I know my wife really loves me because she bought me a Dyneema DCF Grace Duo Tarp from Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) for the holidays last year. I finally got to practice setting it up this weekend in preparation for an upcoming trip and I am very pleased with it.
I’ve been using a hammock and tarptents for a few years, but I got hooked on using a tarp alone, when I was section hiking the Long Trail in Vermont. Tarps are extremely flexible shelters that can be set up in many different configurations and locations. They can also weigh less than 1 lb, far less than other single walled shelters such as tarptents.
The base weight of my Grace Duo is 6.8 oz, despite that fact that it is a very big catenary tarp with dimensions of 8 X 7 X 9 feet (Front Width X Rear Width X Ridge Length.) Spectralite .60 is a type of cuben fiber, a non-breathable waterproof fabric, weighing half as much as silnylon. For the best explanation of ultralight fabrics on the web, check out MLD’s Fabric Mojo page.
I cut my guylines last night in preparation for today’s practice session using the measurements above. These are slightly different than those recommended on the MLD site and were recommended to me by my friend Quoddy, a hiking partner, Long Trail mentor, trail angel, and tarp guru, who’s always gushing about his MLD Grace Solo.
The Duo has 12 tie-outs, but I don’t expect to use all of them except in the most extreme conditions. For the front corners, I cut 4.5 ft lengths of reflective guy line cord that MLD supplies with the tarp. On the rear corners, I used a 4 foot length, on the front ridgeline a 9 foot length, and on the rear ridgeline an 8 foot length. For the side tie-outs, I cut 18 inch lengths. I singed the ends, put a bowline at one end, ran them through the MLD tensioning system, and then put a square knot in to prevent them from slipping. For stakes, I’m using titanium shepherd’s hooks, which weigh 2.7 oz a dozen. I can’t remember where I got them from.
You’re probably thinking that the ridgeline guy line lengths are a bit long, and they are if I was only going to be setting up the tarp using hiking poles as supports. But most of the time, I string up my tarp in the woods between two trees in an A-frame configuration and the extra cord really comes in handy if the trees are far apart. Plus, all of the the cord lengths only add 1.8 oz to the weight of the tarp.
From the inside, that Grace Duo comes with 3 reinforced gear loops which hang from the ridgeline and can be used to secure a bug bivy, a LED lantern, or your wet socks. The loops at the ends of the tarp are set about a foot inside of the outer edge to prevent whatever you’re hanging from getting wet if it’s raining.
But the part of this tarp that I like the best is the tensioning system which makes it very easy to set up the tarp. Simply thread the guy line through the cord lock and pull taught. Unlike a sinylon tarp, cuben fiber tarps don’t stretch, so once you pull the guy line taught, that’s it. But, if adjustments are necessary, they can be made from within the tarp itself, as long as the base of the tarp is off the ground a few inches.
The only problem with the Grace Duo is the price, which is a burly $270. Cuben fiber is not cheap, but this tarp is a gem. If you afford it, it’s worth upgrading.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
Nice tarp, you know I really like the idea of using a tarp – but i just can't stand the bugs! (I use a 6 moons Lunar Solo 26oz tent). I'm wondering – Mountain Laural makes a 'bug bivy' ( I think about 6oz) that could go along with the tarp. Have you ever used anything like that?
My dear wife also bought me the MLD bug bivy. It's black fly season in Vermont and I'll be using it over the weekend – expect a gear review about it next week. I practiced setting it up last weekend and it is an incredibly fine addition to a tarp, and can also be used as a footprint if the ground is wet. Total weight of the grace duo, bug bivy, stakes and guy lines is 16.1 oz.
I also own a Lunar solo, which I like a lot, but had some condensation issues with it last year at my feet – wet bag every morning. Probably minor for most people, but it bummed me out a little. There is little difference between a lunar solo, other tarp tents, and a tarp when you get right down to it, except for weight. Tarps win hands down.
