When preparing to go elk hunting in Colorado this year, I knew I wanted a floorless shelter, and Kifaru International’s SuperTarp was on the top of my list. For two weeks, it would be my home. The SuperTarp is a three-season, floorless, lightweight shelter designed for backpacking and backpack hunting. While living in the tarp, I endured just about every type of weather the Rocky Mountains had to offer. The SuperTarp was roomy, easy to pack and set up, and protected me from the elements — in short, it was exactly what I needed.
The SuperTarp is intended as a minimalist shelter for one or two backpack hunters. Its silnylon construction has it weighing in at 17.6 ounces; if you add the peg and pole kit, which is optional, you’re looking at a total weight of 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
In addition to being lightweight, the shelter is designed to be set up using minimal equipment. You’ll need to carry stakes to stake it down, but the front and rear center poles can be fashioned from trekking poles (which you probably already have with you) or broken or cut-to-length sticks. The previously mentioned pole kit is also an option. Kifaru has sewn in small paracord markers on the right side of the tarp for quick and easy front and rear pole measurement. I used my trekking poles, maximizing the use of the gear I was already carrying. At a minimum, the shelter requires you to carry 12 stakes; depending on your guy-line configuration, you may need an additional four to six. I carried — and used — 18 stakes.
Pitching the shelter is a breeze — after some practice, it took me approximately three minutes from the time I pulled it out of my pack to having it fully erect and ready to endure a mountain storm. I was skeptical of the shelter’s open front, but after remaining comfortable and 100 percent dry during thunderstorms, hail, wind, and rain, those doubts are gone. That being said, you have to use a little common sense when setting up a floorless and open-front shelter. If you set up over a depression, you may have some lakefront property inside your tarp. For a ground cloth, I used Tyvek, which is an extremely lightweight waterproof construction material used to wrap homes and was recommended by Kifaru president Aron Snyder.
The SuperTarp is a palace for a solo hunter or hiker and would even have enough room to fit two people and gear. On days when I was worried about the weather, I stacked firewood right inside the opening so that I could quickly and easily start a fire upon my return. Even with firewood stacked inside, there was plenty of room for myself and my gear. There was also enough room to fire up my stove and make some hot coffee at 5 AM before even crawling out of my sleeping bag.
With any single-walled shelter — floor or no floor — you are going to experience some condensation when in more humid or wet conditions. The SuperTarp is spacious enough that I could sit up and make and drink coffee each morning without touching the sides or roof. Condensation was not a major issue, but you may experience a little wetness on your clothes or gear if they touch the roof or sides. My hunting partners ran various single-man tents that weighed more, had less room, and had just as much condensation inside as I did with with the SuperTarp.
Floorless shelters are not always the best option — if you are in the Deep South where mosquitos, ticks, and fire ants are prevalent, you may want something more contained. While there were plenty of bugs and mosquitos out West this year due to the wet summer, they were a nonissue once I was in the tarp.
I’d like to recommend this shelter for everyone, but it’s probably not suitable for those who are new to spending the night in the great outdoors. However, for more experienced backpack hunters and hikers who are looking for a bombproof, lightweight, three-season mansion, the Kifaru SuperTarp is perfect for one or two people who are packing in a little farther and want to minimize the load they’re carrying.
This article was originally published Oct. 2, 2019, on Coffee or Die.