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Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Oware 2.5 tarp > Owner Review by Gail StaisilOwner Review:
Oware Flat Tarp 2.5
October 18, 2008
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email: woodswoman2001 AT yahoo DOT com
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I normally take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably, but my base weight is under 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages over 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.
Although I use many kinds of shelters, I am primarily a tarp camper. My own introduction into the world of tarps was made in 2001 when I purchased the Flat Tarp 2.5 (8 ft 10 in/2.69 m square) manufactured by Oware. I have since purchased a slightly larger version (Flat Tarp 3.5) measuring 10.3 ft (3.14 m) square. It provides me with more coverage during the winter months. Oware (David Olsen) is an independent maker of tarps and other gear located in California, USA.
Oware does make a number of other syles of tarps including those with a catenary cut, alphamids and pyramids. They also offer tarps made out of other materials rather than silnylon. Although they have a lot of standard size tarps readily available they also do custom orders. They definitely have busy seasons but I don't think I waited longer than a few weeks for either tarp. The Oware Tarps are available in various colors including gray, green, orange, purple and the like as well as darker colors such as navy and black.
Although several of my acquaintances had rectangular-shaped tarps, I decided to purchase a square tarp because I felt that it would give me more options for set up (they have since converted to square tarps too). It not only can be set up various ways in it's own right, it also became the perfect size to set up over my Hennessey Hammock. With a diagonal pitch, it gave me great coverage for inclement weather and provided a shelter from the rain once I was out of the hammock. Although this was a definite perk, I mostly use the tarp as my main shelter as I rarely hammock camp anymore.
The Oware 8 ft 10 in (2.69 m) square tarp is called the Flat Tarp 2.5 by the manufacturer. As the name indicates it would be roomy enough for two people plus extra room for gear. I have used the tarp mostly in a solo capacity as I like to have a lot of space. I never have to worry about strategically placing every item under my tarp to prevent weather from intrusion. I have more than adequate coverage to keep myself and my belongings perfectly dry.
In my experience the tarp provides not only a place to sleep underneath but it is a place to hang out. This is essentially important when the weather is miserable as I can cook and pack up everything underneath the tarp without space constraints. I take the tarp down at the last minute in such situations. The tarp has also been set up as a refuge from the rain on occasional lunch breaks during group trips. Depending on the pitch, the tarp is actually roomy enough to shelter several people if needed.
My Oware Flat Tarp 2.5 is fabricated with black 1.1 oz sq yd (31.8 g sq m) ripstop nylon that has been impregnated with silicone. Silnylon is a very light, slippery material that is very tough. The tarp has 12 reinforced tie-outs located along the four edges (one at each corner and two additional ones on each edge). The edge tie-outs all consist of an extra layer of triangular-shaped fabric and incorporate a loop made out of 1 in (2.58 cm) wide webbing.
The tarp also has four centrally located tie-outs/loops on the exterior surface. Two of the tie-outs are located on each diagonal and they are reinforced with a square-shaped piece of fabric. The tarp does not possess a center tie-out but that can be custom ordered (I did this on the larger version that I own so that it would have even more versatility).
When I received the tarp I had to seam seal the center seam and all the tie-outs with seam sealer. They have remained watertight through all the years.
The tarp currently comes with a small stuff sack and 50 ft (15.24 m) of ultra light cord. I normally use an oversized silnylon stuff sack so that I can unpack and pack it easily in cold wet weather. Although such a length of cord is adequate for setting up the tarp, I like to have more options. I normally keep about 75 ft (23 m) total of cord attached to five of the tie-outs. I tie a bowline knot in each 15 ft (4.5 m) length cord independent of the tarp. I then push the loop created by the bowline through each webbing loop on the tarp and draw the untied end through. This allows the cords to be moved without tying from one tie-out to another if I use a different set-up.
The workmanship on the tarp is no less than perfect. Although I have extensive sewing experience and I am very particular about detail, I couldn't have made it better myself. This attention to detail is ideal in my opinion. Because of this a few years ago I decided to buy a larger size tarp from Oware for the winter months rather than making it myself.
My favorite set up for the tarp is the flying-diamond formation. I refer to it as the "cave" as it protects me from blowing winds and inclement weather. I tie off one corner of the tarp to a tree (or pole) and stake two of the sides down to the ground. The four diagonal tie-out loops are pulled out to trees or other objects (poles, snowshoes, etc.). Some times in nice weather I set it up for less protection from the sides. I either use a lean-to or shed-type configuration. Like most flat tarps, there is never an end to the possibilities.
I normally pack anywhere from five to nine Y-stakes to pin down the loops of the tarp. When I carry less stakes I use rocks or deadmans to secure the sides. In the winter I don't carry any stakes but instead I use 2 ft (61 cm) sections of dead branches to stake in to the snow or use as deadman anchors. There isn't any shortage of dead wood in the areas of the United States and Canada that I frequent. I also use dead long sticks or hiking poles in combination with the tarp for some configurations.
Weather and Waterproof Protection
The Oware Tarp 2.5 has been used in temperatures from over 90 F (32 F) to well below -20 F (-29 C). It has fared well with all types of precipitation. Locations ranged from and included boreal, conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to shoreline trail and deep snowy forest. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 2000 ft (610 m). It has been used extensively on bushwhack trips and set up over the roughest types of ground. I often have rocks, small evergreens and plants under my tarp configuration to share my space. I have stayed 100 percent dry on all trips while under the tarp. There have been torrential rains and snow blizzards galore but I've been completely protected by the tarp.
I do get some condensation under my tarp, but for the most part the interior stays dry due to using a high pitch on at least two sides. The tarp has been subjected to heavy snowloads with over a foot (30.5 cm) of snow falling during the night. I move camp each day on all of my trips so it has been repeatedly been set up and taken down (I have since bought a larger tarp for winter but I did use this model during several years of winter camping).
Durability and Care
Overall, the tarp remains in great condition after hundreds of nights in the field. The stitching is all intact and the pullouts are in incredible condition.The latter areas take a lot of stress as these sections of the tarp are pulled taut repeatedly. When I first got it, I wondered how long the silnylon material would last but it is still as tough as ever after almost 8 years of usage.
Several years ago, I did manage to get a number of pinholes in my tarp from rough vegetation. To make a long story short, I was using the tarp to wrap my pack to float across deep wide river crossings. Although I had done this repeatedly the vegetation on the river bank during one trip was apparently too sharp for such adventure. Anyway, upon return from the trip I brushed a small amount of silicone on each pinhole and it has remained waterproof. I never used it in that capacity again as I learned my lesson the hard way.
I haven't done anything particularly special to care for the tarp. During the the winter, I am very careful not to step on my tarp with snowshoe clad feet when I am setting it up. I do pack it in a stuff sack to prevent damage to it and dry it out before putting it away after a trip. I store it in a large stuff sack packed loosely.
To be perfectly honest, I am more than pleased that the tarp is still in great shape after all this time. Although I thought it was pricey when I bought it the value has been remarkable.
The Oware Flat 2.5 Tarp is my main shelter of choice. Although I sometimes use a tent or occasionally a hammock, I prefer the open environment of camping under a tarp. I love being able to view all that is around me so that I don't miss any natural activity. The Oware tarp has proven to be exceptionally durable and versatile during all seasons of the year in all types of weather.
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