I figured it was about time I got around to doing a write up on the MLD Monk tarp. I’ve been using a Monk tarp, off and on, for over five years now. While a number of shelters have come and gone for me over that time, the Monk has always been a constant in my gear closet. I’ve tried similar size tarps from other cottage manufacturers simply because they were lighter and less expensive but I’m yet to find one on the level of quality which you find with MLD products.
So what sets the Monk tarp apart from other 5×9 tarps? Besides the overall build quality, I’m going to call it refined simplicity. Simplicity because it is simply a seamless rectangular flat tarp with no zipper, buckles, velcro or other moving parts to break; and refined because the little extra’s, while not completely necessary for most, make setup and use, for me, a more enjoyable experience.
The Monk tarp has a total of twelve perimeter tie outs, each equipped with a LineLoc 3. Now at this point I’m sure there are a number of people who will scoff at the thought of using LineLoc 3’s. They are going to lecture you on learning knots, say LineLoc’s are an unnecessary waste of weight, etc. And that’s fine, if you don’t like them, cut them off or ask Ron to make you one without the LineLoc’s. Now I know some knots and am more than capable of utilizing thin cordage and knots to guy out a tarp but I will say it now . . . I love LineLoc 3’s, I think they are amazing and the convenience of use far outweighs the small weight penalty.
Regarding the twelve perimeter tie outs, I originally thought to myself why in the world would I need this many tie outs on a tarp this small? And I did end up cutting the LineLoc’s off six of the tie outs which I don’t normally use. I ended up keeping LineLoc’s on each corner and each long side center tie out. Under normal use, these are the only tie out points I use. Now there has been a handful of nights where I really appreciated those extra tie out points. For me the tarp gets used 8 times out of ten for a simple wind break. Those other times, however, when I was dealing with heavy rain or snow, guying out a couple extra points really tightened things up and greatly improved my time under the tarp and helped to ease my mind when I started to worry about the integrity of my pitch. Keep in mind though, I spend my time in low and high elevation desert. If you frequent above tree line in the Sierra or live in an especially wet environment, this tarp probably wouldn’t be enough coverage for you.
In addition to the twelve perimeter tie outs, there are also two center panel tie outs. Each center panel tie out is reinforced with Dyneema X and has a small loop with a mitten hook on the underside of the tarp. These two underside attachment points are useful for tying up bivy hoods, suspending a headlamp, etc. These center panel tie outs aren’t meant to be really cranked on but more to give a little extra support to the long panel. These aren’t meant to be overstressed so they come, not with a LineLoc but with a loop of bungee cord. I frequently tie out the panel point over what will be the “head” end of the tarp. This gives me a little more head room and also helps keep the tarp away from my face in the event of really heavy winds or sagging from rain.
I haven’t bothered to seam seal the threads on the center panel tie outs but if you are in a wetter environment than I am, you may want to. I’ve had the tarp out a number of nights in the rain and I only noticed very minor seeping of water through the threads. It wasn’t even dripping, so I haven’t worried about it.
Being a flat tarp you have the option of setting this up in a variety of ways but I almost always set it up in a half pyramid and occasionally set it up as a simple lean to. I’ve tried an A frame pitch but I’ve found that really doesn’t provide enough coverage beyond a barrier to bird poop or falling pine pitch. If I was going to be using an A frame pitch the majority of the time, I would go with a larger tarp.
So that probably leads to the question of how do you stay dry with a half pyramid pitch in heavy wind blown rain? I haven’t found this to be much of a problem for me. In addition to living in a fairly dry area, I can usually find some sort of natural barrier to help protect the open side. There have been occasions where I had to use my ground sheet over top of me to protect from rain and splatter but this has been rare, but that is why I carry an oversize piece of Polycryo. If you are out in some serious horizontal rain with wind gusts of 50mph, then it is probably going to be a long night.
I should also mention I am on my third Monk tarp. The first grey one (the one with the most use), I gave to a friend, the second brown one I sold because the weight came in way over spec and currently I have one in green Silnylon. MLD had the green sil for a short time but is now a discontinued color. I like the green, nice change from the grey silnylon so many cottage people use. Now with all that being said, I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I may be ordering a new Monk tarp because MLD has new Silnylon this year which Ron says weighs a bit less and has better performance. Still on the fence about that as there is absolutely nothing wrong with the one I have . . . but you know how it goes.
My version of the Monk tarp, with typical guyline configuration comes in at 309 grams (10.9oz). I use pretty generous lengths of Lawson 2mm orange Glowire. I have read a number of people who feel 3mm line should be used with the LineLoc 3’s but I have been using the 2mm for a few years with a number of different shelters and have never had an issue with them slipping.
If you order the Monk new from MLD they include a silnylon stuff sack and 40’ of their yellow 3mm non-reflective guyline. Current price for the silnylon version is $110 plus shipping. A smaller version of the Monk is also available in either .75 (green or white) or .5 (white only) cuben fiber for $165 or $160, plus shipping, respectively. The cuben fiber versions will save you some weight but they are almost a foot narrower in width. I’ve tried tarps in this size and in my experience, those extra few inches of the silnylon version make a considerable difference.