Kifaru Sheep Tarp Review- & 2 Great Ways To Pitch It

A few posts ago I shared some thoughts as to why a tarp is my favorite shelter for backpacking and back pack hunting. If you missed it you can read that here. In that article I mentioned that I primarily use two tarp sizes, a 10x12 and a 9x5. This is about my 9x5 tarp, which is my go to option for solo backpacking and hunting.The Kifaru sheep tarp is a product I picked up over the last winter after having my old 9x5 tarp (Jimmy Tarps) rip apart on me last fall. Since that time, and after going through the spring hunting seasons with it, I have really come to enjoy the Sheep Tarp, and like it quite a bit better than the cheaper competitor that I had before.

Size

I don't think I need to explain what 9'x5' looks like, you get the idea. However, if you're new to using a tarp, or new to this size, the important takeaway here is that it's small. A 9x5 tarp provides about the minimal amount of space necessary for one person to hunker down with his/her gear at either the foot or head end of the laying position. When pitched I some sort of a-frame, there is only about 3.5' or some of width underneath the tarp. This provides just enough room for a nights sleep for one person.I will be the first to admit that this isn't the most luxurious size of tarp, but what you gain for giving up some room is pack space, The stuff sack that is sewn to this tarp lends it to look about like a Nalgene bottle in stature when stored. However, if you cram it into a tight spot in your pack its more like an average to slightly large apple in size. That is with the 75' of guyline I have tied to it at all times, but more on that later. You also gain a weight savings over the larger tarps.

Weight

The Sheep Tarp weighs in at around 11 ounces with my guyline tied to it. Its closer to 9.5 ounces out of the box. That kind of weight is pretty damn impressive for a solo shelter that you can easily sit upright underneath. It's no secret that the fastest way to cut pack weight down is to minimize the weight coming from the so called "big 3." Big 3 meaning your sleeping bag, shelter, and backpack. Having a shelter under 1lb sets you on your way to have a sleep system that all together should be easily under 4lbs.Now a 9.5 ounce tarp of this size is fairly average for a nylon variety, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. There really isn't a whole lot of ways to cut weight on a tarp outside of making it smaller or using lighter materials. If I was concerned about weight to a larger degree, I would opt for a cuben fiber tarp, but from what I have seen of the couple cuben pieces ive had, it's durability as a fabric is a major concern. It would also cost at least an extra $100 if not more.

Why Kifaru

So why did I purchase this tarp over all the other options and why do I like it so much? My first answer to that question is... Durability. If you know Kifaru, you know that their products are built to last and this tarp is no different. After being underwhelmed by how my last tarp held up, I didn't want to be dealing with that scenario again. The nylon blend that Kifaru uses is proprietary to them as far as I know, and it is very durable. When I bought the sheep tarp I knew that I was getting a very high quality, and high tensile strength fabric, which was one of my main considerations when shopping for this.Another reason that I love this tarp is because it has so many tie out points. I wish more companies would add additional tie outs. In the scheme of things an extra 4-6 tie out loops around a tarp don't add much more than an ounce or two of weight, and they allow you to pitch a tarp in dozens of more ways than you could without them. I feel like this is especially important on a 9x5 tarp, because sometimes you need to get fairly creative in dealing with what you have when a storm comes in. The extra ridgeline tie out points make all the difference in being able to pitch this tarp in a manner that will get you through a storm comfortably as opposed to being awake all night as the rain blows in.

Pitches

A-Frame

Probably the most basic and easiest pitch to envision, this is one that I still use a lot when the weather is good to fair. It allows for good head height for sitting underneath the tarp, and is very simple to set up. In the picture below I have used two trekking poles to suspend the ridgeline, and then stake the 4 corners and one middle tie-out on each long side. Often I use trees to suspend the ridgeline at either one end or both if I can manage, as they are quicker to tie off to, and are more rigid and stable that trekking poles. However, if the right trees aren't around my selected campsite then trekking poles or a couple of stout sticks are my solution.I typically pitch in the a-frame configuration when I don't expect much rain or just want some shade in the middle of the day to take a nap. If I expect a clear night I would also pitch this way just as a precaution so that I don't have to get out of bed to avoid a little rain shower passing over in the middle of the night. With the sheep tarp and its size, I like to have the ridgeline at about my sternum in terms of height.DSC03713

Storm Pitch

I will admit that I don't really know the proper name for this configuration, but this is the pitch I use when I expect the weather to be moderate to shitty. I've heard it referred to as the tetra wedge, but I'm not so sure someone else didn't just come up with that on the fly either. What it is though, is essentially a modified a frame. This pitch is one that I really like, and one of the main reasons I bought a sheep tarp over its competitors. Without the additional ridgeline tie outs, this configuration doesn't work. This is also one of the best pitches I've found to seal out some bad weather in a small tarp.The important thing to note when setting up this way is to place the end that is enclosed, preferably towards your feet, in the direction the wind is coming. This will seal out all of the windblown rain and keep you and your gear nice and dry. With that in mind its fairly simple, start by staking one of the narrow ends to the ground, and then suspend the ridgeline with a pole or tree on the opposite end. From there grab the ridgeline tie out closest to the end that is staked flat, and using a trekking pole or overhanging branch, tie upward tension on the tarp so that it gives room for you to lay underneath. After that is done it is simply a matter of staking out the remaining two corner and 1-3 more guyouts on each of the long sides of the tarp.DSC03718DSC03717

