Weight: 165 lbs Email: cmcrooker@att.net City,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 29, 2002
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      Owner Review of Tacoma Tarp

      Personal Information
      Name: Carol Crooker
      Age: 43
      Gender: Female
      Height: 5'10"
      Weight: 165 lbs
      Email: cmcrooker@...
      City, State: Phoenix, Arizona
      Date: September 28, 2002
      Backpacking background: For the past 6 years I've backpacked about 30 days each year. My trips were from 2 to 28 days, with my usual trip being between 3 and 6 days long. Most of my trips have been in Arizona and the High Sierras with Oregon, Utah and New York thrown in for variety. Weather has varied from highs in the 90's to lows in the 20's. Most of my backpacking trips have been solo.

      Product Information on the Tacoma Tarp
      Manufacturer: Dancing Light Gear, Brawny (Carol Wellman) and Rainmaker (David Mauldin)
      Year of manufacture: 2002
      Web site: http://www.trailquest.net
      Listed Weight: 15oz
      Weight as delivered: 14.5oz

      Description: The Tacoma tarp is sewn by Brawny at Dancing Light Gear. It is available with or without mosquito netting. I ordered mine with netting. It is basically a rectangular silnylon tarp with a 17" beak in front, full netting over the front entrance and 8" of netting extending from the other three sides of the tarp. My tarp's finished size is approximately 5' 4.5" x 9' 1.5". A hiking pole is used to support the center of one long side, and the 4 corners are staked out. A loop is also provided to attach the peak to a tree instead of using a hiking pole. A reinforced loop is attached along the middle of the other long side (the back side), 19" up from the bottom edge. This loop can be pulled out using a second hiking pole or a tree to create more useable room inside the tarp.

      Field Information
      Locations where I tested the Tacoma tarp in the field:
      Reavis Ranch and Reavis Waterfall in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, AZ. March 21 - 23, 2002. 3500' - 5500' elevation. Temperatures ranged from highs in the low 90's to lows in the high 30's. Campsites were fairly smooth dirt and grass.

      Herman Creek Trail and Eagle Creek Trail in Oregon near Cascade Locks.
      May 31 - June 3, 2002. Around 2000' - 3600' elevation. Temperatures ranged from around the 70's to a low of about 40 degrees F. Campsites varied from smooth dirt to dirt and pine needles to rounded rocks covered in moss.

      The High Sierras from Horseshoe Meadows to Whitney Portal via Cottonwood Lakes, Rock Creek, Crabtree Meadows, Guitar Lake and Mt Whitney.
      August 13 - 18, 2002. Elevation from 10,000' - 14, 495'. Temperatures ranged from almost 90 degrees to 31 degrees overnight at the bivy site near Trail Crest. Campsites were grass, pine duff, soil and pine duff, sand, and large grainy sand.

      My base packweight on these trips was about 11.5lbs with 2 additional pounds for the Bearikade bear can on the Mt Whitney trip. Food weight was 1.5 lbs per day.

      Initial Observations of Tacoma Tarp
      The Tacoma is just a beautiful and simple design! It was well made with the exception of one fabric edge that had not been singed to prevent the silnylon from unraveling. Brawny and Rainmaker were great to work with. They paid for me to ship the Tacoma back, fixed the seam and finished it in addition and even sent me a little gift for my trouble. Total turn around time from me shipping the tarp to getting it back was a few days.

      My tarp arrived with guy lines that were light weight but inadequate. I use a taut line hitch on the guy lines so I can tighten the pitch as the tarp stretches. The line provided would not hold this knot. I replaced the provided line with Kelty triptease guy lines.

      I needed to play around with the Tacoma to get a nice taut pitch.

      Observations after field-testing
      I have a total of 10nights in the Tacoma. I like it. In the past, I used a 5' x 8' Integral Design silnylon tarp. The Tacoma is much easier to set up. I stake out the 2 back corners, put my hiking pole in the front and stake the guy line, then stake the 2 front corners. That may be enough in a pinch but I prefer more space so I put rocks in the loops I've tied to the middle of the 2 short sides and use my 2nd pole or a tree to pull out the back. I'm 5'10" and there is just enough room for me to sleep diagonally. I set the front pole higher than recommended (about 50") so I have lots of room to sit up and get in and out of the tarp. This gives less room to stretch out though.

