BILGY TARPTENT 1-Person
BY MIKE PEARL
October 25, 2015
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season, learning to be a four-season backpacker and year round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.
Manufacturer: Quest Outfitters
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: www.questoutfitters.com
MSRP: US $142.15 (kit, pattern and instructions)
Listed Weight: 1 lb 9 oz (709 g) with 2 oz (57 g) stake weight
-Tent Only: 1 lb 10 oz (750 g)
-Stuff Sack: 0.6 oz (18 g)
-Stakes(8): 3.5 oz (100 g) *not included
-Ground Sheet: 7 oz (202 g) *not included
Listed Door Height: 36 in (91 cm)
Listed Foot Height: 26 in (66 cm)
Listed Floor Area: 37 x 93 in (94 x 236 cm) / 24 sq ft (2.2 sq m)
Listed Tarp Coverage: 69 in (175 cm) Front x 43 in (109 cm) Rear x 121 in (307 cm) Ridgeline
Quest Outfitters supplies a wide range of materials for making clothing and outdoor gear. They also sell patterns and instructions for making a variety of clothing and gear. I purchased the kit (materials, pattern and instructions for the one-person Bilgy Tarptent as one package. Each of theses items is available individually, fabric seconds are also available at a lower price. Seconds are fabrics with cosmetic imperfections; they might be slightly dirty or have narrow, whitish streaks from extra silicone. Kits include silnylon fabric, thread, grosgrain, cord, hook & loop, fasteners and no-see-um mesh.
Silnylon is a silicon-coated nylon, in this case a 1.1 oz ripstop nylon. Silnylon is a very thin, lightweight, water-resistant and strong material. It is somewhat vulnerable to sun damage. The instructions supplied state it will last a very long time when used for evening and night camping. However a couple of months of all day sun exposure will make it brittle and weak. Quest Outfitters has silnylon available in 16 colors when purchased in first quality material. Second quality silnylon is not available in all colors. I chose forest which is available only in first quality.
The Bilgy is a silnylon tarp attached to no-see-um mesh bug net with silnylon bathtub floor. The tarp is pitched using hiking poles or sticks, one at the head and foot. And six guy lines staked to the ground. There is a guy line at each pole and each of the four corners of the tarp. There are two additional guy lines at about the middle of each tarp wing. These are not required for pitching the tarp but offer improved stability and a slightly more spacious interior. The length of the guy lines is adjustable for varying the pitch of the tarp.
The tarp extends beyond the entry, foot and both sides of the bug net providing cover from rain. The sides of the tarp can be pitched low or high regulating the amount of air flow. The entry is through a zipper in the bug net at the head or higher end of the tent. The height of the entry can also be adjusted by changing the length of the pole at the entry end. This changes the interior height at the entry to provide more or less head room. This also changes the amount of interior space left to right inside the bug net. Increasing the amount of head room decreases the width of the floor space. The floor space width increases when decreasing the head room. There are silnylon flaps at the entry and foot. These flaps can roll up and down inside the bug net to regulate the amount of air flow. Hook & loop strips hold the flaps up. Inside the bug net there are storage pockets on the left and right just inside the entry. The pockets are about 8 x 12 in (20 x 30.5 cm) in size. A piece of cordage can be attached to the ceiling inside the bug net at the foot and head forming a "clothes line".
I used Sil-net silicone seam sealer to treat all stitched areas of the tarp and floor to make the tent waterproof. I also applied several "strips" of Sil-net to the interior floor of the tent. This helps a sleeping pad from sliding on the floor, silnylon is extremely slippery. I also made a groundsheet out of some Tyvek. I sized it longer than the bug net but shorter than the tarp. I use it to help keep the tent clean, protect it from any sharp objects and as "door mat" at the entrance.
I bought the Bilgy kit because I was looking for a lightweight affordable shelter not necessarily because it was "make your own". But we had a sewing machine, related accessories and I had helped my wife with other sewing projects. And it was mud season, no hiking, no skiing, no biking not much to do off of a paved surface and it's just kinda blah outside. So I turned the dining room into my personal gear workshop.
I am not very experienced with sewing. I used a sewing machine four times before making the Bilgy. But nothing as involved as this. I did some research on sewing silnylon, the two important pieces of advice were use a small needle and keep the material taut. Silnylon being so slippery can easily bunch up while running through the sewing machine.
I read through the instructions fully before doing anything. The instructions and patterns are very good (examples pictured below). There are definitions and explanations for every sewing term and technique. There are step-by-step directions with detailed illustrations for the more involved steps. The instructions estimate construction time to be between 20 to 50 hours. I would estimate it took me around 40 hours.
Tools required to make the Bilgy are sewing machine, scissors (I mostly used a cutting wheel, think pizza cutter), LOTS of pins, size 70 to 90 sewing needles (I went through four), 12 foot measuring tape, marking device (I used chalk and Sharpie), yard stick and a firm cut surface. A work area of about 11 foot by 16 foot (3.4 x 5 m) is needed for laying out pattern for cutting of larger pieces.
