I should probably preface this by saying that Lawson (of Lawson Equipment) is not currently making these tarps. There was a period of time where he was offering a flat cut tarp, a hammock tarp, and a catenary cut tarp, of which the Fastpacker is the latter. Will we see these again in the future from Lawson? I couldn’t reach him for comment at the time of writing this so only time will tell. Ok – the Fastpacker is a straight forward catenary cut tarp with room for two. The illustration below should give you a pretty good idea of what the footprint looks like (as measured by us, dimensions in inches). The dashed lines reflect a 48″ x 96″ rectangle (large enough for two people with sleeping pads).
Unofficial Approximate Footprint Dimensions
Like most tarps the Fastpacker requires two trekking poles for pitching. It’s possible to make a minimal pitch with only 6 stakes, however 8 will result in getting the tarp more taut. As the beauty of a simple tarp, only 8 stakes and it’s all done.
Laswon utilizes .78oz Cuben in olive drab for his tarps. The tarp weighs in just under 8 oz which includes the stuff sack and guy lines. The packed size is roughly 10 x 4 inches.
The construction is ample. There is no sewing on the tarp except the tie-outs. All seams are bonded. Tie out points are reinforced with additional Cuben and bonded. It’s not overly bomber, the impression is light, simple, sufficient. All tie outs are set up with line tensioners and a length of guyline is included which needs to be cut and attached.. Lastly, a Cuben stuff sack is included to round out the package.
No setup instructions came with the tarp, however it’s far from rocket science to pitch one of these. Flat tarps are the easiest to pitch, catenary cut tarps are a little trickier, but not much. The cut of the Fastpacker is perfect and thus getting a taut pitch is not difficult. With catenary cut tarps, the key to getting the ridgeline taut is finding the right relationship between the height of the front pole and the height of the rear pole. The easiest way to do this is, pitch the front pole at the height you’re comfortable with, then move to the rear of the tarp, pull the rear ridgeline tie out back and raise it up and down until the sweet spot where the ridgeline becomes taut is found, then set the rear pole length accordingly. Nothing ever changes except maybe the length of the two poles depending on how close or far from the ground the tarp will be pitched.
In the Field
I often prefer to use a larger tarp like this when I’m cruising solo, just for the extra room and better rain protection. I finally got a chance to double up under the Fastpacker when Sandra D joined me on a recent hike with some friends up in the Trinity Alps.
Set up was pretty easy breezy, other than coming in at night and having been the last to select their spot. Loose soil doesn’t make for great purchase with lightweight ti-hooks. I always bring a couple of larger Easton stakes with me for the ridgeline tie outs. Once the Fastpacker was pitched, I set up my Tyvek groundsheet and voila, whiskey time! Tarps are so simple. Love them.
We had a cool night with a little breeze. Unfortunately we pitched with our heads into the breeze and thus were getting the full effect. On this trip some people cowboy camped, bivvied, etc… but I like to have something over me at night, and thus I go with the tarp even when conditions are nice. It keeps the nighttime dew of my bag and gear and I can still see the stars. So the Fastpacker worked great for the two of us. I haven’t slept double in the rain, but I suspect with an appropriate pitch height it would be just fine (the dimensions are very similar to most other popular duo sized tarps).
On the second night we reversed the pitch and slept a little warmer with less breeze on our faces. I know it doesn’t bother some people but cold-face is one of those things that makes me lose sleep, so I always do what I can to mitigate it, short of wearing a balaclava (although that might be in my future!).
The Bottom Line
I purchased the Fastpacker tarp from Lawson way back when because I wanted to “support the little guy”. The construction is good, and price-wise it was a very good value. Also, the wait time was short so I was able to have it almost right away. For Cuben on a budget it would be hard to beat one of these. So although he’s not making these currently (he is still selling accessories and other related lightweight gear) I wish Lawson all the best and hope to see the revival of his tarps in the future! Hike It. Like It.
That’s it for our Cuben Fiber Roundup. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, or even hated it, as long are you’re not indifferent then we’re happy! The purpose of the article was to provide an introduction to Cuben Fiber and to illustrate a few of the available shelters made from this interesting material. If your favorite Cuben shelter wasn’t included feel free to leave a comment or drop us a line and let us know (or put a bug in the manufacturer’s ear about Hike It. Like It.). We attempted to reach a few other manufacturers but were not able to sync up with them, so if you’re affiliated with a manufacturer and you’d like to us to include one of your shelters just get in touch and we’ll work it out! Cheers! Hike It. Like It.