      There was no rain but some humidity on the Oregon hike. I did have slight condensation inside the tarp the 3rd night when we were camped next to Eagle Creek. Wind ranged from still to a sight breeze. Two people in Europa silnylon tents camped with me also had condensation. I tied up the netting covering the front entrance in the middle of the night and felt like there was more air circulation that way. The foot and hood of my sleeping bag got slightly damp from contacting the tarp walls. The sides of the tarp have 8" of mosquito netting. The sides ride up to give an inch or two of ventilation space under the tarp on all sides.

      I've encountered few mosquitoes while using the Tacoma so I don't know how well the netting will keep the critters out. It looks like it will work well.

      The Tacoma did well in a light rain on the Mt Whitney trip. The fabric stretched during the rain (I believe this is a characteristic of silnylon) so I needed to tighten the guy lines to keep a taut pitch.

      On the Reavis Ranch trip I sat and watched the Tacoma hold up very well in approximately 25 MPH wind gusts. I pitch mine quite high (about 50" at the peak while Brawny and Rainmaker use examples of 40" and 45" in the instruction sheet) yet it still held with no problems in these gusts.

      Speaking of my high pitch height, I pitched the tarp at various heights to guesstimate the tallest person the Tacoma will accommodate in the standard size. I set up the Tacoma in my normal configuration, pole at 50". Length across back was length of tarp, about 9' 2". Distance between front corners was 62". I tried lying down parallel to the back wall on a 70" pad. I think the only way I could sleep like that is to get into my mummy bag towards the front of the tarp, then roll or scoot towards the back wall. I wouldn't be able to lift my head much in this position without touching the bag to the ceiling of the tarp. I then lifted the back wall using a second pole and the back tie out. Lots more height in the center back which would be over the middle of my sleeping bag. Not really much different at the head and foot end though. I estimated possibly 2 more inches for 6' tall person to be able to sleep parallel to the back wall. The head and/or foot end of the bag would probably contact the tarp wall though. Tying out the middle of the 2 short sides
      might provide enough room for a 6 footer to sleep without the sleep bag touching the tarp walls.

      I then set up the tarp in the following configurations:
      For pole height of 45", distance between front corners was 70".
      For pole height of 40", distance between front corners was about 77".

      I didn't find any extra length (for a taller person where their bag is not touching the walls) with the pole set at shorter lengths. The shallower angle of the tarp sides increased the distance from the tarp edge where a bag would contact the tarp wall.

      I think the Tacoma will work for a 6 footer. Rainmaker is 6'1" and able to use the Tacoma. I don't think it will accommodate someone who is 6'3" if they sleep stretched out.

      Things I like
      I LOVE the ease of set up! So much quicker than the 5' x 8' siltarp.
      Lots of room to change clothes and sit up.
      Pretty good ventilation from what I've experienced.

      Things I don't like or could be improved
      I find it a little awkward to get in under the netting. The netting gets caught on my back as I enter the tarp. The netting only pushes up to within about 10" of the peak. This may be because I pitch the tarp high.
      The beak is sewn in so one long side of the main tarp can't be laid out flat to its full length. I had to jury rig the tarp one night since there wasn't enough room to set it up in a normal configuration. The jury rig worked but was a bit sloppy. It would have been prettier (and the Tacoma more versatile) if the peak was detachable or in two pieces so the Tacoma could be used as a true rectangular tarp when needed.
      A hiking pole tip fits nicely into a small PVC cup to form the peak of the tarp. The PVC cup ends up pushing up on the seam of the beak. Over time, I'm concerned about the stress on the threads of this seam.

      A great light weight shelter, I really love it!

      The Tacoma without the netting weighs 9.5 oz according to the web site. Since fewer and/or shorter guy lines are required for the Tacoma vs. a 5' x 8' tarp, the weight of the Tacoma without netting and with guy lines is very close to a 5' x 8' tarp with guy lines.

      Carol Crooker
      Transformation Coach

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John Burnet
      Hi Carol, Thanks for a very interesting and well written Owner s review. You can upload your report to:
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 1, 2002
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        Hi Carol,

        Thanks for a very interesting and well written Owner's

        You can upload your report to:


        When you enter the description for your review, it
        should include (if possible) the manufacturer, product
        name, product type and your name. So your report
        should have a description something like:

        Dancing Light Tacoma Tarp - Carol Crooker

        Happy Trails,

        John Burnet
        BGT List monitor

        "What are the three most essential backpacking items?"

        "Toys, water, and food. Without water and food, you'll die. If you don't bring toys, all you'll have to play with is rocks and sticks."

        -- A. M. Frick

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