Lightweight Tarp and Bivvy Set-Up

by Paul Kirtley

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Lightweight bivvy

This is a full-sized, yet very lightweight solo tarp and bivvy set up. Find out more in the video below. Photo: Paul Kirtley

In a previous video I talked about lightening the load and, specifically spoke about reducing the weight of your sleeping kit, from gear which is too heavy, over-specified right down to a really lightweight set-up.

In the video below, I’m going to show you how the lightest of the combinations looks all set up.

Now I know a few people are going to be dubious if it’s going to be protective enough compared to what they are used to, so the purpose of this video is to give a fuller account of this lightweight tarp, bivvy bag, sleeping mat and sleeping bag combination.

Lightweight Bivvy & Tarp Components

The following is a list of the sleeping equipment – tarp, bivvy bag, sleeping mat and sleeping bag – shown in the video above.

Integral Designs Siltarp 1 (222g/8oz)
Snugpak SF Bivvy Bag (340g/12oz)
Mountain Equipment Xero 200 sleeping bag (635g/22oz)
Thermarest Prolite sleeping mat 3/4-length (370g/12oz)

The total weight of this system is around 1.60 Kg/3lb 14 oz, the exact amount depending on how much cord you attach to the tarp.

packed lightweight sleeping equipment for camping

The lightweight tarp and bivvy components, from left to right Thermarest Prolite, Mountain Equipment Xero 200 sleeping bag, Snugpak SF bivvy bag and Integral Designs Siltarp 1.

Getting Organised Under Your Tarp

The link mentioned at 06:45 in the video is as follows:

Hang ‘Em High: Tips for Getting Organised Under Your Tarp

Lightweight Sleeping Kit – Understanding The Context

The article and video linked below provides more context about the selection of the equipment highlighted in this article and video.

Lightening The Load pt 1 – Tarp & Bivvy Sleep Systems

Other Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

How To Pack A Bushcraft Camping Outfit

How To Pack Enough Food For A Week In A PLCE Side Pocket

A Night In The Woods (Film)

Do Tarps Keep You Dry In The Rain?

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Damien green

Hello there Paul. Thank you for your emails. Sorry I have not messaged you back sooner. I love kit videos conversation and basic edibles. There is a lot more I would like to learn.

All the best.
Damien

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks for the feedback Damien.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Bob Walker

Hi Paul, What kind of hitches were you using on the corners of the tarp set up? Thanks

Reply

Wil Chambers

Hi Bob, I have always called that a taught line hitch. Very handy in setting a tarp or tent. The hitch let’s you slide the line up or down the main rope to adjust tension but locks itself in place. YouTube has several tutorials on tying and using the hitch.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Bob,

The hitch I was using is the adjustable guyline hitch as shown in the video below…

There’s mention of the taught-line hitch elsewhere in this thread. The latter is similar. The first turns around the standing part is the same but the second is tied on the opposite side of the first and the half-hitch at the end is tied in a different position.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Gavin Henry

Hi Bob,

I asked this too when I went on Paul’s Bushcraft weekend course. Double Sheet bend – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvn-06IedQ4

with these two for the ridge line:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj41GwEaKeQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE5PgvbWUsw

and this:

http://paulkirtley.co.uk/2011/how-to-tie-an-adjustable-guy-line-knot/

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Gav,

I think Bob was asking about the adjustable hitch to tension the guy-line.

But if not, on small tarps like this, where I leave the guy-lines on the tarp when packed, I tend to use a buntline hitch to attach the guylines to the tarp. I use the double sheet bend (with a quick release) on larger tarps where I am more likely to be regularly removing the guy-lines.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Nick McCarthy

Hi Paul

Nice video and as per my Instagram comment very timely for me personally. It is not so much the weight for me, more the pack space as cameras and ancillaries take up quite a bit of room as you know!

Thanks for the links…

nmc

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Nick, glad it was useful.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Dan Hindes

Paul, Good info I like the idea of traveling light. Your blog’s always full of informative things. And well presented. I like that you take time to answer questions.

Reply

Tim Collins

Thanks Paul,
Great video, nicely presented, always looking to go lighter. I do prefer a larger tarp tho.
Thank you for the info and links, great to see new gear.
All the best.
Tim.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Tim,

Yes, I have a number of different sizes of tarps. This is the smallest and lightest.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Alistair Taylor

Hi Paul. Thanks for the posting and video. I always enjoy your thoughts and writings. One observation from over here in Canada: are there no bugs over there in the UK/Europe? I see lots of bush crafters using tarp set ups but rarely see any use mosquito netting. I live on Vancouver Island and we don’t have as many bugs as other parts of Canada but still there’s enough that I wouldn’t want them buzzing around my face. Or crawling in from ground level. LOL. I have a cheap, light mosquito mesh when I do use a tarp (but I mostly use a tent). I like your set up, though.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Alistair, yes we do have bugs over here. A few mosquitoes in the south in the summer. More of a problem is the midge, the Scottish variety of which is the worst. I also use a net when I need to…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Dave Howard

Thank-you for another useful post Paul. You lost me on the “black swan” comment, what was the story behind the reference ? Amazing that you can carry the whole camp set-up nowadays at the same weight a “lightweight” bivvy-bag alone used to be. Is it not risky using a down bag under a tarp, what if the rain blows in from the side, is the bivvy-bag completely waterproof,or showerproof ? I have only used the military bags before.
Love your posts, keep safe, having fun and thanks for sharing, Dave.

Reply

Mari

I was mystified by the black swans reference as well… Very curious.

Reply

Paul Kirtley
Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

Yes, the bivvy bag is waterproof. Back in the woods (as opposed to on the edge), it’s unlikely for water to blow under the side. More of a potential issue with a smaller diameter tarp such as in the above video is very heavy rain splashing under the edge of the tarp after hitting the ground. But that’s why you have a bivvy bag…

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

bjorn s.

Nice video! Just want tip those looking for a lightweight tarp and bivy’s – have a look at Borah Gear ( http://borahgear.com/index.html ). Got their tarp and the bivy, very nice, custom made yet inexpensive (but made in and shipped from the US – so add cost of shipping and possible VAT when you compare with other brands/models).
for @Dave Howard, black swan, : Imagine having counted hundreds of swans, and noted they where all white, so you conclude “all swans are white!”. Then a black one appears….
see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory
In short; once you found there is “a rule”, an exception appears 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Bjorn! 🙂

Reply

Stephen Walker

Hello Paul
Simple kit and not too heavy at just under 4lbs for shelter / sleep.
Good to hear the bivvy is effective in breathing and it seems nice and light under the tarp.
Double edged sword, mind, if you want 15 minutes ‘lay-in’ ;0)
Quality isn’t cheap, but, as the adage goes, any fool can be uncomfortable.
I’d rather get the best quality kit I can and look after it.
Excellent presentation as always. I’m impressed that you can leave the camera and it’s in just the correct position, in one take, of course.
Thanks Paul.
Cheers,
Stephen

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Stephen,

Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments – much appreciated 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Mari

Is that the current model of the Snugpak SF Bivvi? Curious, because the manufacturer’s US site lists it at 425g/15oz, rather than 340g/12oz.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Mari,

Yes, it is current. 340g is stated on the UK website (linked in the post above) and I have weighed it to confirm.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Doric Holmes

Hi Paul

Greetings from Africa!

Groan (!), kit related question, what do you use for your guy lines and how long are they? Thanks.

Regards
Doric

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Doric,

Greetings! 🙂

I use 2mm utility cord. IIRC these are 3 metres each on the tarp in the video.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Shawn

Nicely done. That’s my favourite camp set up.

Reply

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