I like inexpensive gear. The vast majority of the time, stuff in the middle to lower end works as well as some of the higher priced stuff, and if you follow my blog, the Value Matrix Blog Post, you’ll understand why. Also, check out the DIY Tarp Camping post to see what I’m comparing this tarp to.
UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies) Base Hex Tarp (Can be found on their Website here)
I’ve had a chance to play with this rather inexpensive nylon tarp. (Can find it online for from $23.99 up to about $39.00. I’ve been tarp camping exclusively with poly tarps for the last 6 or 7 years now so let’s hit the basics.
What it comes with:
- Tarp itself 96 inches (Peak to Peak) and the extended sides are 108 inches
- Carry bag
- Separate carry bag for stakes and guy’s
- 4 short guys for the 4 corners of the hex
- 2 double guys for the two peaks
- All the guys have the little plastic tensioners.
- 8 steel stakes
- Basics and First impressions
- VERY small and light weight, the entire kit packs down to about ½ again bigger than a soda can.
- Tough, It’ has nice heavy straps double stitched to the connection points to ensure they don’t tear out. The rest of the tarp is double sewn and has excellent strength. I used it in a 6 inch snowstorm and it shed snow very well all night long. I also left it for 4 days with snow pushing against it with no issues at all. My middle boy slept under it the second night after the snow storm.
- The “silverized” coating does seem to work well when wrapping the tarp around you as a windbreaker or extra layer of clothing. I wore it over just a T-Shirt as I wandered around outside in about 38 to 42 degree temps and it worked well as a shawl or wrap. Would work as a light weight blanket in mild weather.
- Size: For my use, it is just too small for a typical shelter. I configuring it several different ways, similar to how I would setup my poly tarps and it was just too small for me. (Note, I am 6 Foot 3).
- Shape: The shape lends itself to hammock camping but is a bit short, high peak and deep sides. But at a maximum length of 96 inches, it would have to be pitched very close to most hammocks to keep rough weather out. As a basic shade structure, or to keep mild rain off a hammock, it should work fine.
Grommet holes are a bit small.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get away for the test, so I had to set up in my front yard. I set the tarp up using a pair of trekking poles like I would normally do. Right away I discovered one minor issue that bugged me. The grommets are smaller than I am used to. They barley fit over the tiny quarter inch metal tip of the trekking poles. I prefer they push down onto the rubber to get a better hold with less chance a wind gust or bumping the pole as I climb under will knock them off the pole. This was a bit annoying during the first setup as the poles popped out of the grommet a couple times as I tied to make adjustments. I tried a couple ways to set this up and one that worked well was to set the pole in the loop and pull the guy loop over the pole. This got it down a couple inches and made it a bit more weather sturdy in my opinion. This was only a minor annoyance during setup. However, not a deal killer by any means, really just a tiny minor issue, but it bugged me a bit. Other than that, the tarp is well constructed. All the seams are double stitched and the quality is perfectly good.
I tried setting it up as a ground based fly, pulling one pole and putting the end all the way to the ground. This did not leave much room under the tarp. Again, mostly just a size/shape issue. Unfortunately, because there are no grommets running down the sides, there is not much flexibility in how you set up. I would like to see a few more grommets on the outer seams.
A note. It was quite windy the first day I set it up. Steady 20 mph winds with gusts into the mid 30’s. It was very easy to setup even in the high winds. (Minus the 3 times the pole tips slipped out of the small grommets). Much of that was the double guy design. Rather than a single guy or two single guys, the peak guys are centered with a loop. You put the center loop through the peak loops and then you can set the stakes and adjust them. In the high wind, it was easy to set the side in first, then pull the first peak pole cord, then the second and lastly stake the far side down. Once the tarp was completely set up I set about tensioning the guys to stabilize and tighten the tarp.
The guys on this tarp use the small black plastic 3 hole guy tensioners that you will find on almost every tent in existence because they are cheap and they work, however I would probably change them out for some higher end tensioners, just because the plastic is smooth and does slip more than I like.
The tarp comes with 8 steel (not aluminum) stakes. These add a tiny bit of extra weight, but are WELL worth the extra strength. I drove these into frozen ground with no fear of bending them.
Based on the extend flap design, this tarp appears to be most useful as a hammock rain fly but in my opinion is just too short. I am giving this tarp to my middle son who has a hammock to do further testing with it. I’d love to see the design squared off more in an 8 x 10 or 10 x 10 size.
Overall, for the price, it’s a great little tarp, Rock solid and works as expected. Just a tad bit small. At about double the price of a poly tarp you definitely get your money’s worth, if you’re a cheapskate like me.
Unfortunately, I had an issue with my thermal imager and don’t have the results from the first basic thermal test. I will be re-running thermal tests back to back on This tarp, vs a standard nylon tarp vs a sliver side poly tarp at a later date. Stay tuned!