MSR Zing Tarp

They Say - The Zing shelter is ideal for multi-night basecamp endeavors, easily covering a large picnic table-sized area to shield you from sun, rain and even wind. Two included poles and the option to add a third leave you with numerous configuration possibilities ranging from maximum protection to maximum space. Ultralight and taped DuraShield-coated silnylon offers waterproof protection for the long haul. A tight pitching wing design and small pack size makes this shelter at home in the backcountry too.

  • Strong: Two, double-tapered aluminum poles with reinforced mid-sections offer excellent strength while keeping weight to a minimum.
  • Packable Coverage: Ultralight fabrics create 200 sq. ft. (18.6 sq. m) of coverage at a weight and size you can carry anywhere.
  • Versatile: Use two poles, or an optional third, for added versatility in a wide range of demands.
  • Additional Features: Reinforced guy points with cord-stowing pockets, (7) Groundhogâ„¢ Stakes and cord tensioners, reflective guy cord. Additional poles optional.

FULL WEIGHT – 3.15 KGS

We Say - First time out the bag, I tried to put this Zing Tarp up in a high, rainy wind, on my own, and it almost drove me crazy. It went on to shelter me ok all night – I was using it as an open sided tent shelter with just my sleeping bag under it – but I was cursing it for days after whenever I remembered how hard I’d found it to put it up, and how often it fell down. And all because I didn’t bother to read the instructions properly, or give the direction that I pitched it in any great amount of thought.

Ok, second time round was a different story. The wind was light, the sun was out and there were 2 of us prepared to put a little time into setting the tarp up right. We looked at the instructions, we fitted the tension points on the guide ropes the correct way round (yes, I hadn’t done that the first time, I’d fitted them the wrong way round, hence the poles loosing tension and falling down easily) and then we enjoyed its shelter over our cooking area for the rest of the night and next morning. It covered the picnic bench well, and 6 of us could spread out and cook underneath it, no problem. It was a real delight actually, to camp out in changeable weather, and not have to worry about whether a rain shower would interupt our evening, and also to have a focus for camp activities.

The third time of setting up was in an exposed location, an island in the Medway estuary, with another high wind throwing cold rain into our faces. But the tension points were sorted by this time, and I knew the tarps’ shape and how to set it up, so it was up and stable inside 5 minutes. But when I really got to know about the tarp, and how it works best, was when I set up camp for 6 weeks on the estuary island recently, and had it positioned over my cooking and sitting area, during one of the wettest and windiest summers we’ve had for many years.

Here’s the tarp in action, sheltering a group of friends who’d come to visit me on the island.

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The yellow colour looks quite bright at first but I found it blends in well to green surroundings. I was told that my camp was easily visible from miles away thanks to the white bell tent, but visitors were surprised to see the tarp when they visited, that hadn’t been visible at all. Indeed, when I canoed away from camp the tarp dissapeared from sight very quickly. I liked this, as generally I like being as invisible as possible when I camp (on shorter trips I wouldn’t use the white bell tent), I don’t spoil anybodies view of the landscape and also, it’s safer that way.

I adjusted the tarp daily – the height and angle of the poles, the tensions on the guide ropes – according to the strength and direction of wind, which on the estuary, as in the mountains, changes frequently. I positioned it so that one of it’s longest sides, which reach down lower to the ground, faced the prevailing wind, which in England comes from the south west.

If you pitch the tarp any other direction, or if you don’t lower the poles when the wind gets strong, then the least you can expect is that the tarp will flap around a fair bit and be very noisy. I got caught out by a pretty strong storm, very fast moving, when the winds got up to 50mph and although the tarp stood up very well to the battering, one of the poles did suffer, getting bent out of shape. It was still usable afterwards, but I’m going to have to replace it now as I don’t want to risk it breaking next time I’m out there.

As well as providing a dry space for me and my mates, I also stored all the firewood under the tarp. During the frequent storms I encountered during those 6 weeks I also found the tarp very useful for collecting rainwater. Just pull one side down somehow, either by pegging is more tightly into the ground, or putting a bit of wood on the end, and the water will rush off and into any pan you put underneath. I collected all my cooking and washing water for 6 weeks by this method, got about a litre per minute during a medium sized rainstorm.

It’s very waterproof; never had an instance of water seeping through the lining except once when a guide rope got slackened by relentless wind and a pool developed from which a drip-drip occured. Keep everything taught though and there’s no problems.

I used it as a bivvy once. I had to get up at 2am to catch the tide so didn’t want the hassle of breaking down a tent at that time, so just stretched the tarp over the canoe and held up the front opening with a pole and a paddle. There was room for 2 to sleep under it in comfort, and even though it was a very cold night and the grass around us was heavy with dew we stayed warm enough and didn’t get wet.

The material burns easily so light your campfires well away from it, far enough so that small sparks can’t carry on the wind to it. If you do find the tarp has developed small burn holes, its easy enough to fix with any puncture repair kit (not sure if that’s the best method, but it’s the one I’ve used as it’s easy). It copes well with being near a heat source though; my gas stove was only about half a metre below it when storms blew the tarp downwards for long periods, but there were no noticable effects on it.

An invaluable plus point of the tarp is that it allowed me to leave the tent on days when the rain didn’t stop. I find that staying in the tent all day, sometimes for 2 days, during bad storms can be quite depressing. But with this tarp set up I get to leave the tent, cook safely out in the open air (cooking inside a tent can be deadly due to the fumes stoves give off), look around at the scenery, and most importantly, just get a change of environment for a while.

My only issue with the tarp is that I felt that the written instructions weren’t specific enough for me. I hadn’t any experience with tarps before this and didn’t know about setting it up to lean into the prevailing wind, which you must do to get the best out of it, or how to fix the guide rope tension points up correctly. Once a more experienced friend had showed me how to do it, it was easy, but I could’ve done with some help at first. MSR have got an online tutorial, which you can view if you click the web address below, but I do prefer a bit of paper that I can have with me whilst I set up.

I haven’t spoken at all about the performance of this tarp in fine, calm weather. That’s because this is England, and summer, and therefore fine, calm weather is a bit of a rariety! I had about 3 calm days in those 45 I was on the island, and on those days the tarp provided excellent service as a sun shade.

Summary - This MSR Zing Tarp has really changed my camping experience, for the better. It’s so great to have a focal point at base camp that can host 6 to 8 people in the dry/cool, and it has proved itself capable of standing up to weeks of heavy storms and wet weather. It’s also nice to be able to leave the tent and get under it in bad weather, for a change of scenery to drive off any depression that the inaction can bring on, and it’s easily portable too, perfect for canoe touring and backpacking alike. Erection is quick and easy once you know what to do, so that it doesn’t feel like too much bother to just throw it up for a few hours to protect you during a lunch stop. A really valuable piece of kit, we recommend it.

To find out more about MSR and to see their full range of outdoors equipment please check their website out - http://cascadedesigns.com/en/msr

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