On a recent three day/two night trip to Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness in Arizona, I brought along my new Borah Gear tarp and bug bivy to use as my shelter. The tarp is a 5.5′ x 9′ flat tarp, made of 30D 1.1oz Silnylon and weighs in at 214 grams (7.5oz). The included silnylon stuff sack weighs in at 6 grams (didn’t use it). The tarp has a total of eight perimeter tie outs. There are no additional mid panel or underside tie outs but I’m sure if you wanted some, you could contact John and he would add them for a nominal fee. This simple no frills tarp is exactly what I was looking for to use during the hot summer months in Arizona. Well made, light weight, adequate coverage for the dry seasons, affordable and versatile.
Both nights I used a half pyramid pitch, with my pole set to 115cm. I pitched high, allowing for plenty of ventilation since the expected lows for the nights were in the low 70’s to high 60’s F. The pitch was simple and quick, setting the back corner stakes first, then setting the front pole, followed by the two front corner stakes and lastly, the back center stake. For guyline, I opted for Kelty TripTease with micro linelocs. There are certainly lighter options for use as guylines, but I was expecting some high winds and wanted to make pitching the tarp as quick and painless as possible. The micro linelocs really bite into the 3mm TripTease and make tensioning a cinch. I am also a fan of the reflective property of the TripTease; if anyone is going to trip over a guyline, it will probably be me. (Total weight of guylines and micro linelocs = 16 grams).
I brought along six 7.5″ MSR Groundhog stakes, each weighing 15 grams and a 3 gram Silnylon stake bag (93 grams total). I have been to the canyon before and knew the soil is very loose and sandy. Groundhogs have always worked well for me in that type of environment and they performed excellent on this trip. On the second night, the soil was complete sand with no solid under layer reachable by the stakes. On that night, I placed some rocks on top of the stakes and had no issues with pulled stakes, even with some intermittent wind. In my experience, I am yet to find a better stake than the Groundhog, they come with me on every trip.
The Borah Gear side zip bug bivy has a full .7oz no-see-um netting top with a #3 YKK zipper across the chest and extending down the side for 24″. You can choose to have just a chest zip and save .5oz as well as $5. I personally like the little bit of extra freedom that comes with the side zip, so the .5oz were worth it to me (if you go with the side zip option, a choice of left or right is offered, free of charge). The bottom of the bivy is a seamless piece of grey 30D 1.1oz silnylon. Weight of the bivy came in at 170 grams (6.0oz). After modifications, the included silnylon stuff sack weighs 5 grams (I replaced the stock draw cord with a piece of Gline and a mini cord lock) . The bivy has grosgrain pullouts sewn to the netting above the head and feet area, allowing the netting to be pulled away from your body. I attached a piece of LiteTrail Gline to the pullout above the head area and tied it off to the trekking pole. I didn’t find the need to use the pullout over the feet area, but it’s nice to have it, just in case. Also included on the bivy are two foot box stake loops which I chose not to utilize. With my rolling over during the night, the bivy did slide a few inches here and there, but really didn’t warrant being staked down. I purchased the size standard/standard which fits someone up to 6’1″ (with room to spare) and has girth of 73″ at the shoulders and 60″ at the foot.
One thing to note about the bivy, is that while not having an actual bathtub floor, once my pad and bag were placed inside and the pullout was used, it did pull up the silnylon bottom, giving it a couple inch “bathtub” floor effect. That was a nice added bonus. Also, I did not use a ground cloth and noticed no damage to the silnylon floor from the abrasive sand.
This solo tarp and bivy are a great combination from Borah Gear. Both pieces more than met my expectations. The tarp gave me protection from wind, blowing sand and bird crap. The bivy kept the bugs off me (on night #2, our camp was swarming with ants) as well as providing some nice ventilation during two very warm nights. Customer service was once again unsurpassed; John was very quick to answer all my questions thoroughly and went out of his way to get both pieces to me in time for my trip. John’s fantastic customer service/people skills and high quality, well thought out products are sure to keep me coming back to this great little cottage company.