So, have you been thinking about ditching your tent for a tarp lately? If so, you’re not alone. It’s (currently) lovely weather to be sleeping out under the stars. In fact, I’ve been thinking about tarps so much lately that I decided to try one that looked like a total bargain: The Terra Hiker Tarp Poncho. And as always, I’m here to give my two cents. We’ll look at how it held up on a recent overnight trip shortly, but first let’s take a look at the specs.
Overview / Specs
Multi-function gear is important if you want to achieve an ultralight threshold, and I liked the idea of having a waterproof layer and a shelter all in one package. The Terra Hiker is very much a rain poncho first, and shelter second – but it seemed like it would do well on short trips with fair conditions. I’d seen products that were similar to this before from brands such as 3F UL – but the Terra Hiker was pretty comparable in price, and had a shorter delivery time. That didn’t stop me buying a 3F UL tarp as well though 🙂 Stay tuned to the blog for a comparison once I’ve been able to try both!
Size & Weight
When folded into its stuff sack, the Terra Hiker measures 26 x 10 x 5 cm – although when re-packing the tarp I managed to compress it down to about 20 x 10 x 5. Pretty tiny, especially if you’re using it as a replacement for your tent. The small pack size is partly due to the fact that the tarp itself is smaller than you’d expect. Most standard tarp shelters are 300 x 300 cm – but at that size it’s difficult to also use one as a poncho. So this one comes in at a slimmer 220 x 145 cm. Lastly, the Terra Hiker weighs in at a pretty pack-friendly 265 grams.
Design & Materials
The Terra Hiker Tarp is made from 210T Polyester, and has a hydrostatic head rating of 3000mm. That’s not enough to keep you dry in a monsoon, but it should be enough for drizzly conditions. It’s rectangular rather than square, which feels like a necessary compromise for something used as both a coat and shelter.
To use the tarp in it’s poncho configuration, you simply fold it in half and join the edges with velcro straps. There’s more than one velcro strip on each side, meaning you can adjust the fit of the poncho a little. There’s also a hood in the middle of the tarp with two adjustable toggles. The Terra Hiker also has eyelets on each corner for tent pegs, trekking poles or guy lines.
Terra Hiker Tarp Review
So recently I had the chance to try this tarp on an overnight trip to Somerset. The forecast called for clear skies and warm temperatures into the night, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to ditch my tent. What I (and the weather forecasters) didn’t appreciate, however, was just how windy it was going to be. But we’ll get to that…
Since there hasn’t been much rain here lately, I’ll have to wait to test the Terra Hiker Tarp in a real downpour. It passed the tap / water bottle test, but that’s usually a given anyway. However, one thing that’s definitely worth noting about this tarp when it’s in poncho mode is the sheer size of it. I’m 6 feet tall, and this thing felt pretty big when I was wearing it. If you’re closer to 5 foot or below, I could see it genuinely dragging on the floor. Not the end of the world, but not ideal either.
So here’s the thing. Because the Terra Hiker is small (for a tarp), rectangular and with only 4 eyelets, it does limit your options in terms of how to set it up. An A-frame design will work if the tarp is quite high up with guys coming from each eyelet, but this can be difficult if you don’t have the ideal surroundings.
I thought about using a cornet or arrowhead type shape, but this didn’t seem like it’d leave much room for me to actually get under the cover. The best (maybe only) way I saw to set it up was just as a simple lean-to. There’s photos of the setup from the front and back below. And FYI, we’ll be posting an article on tarp configurations soon – watch this space!
Now, like I said before, it was really windy when I tried out this tarp. In fact, as the night drew in the Met Office issued a yellow warning for strong winds in the area. I looked nervously around me at trees swaying a little too much, convinced that one of them could come down on me in the night! You can even see the tarp bowing slightly in the pictures above.
So in retrospect, I really wish I’d managed to figure a way of setting up the tarp which could have dispersed the wind. But at the time, no other configurations seemed very viable given the small size. And having said that, my lean-to did just fine in the end. The tarp didn’t come down and I woke up to glorious sunshine the next day. But, lesson learned. This tarp is definitely one for finer conditions. It’s perfect for a calm midsummer day, but I could see it struggling in harsher conditions.
Given the low price of the Terra Hiker Tarp Poncho, it seemed almost silly not to take a punt on it. It definitely performed adequately, although you might struggle to get a decent shelter out of it in windy conditions. In fairness though, it was never really designed to be anything other than a light barrier between you and the elements. And when it’s all said and done, warm conditions are when I want to shed the most pack weight anyway. Did I regret ditching my tent for the trip? Not for a second 🙂
Well folks, that’s it for now – I hope you enjoyed this review. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog if you like this sort of thing and want to hear more. Until next time!