MSR’s OutfitterWing: Now that’s a tarp
July 31, 2006
MSR’s OutfitterWing is aptly named. The camping tarp is big enough to constitute a new wing on my house, and it looks aerodynamic enough to take flight.
It was the latter interpretation, though, that concerned me as a friend and I attempted to erect the Wing in the wind on a recent camping trip. We wound up lashing it to a tree so that if it did blow down, it wouldn’t actually blow away.With a touted 200 square feet of protection from sun and rain, it’s the largest tarp in MSR’s “Wing series.” Its capacity, according to the company’s website, is six to 12 people. Presumably, they’d be sleeping beneath it, because if they were standing, some of them would have to be midgets.Why my household needs this kind of wingspan for two people, I’m not sure. But we could park the car under it, or our tent, or a picnic table with room to spare.It comes with a pair of 8-foot poles, along with cords to lash it to the terra firma with fat plastic “rock buster” stakes. While the shelter is quite roomy near the stakes, we couldn’t get it taut enough to keep from brushing our heads on the fabric in its midsection, and we both stand at less than 5 feet, 5 inches. Sitting beneath it, though, is quite doable. You could definitely have a party under there.
The instructions for putting up the OutfitterWing suggest trying it out at home first. I can report with some authority that a stiffening wind and approaching thunder are not the most conducive conditions in which to try to get it upright for the first time. We’d get one end lashed up, only to watch the pole topple when we tried to get the other end taut, and vice versa. Also, bring a hammer. It does not come equipped with the sort of stakes one can pound in with the heel of a hiking boot.I doubt one person alone could erect the wing. In fact, I was beginning to think we’d need to enlist the help of the campers next door before we finally got the thing standing.Then, as we admired our shelter from the storm, the wind quieted, the clouds broke apart and the Wing sat unused for two nights of camping. According to the literature, the tensioned fabric doesn’t flap in the wind like conventional tarps can. The wind is supposed to flow over the curves while the rain simply spills off. Since the threatening weather never materialized, I can neither confirm nor deny these claims.
But at a suggested retail price of $279.95, they’d better be true.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org