Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mountain Laurel cuben tarp-first impressions

I was packing the car to go to my parents in Wales and was slightly stressed when the postie walked up to me and placed an extraordinarily light packge in my hand. It's always a bit of a suprise when you get something from mountain laurel. They have a waiting list of 4-7 weeks and although they have a customer area where you can check your status it only ever says 'pending' until you actually get it.As a bonus, this one had managed to miss customs- it may be something to do with the battered old envelopes Ron sends his stuff in- I'm not complaining anyhow!
A bit of information on tarps and me. I've had a go with a basha and army bivvy bag in grim January weather before I got a lightweight tent and then it seemed a bit pointless- the bivvy weighed as much as my laser comp. I wasn't entirely struck on the open air aspect of it either. Fast forward a couple of years and I have the Gatewood cape. This was about as lightweight as I thought I could get. The lack of a need for a rain jacket meant that total weight was ighter than any bivvy and tarp combo with rain jacket. That is until I spotted the ML cuben poncho tarp. Combining it with the Ptarmigan bivvy I could save a sizeable 200g off my baseweight and since I was already up to speed with the poncho aspect it looked like a good option. The only problem was that I'm no sure I actually like tarps! Any hiker aiming for low weights needs to push themselves a little. On my last trip I had tried low top shoes for the second time. The first time, I had felt extremely vulnerable, not only to twists but to bashing my ankle on rocks. This time, I was totally converted. It's been a few years since I last tried a tarp- my knowledge base has developed considerably, and the total weight- around 350g for the whole set-up including rain protection will certainly ease the transition!
So- first impressions. The main thing is it's tiny! The width of it scared me at first, something I brooded on throughout the journey to Wales. When I actually set it up though, it's perfectly adequate for my needs. I'm planning to trial it in settled weather at first, only taking it on more dubious trips when I feel confident about it's use. I set it up with Team IO zero-G guys and mini lineloks. It's definitely well made with reinforcement at all the important points. No photos of me wearing it yet- the hood is too big for my head, but I expected that and it's easily sorted. Down the sides there are four lightweight snaps and at the hood there is a small diameter bungee with a tiny cordlock. That's about it for features apart from the neck tensioner when the poncho is in tarp form. Its a loop of bungee that attaches at the neck with four mitten hooks at tightens everything up. Have a look at mountain laurel for more photos.


Hendrik M said...

Looks good, and big enough as well. Ti Goat bivy you got as well, I saw, this might just be a combo I could go for. Just not sure if I get a Poncho or a normal tarp - I do like my eVent rainwear, but it weighs about 550 g on the other hand.

One step at the time, right!?

minimalgear said...

Bear in mind that I'm pretty small- about 5'7" and it's pretty tight under the tarp. In terms of whether to go for the tarp or poncho. my thinking when I got the Gatewood was that if I didn't like the poncho aspect I could still take rainwear- you don't get the option with a regular tarp. On the other hand, ponchos are certainly an acquired taste!

Hendrik M said...

I'm 175 cm, so also about 5'7" =) I was wearing Ponchos as a kid, but nowadays I don't know if they're stil to my taste. Maybe try with a cheap poncho tarp (Integral Designs) and then maybe later invest into something lighter, if there's a need for it.