When I finished the Siltrapo I thought I’d had enough. The results were satisfying but the process was long and painful, time and effort consuming, partly due to my own fear of doing things wrong, I know (and that’s something I’ve quite learnt to amend) but I was not that eager for a second try. Then I started using the Siltrapo and checking its pros and cons as well as wishing I also had a smaller version for solo use… I just let time go till I kind of forgot about the difficult part and when I found the motivation, I didn’t let it go. I’ve called it Siltoldo
I was quite happy with my Cave 2 for just 592 gr. (plus stakes) as a solo shelter in which I felt safe in any kind of weather. But as I was feeling that safe, I started considering more extreme solutions. During an ultralight test outing for a weekend with a good weather forecast, I carried the 5′ x 8′ silnylon tarp I had got in my early tarping days for use as rainy day lunch break shelter or whatever emergency situation. Now it was going to be my main and only shelter, if only for a couple of nights, at a mere 135 gr. (plus stakes)
It turned out right, I felt comfortable and besides the weight savings I liked the simplicity, easy of use and presumably good protection (the weather was indeed good enough that I couldn’t test this last feature). Still, I didn’t feel confident enough for something like a one month traverse of the Pyrenees (taking place 23rd July – 21 August, 2005) so I thought of a reasonable alternative: I’d sew a flat, one piece tarp but I’d make it some longer so it’d allow me a bit more protection and pitching flexibility.
I had to keep it simple if I wanted to preserve my sanity with so little time before my trip and so much planning still to be done so it was clear from the beginning it’d be a one piece tarp with no ridge seam. I’d just had to sew the perimeter hem and the pull out loops. The limitation then lies in the width of the silnylon bolts. Usually 60 to 62 in. so 5′ is the usual maximum width of the finished product. Then, you can make it as long as you want but not any wider. I had though this odd piece 65″ wide so I could make it a little wider. My plan was for a 9′ finished length but it turned out the only piece big enough I still had in this width was a little over 10’… shall I cut it? shall I regret having cut it when I’m done? I decided to go ahead with the 10′ length and see what happened… I could always cut it later.
As simple as it can get. I didn’t even have to measure and cut the fabric, which is something I loathe so it was directly to the sewing machine, which I like much better. The finished product turned out 10′ x 5.3′ in size with a weight of 275 gr.(9 oz.). It has 16 pull out loops: one in each corner and three more evenly spaced along each side. I’ve used a much stronger webbing than the gross grain ribbon I had problems with in the Siltrapo. I don’t know exactly what it is (they didn’t either in the shop) but it looks indestructible and still thin and light, I’m very happy with this stuff. I copied the sewing style of my 5′ x 8′ (an Integral Designs Siltarp) for the loops instead of the one Ray Jardine explains in his tarp book (and which I used for the Siltrapo), I like the ID way much better (I’m no expert at all, it just looks stronger).
The beauty of a flat tarp lies in its versatility. You can pitch it in so many different ways to accommodate the most varied conditions. The limitation of the Siltoldo will be in the short width but I’ll see what I can do with it. Let’s see some examples I tried in its maiden voyage:
A-frame on one side transitioning to a lean-to at the opposite end, with one long side flush to the ground. This is a good configuration for rainy conditions when the rain comes consistently from one side. It just needs 5 stakes and 2 poles. More stakes can be added in the windward side if the wind is any serious. The profile can be lowered for really serious weather.
A-frame configuration with both long sides flush to the ground. This is a high protection configuration for serious weather. The extra length should protect the living space from splash even in really nasty weather and the pitch can always be lowered in strong winds. The problem here lies in the scarce width that turns the shelter into a sarcophagus where you can do little more than laying flat. It’s meant for those times when you’re happy enough to feel safe in the middle of the storm that you don’t mind staying put inside a sarcophagus.