Congratulations. What a fine present! I have the Spintex version of the Grace Duo and am extremely pleased with it. Funny, your wife buys you great gear, my wife took me to one side a couple of years back and quietly asked me to stop buying her gear for her birthday :-)
Nice Tarp! 6.8oz, wow! I feel so retro still using my 13.3 oz 8'x10' silnylon tarp…
I'm glad to read your see the benefits of using a tarp. I was out on the Bold Coast Trail last weekend and weathered a wicked thunderstorm under my tarp. It was entertaining!
I saw this at Trail Days this year in Damascus. It really caught my eye because it is such a well made tarp. It was layed over a couple other tarps, so I could really see if it would fit me. Having used it now, do you think it would fit someone 6'5" without rain splatter, are you able to sit upright in it without the ceiling hitting your head, and how did you find its overall ease to put up (personally, I struggle each and every time with tarps, but you just can't beat the space to weight ratio).
Tarps are easy to put up, but you need to practice it a little. I like an A-frame pitch between two trees the best because it is the fastest to set up – just a few minutes to poke and trim it out. Setting up with hiking poles takes me much longer.
The Duo is very long and I got it instead of a solo to avoid the rains platter issue, too. I'm 5'11" and there is ample space above and below me to avoid rain in an A frame configuration.
Another way to maximize the length is to set it up with a lower height and sleep diagonally under it. Personally I find that a lower ridge line height – say 100 cm, is best because you increase the surface area for gear. A higher ridge line reduces it (think isosceles triangle vs. equilateral.) Sitting up at both heights is not a problem for me.
Hope that helps.
This seems like the ideal tarp for my upcoming AT thru hike, but I am on the taller side of the spectrum at 6'6". Do any of you all who own this think it would work for someone that height? If not, any other recommendations? Also, what other bug solutions are there for a taller person? The bivy you reviewed fits to 6'4", and that would not work, but I am also interested in the "MLD Serenity Shelter". Do you think a longer custom order could be made?
Dylan – the absolute best person to ask is Jolly Green Giant. His blog is on my blogroll. He's very tall and uses tarps. A good guy too.
By chance have you tried the Grace Duo over your hammock? I'm wondering if it would be long enough and otherwise have decent coverage. MLD offers a Hex tarp just for hammocks, but I'd want to be able to use it on the ground too. MLD says they can add length to the Grace Duo at the cost of $25/foot for cuben which would make it extremely expensive if I was looking for it at 10.5' or most like most tarps made for hammocking.
No, I haven't but I'm sure it would. The Duo is really big.
Are you still using this tarp? I'm considering buying one and I'm curious about how it has held up. Thanks.
I still own it, but I may be selling it in the next year. I'm drifting away from shaped tarps to flat ones because I like the variety of shapes better. The cuben has held up fine, although I think this tarp is a little big for one person. I've been using a Gossamer Gear CubicTwinn lately which is lighter and much nicer. It's also more expensive – $335.
The CubicTwinn is a cat cut tarp too. How is it nicer? I have a Zpacks 7×9 and a Zpacks 4 season hammock Cuben that I like a lot. However, I was interested in how a flat compared to a cat cut. Have you seen that Brian at OES is making Cuben tarps now? They look interesting as well.
It's a little smaller and uses thinner cuben. It's kind of hard to describe, but the GG has a stronger cat cat which produces more of a front overhang than the Duo that I find more elegant. It also weighs 5.4 oz and doesn't require seam sealing.
A flat tarp can be pitched in about 100 different shapes. A cat cut is limited to 3-4 since it doesn't have flat edges. I just bought an OES silnylon "practice" tarp from Brian (10'x10') square, but I need to send it back for a mod. It doesn't have symmetric tie outs which makes it very difficult to set it up like a "classic" square tarp. Not Brian's fault. I just didn't realize it until I tried to use it. Bear Paw also makes custom cuben flat edge tarps. There's a pic of the CubicTwin in this article. https://sectionhiker.com/what-is-the-difference-be…