I know my wife really loves me because she bought me a Spectralite 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.
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