This is a pyramid like pitch, with one only pole in the inside. This shape sheds wind better than any other and works equally well no matter the wind direction. This is only for the very worst conditions. If the A-frame with sides flush to the ground was tight, this is for not moving at all. Actually, with nothing inside but the fabric tension to hold the pole in place, the unfortunate occupant would have a task: holding the pole to prevent it from sliding and falling, leaving you with a flat shelter. This would be solved by sewing some non-slippery fabric to the underside where the pole would rest but I haven’t done it yet. Again (well, let’s say now yes), this pitch is for a worst case scenario. Not very comfortable but doable and with a camper happy to keep safe despite the closed quarters.
A variant of the pyramid pitch with the pole set outside. This frees some space inside and solves the pole slipping problem but since there’s no beak at the front and no pull out somewhere in the middle of the tarp (so a beak of sorts can not be improvised), this is only good for wind that comes from either of the three protected sides. The lower end is so low that a good part of the length is not usable so the head is quite close to the open end. Just complain if the wind turns to the unprotected side. It was not meant to!
Lean to with side walls. Good for rain coming from one and a half side and with plenty of vertical room (at last! a pitch with *some* vertical room) but it turned out too short so the bag had to lay in the diagonal. Not very weather worthy unless wind and rain are really disciplined. Lots of views without even stretching one’s neck and good for catching the warmth of a campfire if it’s cold or you need to dry stuff out.
Modified A-frame such that the ridge is eccentric in one end. It’s meant to offer the highest protection on one end (where the ridge is centered and both sides go to the ground) and some more space (at the expense of less protection) at the opposite end. One long side (left in the image) is completely flush to the ground, the other one raises somewhat. This is actually a variation of (and quite similar to) the first pitch of the series..
The same A-frame and eccentric A-frame previously stated but with the sides raised off the ground. At last, some roomy shelter! but not that much weather worthy. This is only for night sky views while still having a place to call home and some protection against radiating heat towards the sky. The limited width prevents this kind of pitch to offer enough protection. We are stuck with a long side to the ground if the weather is bad.
This pitch is the one I liked the most for its versatility, which is good if the conditions are changing or uncertain. It’s an A-frame on one end that transitions to a lean-to on the opposite end (so far just like the first pitch in the page) but with a flat vertical wall closing completely one of the short sides. This shortens the shelter’s final length but that’s why it was made longer than strictly necessary, to allow for this kind of configurations. This pitch is weather tight on two sides and still long enough to allow for extra space on the open short end (foreground in the images). Set low, it should be very weather worthy.
Since the first version of the Siltoldo, I’ve made a sensible improvement. I was saying above “This would be solved by sewing some non-slippery fabric to the underside where the pole would rest but I haven’t done it yet”. Well, it’s been done.
I’ve sewn a couple of square pieces of a grippy material on the underside along what would be the ridge line in the A-frame configuration together with the corresponding pull-out loops on the outer side. This allows placing the poles either under the tarp where the handle will not slip against the new piece or outside the tarp which would now hang from the poles. The latter turned out to be the preferred configuration because the tarp turns out so low lying the poles would be too long even when shortened as much as possible and it’d be necessary to tilt them. It’s doable and functional but it’s much easier and elegant to set them outside. Let’s see it:
It’s so low lying it turns as really bomb-proof. Actually, this is a real test as it was a windy evening. Interior room is scarce, at the right, just enough for lying and sleeping but it’s comfortable for that, the sleeper can safely turn and move without touching the walls. Then, nothing more than that is possible. That’d be the price of a safe night in the wind.
The pitch in the image is using 10 stakes (all I had). The short panels in both ends are not staked but they’re so small they can be left hanging. They flapped in the wind but didn’t compromise the wind resistance of the whole thing. The long sides are a different story, as usual: the windward side takes 3 stakes so it’s really tight.
So, where’s the door? Actually, there’s none. You’d have to crawl inside (I had to). That’s the other small price to pay for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Some details of the new addition, top view (left) and bottom view (right). The material on the bottom is a bit heavy but it’d hold the pole handle by itself and I had it at hand… plus, it contributes to reinforce the area which will be subject to considerable tension, particularly on the pull out loop. The cord is 1.5 mm. dyneema, plenty strong and almost weightless (almost).
Final weight: 303 gr. (10 oz) plus whatever lines and stakes take.