Oddly enough the last section of the instructions is making the stuff sack. I did this first thinking if I messed this up it's not too big of a deal. This was a very easy step, mostly a test run to get a feel of how to run the silnylon through the sewing machine smoothly. It was extremely satisfying to hold a neat little functioning stuff sack in hand. And with this confidence boost I jumped right in.
Each step focuses on a component of the tent. At times I could not see how the piece I was working on would fit together with the other parts. But I followed the instructions happy that that one piece was made correctly. Once each component was complete things became a bit harder. There is a whole lot of pinning of pieces together in order to sew. If I got lazy on pinning it only made sewing more difficult. The longer runs were a challenge to sew. This was due to moving large amounts of fabric through the machine and along the table. By the end I could see in the large pile of material the "outline" of a tent. But the first time pitching it in the yard was rather astounding. It went up as described, stayed up and functioned fully! I couldn't wait to stay the night in it and did so that very night.
The first night in the Bilgy was in my backyard. I followed the instruction provided and pitching the tarp was relatively easy. Being on flat, level, grassy ground with lots of room all around the tent was like cheating. I was able to get an even and tight pitch with a few minor adjustments. It was still chilly overnight, temperature around 45 F (7 C) so I brought the side or wings of the tarp down close to the ground. I also put up the foot flap and the door flap halfway. There was no wind or rain overnight. I sleep soundly through the night. In the morning I noticed the tarp had a slight sag to it. I was honestly amazed that the thing didn't that fall into several pieces and was still solidly standing in the morning. Though a very limited maiden voyage a very successful one!
Over the past three years I have used the Bilgy numerous times in various conditions. The first several times in the field pitching the Bilgy was mildly challenging. The tarp is rather long and then adding in the additional distance the guy lines requires can make finding the perfect spot hard. I have learned tricks like using trees in place of ground stakes. But there was a learning curving to mastering the pitch. I also once forgot my hiking poles in the trunk of the car as my wife dropped me off at a trailhead. After I stopped berating myself a few minutes of scouting turned up suitable sticks to pitch the tarp. I have even achieved a good pitch on a wooden tent platform. This required improvising with wedging sticks between board, lashing rocks as weights and tying off to nearby tree limbs.
I have slept through nights that were perfect, hot and humid, buggy, windy, rainy and an all out thunderstorm. The Bilgy has handled all quite well, only a few times have I had to make adjustments to guy lines during the night. The ability to adjust the tarp wings, foot and door flaps really help deal with a range of conditions. It does a great job of keeping the rain out. As well as moisture, I have not had issues with condensation. Nor with the opposite of wind ripping through, ventilation is easy and well regulated. Only once has water come into the tent. This happened while set up on a wooden tent platform. An intense thunderstorm rolled through early morning. It rained so hard that the splash off of the platform bounced up under the tarp wings and through the bug net. One side of my sleeping bag was wet and the other damp.
Sleeping in the Bilgy is comfortable with extra room for clothes and small gear items. The two pockets inside are handy for keeping things organized and easily accessible overnight. I really like the clothesline. It runs right long the top the bug screen. It's a great place to air out and/or dry socks. I am able to sit cross leg inside and even kneel with a slightly bent back. But changing clothes inside the Bilby can be tricky to hard. I have done it but will always change outside when possible. The other thing that can take some getting used to is the pole at the door. I find getting in to be easy, but getting out takes a little more effort for me. The first few times I even bumped my head on the pole. It's not painful do but it can mess up the pitch of the tarp.
Packing and unpacking the Bilgy is no trouble. The one thing to remember for faster pitching is to identify the front from the back. I do this with a colored piece of string tied to the front. I also always roll and pack the tent so the back unpacks first. This minimizes set up time and I find the more routine the better the pitch.
The materials supplied by Quest Outfitters have been of good quality. All parts of the tent are in good conditions and working order. The patterns provided where well laid out, precise and easy to use. The instructions provided were easy to read and understand. I was able to successfully assemble a quality tent with minimal previous sewing experience.
I enjoy using the Bilgy. It's fun to set up and keeps me well protected from the elements. There is the minor hassle of finding a right spot and dealing with six to eight guy lines. But to me it's worth the weight savings and the versatility this tent provides.
The Bilgy tarptent has been two adventures in one for me. The first was the days of cutting and pinning and sewing. This was a journey from rolls of fabric and a zipper to a functioning tent. The second was the adventure of learning to pitch a tarp out on the trail wrapped inside the adventure of backpacking.
THINGS I LIKE
- easy to set up and take down
- adjustable to conditions
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
- can be difficult to exit
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
- silnylon can sag overnight
- can be difficult to get perfect pitch
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