Accessories

When you buy your Sheep Tarp, there is a bit of guyline included but not much, and not of a kind that I like in the least. The two things that you also will need to purchase are cordage and stakes. For cordage, I will save you the effort of looking and just tell you to order 1.2mm z-line. It took me years to discover this stuff, and honestly there is nothing else like it on the planet. It weighs less than an ounce for 50' and its strong enough to hang at least two elk quarters from one piece (I've done it). It also has no stretch, and it tangles much less than other options. I have had z line on anything that I use cordage on now for years, and there really isn't a reason to go with something else. The fact that it hasn't made its way into REI or some place similar by now boggles my mind.I personally have around 12' of cordage on each of the ridgeline tieouts. I then added 6' roughly to each of the remaining 10 tie outs around the perimeter of the tarp. Lastly, I have two 10' sections of cordage that I keep in my stake bag to use in a situation where I implement my storm pitch from above, where I will tie a 10' section on to a ridgline point. I leave all of the perimeter tie outs with cord attached in the stuff sack, but for whatever reason I prefer to remove the cordage from the center tarp tie outs and keep them in my stake bag. Either way it doesn't really matter, but leaving the cordage around the tarp perimeter makes setup much faster. This is also another reason to use the Z-line I mentioned because it tangles minimally in the stuff sack.Secondly you'll need to buy some tent stakes, or use ones that you already have. I usually try to carry 6-8 stakes, and they are usually a mix of some ultralight carbon ones as well as some DAC aluminum v-pegs. The v-pegs are what I use for ridgelines and high tension points, and the ultralight carbon stakes usually hold side guylines in place. Whenever possible I tie off to trees, logs, or rocks as well as they usually hold far better than a 5" stake can. Often I carry less stakes than spots that I tie the tarp off to, but between using natural tie off points, and occasionally fashioning my own stake from a stick, I've never been in a situation with 6-8 stakes that I couldn't make work.

Kifaru Muskeg Review- Part 1

Are you thinking about making the Kifaru Muskeg your latest purchase? Well after getting mine in the mail last week hopefully I can shed some light on my feelings and thoughts about it, and why I think it may be my favorite pack to date after trying well over a dozen different models in the past. There are several things that I am loving about this new design right out of the box.

Duplex Lite Frame

First off I want to mention the new frame which has been paired with the release of the Kifaru Muskeg. The duplex lite is quite possibly the most significant upgrade to this new pack over the hunting frame/woodsman combo I had previously been using. The differences looked subtle at first, and I wondered how much difference I would really notice, but as soon as I tried it on I had no more questions. The simple addition of the horizontal crossmember to the frame makes the frame leaps and bounds more rigid horizontally, which was my only real complain with the older version.Also, although I obviously don't have a ton of time under this pack yet, it seems that the breathability and airflow for the wearer's back will be much better. For someone who sweats a lot, and who has had heat stroke twice, this is also something that I care a bit about. The new lumbar pad on the duplex lite is also a little better in feel in my personal opinion, and as before, Kifaru still has the best hip belt that I have seen on any pack, any where. The hip belt alone is what convinced me to switch to a Kifaru backpack in the first place.DSC03575-2

Muskeg 3000

This bag really is my favorite to date. I have griped a bit in the past about there not being a great offering from Kifaru in the real of 3,000-4,000 cubic inch bags, which is the sweet spot for what I like in a pack. The Woodsman was an appealing option when it was released, and it served me well over the last year. However, I had some things that I didn't particularly care for personally, but this muskeg has addressed those.My main complaint with my previous pack was that the compression straps were on piece that ran fully around the bag. Sometimes this works great, but at times it leaves a bit to be desired. Specifically with the use of the meat shelf, the compression system of the woodsman was impossible to get as tight as I wanted it at times. The muskeg now has separate compression on both sides of the bag, and it runs in the proper direction as well (meaning the buckle end is towards the frame not the middle of the bag.)I also really like the incorporation of the xpac fabric, and the overlayed 500d cordura in all of the spots where it is likely to encounter the most abuse. This allows for a pack with a few extra features at a similar weight to one that has no features, or at a lighter weight than one made of only 500d. A couple of my favorite features on the pack are the small slot pockets for tripod legs on both sides of the pack, and the side zip entry.DSC03560I have long viewed a side zip entry as the best possible zip access for a bag from a bowhunter's perspective, because you can access the bag without removing a bow that is cinched to the pack. The zipper on this bag, and on the xpac belt pouches for that matter too, is the smoothest and best feeling waterproof zipper I have seen on any bag. Usually waterproof zippers are stiff and a pain to use, but this one is fantastic, and probably even better than the zipper on the 500d bags. I also am enjoying the slim outside pocket that runs down the back, which will allow me to stash my hat, gloves, and an empty water bladder in a spot that is easy to access.The 3,000 cubic inch version is an extremely sleek and slim pack which I really like about it, however, the great part about the muskeg is that Kifaru has offered it in 3 sizes so that you can tailor the bag to the amount of space you need. After several initial loadings of the pack with all my archery elk gear, it seems that I can get all my gear plus about 6 days of food inside this bag for me. I would be able to stretch this pack out for 10+ days by leaving my camera out, but instead I will most likely attach a guide lid in the case of trips beyond the 5-7 day mark.If you have a system of ultralight gear that is minimal and very dialed, then the Muskeg 3000 might be right for you. For general backpacking use I think most people would find the 5000 cu in model most effective, and for those with cold weather gear or long extended trips, the 7000 inch bag may be the perfect fit. Whichever one you pick, this is a pack that I am really excited about wearing for the upcoming fall, and probably well into the future. It has everything I need in a pack while being able to maintain the compact feel that I like on my back.